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Apogee, Inc.

Apogee Productions, Inc., originally known as Apogee, Inc., was a full service visual effects (VFX, at the time still called "special effects") company and one of the two main companies responsible for the VFX of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, after Robert Abel & Associates was let go from the production in February 1979.

The company was created by John Dykstra on 14 November 1977 after he had left Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and had its office located in Van Nuys, California. [1] It was formed during the production of the 1978 Universal Studios Battlestar Galactica movie, re-edited from the original pilot episodes but premiered before the classic series started airing, and its three follow-up regular series episodes. Working alongside Dykstra at the time was his employee and former Star Trek: The Original Series VFX staffer Richard Edlund, who helped him to form the company, but decided to leave before The Motion Picture commission. Apogee was initially and primarily formed out of former ILM employees, like Edlund was, and offered the full spectrum of VFX production, contrary to the more specialized ones such as Magicam, Brick Price Movie Miniatures, Greg Jein, Inc. (these three only props and studio models), or Future General Corporation (FGC, only VFX filming and compositing), all of them incidentally also commissioned for The Motion Picture.

While working on the Galactica commission, the company had actually already been approached by Paul Rabwin as one of the VFX companies sought out for the Motion Picture after the upgrade decision in October 1977. However, he had already committed his company to a follow-up project, the 1980 movie Altered States, so he had to decline on that occasion. (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 46-47) He was again offered a VFX commission on the movie directly after the February 1979 VFX debacle by his former mentor and just appointed Motion Picture VFX Director Douglas Trumbull. Trumbull was faced with the gargantuan task of recreating all the VFX from scratch for the movie at the eleventh hour, and suggested the company of his former protege in order to get a head start on VFX production, as he needed time to revitalize his own nearly dismantled FGC VFX company. At that particular point in time though, Dykstra had to decline again as he and his company were still working on Altered States. However, less than a month later, the movie was taken away from his company and, with no other projects in the pipeline, Dykstra was able to offer the services of his company to a relieved Trumbull after all. (Cinefex, issue 2, p. 51; Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 372-374) Incidentally, one of Apogee's employees who also worked on the movie was Trumbull's father, Don Trumbull.

Epsilon IX station studio model filmed on stage at Apogee Inc by Michael Lawler

Michael Lawler preparing the Epsilon IX model for filming

Signed in late-March 1979, the company was tasked with model and miniature manufacturing as well as designing, shooting, and editing key VFX scenes. Apogee rented a facility in the San Fernando Valley specifically for the production. The VFX scenes Apogee was entrusted with were the opening Klingon scene, the digitizing of the Epsilon IX station scene, the wormhole mishap sequence, the exterior V'Ger approach sequences (the interior scenes were done by FGC, as were all the other VFX scenes), and the scene with the V'ger probe on the bridge. Part of their responsibility was, under the supervision of Grant McCune, having their model shop build a number of studio models for the film, including a two-foot articulated thruster suit puppet, three models of the Epsilon IX station (an entirely original Apogee design), and all the exterior sections of V'Ger; in addition, they extensively modified Magicam's D7-class model for it to become the K't'inga-class model.

The company nearly ceased its existence in the fall of 1982, when Dykstra dismantled the company due to the lack of commercial projects. However business picked up shortly afterwards, beginning with Clint Eastwood's movie Firefox (1982), and the company was revitalized (as Apogee Productions, Inc. from 1989 onward). [2] Ten years later, however, in late 1992, Dykstra closed down the company permanently when he left to join Los Angeles-based Eggers Films. [3]

Grant McCune took possession of some of the equipment as well as the lease on the property and restarted the company as his own under the name Grant McCune Design. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies, p. 79)


People employed at Apogee, Inc. at the time of the production of The Motion Picture included:

  • Staff
    • Dick Alexander
    • Chuck Barbee – Effects Camera Man
    • David Bartholomew
    • Deborah Baxter
    • David Beasley
    • Mat Beck
    • Cosmos Bolger
    • Stephen Brooks [4]
    • Glenn Campbell
    • Mark Cane
    • Angela Diamos
    • Roger Dorney – Director of Optical Photography
    • Dennis Dorney
    • Don Dow – Effects Camera Man (1977-1978) [5]
    • Patricia Rose Duignan – Production Associate (1977-1978) [6]
    • Janet Dykstra
    • Richard Edlund – Director of Miniature Photography (1977-1978)
    • Robert Elswit
    • Chuck Embrey – Effects Gaffer
    • Leslie Ekker – Animation and Graphics Artist
    • John Erland
    • Joe Garlington
    • Bruno George
    • Pete Gerard – Model Maker
    • Rick Gilligan
    • Philip Golden
    • Phil Gonzales
    • Richie Helmer
    • Phil Joanou
    • Jack Johnson – Production Illustrator
    • Paul Johnson
    • Proctor Jones – Assistant Effects Camera Man
    • Michael Joyce – Model Maker
    • Denny Kelley
    • Deborah Kendall
    • Greg Kimble – Effects Camera Man
    • Steve Klein
    • Mark Kline
    • Martin Kline
    • Don Kurtz
    • Michael Lawler – Effects Camera Man
    • Steve Mark
    • Pat McClung
    • Grant McCune – Model Shop Supervisor
    • Syd Mead – Concept Production Illustrator
    • Mike Middleton
    • Alvah J. Miller – Electronics Supervisor
    • John Millerburg
    • Harry Moreau
    • Erik Nash
    • Ron Nathan
    • Debbi Nikkel – Production Accountant
    • Jerry Pooler
    • John Ramsay
    • Gary Rhodaback
    • Steve Sass
    • Dennis Schultz
    • David Scott – Model Maker
    • Robert Shepherd
    • Bill Shourt
    • John Shourt
    • Tutt Shurtleff
    • Dick Singleton
    • Richard Smiley – Model Maker
    • Doug Smith – Effects Camera Man
    • David Sosalla – Model Sculptor/Maker
    • John Sullivan – Effects Camera Man
    • Michael Sweeney
    • Don Trumbull – Partner, Mechanical Design
    • Susan Turner
    • Don Webber
    • Gary Weeks
    • Greg Wilzbach – Animation and Graphics Artist
    • Diane E. Wooten

Further reading[]

  • "Star Trekking at Apogee with John Dykstra", Don Shay, Cinefex, issue 2, August 1980, pp. 50-71
  • "John Dykstra, Planning Science-Fiction Illusions", David Hutchison, Starlog, issue 103, February 1986, pp. 53-54
  • "Behind the Scenes: Visual Effects-1979", Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, December 2001, pp. 63-69

External links[]