Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Amazing Borg Queen Shot from "Star Trek: First Contact": Visual Effects Hall of Fame


If I were in charge of the universe, I’d create a Visual Effects Hall of Fame, an inductee would be this shot from "Star Trek: First Contact" (1996), directed by Jonathan Frakes. In a movie filled with spectacle, it's a quiet, jaw-dropping moment.


The introduction of the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) shows off the hybrid robot/humanoid nature of the Borg, with her seemingly humanoid head and shoulders (delivering dialogue!) being lowered and attached to a robotic body.

The first part of the shot is a challenge unto itself: a severed human torso being lowered by cables onto a body. The extra added challenge is that the body needs to be assembled and walk toward camera in an uninterrupted shot.


Alice Krige was photographed while mounted onto a motion control crane in makeup and appliances. The rest of her body is angled backwards, plainly visible to camera. Her head and shoulders, blending with the makeup effects, sells the effect. You don't notice her real-life head tilt. Krige's first performance was shot with a motion control camera sync'd with the crane (so the camera move and Krige's arc can be replicated precisely take after take). Later, Krige in full head-to-toe makeup and costume acted out the 2nd half of the shot, walking toward Data, also mo-con.


The massive shot required assembling two different pieces of performance (Krige on crane/Krige walks toward Data), blended with morphs and secondary animation (check out the hooks that pull the skin on her chest into place). Also the massive paintout of the camera and Krige's body.

And there's nowhere to hide the transitions. No lightning flashes, no smoke, no camera shake, no characters walking in front of camera (to hide a transition). It's all right there, in front of you.


Up to this point in film history, the accumulated cinematic vocabulary of a shot like this instructed audiences to expect a cut just as she's lowered into her body, since a shot like this had never really been done before. NO CUT. Then she walks toward camera. Awesome.

The Borg Queen shot: visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic, visual effects supervisor John Knoll, visual effects art director Alex Jaeger, makeup effects by Todd Masters. Read more about the making of the film's effects in Cinefex 69.


Here's John and Alex talking about the shot in an 11-minute featurette.

Direct YouTube link

original Tweet

5 comments:

Ranchu said...

I saw the movie in the theater when it came out. Me and my friends went nuts when the borg queen "landed" inside her body and stated to walk. Thanks for posting this.

kasturbian said...
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kasturbian said...
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Unknown said...

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