CG Effects – Creating An Awesome Space Ship

spaceship cg effects

Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise

CG Effects – Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise

I recently found some CG renders of Voyager in the TrekCore image archives. I also found some cool information written by Rob Bonchune, winner of 3 Emmy Awards and 6 nominations and contributor to

Rob spent 5 years working on Star Trek Voyager, he started working with miniature models before moving on to the realm of CG effects.

The VFX producer Mitch Suskin and also Dan Curry were moving towards complete CG models towards the end of the series, as long as the “technology proved viable.”

Rob mentioned that, “two versions of the CG Voyager were scanned from the physical model, and built before the series began – one was built in Lightwave by John Gross, Bruce Hall, and D. H. Jones from Amblin Imaging; the other was created by Santa Barbara Studios using “Dynamation,” their in-house design software.”

However, in the Star Trek : Insurrection, it was impossible to translate the digital models into a Lightwave ready format due to an incompatibility of the software used with Lightwave.



Initially there were some color discrepancies between the miniature model ( a bluish purple hue) and the CG model and so Rob said, “I spent quite a few evenings correcting all of the image map colors to match the physical model’s shade of blue.” He just wanted the ship to look perfect!

Rob went on to say, “I did my best to change all colors and textures to match the filming miniature as closely as possible. I got most of it done – all the big surfaces and larger details made matching CG shots to stock miniature shots pretty much a non-issue with some basic lighting.”


As time went on, Lightwave developed more and more surface types, in particular, “translucent surfaces” and so he was able to put a frosted glass material to which he added real lighting behind the panels.

Throughout the run of the show, 3 separate CG versions were used. The low resolution “stand in” model was used for far away shots and when filming required a model right away and the creators of the miniature models couldn’t come up with a new physical  model quickly enough.

The reason that the high resolution one wasn’t used all the time, is that the memory allocation and processor speeds on the rendering computers was not as they are today. They were far smaller and slower! The less memory they used, the more they could do. For example they could add 2-3 more ships in the shot and “render a planet with a high resolution map.”

Rob Bonchune is the Senior CG Supervisor · Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise

-Val Cameron/Dreamlight

PS: Create your own cool sci-fi battle renders HERE

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