Having fun with an iconic Sci-Fi Design: An alternate USS Enterprise

USS Enterprise thumbnailIts been a long time since I lasted posted (over a year in fact) so I decided to show something I’ve been working on in my spare time. I guess you could call me  a fairweather Star Trek fan. I grew up watching The Next Generation as a kid as well as the six films starring the original cast. I don’t know the ins and outs of the show or how transporters, warp drives, or the reverse tachyon side split burst array influx emitters work but I knew episodes like “Darmok” or “Best of Both Worlds” were damn good television.

One thing I liked more about the original series, and the movies as well, was the design of the Enterprise. Simple shapes were combined into an aesthetically pleasing design which suggested it could be repaired or maintained by Scotty and his underlings in the far reaches of the galaxy without retreating to any (space)ports, like sailing vessels of long ago. Yet when I first saw the new Enterprise design for 2009 re-boot film, I thought it was extremely ugly and jarring, despite sharing the same basic design features and principles as it’s 1960’s predecessor.

Was I just being an old crank who couldn’t except change, or was there more to my apprehensions and feelings. When I saw the movie and the ship in motion I thought it looked great, yet every time I see a still shot of the same ship something seems off putting and “wrong” looking. This inanimate object from a fictional universe causes me to have a visceral reaction against it. Why? It’s only a movie after all.

I finally hit on what was causing the distate I had for the new ship. It’s the engines. They are too big and and placed too close together, which to my mind at least, gives off a feeling of claustrophobia and discomfort. However one of the unused concept designs for the Enterprise had smaller sized engines with a greater degree of separation, as well as cool Art Deco/1930’s Serial aesthetic. I decided to take a shot at modelling this design in 3DS Max to see what it would look like. Here are the results so far:

[image title=”watermark_01″ size=”full” id=”677″ align=”center” alt=”An alternate USS Enterprise” linkto=”default” ]

[image title=”watermark_02″ size=”full” id=”684″ align=”center” alt=”Rear view of the alternate USS Enterprise” linkto=”default” ]

A lot of the effect shots of the Enterprise in the 2009 film use a large focal length (this is all done in the 3D programe they were using, it is not a physical camera), like the above shot of the alternate Enterprise. This “flattens” the image and reduces the sense of perspective. I also think the large focal length makes the engines look smaller and further apart then they do at a regular focal length of 35mm (the above image is around 300mm). In this case the alternate Enterprise’s engines, which are smaller and further apart then the 2009 Enterprise, look far too small though the spacing is still satisfactory.

[image title=”watermark_03″ size=”full” id=”686″ align=”center” alt=”Another angle of the alternate USS Enterprise” linkto=”default” ]

I don’t think any version of the Enterprise, whether from the original series, from all the movies, or the next generation, can look bad from this angle.

[image title=”watermark_04″ size=”full” id=”687″ align=”center” alt=”Side view of the alternate USS Enterprise” linkto=”default” ]

A further note: While the modelling for this mesh was done in 3DS Max I rendered the images in Cinema 4D 11. Cinema 4D seems to render much faster for me, while I prefere modelling in 3DS Max.


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