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Howard Anderson Company

The Howard Anderson Company (also referred to as Anderson Co. or as Howard A. Anderson Co.) is a visual effects company (VFX – in the 1960s still referred to as either "special effects", "photographic effects", or "opticals"), founded in 1927 by Howard A. Anderson, which was the first company that catered to the VFX needs for the very first Star Trek production, Star Trek: The Original Series.

The Anderson Company was run by his sons Howard A. Anderson, Jr. and Darrell Anderson in the 1960s, when The Original Series was being produced. The Anderson Company rented its facilities on the Desilu lot. They had a close working relationship with Desilu since the early 1950s, when they did the titles of I Love Lucy and Our Miss Brooks. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 33) So their involvement was quite a natural one when they were contracted to do the VFX for the very first Star Trek pilot, "The Cage" in 1964, something that was not lost on Executive Producer Gene Roddenberry, as he wrote, elated, in a memo to the head of Desilu Business Affairs, Argyle Nelson, on 24 August 1964, "I am delighted Anderson and others find the project interesting and fascinating. It will take a lot of corporation and creative thinking to bring this in exciting and on budget." (The Making of Star Trek, p. 89)

Most importantly, the Anderson Company produced the exterior VFX shots of the USS Enterprise, involving the two differently scaled studio models – the build of which sub-contracted to Richard C. Datin, Jr. – , and which included the starfield backdrops and planets, for the first, "The Cage", and second, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", pilot episodes of The Original Series, as well as for the first regular series' production episode "The Corbomite Maneuver". They also created various other special effects, such as phaser beams and the transporter effect. However, the extensive effects work required week-by-week on Star Trek (the most effects laden television show up until that time), was deemed too much to handle for just the one company, so Associate Producer Robert Justman and Post-production Supervisor Edward K. Milkis hired several other effect houses, such as The Westheimer Company, Van der Veer Photo Effects, and the Linwood G. Dunn-headed Film Effects of Hollywood, virtually every other independent special effects house in existence in Hollywood at the time, to work on the series, besides the Andersons. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 262) An aggravating circumstance was that Anderson Co. had in the meantime also committed to the VFX for the 1967-1968 science fiction series The Invaders, and for which Datin was again sub-contracted as studio model builder. (The Enterprise NCC 1701 and The Model Maker p. 27) Film Effects of Hollywood took over the exterior starship effects shots for the regular series' seasons one and two, which was just as well, as far as Anderson's staffers were concerned, as the latter's studio was more spacious and better suited to handle, in particular, the large eleven-foot Enterprise model.

The large Enterprise model at Anderson's, filmed for the 2nd pilot

The somewhat cramped conditions of Anderson's studio caused some problems in shooting the larger model, as Howard Anderson recalled, "We had to constantly stop shooting after a short while because the lights would heat up the ship. We'd turn the lights on and get our exposure levels and balance our arc lights to illuminate the main body of the ship and then we'd turn the ship's lights off until they cooled down. Then we'd turn them on and shoot some shots all in one pass. It wasn't until later that someone developed fiber optics and 'cold-lights' and other useful miniature lighting tools that are common today." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 67) Several photographs have turned up afterwards, among others in the reference book Star Trek: The Original Series 365, showing Anderson employees, their shirts unbuttoned, suffering under the heat of the lighting. Due to budget cuts, Film Effects of Hollywood was removed from the production roster for the third season, and all new exterior starship shots reverted to Anderson's, including those of the new Klingon D7 class model. Yet, no new Enterprise footage was shot for that season. [1] For the studio model photography, Anderson employed a subsidiary facility, located on nearby Fairfax Avenue, as their offices on the Desilu lot were too small, though it too, as stated, proved to be on the small side for the large Enterprise model. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 261) During their involvement with the series, Post-production Supervisor Milkis, served as the primary liaison between the company and the studio, succeeding Desilu's Post Production Executive Bill Heath who had done so for the first two pilots. (Star Trek Memories, pp. 238-240)

The Anderson Company's work on Star Trek was nominated for an Emmy Award twice (both times together with other companies providing effects for Star Trek): In 1967 Darrell Anderson was nominated for Individual Achievements in Cinematography, together with Dunn and Joseph Westheimer and in 1969 the company was nominated for Special Classification Achievements together with the Westheimer Company, Van der Veer Photo Effects and Cinema Research.

In the summer of 1977 the company was approached for the VFX for the planned Star Trek: Phase II television project by its Co-producer Robert Goodwin, and negotiations were in a fairly advanced state, as a progress memo from Goodwin, dated 3 August 1977, indicated,

"Discussions have taken place with Howard Anderson and other optical effects houses in preparation for the new look of Star Trek. All possibilities are being considered, including computer-controlled stop-action model photography (better known under its later denominator motion control photography), front screen projection, the use of helicopter mounts, etc. Jon Povill is coordinating research with Anderson Company into new optical techniques that have been developed, so when the times arises we will have all of them at our disposal to use or not use as we see fit." (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 37)

However, the company was at the start of the subsequent month passed over in favor of Paramount Pictures' own VFX company, Magicam, who managed to outbid Anderson. (Starlog, issue 27, p. 26) Still, as it turned out, the company was yet called in to provide some services the following year after Phase II was turned into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as Graphic Designer Lee Cole explained,

"Howard Anderson had designed a whole new type of animation that was all done in the camera, and Mike [Minor] and I had thought up some tricks of our own. So, every night, we sat up all night long at Howard Anderson with a very clever guy, Howard Anderson, Jr. We designed a really quick type of animation that I haven't seen done too much. Instead of having the artwork "move" by drawing frame after frame of visuals, we had kind of a targeting film devise where we just moved the camera down frame by frame for a close-up of the art. This would produce a movie of a big oval, or little squares or whatever, coming toward you. There was no drawn animation, it was just the camera moving. We kept very careful notes and superimposed a whole bunch of things through double exposures in the camera. We did double, triple and quadruple passes. We must have made thousands of these overlapping exposures, frame by frame. Then, when all this was done, I'd have to do special distortions of these films in the lab to enhance them and make them even crazier. We'd print them in different colors and experiment with printing extra-fast, or extra-slow, stop-frame devices...I really got into filmmaking techniques." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp. 127-128)

While having remained uncredited for these animated bridge console graphics, the Howard Anderson Company, now under the auspices of Howard A. Anderson III, son of Howard A. Anderson, Jr., did some credited additional effects work on Star Trek Nemesis in 2002, nearly 35 years after the original series.

General history

Founded in 1927, a mere sixteen years after the very first motion picture studio was established in Hollywood and therefore one of the very oldest specialized VFX companies ever, the company has provided opticals for numerous motion picture productions since then, though it was not until 1954 when the company's first credits were recorded for the movies The Golden Mistress, and Target Earth. This was due to the fact that, prior to the mid-1950s, it was not customary to mention effects vendors, among others, in the end-credit roll of a motion picture production, let alone individual staff. The extent of the company's motion picture contributions for the 1920s-1940s period is therefore almost impossible to ascertain.

Aside from The Invaders television series (featuring among others Susan Oliver, Sally Kellerman, Paul Carr, Barbara Luna and Diana Muldaur), some of the later feature films for which the Howard Anderson Company has provided VFX include X-15 (1961, featuring James Gregory and Kenneth Tobey, with art direction by Rolland M. Brooks), The Manchurian Candidate (1962, also featuring James Gregory as well as Whit Bissell, Reggie Nalder, and Leslie Parrish), and The Caretakers (1963, featuring Susan Oliver, with art direction by Rolland M. Brooks). Later effects credits include Night of the Lepus (1972, starring DeForest Kelley and Paul Fix), Superman II (1980), Predator (1987, with production design by John Vallone), Predator 2 (1990), The Shadow (1994, featuring Larry A. Hankin and Ethan Phillips, with music by Jerry Goldsmith, art direction by Jack Johnson, costumes by Bob Ringwood), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001, executive produced by Stuart Baird, with editing by Baird and Dallas Puett), and Collateral (2004, featuring Bruce McGill).

The company has also supplied titles and/or opticals for films like Airplane! (1980), Fire with Fire (1986, featuring Virginia Madsen and Tim Russ, produced by Gary Nardino and edited by Peter E. Berger), The 'burbs (1989, featuring Henry Gibson, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo, and Wendy Schaal, with music by Jerry Goldsmith), Tombstone (1993, featuring Paula Malcomson and Terry O'Quinn), The Mask (1994, featuring Reg E. Cathey, Christopher Darga, Robert O'Reilly, and Jeremy Roberts, with cinematography by John Leonetti), Godzilla (1998, featuring Clyde Kusatsu and Glenn Morshower), Vertical Limit (2000, featuring Alexander Siddig), Jurassic Park III (2001, featuring Linda Park and Bruce French), Life as a House (2001, featuring Scott Bakula and Art Chudabala), Spider-Man (2002, starring Kirsten Dunst), The Master of Disguise (2002, starring Brent Spiner), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Out of Time (2003, starring John Billingsley), Finding Neverland (2004), and the Rush Hour and Legally Blonde films.

Redefining the company

While the 2005 film Shopgirl is the company's last recorded motion picture credit, the old and venerable company was still in existence at the start of 2014, though it had redefined its company mission in 2010. Renamed Anderson Digital Studios, the company, then relocated at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA, has entirely pulled away from producing VFX and opticals for actual use in motion picture productions, due to the severely increased competition from (digital) VFX companies abroad, most notably those located in Canada, Dubai, the Far East, and on the Indian subcontinent. Instead, the company provided several services in the fringes of the motion picture industry, such as providing inserts, location shots, commercials, videos, and 2nd unit, last minute shots. [2](X) To this end the company employed their own editing bay and camera team. Then CEO Karyn Anderson, granddaughter of Howard, Jr., had given an example of what their services entailed, "What we do – Stars hate interviews because they are so scared it will be edited badly making them look BAD. What we do is take control we do interview in our studio and WE edit it. They don't have a chance to make you look BAD!! FORGET THAT!! Like as a star you don't have enough to worry about. WE take control of the situation. If the interviewer doesn't want to do it your way THEN DON'T DO IT!!!" [3](X) By concentrating on a niche-market, Karyn Anderson had, at least for the time being, insured the continuing existence of the company, which turned out to be temporary however.

The end

The very first company that has ever worked on a regular basis as VFX vendor on any of the Star Trek prime universe live-action productions, it was by 2014 also one of the very few such companies still in existence. At that point in time, out of the approximately four dozen VFX companies to have worked on Star Trek during its 1964-2005 prime universe production run, Industrial Light & Magic, Eden FX, Digital Domain, Image G, and WonderWorks Inc. were the only other companies known to be still in existence in one format or another by the time the franchise restarted its live-action run in 2009 with the alternate reality Star Trek films. Eden FX and Digital Domain however, have also become defunct since then.

As for Anderson Digital Studios itself though, the company's official website went dark very shortly afterwards, around the turn of 2014-2015, and has presumably become defunct as well, as no other official company live references can be found on the web anymore. Twelve years shy of its centenary, the once renowned and pioneering VFX company, having been one of the very first of its kind anywhere in the world, faded from existence with barely a whisper.


Kersey and Peterson assembling the large Enterprise model

Staffers involved at the time of the production of Star Trek were among others,

  • Original Series staff
    • Darrell Anderson – CEO, Director Effects and Optical Compositing
    • Howard A. Anderson, Jr. – CEO, Effects Supervisor
    • Ronnie Booth – Optical Artist
    • Gar Citron – Staff Artist
    • Gary Crandall – Optical Camera Operator
    • Lou Cusley – Key Grip
    • Richard C. Datin, Jr. (1964-1967) – Studio Model Builder/Operator, subcontractor
    • Harry Kersey – Technician, Model Rigger
    • Ronnie Peterson – Technician, Model Rigger
    • Bob Ryder – Effects Photographer
    • Boyd Vaughen – Title Designer
    • Lloyd Vaughen – Cartoon Animator
    • Albert WhitlockMatte Painter, subcontractor
  • The Motion Picture staff
    • Howard A. Anderson, Jr. – Graphics Animator
  • Nemesis staff
    • Derek Ledbetter – Visual Effects Compositor

Further reading

  • "Out-of-this-world Special Effects for 'Star Trek'", Rae Moore, American Cinematographer, October 1967, pp. 715-717
  • "Where No Show Had Gone Before", Jan Alan Henderson, American Cinematographer, January 1992, pp. 34-40
  • "Special Visual Effects", Daniel Fiebiger, Cinefantastique, Vol 27 #11, 1996, pp. 64-75

External links