Enterprise Flybys in TNG and TNG-R
by Jörg Hillebrand and Bernd Schneider
A new flyby of the USS Enterprise-D, filmed with the 4-foot model, was created for the fourth season of TNG. Three versions of this shot exist in the original SD episodes.
One features the ship flying towards the camera at impulse and another one at warp speed. The footage of the USS Enterprise-D is identical, only the stars were changed. In this article, We will refer to the warp shot as 1 and the impulse shot as 3.
Another shot shows the ship slowing down from warp to impulse speed (2). The beginning of this shot is identical to the other two flybys. Once the ship has dropped to impulse, though, the model flies much slower past the camera, making the footage appear much less blurred. The three versions of this shot were first used in some early season 4 episodes and, from here on, appeared until the end of the series.
This gives us the following three versions of the original shot:
1 Going to warp
2 Warp drop
When work on the remastering of TNG started, the original film of this iconic shot of the USS Enterprise-D could not be located. Different other footage and CG models of the ship were used to create replacement footage of this flyby. We will refer to the different versions in TNG-R as A to E, in order of their first appearances in episodes (which is not the same order in which the episodes were remastered).
The following article lists all the different versions of the flyby and comments on any other noteworthy changes.
Identification and Description of TNG-R Shots
The first time a replacement shot for the missing footage of the Enterprise-D flyby was required was for TNG-R: "The Inner Light". This episode was remastered in advance because it was included on the "The Next Level" sampler Blu-ray disc, together with "Encounter at Farpoint" and "Sins of the Father". The shot was reconstructed using a CG model by Tobias Richter. While the original shot showed the newer 4-foot model of the Enterprise (with the thicker saucer rim and the raised panels), Tobias Richter's model is based on the original 6-foot miniature of the Enterprise-D. We refer to this flyby as version E. It only appears in "The Inner Light".
Most of the digital compositing for season 4 was outsourced to the company Modern VideoFilm, while CBS-D took care of just two episodes, "The Best of Both Worlds II" and "Redemption I", to ensure visual consistency with their other parts, in season 3 and season 5, respectively. In the aforementioned two episodes, as well as in a couple of season 5 episodes, we can see the flyby using footage of the physical 4-foot model of the Enterprise. It turns out that a similar shot of the same model originally from TNG: "Relics" was used, in which the Enterprise is flying in opposite direction, and that this shot was mirror-inverted. This is evidenced by the same window lighting, comparing the shot from "The Best of Both Worlds II" with one showing the model in its original orientation, such as the one from "Relics" or a similar one with the same lighting pattern from "In Theory".
The original shot from "Relics" appears to be blurred towards the end. This can be seen as a beneficial side effect, as it obscures the ship's registry on the warp pylon in the mirrored stand-in shot. Motion blur is considered to be a virtue anyway in most cases because it looks more natural than stop motion, for instance (even CG shots are rendered with blurring for that matter). We refer to the mirrored shot as version A (for the one created by CBS-D) or B (for the one by Modern VideoFilm, with slightly lower quality).
At one point in the fourth season, a CG model was required, rather than the rather blurry flipped shot of the ship. The episode was "Final Mission", where the Enterprise is towing the alien freighter. The darker tone and deeper shadows of the other ship's shots would not have worked so well for this particular shot. While Modern VideoFilm was in charge of the episode, CBS-D did the actual rendering (including lighting and motion blur) of the already existing model by Tobias Richer (E). This is what we refer to as version C of the flyby.
Eventually, a new and more detailed CG model was created on behalf of CBS-D, which is still based on the 6-foot Enterprise, just as the original one by Tobias Richter (E), but which also incorporates a slight paneling as on the 4-foot model. This model appears in all episodes since the fifth season that include any of the original three shots. We refer to this shots using this model as version D. It is the arguably best model so far.
This is a summary of all physical and CG models that are used for the above shots 1-3 in TNG-R:
A Physical 4-foot model, footage mirror-inverted, blurry towards the end
B Physical 4-foot model, footage mirror-inverted, blurry towards the end, colors + lighting by Modern VideoFilm
C First CG model, used for TNG-R season 4 by CBS-D and Modern VideoFilm
D New CG model, used by CBS-D
E First CG model created by Tobias Richter for "The Next Level" sample release
Episode List (TNG and TNG-R)
Episode List (not yet Released or Reviewed)
Here are further occurrences of the original shots in episodes seasons 6 and 7.
Comparison of TNG-R Shots
Comparison of TNG-R Shots with Additional Elements