Thursday 10 April 2014

Drex Files: Art Department Fleet Yard

Once upon a time there was a wonderful website called Drex Files, where Star Trek visual effects wizard, art department pro, make-up artist, all round mega-fan, and friend of trekkies everywhere, Doug Drexler, treated the world to regular looks behind the scenes at years of his work on Star Trek, from TV production and beyond. Alas the Drex Files are no more, but Doug carries on the good work on his Facebook profile instead.

Missing the blog format of Drex Files, I reached out to Doug, and am delighted that has endorsed a cunning plan to open the files once more. So welcome to the first post of "Drex Files in Exile", where I'll be bringing back some of the old Drex Files articles, and re-presenting what Doug has posted on Facebook. You'll be able to find Drex Files posts on The Trek Collective under a dedicated tag, and I'll be maintaining an index page, which you'll find a link to in the bar at the top of the site, to make it nice and easy to find exactly the Drex File you're looking for.

Doug has posted so many amazing things over the years, so it's hard to know where to start. But I felt this first post should definitely show Doug in action, and one of the things I especially love about what Doug posts, ships! So we'll be kicking things off with Doug's look at the "Art Department Fleet Yard". Here's what Doug had to say about this collection of photos:
Occasionally if a miniature needed graphic retouching, VFX would arrange to have the teamsters pick the model up and bring it to the art department. That was always a big event, because the ships were our idea of celebrities. More than anything, they seemed to embody what the show was all about… symbolic of human aspiration and ingenuity.
We start this look behind the scenes with work on the Nebula class USS Prometheus. There's more of this ship, and some others, after the jump:

Oh please, Mr. Okuda! Don’t make me touch up the starships again! Anything but that!

I always thought the Nebula class ship was a brilliant variant, with it’s distinctive AWAC like sensor pod. It gave a much needed boot to filling out the fleet.

At one point, Dan Curry called Mike indicating that we may need an AWAC pod variant. We obliged by kludging one together. We ultimately did not use it.
Set designer Ron Wilkenson takes a break from playing with his toy hovercopter to pose with the Prometheus. Ron’s a great guy who was always laughing. He had a heckuva sweet tooth. Whenever Dorth would send over a tray of decadently yummy baked goods, Ron would appear at my door swooning over each rich bite… “Marry that girl, Doug!” he would demand, “ Marry her today!”

The sure sign of an ex-makeup artist: the pinky monopod!
Here's Doug busy at work on a couple of other ships too:

Need I say more? : )
Me getting the Saratoga ready to blow up in the DS9 pilot.
And finally for this file, a piece of Voyager concept art, for a version of the ship that didn't quite make it to the fleet:
This design was almost Voyager until practically the very last minute. Is there any other way to do things, here in the 'Wood? I have to hand it to Rick Sternbach. Like Gordo Cooper in "The Right Stuff", he always maintained an even strain, in spite of the ungodly pressure.
Rick Sternbach also chipped in on the discussion of this image on Facebook:
Jeri Taylor was the producers' voice when they asked me to make Voyager "a little curvier, kind of like a Lexus." She was great to work with on script techy bits and general concepts, and I was more than happy to honor her request.
He also revealed a cheeky bit of design trickery when referring to an early version of this design, which featured tall fins as well:
The designs with the tall shield fins were part of the general mix of early sketches, and came about partly because of something Robert Heinlein mentioned to me back in 1972. Yes, that Robert Heinlein. "Give the editors something to cut out." While I'm sure I could have lived with the fins in a final design, they served their purpose during the process.
Check back soon for more posts from the Drex Files, there's lots to come. And in the mean time you can keep track of Doug Drexler, and all he gets up to, on Facebook.


Treadwell said...

On the top of the AWAC pod variant, is that the battery cover from a Playmates Enterprise B? Love kit bashing!

8of5 said...

It looks a lot like the mid-bar pod on the Miranda class to me. I'm sure Doug will be forthcoming with an answer if you ask on that photo on Facebook :)

Find Star Trek comics, toys, statues, and collectibles at!