LIEF Productions

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Star Trek: Unity in 2005

Location: International

Star Trek: Unity (ST:U) is ground breaking in a number of respects, primarily in that it is one of the first large scale machinima projects. Using a computer game engine, in this case Half Life 2 (HL2), to create visually dramatic and creative new environments, the group can utilise the talent and creative drives of Star Trek fans from all over the world.

As a virtual project, ST:U is out on the cutting edge. Using Hammer - a HL2 map editor - they can model as well as map and with the much-anticipated arrival of HDR lighting to Hammer, mappers will soon be working with the latest generation of map design software. Moreover, since modellers aren't working in "real time", they don't have to worry about tracking polycounts and can fully ultilise the dynamics of the virtual environment.

Even in a virtual environment though the production still needs a costume and props department! In this case though costuming means artists who can "skin" the characters and props means artists who can create new items as 3D meshes, like their new hand phaser/phase pistol.

The overall design of the USS Unity is undergoing constant revision, although released graphics help to demonstrate the direction the ship's design is headed. Work is also being done on three new alien species. In all, the plan is for the creation of six new alien starships.

Everything you hear on a virtual project such as this must be added from the ground up! Not only does the Audio department work with the musicians and actors, collecting, reviewing and correcting their sound files, they must collate it all on multiple tracks to form an essential dramatic element of the production. The project's Audio Director then supervises the clean up of 'noise' on the multiple sound layers and helps create, develop and maintain a sound effects library. This not only provides the explosions, bells and whistles but the ambient background noises that give us audible clues as to the scene's location.

Because the live actors spoken lines are simply sound files emailed in to the sound engineers, they can live anywhere in the world, as can virtually any member of the cast or crew! This is why it is a truly international project!

The action takes place in 2173 and will focus on the crew of the USS Unity and their exploration of a new, uncharted region of space, twelve years after the founding of the Federation. The series will begin with "The Powder Keg", a three part episode arc, with four more episodes currently being outlined, each episode will feature a teaser and four acts. The episodes will mostly be a continuing serial but there will most likely be stand-alone episodes as well in the future. "The Powder Keg" was released in November as a novelisation.
Although later incarnations of Trek have focused on inter-species conflict and in some cases, warfare," says Tanveer Naseer (Kracko), the Unity's PR Director "Star Trek: Unity has as its focus character dynamics and the relationships between the crew and those they encounter. While some encounters will invariably end in conflict, it is the drive of the crew of the USS Unity to reach out to new species, as well as familiar ones, with the arm of diplomacy and friendship. The hope is that in doing such, they will help expand humanity's understanding of the universe and its place in it.
In August, the Project Manager Frederik Egger, stepped down, for practical & personal reasons, to act as a Creative Consultant. Story/Scripts Director Dany Rioux, whose role has now been filled by Ani Manjikan, took his place. Mike Cugley, a regular on the Star Trek: Intrepid team, also joined ST:U as a Graphic Artist - Hammer Mapper at this point.

In September in answer to the many requests to see more of the Unity's visual elements, never before seen design images were released of both Unity's interior and some brand new alien ship designs. While these designs may change drastically from now to the final product, these images help to give an idea of the novel and dramatic look being created by the graphics team.

The graphics design team is trying to create a visual style which has not been seen in any other the Star Trek incarnation, whilst still showing its kinship to Star Trek look. Their goal is to strike a balance, to exhibit the show's development from 'Star Trek: Enterprise', whilst hinting at the classic Trek look of The Original Series.

The first promotional trailer for Unity had its premiere at the UberCon convention in New Jersey (courtesy of Gene Hendricks of Tales of The Seventh Fleet), however it was decided to wait until October 31 to share it with the rest of Trek fandom as a treat for Halloween.

Tanveer generally puts a monthly update on the Unity website but says that "there might not be any for the next two months or so since I'm busy working on a 'special' project that I hope fans will find entertaining and informative. Currently about 1/3 completed, [it] will involve the assistance and co-operation of several people including some from other fan Trek productions. I'm hoping that I will have it completed by the end of January or early February with a public release date soon after that."

As regards the release date of their first episode, Unity (perhaps influenced by the reaction to Exeter's delayed first act?) have decided to play it close to the chest. Said Tanveer … "As of December last year, we've had to reassess when we could have our premiere episode out. Rather than set an arbitrary date this early in the game, we're focusing on continuing work on the series and only plan to announce a release date once we are close to completion of the first episode."


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