Thursday
Oct252012

Design

Our main goal was a style similar to DC Comics' many animated offerings, from Batman to Justice League to direct-to-DVD films like New Frontier. With that style as a base, it was time to design uniforms and ships, which play a big part in establishing any Star Trek adventure. This section provides a glimpse into the design process for these components, with sample concept artwork along the way:

 

UNIFORMS

A key aspect of Final Frontier was the more militaristic state of Starfleet, which Chase and his crew were going to rebel against and eventually change for the better. We wanted our uniforms to convey this. However, these early designs show that we were initially thinking too grim and militaristic:

Tthese uniforms are way too dark and Battlestar Galactica-esque. In addition, while they'd probably look pretty cool in live action, they would reduce our characters to black blobs in animation. With the animated format in mind, we decided to keep some black but add in a lot more color. We also had to keep things as simple as possible without too many excess design details that would hamper animation efforts. These sketches by our initial artist, Norman Bandler, illustrate a few variations on the direction we went next:

The similarities to both the original TOS shirts and the later uniforms of the Next Generation era made them seem like a logical evolution, and we especially liked the combination of uniform shirt, black pants, and a belt for the more swashbuckling look as seen in the third sketch. Plus, the simple design would animate well. With these core ideas, we went to renowned comic book artist (and writer) Jeff Parker, who had experience in designing for animation, and asked him to simplify the design and do some turnarounds. Our final design is illustrated below (although we would eventually lose the piping around the colored sections). Although these designs are uncolored, we decided to return to the color scheme used in the Original Series, with gold representing command as opposed to the red of Next Generation:

 

ENTERPRISE

Without a doubt, the most difficult design of Final Frontier was that of its most important character: the Enterprise herself. Getting three Star Trek fans to agree on exactly what a new Enterprise should look like is difficult enough on its own, but when you also need to keep in mind that the ship is being designed for animation, it only made things more difficult. This Enterprise was going to be a smaller ship of the line, as opposed to the Federation flagships of series past and, like the uniforms, had to convey a slightly more intimidating demeanor. In the early design phases, we consulted with friend and longtime Trek designer Mike Okuda for his input on a future Enterprise as well. Below are some concept sketches originally made to help us at least figure out a direction to pursue:

From these and other initial sketches we narrowed things down to two competing designs that both occupied the cover of our pitch packet at one time or another. They are lovingly referred to as The Claw and Hammerhead. Which is which is fairly obvious:

Both had their merits, but we eventually decided The Claw was simply too aggressive. While we did want to convey Starfleet's focus on intimidation, The Claw took this a little too far, and the actual claw shape made little design sense. The Hammerhead was the design that started us in the eventual direction we would follow. The switch from a saucer to a more squared off top stuck with us. However, the curvy lines and styling of the body were a little too detailed for animation and strayed a little too far from ships we had seen before. After further arguments and napkin drawings, the shape of the Enterprise was starting to take a more final form:

The Enterprise design hovered here for a while as we focused on other things, realizing that agreeing on anything final was going to take way too long. There were a few side designs explored that are viewable in the Ships section of the Gallery, but we always came back to this one in some form or another. Later, as we were designing some storyboards for a possible teaser reel, artist Brice Parker drew this design based loosely on the hammerhead approach:

This is as close as we got to a final Enterprise design, and we ended up creating multiple 3D models of different variations that you can see in the Gallery. It's definitley more militaristic, with harder lines and a more imposing tone than any Enterprise seen in the series before. The jarring nature was intentional, designed to throw people off and make them realize this was a different Starfleet. In the end, the final product would likely have been a more graceful version of the hammerhead plan.

 

THE DRAGONFLY

As mentioned above, the crew of the Enterprise relies on smaller, more agile vessels to explore the dangerous Omega distortions that have ravaged subspace. These ships are quick and maneuverable, able to travel in bursts of low warp when needed. Designing the Dragonfly was a far easier process than the Enterprise herself. Our initial description was simply "It's called a Dragonfly because it looks like one." Artist Brice Parker took that description and produced these first concept sketches:

This design fit very well with what we had in mind. The ship looks like its moving fast even while it's sitting still, and the four miniature warp nacelles help it navigate the twisting and dangerous energy corridors of an Omega distortion. The sketch was moved over to Sketchup to see additional angles and for possible use in a teaser reel:

The colors and textures here help show what the ship would look like in animation, and the hard lines of the model would be softened in the final product. The inside of the ship is visible, with four cockpit seats and room for four red shirts in the back area. More angles of the Dragonfly are visible in the Gallery.


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