(written from a Production point of view)
Image G, Inc. (also credited as Image "G"), founded in 1984, is a motion picture visual effects company. The company was specialized in motion control photography, initially of physical studio models, before branching out to live-action as well. Brought in immediately after the production of TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", their services in this field were utilized on all other televised Star Trek productions, where motion control photography was used, comprising Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, as well as the feature movie Star Trek Generations.
Image G started its association with the Star Trek franchise through a happy coincidence. At the time of production of "Encounter at Farpoint", newly appointed Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato, was looking for an additional supplier for motion control photography. Legato decided to come calling on his former employer Image G. "One day Rob came in the back door with this rock! He literally comes knocking on the door and says, "Hey look, you guys shoot stuff and you got spare time in your schedule. Shoot me this thing." I'm not exactly the most aggressive executive producer around, and we didn't have anything else going on that day, so we shot it.", Image G's executive and founder Tom Barron recalled. In the days following that incident, Barron's company shot footage of the two-foot Galaxy-class and the Oberth-class studio models as well for eventual use in TNG: "The Naked Now", as a courtesy to his former employee. Image G was from that episode onward the regular supplier of motion control photography for the remainder of the television franchise, until the technique became obsolete. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 1, pp. 60-61) At first it was by no means a certainty that Image G was to be retained as a regular supplier, but as time went on, Legato found the library of stock-footage insufficient to fulfill the producer's need and continued to make use of Image G's services.
Quite early on, due to the by then, close working relationship with Paramount Television, Image G unofficially doubled as a repository of all the physical studio models of the Star Trek television franchise, saving VFX supervisors like Legato and Gary Hutzel the time and effort of shuttling the models back and forth between the Paramount warehouse and Image G. At the time still relatively small and yet without a formal contract, Barron, worrying about liability if something was to happen to the models recalled, "We had an unsecure location in Hollywood [remark: then Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA] that could be robbed. A guy walked in once, grabbed a TV, and walked up the alley with it. (...) Rob finally had to bring Peter Lauritson by to meet us and certify that this was the real deal. I remember vividly the day he came by; we had a folding table about 12 feet long, we put fresh brown paper on it, and we took all of the ships they had left behind. So I had all these ships lined up on this folding table; no cases, no letters saying that we would be OK if somebody stole them. I had this agenda with Peter. "So look, Peter, we're going to make this real, right?"" (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 1, pp. 62-64) Barron got his formal commitment during the run of season two.
The company has earned three Emmy Awards for its work on the Star Trek series.
With the demise of the physical studio model, the company has struggled to find a new direction, resulting in that almost all employees had to be let go between 2001 and 2003, among others long time employee Dennis Hoerter (though he has since then returned). Actually, the departure of staff had already started a few years earlier, as their main client Star Trek was rapidly and increasingly introducing and applying the new technique of computer generated imagery (CGI), which was not lost on staffers who were seeing the writing on the wall. As Visual Effects Supervisor Mitch Suskin noted at the start of Voyager's third season, "Fortunately for me, or I guess coincidentally, we had a problem where the vendor that we were using for motion-control had a mass exodus of their personnel, and we were unable to do motion-control at the beginning of the season [note: Image G's remaining capacity entirely taken up with Deep Space Nine]. It worked fine for me because I prefer to do computer graphics." (Cinefantastique, Vol 29 #6/7, pp. 103-104) This circumstance in turn actually accelerated the introduction of, and full transition to, CGI in Voyager, whereas Deep Space Nine followed suit one year later.
However, the company did eventually make the successful transition to adopting CGI and computer techniques in motion control photography, and is still in operation. Currently located in Valencia, CA, Image G has also worked on such films as The Addams Family, Stargate, and Waterworld and the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Staff members who worked at one time or another during the Star Trek years were, among others:
- Thomas Barron – Founder/CEO
- Walter Hart – CEO
- Dennis Hoerter – Property Master/Motion Control Technician
- Adrian Hurley – Effects Camera Man
- Gregory Jein – Model Builder and Supervisor (infrequent and unofficial)
- Robert Legato – Employee before being hired as Visual Effects Supervisor for TNG Season 1
- Paul Maples – Motion Control Operator
- Gray Marshall – Motion Control Camera Operator
- Andrew Millstein – Motion Control Camera Operator
- Erik Nash – Effects Camera Man
- A.J. Raitano – Effects Camera Man
- Jim Rider – Motion Control Technician
- Chris Schnitzer – Motion Control Technician/Rigger
- Tim Stell – Motion Control Camera Operator
- Bill Tondreau – Motion Control Technician
- Gary Maynard – Special Effects Technician
- Gordon Seitz – Mechanical Engineer/Machinist
- "Special Effects – The Next Generation", Glenn Campbell & Donna Trotter, Cinefex, Issue 37, February 1989, pp. 4-21
- "Behind the Scenes; Visual Effects", Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, April 2002, pp. 62-69
- "Behind the Scenes; Image G", Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 1, May 2002, pp. 60-65
- ImageG.com – official site