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May 12, 2009

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The Future Is Bright Indeed

Saw Star Trek. Yes, it’s great fun. But I want to take a moment to celebrate a contributor not noted on the IMDb page. Really, it ought to read: “Star Trek (2009), starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and… SOOO MANY LENS FLARES.”

Lens flares are all over Star Trek, even — especially — when there’s no bright light on screen. They’re different shapes, different colors, but they’re omnipresent. They streak across the frame, across characters’ faces:


They’re most evident on the bridge of the Enterprise, but even in dark and dingy scenes, there’s the suggestion of something luminous just off-camera:


Maybe it was my imagination, but it even felt like the flares had a certain character-specific quality, like the recurring melodies in Peter and the Wolf. Spock’s flare was long and linear, straight across the eyes:


Kirk’s flare was a spark of pink light circling his face. It’s hard to see here — look for the three bars hovering over the scratch on his cheek:


Anyway. Some people thought the near-constant flaring was overdone. I found it totally enchanting. Here’s a bit of the behind-the-scenes story.

Posted May 12, 2009 at 12:14 | Comments (6) | Permasnark
File under: Movies


Haven't seen the film yet, but I sorta' love this. It reminds me of Sunshine, which many people hated but I really enjoyed - its emphasis on light/refraction was obviously more central to the plot but if, as the linked article suggests, this adds a similar sense of mystery and wonder lurking just out of shot, that's amazing. Can't wait to see it.

Even back in the heady days of Minority Report, the special effects guys were putting digital lens flare into all sorts of completely CGI shots. It was interesting that the lens flare here was from real lightsources.

It still struck me as very strange and they even added some more traditional hexagonal and less streaky lens flare to the space scenes. Battlestar at least simulates a camera look for its space shots, so it makes sense to see flare, but why is there an implied lens on the bridge in Star Trek?

This is the paper I was thinking about on Minority Report:

Lens Flare in the age of Digital Reproduction [PDF]

I saw this present while I was in college; academia before blogs!

I noticed the gratuitous lens-flaring too and loved it! :D

Lens flare is used so often in this Star Trek that it ceases to be an effect and becomes a texture. Which I presume is the intent.

All of the lens flare appears to be from real light sources. But they're often light sources that have no business being there from a "world of the movie" perspective: their raison d'Ítre is to produce lens flare.

Robin, I think your point on character-specific lens flares is fascinating. On the whole I thought that the texture of the lens flare did support the feel of the movie in a positive way, but while watching I found myself wishing that said flare was associated with specific locales or technologies. E.g., all the federation shininess should have lens flare but the Romulan ship should not, etc. Instead, the way it was used throughout the film indiscriminate of environment did begin to play as overdone to me.

But I'll have to watch it again with the character association in mind.

Re: Minority Report... Stephen Spielberg has reached a point where he completely overexposes his films. It's like his earlier signature bright light from just outside has invaded the whole frame. I like the look of Minority Report, but I'm just sayin'...

Making the old Star Trek look like the new Star Trek:


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