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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

USS Encounter Bridge Displays

In the comments a couple of posts ago, Jeff alluded to some work he'd done on older-model computers back in the day. Believe it or not, I actually saved some of that work by pointing a video camera at a monitor and filming the results. While the image quality is poor, I think you can still get a sense of the amazing work Jeff did with the computer technology of the day. Jeff also composed the music in this video - it's named "Coda," after the villain of the Star Trek fan film we were working on back when we were members of the University of Alberta Star Trek club. I was most impressed with the meticulously modelled USS Encounter, our imaginary ship back in the day - not just a plain old Miranda class, but a unique class of its own, as evidenced by the sensor pod replacing the Miranda's weapons pod. Talk about attention to detail!

Jeff came up with several displays for the abandoned film. In order, they are:

Red Alert signal
Damage control readout (note that the display itself also has a "damaged" setting)
Environmental control
Deflector control
Power readout
Klingon tactical view (Encounter under attack!)
Klingon power readout
Captain Woods' email/alarm clock

It's too bad that the resolution is so bad. Jeff put a lot of work into these, and the little details are really impressive.

Even then - perhaps especially then - computers were wonderful creative tools. I'm glad I took the time nearly twenty years ago to capture at least a fuzzy glimpse of Jeff's work.


Pan's Jeffyrinth said...

Well, there we go. That stuff took forever to make. The painting tool just did basic geometric shapes as filled or lineart. The fonts were fixed as I recall. I drew the details pixel by pixel, and then dithered them (antialiasing) by hand again pixel by pixel. I think the screen resolution was maybe 600 x 800 tops, so videotaping those displays wouldn't be much different from seeing them on screen. The cycled palette trick shows up well on some of those screens. It's the same trick FX artists used back in the day.

I'm really glad you managed to preserve that, Earl. I would never have attemped to try any of that now - I feel way different about computers now than I did back then.

Also, 20+ years ago, I was a lot more intuitively creative. Music?! Now I can barely play the radio. But I can channel and focus my creativity now, whereas back then it all seemed so scattershot. And I've abandoned John Carpenter as my musical muse. Why "Escape From New York" didn't get an Oscar for soundtrack is less of a mystery to me now.

Earl is gracious to present my old stuff here, but what is really worth telling is Earl's innate power to inspire people. I don't know how he does it. Strikingly, a lot of my better artwork is either Earl-inspired or Earl-themed. He's such a dynamic thinker, and he has the quality of firing up other peoples' imaginations. I'll always owe a debt of gratitude to Earl for that.

Earl-themed music, you are asking? We have to scare up a copy of "I Can Stick My Finger In The Wound." Although ICSMFITW uses the same scale of notes as musical greats Bach, Mozart, The Beatles, U-2. The Rolling Stones, Kiri Te Kanawa, and others, it is totally different music from any of those masters. ICSFITW is more like 1980's John Carpenter meets Earl J. Woods in a dank, dark basement, and only one of them comes up the stairs alive.

Earl J. Woods said...

I was hoping that you'd provide more information about how you created these displays, Jeff - thanks for doing so.

As for the music, there are worse people to emulate than John Carpenter. His Halloween and Escape from New York themes were perfectly suited to the films they graced, just as I'm sure your tracks would have been to our Star Trek film, had it ever been finished.

You're very gracious in your praise. My only goal, really, was to try and stretch some creative muscles, however ineptly, and to have some fun with my friends.

I do have a copy of "I Can Stick My Finger in the Wound," somewhere, and I even made a video for it. I'll see if I can dig that up next.