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Amblin Imaging

Amblin Imaging was a visual effects studio that did computer animation and special effects for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Emergence" and the first two seasons of Star Trek: Voyager. It was specifically formed in 1993 by filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Universal Studios to provide the visual effects for the science fiction series seaQuest DSV. One of the digital artists who worked on this show was Robert Bonchune, who, before Amblin's involvement with Star Trek, would move over to Foundation Imaging yet to work on Star Trek, while his supervisor, Michael Shea would marry Star Trek studio model maker Dana White. Joe Conti started out his career as digital artist at Amblin, working on seaQuest DSV, whereas Production Illustrator John Eaves has served as the series' storyboard artist.

Among Amblin's achievements were the creation of the emergent lifeform for TNG: "Emergence" and that of the CGI model for the USS Voyager. Together with Santa Barbara Studios, they also co-created the show's opening title sequence. The Amblin Imaging team won an Emmy Award for its work on Voyager's pilot episode, "Caretaker". [1]

After meeting the pair at a December 1993 Christmas party, thrown by NewTek (the company that owns and markets the LightWave 3D software, the software package of choice at Amblin), it was Amblin's lead team John Gross and John Parenteau, that managed to persuade Star Trek Visual Effects Supervisors David Stipes and Dan Curry to push forward the introduction of CGI techniques for the franchise. John Gross recalled, "David was always interested in getting 3-D incorporated into Star Trek. He saw the benefits of that probably before many of the other producers over there did. And so we invited him over here and showed him the facility and when Voyager came up he saw the opportunity to get this stuff involved. He and Dan Curry came by and we talked about what we can do and showed them some examples and eventually we gave them a bid to build a virtual Voyager." To prove their skills, Gross and Grant Bouchet took some stock footage of a Maquis raider with the accompanying motion control data, provided by the studio, and added some CGI ships. They matched flight movements so perfectly that the Star Trek producers were unable to distinguish between the physical models and CGI models. Vice-president John Parenteau related further, "That meant a lot to Dan Curry, because Dan was weary. I think he had some bad experiences with CGI in the past and didn't feel it was quite there yet. But when we turned out their flight tests and people couldn't tell the difference, Dan started to realize that maybe we have finally conquered whatever barrier there had been before." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 80)

In addition to Voyager and SeaQuest, Amblin Imaging worked on the science fiction series Sliders. Voyager guest star John Rhys-Davies was a regular on this series for the first two and a half seasons.

In the fall of 1995 owner Universal Studios decided to close down the company after a major project was canceled. Gross and Parenteau bought the majority of Amblin's equipment and restarted the effects house under the name Digital Muse. Amblin's closure freed up the way for Foundation Imaging, along with POP Film and POP Animation initially, to take over the CGI work for Star Trek: Voyager.

Amblin Imaging Voyager team

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