Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trek Interview!

Natasha Eloi and I after the Interview on Space!

A couple weeks before the Trek Movie opening I did an interview on the Space Channel here is the out come.... A fantastic Nerdarati moment! Enjoy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Trek For Music _ A Rant On The Music Industry

I have given up on feeling bad for the brick and mortar retail stores! Even worse I have given up on the music industry for not understanding how to sell music. A couple of days ago I went to go purchase the soundtrack to the new Star Trek Movie. I love the symphonic feel of the new music and so I looked up the release date of the record and it was clearly May 5th. GREAT! I'm off to stimulate the economy to the tune of $20.00 and I head out to HMV (One of the largest distributors in the world) I ask the clerk if he can help me because my initial scan of the store is a blank.... "Sure!" he says as he hands me over a copy of the Soundtrack of Star Trek Nemesis! "Um No actually I was hoping for the new movie." Blank Stare "There's a new Movie?" "Are you kidding me?" as I point to the wall of special T-Shirts devoted to the Movie. "Let me look it up" he says... "yeah it came out the 5th.... we don't have any... in fact no store has any." "Why if you have the T-Shirts do you not have the music?" I asked back, I mean I am in a music store right. "I don't order the product" he shot back.
"This is why music stores are hurting" I countered "Would you like me to order you a copy?" "No thanks Ill purchase it on itunes!" I must admit that last line was said pretty loud as I wanted others to hear my frustration.

But I really wanted the disc for this one... liner notes etc.... so I moved on to Sunrise Records. "there's a new movie?" he said... I paused and looked at him... I raised my finger to the shirts and action figures and other assorted toys Sunrise was selling devoted to this summer block buster. "It made 112 million dollars worldwide on its opening weekend... yes there is a new movie" "Would you like me to see if I can order you a copy? I can probably get it here in a week." "A week?, I can get it from amazon in a day..." Again I am leaving the store and headed off to itunes.

I am boggled by the current state of affairs when it comes to retail and music. Both of these stores clearly were selling material that was related to what I wanted but not the piece related to their core business! Whats wrong with that picture. One look in HMV and it is clear that the sign is up on the wall... there is now two isles of ipod accessories and itunes cards for sale. Apple and to a lesser extent other online services have made selling music challenging. While this example was about a movie soundtrack it is clear that other forms of music are equally hard to come by and I personally blame the music industry for over charging for their products for years.
While many of us still want to do the right thing and buy our tracks on line, the industries shortsightedness and lack of any knowledge as to what we the consumers DO want clearly illustrates know one is at the helm.

Later that night I down loaded the entire soundtrack for less than $10.00 off of itunes. I love my iphone/pod, I love Apple too but the recent change in pricing forced on to apple by the ailing music industry may continue to force others into illegal down loading. Yes I know that the tracks are now DRM free and they are at a recorded bit rate that is closer to CD quality but in my mind this is how it should have been from the beginning and at the 99 cent price point. Its not just me confirming this... itunes sales have been down since the change over. People are fed up that the music industry just doesn't get it! I have my music but the experience has left a bad taste in my mouth for HMV and Sunrise... They did not get my money.

Here is a piece of the soundtrack from the movie... enjoy!

A Trek Anew!

What You don't have your enterprise model and 12 inch action figure yet?! Better get a move on it Mr!

Ok so it's April 30th, 5 in the afternoon... my best nerd buddy has called and issued a call to be at the AMC Dundas by 7pm... My heart begins to race as I know whats up! I'm about to be included in the very first showing of the new JJ Abrams Star Trek Movie in Canada!
I pack my bag at work and I am out of there at warp speed! Making to the theater with time to spare we meet up for what was one of the best movie going experiences in a long time. Thats right! This film while not with out it flaws is a great movie on so many levels and while I will not get into each and every moment I am about to write some minor spoilers... so look at the next two pictures and if you want to know more keep reading, if not come back to this post after you have seen the flick!

Epic! with a capitol E best describes what JJ Abrams has brought to the screen with this 11th Star Trek film. This is was the minimum requirement if this movie was to succeed! JJ gets an A+ here. Six months back if you had asked me what I thought about the initial images coming out of Paramount I would have given a very visceral response, in fact I might have told you that this was the end of the franchise as the die hard fans knew it. Take the next image... when I first saw the trailer and saw them constructing the Enterprise on the ground it was a big WTF moment! After working on the Enterprise my self over the years this was clearly a travesty of canon. I felt insulted! No really I felt insulted at having bought into a carefully crafted history and look to what in my mind was already established in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of Star Trek books and models, props and costumes now seemingly washed away with what seemed like crap on the screen. How could this have happened? Even the guy who drove Star Trek into a wall Rick Berman couldn't have fracked it up this bad!?

But then bits of the story outline began to surface... Leonard Nimoy was in the film... If hes in it certainly he has a say on some of this right? A plot with time travel and altered time lines began to appear??? Hmmm Finally the release of Countdown a four part comic book prequel hits the shelf and suddenly and magically the Vail of doubt and hate is lifted off of this film. At least for me.

This is a story of how Kirk and Spock and all of the original crew come together, just not the the Kirk and Spock story I grew up on... This is a new version of history driven by a Romulan madman from the future... The Next Gen future to be exact. Ambassador Spock is indeed assisted by Picard and crew to save the know universe only to be pulled into time and space and the past. When he sees that Nero (the baddy) has affected the time line of the past he seeks to set Kirk and Spock into a meeting that ensures that at least this part of history is not missed. As we all know the universe depends on this team to save the day countless times going forward!;-)

This recreation of the two iconic characters really drives home how great a casting job JJ and team actually did! In fact casing was key to this entire film! The contributions of Simon Peg (Scotty) and Karl Urban (McCoy) are freakishly on spot for their characters providing some of the most humorous moments in the movie.

This movie is about action and after running at a medium pace for the first 30 min the movie kicks it into warp drive(which is really kewl in this version) and never looks back and if I had one critic of the film itself is that the pace never lets up... there is now emotional up and down which causes the final act to feel a bit less than satisfying. But this is a small critic and should not dissuade you from enjoying the action. As I have said this is a fun filled experience and the story reset allows for many new adventures with this heroic crew!

EN Pros: Fab casting, great script, An epic canvas, the film stays within canon.

EN Cons: Lack of dramatic build up, Spock and Uhuru? WTF!, Tyler Perry! (I'm serious he is in this movie!) As Madea he is flawless! but its that association that makes him being head of Star Fleet hard to swallow.

Why I Live In Gene Roddenberry's World!

Lets get it out before I ramble on. I have seen the new Star Trek Movie! And I am not saying a word! Not because it wasn't good because it was! Oh boy was it good! I'm not talking because it's not out yet and I want you to see it and decide for your self... and so I will post my review before next weekend.

Tonight I want to talk about the world created by Gene Roddenberry and its importance to me and many others. I live in this world more often than not. I am aware it is not real yet its vision is one that I and others wish will come to pass more sooner than later. This is the world of Star Trek, this vision of our future is 300 years from now. In this future we have ended hunger and poverty, we have ended most disease and have created lives of personal fulfillment, contentment and peace. Racism is a pot no longer stirred on the planet earth. While commerce continues on some level, currency and rabid consumerism no longer exist. We have stepped off of this planet and have begun to venture out to other worlds. We have taken our new found understanding of diversity and our sense of curiosity and have started the journey to understand just how humanity fits in the larger universe.

Seem alien? Impossible?

Well fictionally It didn't come easy. Humanity couldn't come together until we persisted through a nuclear and biological war and a post-apocalyptic period in the mid-21st century akin to a modern dark ages. But we eventually came together again and we overcame many Earth-bound frailties and vices by the middle of the 22nd century, creating a quasi-utopian society where the central role is played not by money, but rather by the need for exploration and knowledge. It seems that the world and humanity have always evolved in the midst of conflict and hardship.

To understand the attraction to Gene's world you need to look back at the early days of Star Trek. The shows origins seem to originate out of a series of meetings begun in May of 1964. Originally conceived as a space western, a wagon train to the stars, Star Trek became so much more. Gene Roddenberry privately told friends that he was actually modeling it on Swift's Gulliver's Travels, intending each episode to act on two levels, first as a suspenseful adventure story, but also as a morality parable. The shows protagonists were essentially altruists whose ideals were sometimes only imperfectly applied to the dilemmas presented in the series. The conflicts and political dimensions of Star Trek formed allegories for contemporary cultural realities: Star Trek: The Original Series addressed issues of the day, race relations, the vietnam war, nuclear arms and the cold war.

Later versions of Star Trek in the 80's and 90's reflected issues of their respective eras. Issues depicted in the various series include war and peace, the value of personal loyalty, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism and feminism, and the role of technology. Gene Roddenberry stated: "By creating a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network."

Star Trek ranks as one of the most culturally influential television shows of all time and clearly the most influential science fiction TV show of all time. The original series, which aired on the NBC network from 1966 to 1969, had spawned four successor shows starting in the 1980s and ten movies. Countless toys, a publishing franchise that is in the top 5 of all time, and other products have been marketed by Paramount, the company that owns the Star Trek "franchise." But the show's cultural influence goes far beyond its ability to replicate itself and make money for its owners.

Measuring the cultural and social impact of a TV show or event is never easy. But there are numerous indications that Star Trek has had an influence on many peoples' lives. This can be seen in a variety of ways, from the inclusion in mass-market dictionaries of words and phrases originally invented for the show, to the testimonials of people who claim that their career and life choices were influenced by Star Trek. Star Trek was the first television series aimed at adults to tell sophisticated morality tales and to depict a paramilitary crew on a peaceful mission to explore the galaxy. At the time the show's special effects were superior to anything else then depicted on TV, its stories were often written by highly regarded science fiction authors, and many of its production values, particularly costuming, were extremely high, despite the relatively limited budget of a weekly TV series. Critics who call the show cheesy ignore the fact that by the standards of the day, Star Trek was quite advanced, and it effectively raised the bar, meaning that the science fiction television shows and movies that followed it had to meet its standards of quality and maturity in order to be taken seriously.

Roddenberry envisioned a multi-ethnic crew, including an African-American woman, a Scotsman, a Japanese American, and most notably, an alien, the half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. In the second season Roddenberry added a Russian crewmember at a time when the United States was engaged in a tense cold war with the Soviet Union. Blacks and women were also shown as scientists and doctors on the ship.

Star Trek featured the first multi-racial kiss on television, when Captain Kirk kissed his communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura. The multi-ethnic nature of the bridge crew as well as its positive message that humanity would survive and thrive among the stars is often credited by writers, fans, and historians for the show's broad appeal. As many fans later explained, Star Trek presented a positive image of the future at a time when the news was filled with stories of racism, social strife, and war. When many people wondered if the world would emerge intact from the Cold War, Star Trek depicted many different races working peacefully together several hundred years into the future. At its most basic level, Star Trek had a simple humanistic message: humanity will be okay.

Star Treks vision of the future was so compelling that the show defied conventional expectations and actually became more popular and reached a much broader audience after its cancellation than it had when it was originally shown on NBC. The strength of the fan based grew by leaps and bounds via the convention circuit and by 1976, following a fan-organized letter-writing campaign, NASA named its first Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise, after the starship in the show. The Enterprise was used in a number of flight tests, but NASA canceled plans to launch it into space because it was too heavy. NASA also employed actress Nichelle Nichols, who played communications officer Lieutenant Uhura, to try to recruit African-Americans and women to become astronauts. During her work on the show in the 1960s, Nichols had become frustrated at her relative lack of lines and was considering quitting. She was talked out of this decision by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who told her that a show that depicted a black woman working alongside whites in a position of importance helped further the goal of racial equality.

In 1986, Roddenberry created a second TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The new series had a less aggressive and more socially liberal message. The show drew a whole new generation to the show and influenced many people in scientific and engineering fields have stated that they were inspired by Star Trek, which they thought portrayed science and engineering in a positive light (although rarely accurately). Even physicist Stephen Hawking was a fan of the show. Although the original Star Trek series was occasionally sexist (women wore skimpy outfits and no woman was ever shown commanding a starship), many women have testified that they were positively influenced by the show's depiction of women scientists working alongside their male counterparts. Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg has said that seeing a black woman sitting on the bridge of a starship, and not working as a maid, made her believe as a young girl that she could be an actress with a real role. Mae Jamison, the first African-American woman to fly in space, has also said that she was deeply influenced by the show. Goldberg later played a regular on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Jamison made a cameo appearance on the show.

Today I saw a whole new Star Trek and I am happy to say that the world Gene Roddenberry's has made it through almost five decades intact. His vision clearly has had a positive influence on society... Advances in race relations how ever large and small have occurred. The Country has elected its first black president Barack Obama who at a campaign event in Wyoming, said the following: "I grew up on Star Trek. I believe in the final frontier." Obama's clearly shows that he too has an optimistic view of the future as portrayed by the show. Advances in medicine and science are beginning to have profound effects in society and the world Gene Roddenberry created, no more accurately prophesied back in the mid 60's is ever more alive and real today.

So yes I know its fictional, and I am a fan, but I live in Gene Roddenberry's world and believe one day his vision will be reality.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

15 More Minuets

Spent some time tonight shooting an interview about the upcoming Star Trek movie at Space the premier Canadian Sci-Fi channel...The interviewer was Natasha Eloi

My 15 more minuets of fame!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The Fabulous Cushman Brothers" - Visiting The Paramount Lot In Hollywood!

While we had finished our work on First Contact we were invited to the grand daddy of Trek Cons held every year in Pasadena The Grand Slam! This Con is huge... with thousands of participant every year! On our first day in LA we spent the afternoon on the Paramount Lot. Matt had rented a convertible Mustang and we had a blast passing through the famous Paramount gates on Melrose avenue. Giving our names security ushered us in to the central parking lot. We were then introduced to Doug Drexler who was a big part of the Star Trek Art Department. Doug had won an Academy Award for makeup on the Dick Tracy Movie but was not changing direction and working in design.
Doug took us past the infamous sets to the art department offices where we were able to meet Herman F. Zimmerman, Michael & Denise Okuda, Rick Sternbach and the very kewl John Eaves who imeadiately dubbed us "The Fabulous Cushman Brothers"!

This Art Department had been in continuous use since the late 80's and there were thousands of drawings lining the walls of these offices. To my surprise one very prominent illustration on the back wall above Doug Drexlers desk is my original poster of the Enterprise D! It doesn't even count as surreal to be honest... its just a bizarre feeling of accomplishment and terror!

Returning form lunch with John and Doug it was easy to see these guys had allot of fun doing their work! That day we walked away with some great gifts of drawings and copies of their work.. and full tour of both Voyager and DS9 sets as Jem hadar swarmed around between takes! too cool!

Later that weekend the Art Department came and supported us at our table at the convention! As we closed up our table at the end we gave them the giant foam board cut out of the Enterprise E we had shipped in for the show.... I'm sure it to went on to reside on the wall!

3 & 1/2 Of My Fifteen Minutes Of Fame - Thanks Space!

A Singular Honor - Part 1

Up until this point in our journey my brother Matt and I had basically documented what was. Star Trek design and programming largely completed before we created our posters. Its now 1995 and with the announcement of the production of the new Star Trek Movie First Contact we immediately request the license for the new Enterprise.... The Enterprise D had been destroyed in Generations and the Enterprise E was a chance to be involved from the ground up. It was also an opportunity to directly add our touch as well. Over the coarse of the next several posts I want to construct the work that went into the movie.

Drawings and blueprints began rolling in almost immediately. These drawings were highly classified as Paramount was trying to build suspense on what the new Enterprise would look like.... Our first model was made of foam core but gave us the first impressions of the new design. Laying in front of us was the new Enterprise... And outside of the Star Trek art department knowone had ever seen it! it was a sureal experience.

First Contact was the last movie that used models for the ships. Images of the exterior came almost daily... here are some close ups of the saucer section.

Interior sets were also being constructed though these images didn't come until later in the year.

One of the first areas that i was able to contribute was the bridge airlock. While they had the interior set completed the door to the airlock did not match any of the exterior design. It was here that I suggested a secondary flush door that matched the smooth exterior. Here is the sketch I supplied for the solution.

Another sketch I completed was a saucer separation sequence which while never used can be found in the details of our poster.

While I was working on collecting the details on the Enterprise my brother Matt was working on a small sub poster of the Phoenix which was debuted along side the new enterprise poster. Here is the capsule for the Phoenix... Matt did an incredible job working on the Phoenix including the design of her engines... This will be covered on a future post.

Above and below are the poster and a close up of the poster for detail! The color and internal details used a new technique utilizing photoshop and actual textures from the sets.

Getting product approvals is a time consuming process, drawings were sent back and forth via FedEx. Redlines(corrections) were always hard as the design process was meticulously controlled by the art department. These guys were not just designers they were fans and the keepers of the Trek canon.

1996 Suzie Domnick VP of Paramount product licensing said that SciPubTech was the rare non filmed product that not only was Canon but extended Canon for the show.

In the next several postings I will step through each of these moments in detail. Needless to say helping to design the Enterprise E was a singular honor.

Our First BIG Con! Star Trek's 30th Anniversary Celebration - The Manned Space Flight Centre in Huntsville Alabama September 1996

Over the coarse of the first couple years we had attended the local Trek Con's in Detroit, more specifically at the Dearborn Civic Center.... There were many kewl moments to be sure... but now it was time to take our products to the con of cons's! The 30th Anniversary Party held by Paramount and NASA at the Manned Space Flight Center in Huntsville Alabama! There was so many great moments that weekend its hard to chronicle them all. A few that stuck out for me included my first time meeting Leonard Nimoy, Kate Mulgrew, Micheal Dorn and several real live astronauts including Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin the second man to walk on the surface of the moon. During the two days we were there we sold and signed hundreds if not thousands of posters, including to some of the trek cast themselves who visited our table. Because DS9 had just been published we got allot of attention from the cast of the show... most notably Rene Auberjonois, Armin Shimerman and the fantastic Chase Masterson who was very down to earth person... I believe I traded a signed DS9 poster for a autographed picture of her!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

DS9 - Getting back on my feet

I needed to get back on the horse after the drama of the 1701D poster. My first Poster with SciPubTech was going to be Deep Space Nine which was challenging given the size of the subject. One of the first unfortunate lessons working on this poster was the disappointing reality that for the first time in Star Trek history the scale of things were being skewed ala something I like to call the Jupiter 2 syndrome. The Jupiter 2 was the ship from lost in Space which we all love but whos insides never fit the outside of the ship. This was disappointing to me as I got some early feedback from Paramount that our original concept sketch was out of scale to what they were showing on TV. Now I had taken all the blue prints the studio had provided and worked out the scale and perspective. As you can see in the drawing below the docked Enterprise D appears quite large relative to DS9.
As you can see in the image from the show the Enterprise D is 30% of it true size. When I asked about this discrepancy the answer I got was a tacit acknowledgment of the truth but that they wanted DS9 to look immense and to do so was allowable under creative license. Disappointed I moved on!

Unlike the previous two projects, with DS9 I received very specific blueprints and floor plans directly from Paramount which made the job of creating the drawings so much easier in many ways. There was a lot about DS9 that was unexplored and unseen which allowed me to create it for the first time. How was the station powered, where was it's computer core... these were all laid out for me in black and white but the rest was mine!

The first drawing was to create the core of the station. I was never truly able to draw the entire station on one piece of paper... with the deck height a mere .25inches the final drawing would have been the size of a wall. The core image below is nearly 30 inches in height when completed. Once all of the conduits and turbo shafts were laid out I was able to start filling in the decks with all matter of quarters and labs.
The Promenade was particularly fun to lay out and explore. (on a subsequent visit to the Paramount lot I was able to walk all of the DS9 sets and one of the little known facts about set construction is that they build them to 5/6th scale. When you are on the set this is not at first fully evident but you do have a sense that there is something wrong that you can't put your finger on. Anouther fact that was interesting to learn was the painted perspective back drops that would handily extend the scope of the promenade set!)

After drawing all of the separate sections of the station the ink drawings were created using different pen sizes so that when some sections were reduced the line quality would match the other sections flawlessly once combined. Another fascinating aspect of this poster was that the station itself was of Cardasian design..Alien to most Starfleet designs and there for more interesting a project creatively.

At one point there was going to be a fairly large secondary cutaway of the Rio Grande, one of the 3 Runabouts on the station. The drawing below is the final line work of that ship with all of the detail corrected to Paramount's approval. The final use was scaled down considerably showing the Runabout secured in one of the DS9 landing bays... the detail was all but lost in that version.

Desiding on the format of a poster is not at all easy. It was clear that we could not have the poster as originally conceived as it would have been to large and expensive to print. Breaking sections down and showing them enlarged was the key to the posters design... the first draft of that idea is seen below.

The design was modified later to look more like a Cardasian computer display which was taken one step further when we added the copper metallic ink used to frame the individual illustrations. Again Bob Kayganich was tapped to complete color work and his color scheme was simply amazing as he not only captured the brilliant lighting of the open wormhole but also the refection of that lighting on the hull of the station... its a subtle yet fantastic example of his talent. As the poster neared completion a new season of the show had begun and the addition of the Defiant. I lobbied pretty hard to get a cutaway of the defiant on the poster, but timing would have put the poster off for atleast 4 months and so we added an exterior illustration which fit the bill.

The finished product was stunning and we made a more formal debut of the poster at the 30th Anniversary celebration at the Manned Space Flight Centre in Huntsville Alabama where NASA and Paramount put on a 3 day extravaganza to celebrate the milestone. During that show we were able to give copies of the poster to several of the stars of the show but the biggest honor came when we met Joel Williamson the lead NASA engineer for the International Space Station who purchased a Deep Space Nine Poster signed to the space station team. The poster was launched with the station in March of 1997. Now I don't know about you but having one of your drawings hanging in the Smithsonian was a hard act to top but I think this took the cake!