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Matter-energy conversion was the process in which matter was transferred to energy and back to matter again. This type of conversion could be achieved through natural and technological means.

Natural means[]

A sun naturally converts matter to energy, as noted by Spock, while discussing the physical properties of the Denevan sun in 2267. (TOS: "Operation -- Annihilate!")

The Q's seemingly natural ability of teleportation and physical manifestation and conversion would be an example of the ultimate mastery of the form. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "Hide And Q", et al.)

The space vessel lifeform discovered at Deneb IV in 2364 was determined to be a living creature capable of naturally converting energy into specific patterns of matter. They also possessed the nature ability to create "something like a transporter beam", capable of transporting an object from one point to another. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint")


Slaver weapon matter-energy conversion beam

Total conversion of matter to energy

The Slaver Empire possessed an extremely advanced and powerful form of technology, which accord to Spock, was by 23rd century standards "[a]lmost beyond theoretical limits", a Slaver weapon was capable of the total conversion of matter to energy at a distance. (TAS: "The Slaver Weapon")

The alien Trelane, encountered by the USS Enterprise claimed to have perfected an advanced technology system, controlled by thought waves, where matter could be transferred to energy and back to matter again, a concept based on the same rudimentary principles as the transporter.

Mirror machine broken

Internal components of Trelane’s matter-energy converting mirror machine.

According to Trelane, that unlike the transporter, which was "a crude example of an infinitely more sophisticated process," his technology could "not only transport matter from place to place, but we can alter its shape at will." Spock later surmised that "[a] machine with the ability to turn energy into matter guided by thought waves […] would have a very complex memory bank, and would be extremely sophisticated [and] would be immense." In addition, following the destruction of the machine in question, Trelane later acknowledged that that was not the "only medium of instrumentality at my command." (TOS: "The Squire of Gothos")

For the Federation and other advanced species, the most common forms of matter-energy converters were initially transporters, molecular synthesizers, and holodecks, all of which operated on similar principles. (ENT: "Dead Stop") The mastery of these technologies by the 24th century, according to Jean-Luc Picard, was based on the fact that "Humans have discovered that energy and matter are interchangeable." (TNG: "Elementary, Dear Data")

Transporter technology[]

The technological application of this technique of matter-energy conversion, commonly described as a molecular transport or matter-energy transport, was accomplished by means of what was colloquially known as a transporter mechanism. (TNG: "The Masterpiece Society", "The Host") These devices were often given such literal descriptors as "matter stream converter", "matter-energy scramblers", "energy-matter scramblers", "material transmission unit", or simply "transporting device". (TOS: "The Empath", "The Savage Curtain", "Errand of Mercy")

In the simplest terms, according to James T. Kirk and Data, a transporter functions where by "[t]he molecules in your body are converted into energy," also described as "an energy beam", "then beamed into this chamber and reconverted back into their original pattern." (TOS: "The Savage Curtain"; TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint")

According to its inventor, Emory Erickson, his first time through his prototype was a terrifying experience, describing the process as taking "a full minute and a half to cycle through. Felt like a year. You could actually feel yourself being taken apart and put back together. When I materialized, first thing I did was lose my lunch." (ENT: "Daedalus")

When the transporter was in its infancy, there was much controversy surrounding its safety and reliability within United Earth. When it became approved for biomatter, there were even protests. The debates ranged from claims of brain cancer, psychosis and sleep disorders to metaphysical debates over whether or not the person transported was the same person or a copy of the original. (ENT: "Daedalus") Some claimed that, when a person used a transporter, that person, for a split second, could actually feel him or herself in two places at once. This claim was heard by boomers such as Travis Mayweather and Matthew Ryan. (ENT: "Fortunate Son")

It was also during the transporter's infancy, Hoshi Sato, who before experiencing her first transport shortly after the device was cleared for biomatter transport, feared having her molecules "pulled apart", worrying that since a Human was made up a few trillion molecules that "[t]hat's a pretty big jigsaw puzzle, [and] [w]hat if some other pieces get put in the wrong place? You know, I bet a lot of them look real similar." Others at the time had no fear of the device, such as Trip Tucker, who simply responded to Hoshi's fear with, "Starfleet said it's safe. That's good enough for me." (ENT: "Vanishing Point")

Though proven safe for decades, the fear of having one's "atoms scattered back and forth across space" or having one’s molecules scrambled was a realization well into the 23rd and 24th centuries, and was a common objection by Doctor Leonard McCoy. (TOS: "Space Seed"; Star Trek: The Motion Picture; TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint") Even in 2367, Ambassador Odan, in attempting to hide his Trill identity, made claim that "I'm sure I'm not the first who has expressed discomfort at the idea of molecular transport. Thank you, but I prefer to remain intact." (TNG: "The Host") In 2373, an Ilari physician named Adin, had concerns about "using a device that takes apart your molecules and sends them flying through space." (VOY: "Warlord")

Despite fears, by the mid-24th century, over a century of evidence existed that proved that molecular transport had no affect a person’s DNA. (TNG: "The Masterpiece Society") And as far as transporter safety itself, according to Kes, "there are all kinds of safely procedures and back-up systems to make sure nothing goes wrong." (VOY: "Warlord")

Contrarily, the Talaxian Wixiban described his first passage through the transporter as being an "extraordinary experience". (VOY: "Fair Trade")

In an instance that occurred in 2364, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, while under the influence of an entity taken from the Beta Renner cloud, beamed their combined selves back to the cloud; this was done so with the impression that the transporter would perform an incomplete transport cycle, and not repattern Picard back into matter, allowing them to remain in space in the form of energy. After an hour in space, the USS Enterprise-D was able to move close enough to the cloud to allow Picard's energy form to move through the ship's circuits and return to the transporter room, where after arriving in the transporter relays, the transporter was able to use Picard's stored physical pattern, to return him to his natural form. Following his rejoining, Picard had no recollection of his time existing in the form of energy. (TNG: "Lonely Among Us")

Conversion process[]

Early Starfleet efforts in developing transporter technology used the Heglenian shift to convert matter and energy. These efforts were long out of use by the 24th century. (TNG: "Code of Honor")

The process of being disassembled – or simply, the conversion of matter into energy – begins when matter starts to lose molecular cohesion, at which point, the molecules would begin to emit nucleonic particles. This experience, as perceived by the passenger, may cause to feeling lightheadedness. (TNG: "Realm Of Fear") The individual being transported was then converted into billions of kiloquads of data to be beamed. (TNG: "Realm Of Fear")

After the molecules were pulled apart, they were put back together again in their original form. (ENT: "Vanishing Point") This process of the transporter beam converting energy back into matter, and vice versa, can be visually perceived through a "sparkling" process. Such an observation was made by Kalo on Sigma Iotia II in 2268, when he pointed out that transportees "can't do nothing till they're through sparkling." (TOS: "A Piece of the Action")

When the USS Enterprise-D was hijacked by the Bynars in 2364, Commander William T. Riker proposed having himself beamed in the Bridge, but Picard vetoed the idea, on account of the fact that "it takes several seconds to materialize," causing him to lose the element of surprise. (TNG: "11001001")

Pakleds beaming in very slowly

Pakleds beaming in very slowly

That time was even more greatly increased by the less advanced technology used by the Pakleds when they transported aboard the USS Cerritos in 2380, when was was noted that "intruders [were] beaming in! Very slowly beaming in." Their long rematerialization time allow the crew to more effectively arm themselves. (LD: "No Small Parts")

During the 22nd century Starfleet transporters were perceived as a number of blue "sparkles" moving to the center, forming a small sphere that then disappeared, reappearing in the opposite order. (ENT: "Broken Bow", et al.)

By the mid-23rd century Federation transporters showed a shower of golden "sparkles" during materialization and dematerialization. Klingon units during the same time emitted a solid golden "haze" effect. (TOS: "The Cage", "Day of the Dove") Later, in the 2280s, both races made use of transporters that appeared to utilize a "wave" effect, the Federation's being blue and the Klingons with golden yellow. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, et al.)

Twenty-fourth century Federation transporters emitted a distinct blue/white "sparkle" when used. Klingon transporters displayed a red/orange sparkle and Romulan transporters a green sparkle. Cardassian and Ferengi transporters displayed red/orange "swirls" of energy. Borg transporters displayed green "swirls" of energy. (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Furthermore, each type of transporter beam had a distinctive sound pattern associated with it. (Listen to USS Voyager's transporter sound file info) Along with differences in "tone," the volume of the sound also varied. Klingon transporters in the 2260s, for example, were completely silent. (TOS: "Day of the Dove")

During first contact with the Andorians at the monastery at P'Jem, where they held several crewmembers of Enterprise NX-01 hostage, Captain Jonathan Archer considered using the transporter to give them the element of surprise and bring an assault team right to them into the atrium. T'Pol, however, pointed out that "[t]he sound of the transporter alone would alert the guards. They'd start firing before the team was fully resequenced." (ENT: "The Andorian Incident")

The script of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home also made it clear that the sound of a transport was indeed a part of the conversion process and not a sound produced for dramatic effect. This is most evident where it was stated that, after Gillian Taylor dropped Kirk off in the park, "she hears an ODD SOUND O.S. [off screen] and there is a SLIGHT FLICKER of reflected LIGHT."

Replicator technology[]

Automated repair station's molecular synthesizer

An advanced 22nd century matter-energy converter

Replicated martini

A replicated martini materializing.

The further evolution of matter-energy conversion technology were the application of actual matter-energy converters, more commonly called "replicators". When the Antican delegate Badar N'D'D spoke of having seen "Humans eat meat" in 2364, Commander William T. Riker explained that "you've seen something as fresh and tasty as meat, but inorganically materialized out of patterns used by our transporters." (TNG: "Lonely Among Us")

When such a device was first encountered by Trip Tucker in 2151, his initial response was the thought that "[i]t could be a transporter. An awfully small one." (ENT: "Dead Stop")

When the USS Enterprise created an emergent lifeform in 2370, it was accomplish by merging the ship's replicator and transporter systems. (TNG: "Emergence")

A year later, Klingon Intelligence agents were able to realign the matter-energy conversion matrix of a replicator aboard Deep Space 9 to convert it into a small transporter. This technique was described by security chief Odo as "[a] very sophisticated, very professional job." (DS9: "Visionary")

Captain Katherine Janeway, who was disappointed with her lukewarm coffee, explained to Seven of Nine, "Now I've told that replicator a dozen times about the temperature of my coffee. It just doesn't seem to want to listen. Almost as if it's got a mind of its own. But it doesn't." She continued, "A replicator operates through a series of electronic pathways that allow it to receive instructions and take appropriate action, and there you go. A cup of coffee, a bowl of soup, a plasma conduit, whatever we tell it to do." Using this example to transition into the properties of The Doctor, "As difficult as it is to accept, The Doctor is more like that replicator than he is like us." (VOY: "Latent Image")

Holodeck technology[]

The Doctor, Photons Be Free intro

The conversion of energy into matter, forming as a hologram

In the 2378 holonovel Photons Be Free, The Doctor's dramatic interpretation of energy forming in holomatter was summarized as: "In the beginning there is darkness. The emptiness of a matrix waiting for the light. Then, a single photon flares into existence, then another, and soon thousands more. Optronic pathways connect, subroutines emerge from the chaos, and a holographic consciousness is born." (VOY: "Author, Author")

The application of matter-energy conversion could be best explained through the relationship between the transporter and holodeck technology. Perhaps best described by Kathryn Janeway, who stated that “[a]fter all, the holodeck [is] basically an outgrowth of transporter technology, changing energy into matter and back again every time a program is run." The matter conversion node was the primary element for this function's process. (VOY: "Heroes and Demons")

In fact, holodeck matter was "real", in as far as that objects, such as rocks and vegetation, had much simpler patterns. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint") Though these simpler patterns, such as snowballs could leave the holodeck, more complex holograms remained confined to the holodeck, as traveling to the "real world" was not possible, as was explained by Data and demonstrated by Cyrus Redblock and Felix Leech in 2364. (TNG: "Angel One", "The Big Goodbye")

The dissipation of Redblock and Leech was described in the script as "Redblock looks down and SHRIEKS to SEE that they are each DEMATERIALIZING, from the bottom up. They look on in abstract horror as their feet and legs completely DISAPPEAR. Redblock cries out to the heavens as his chest VAPORIZES… […] Their torsos and heads go the same way, until THERE IS NOTHING LEFT…"

Much of the relationship between the holodeck and transporter explored and tested aboard the Enterprise-D during the mid-2360s, though the urging of the computer-created hologram of James Moriarty, who wished to be removed from his holodeck reality, to the reality of an actual lifeform.

Beaming a holographic chair

An attempt to marry holodeck and transporter technologies

Like the transporter, with the holodeck, "energy is converted to matter. Thus you have substance." (TNG: "Elementary, Dear Data") However, unlike the holodeck, "the transporter reconstitutes energy in a permanent form. Holodeck matter doesn't have any cohesion unless it's inside the grid," as according to Geordi La Forge. Though based on the same principals, the reason why a holodeck object could not be beamed off the grid was because "A holodeck object is just a simulation. There's nothing there to provide a pattern lock for the transporter.” Simply put, a hologram can't be converted into energy, because it is already energy. (VOY: "Heroes and Demons")

One theory at the time, however, conceived by Data, was that "if it were possible to lock onto the object, it might rematerialize with the same molecular cohesion as conventional matter." Their efforts ultimately were unsuccessful. (TNG: "Ship In A Bottle") Ironically, the mobile emitter, an apparent piece of 29th century technology that was acquired from the 20th century, The Doctor, to finally leave the confines of the Sickbay aboard USS Voyager in 2373, and function in the outside world much like Moriarty desired. The device a hologram to maintain autonomous self-sustainability, that is, to retain its form outside the confines of a holodeck. (VOY: "Future's End, Part II")

In contrast to Moriarity's wish to become real, the opposite effect was inadvertently created in 2372, when the patterns of Sisko, Kira, Worf, Dax, and Miles O'Brien were temporarily stored in the computer core of Deep Space 9. This measure was employed to prevent their patterns from degrading because of an explosion on their runabout at the time of beam-out.

Their physical patterns were integrated into a holoprogram run by Julian Bashir, and each took on one of the holographic roles in the program, while their brain patterns were spread throughout the station's computer systems. Eventually, Michael Eddington was able to restore the crew members back to normal by using the still-active transporters on the Defiant. (DS9: "Our Man Bashir")

In the development of "Our Man Bashir", the use of the transporter was a vital part of the premise, as originally suggested by Bob Gillan to René Echevarria. Gillan decided on using the transporter to save crew members in a holosuite program even before he knew what the program would be. "My thought was, what if something went wrong with the transporter?" recalled Gillan. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 294) He also explained that he and the writing staff of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were consequently challenged with creating a believable narrative "to make the transporter gag work without it seeming ridiculous." Specifying about the transporter, Gillan concluded, "It's another trap not to make it another caught-on-the-holosuite show which people get tired of." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 33) Ultimately, though, Gillan noted that the story he and the other writers devised didn't involve the transporter breaking down or malfunctioning at all. ("Rooftop Revelations", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, No. 9)

Medical technology[]


The genotron

The Vidiian genotron worked on the same principle. In 2371, Sulan described to a fully Klingon B'Elanna Torres how her Klingon genetic material had been amplified, extracted, converted from matter into energy, and reconstituted into an individual who was 100% Klingon. (VOY: "Faces")


Background information[]

Sound effects[]

The operation of the transporter incorporated numerous sound effects. For the original series, the beam-ins and beam-outs included a musical cue written by regular TOS composer Alexander Courage. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 006) Douglas Grindstaff, the series' sound editor, then worked on the sound effect. He commented, "It was a hunk of music. I played with it, and I actually shaved it to fit the optical effect, so that it would be perfect." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, p. 83)

The transporter sound effects in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier were reused from previous movies. (Captain's Log: William Shatner's Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, p. 215)

Upon recreating the TOS-era transporter effect for the Sydney-class transport USS Jenolan of TNG: "Relics", the TOS style of "beaming" sound effect was hunted down from studio archives by Co-Producer Wendy Neuss. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 219)

The soundtrack of Star Trek Generations includes the sound effects of the Enterprise-D transporter as well as a Klingon transporter.

For reproducing the beaming sound for the 2009 film Star Trek, Ben Burtt – who devised the film's sound effects – used the upper frequencies of a set of studio chimes. "I was searching for a method by which they might have created the materialization tones in the original transporter. I wanted something like that," he related. "It was a magical sound but I don't know how they did it. I experimented with a lot of different things, and I found that if I started out with the very highest notes [of the chimes] […] and I just did a [steady finger] roll […] you got a really good approximation of something that sounded like dematerialization or materialization." ("Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek", Star Trek (Three disc Blu-ray) special features) The sound of the chimes was "heavily echoed, and they’re in the same pitch and register as what you might have heard in the original show,” Burtt explained. Two other elements helped give the transporter its sound effects in the film Star Trek and its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness. Burtt included some organ because, while researching the sounds from the original series, he discovered they had been created with a Hammond chord organ. "Going back and getting some organ recordings and playing with it, I was able to fashion some things very similar to the transporter, perhaps exactly the same way, so that’s in there," he continued. Burtt also incorporated an electrical-sounding recording of props from the film Frankenstein (1931), using it as audio backdrop for the initial spark of electricity during a beam-up. [1]

For Star Trek Beyond, the beaming sound of a transporter aboard the USS Franklin had to be designed. Editor Kelly Matsumoto cited that sound effect as one of many, from the film, whose invention allowed a lot of free reign. Because Sound Designer and Supervisor Peter Brown wanted to use the movie's sound effects to honor TOS, though, the Franklin's beaming sound was very much influenced by that. "He played what the actual ’60s Enterprise transport beam sound effect was and then how he designed it for our film," said Matsumoto. "It’s really cool how the new sound is faithful and yet different." [2]

Special effects[]

First televised depictions[]

One early method of depicting beaming involved an actual light beam between the transporter and its target. In a memo dated 24 August 1964, however, Gene Roddenberry vetoed this idea. "I think we can safely forget the animated beam of light from the transporter chamber to the planet surface," he wrote. "It would be much cheaper and certainly handier from a story point of view to simply 'dematerialize' the passenger in the transporter chamber, 'rematerialize' him on the planet surface. We can also save the effect here of the crew being transported down a light beam to the planet." (The Making of Star Trek, p. 89)

Transporter early effect

An early version of the beam-in effect

The transporter effect was experimented with during production on "The Cage", the first Star Trek pilot episode, and – on 28 December 1964 – Roddenberry sent another memo, this time criticizing the effect and providing recommendations on how he thought the appearance of beaming could be improved. He advised, "Eliminate the thick line around the crew members as they are transported. Have a subtle suggestion of sparkle rather than the Peter Pan sparkle presently being used. Get rid of the colored outline. Have crew members slowly dissolve. Maintain whole image with slight flickering of color instead of present solid color." Another suggestion that Roddenberry presented was that, when showing crew members materializing on a planet's surface, "all the actors should have the same color effect instead of the present individual assortment of colors." (The Making of Star Trek, pp. 117-118) For an animation of an early version of the transporter effect, see Special Effects at

The transporter effect ultimately used in The Original Series was a composite created by the Howard Anderson Company. Due to the differences required in each of the shots when the effect was shown, the TOS transporter effect could not rely on stock effects footage, unlike a lot of the series' other effects. [3] A matte was used to mask the part of the photographic image into which the transporter effect was to be inserted. (Trek: The Unauthorized Story of the Movies, p. 40) In TOS, individuals came to an immediate standstill whenever they were being beamed. This was mainly due to the limits of effects techniques available at the time of the series' production. (text commentary, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition) DVD)

To create the shimmer effect for TOS, Darrell Anderson dropped aluminum dust through a strong light beam, filming this with an upside-down camera. ("The Menagerie, Part II" text commentary, TOS Season 1 DVD) The shiny, backlit grains of aluminum dust were dropped in front of a black backdrop. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 006) Producer Robert H. Justman commented, "When I first viewed the transporter effect, I was as curious as anyone else might be and asked the inventive Darrell Anderson how he achieved it. Darrell said, 'I just turned a slow-motion camera upside down and photographed some backlit shiny grains of aluminum powder that we dropped between the camera and a black background.'" (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997 ed., p. 51) Anderson's brother, Howard, later elaborated that the transporter effect was created using aluminum "flitters" shot through a 5000-watt light and a column of smoke, which was superimposed over the characters being beamed in or out. The effect was enhanced by Director of Photography Jerry Finnerman, who added lights to the transporter platform and varied their illumination while the transport process took place. [4](X) Later Star Trek Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry has commented additionally, "The composites were done on an optical printer, and they were basically glitter swizzled in a jar." ("The Making of A Legend", TNG Season 1 DVD)

Following the making of TOS, the photographic element utilized for the beaming effects was put into storage at the Cinema Research Corporation, in a box labeled "Star Trek Transporter Sparkle." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 219; Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 274)

Robert Legato disapproved of the TOS transporter effect, later saying, "One of the things I didn't like about the look of the old show was the sharp silhouette; it looked as if it was just stamped in the middle of the effect." (Starlog issue #132, p. 57)

The transporter effect was to have been recreated for Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek: Phase II. In a memo Roddenberry sent to producer Robert Goodwin on 15 July 1977, Roddenberry instructed Goodwin to write a rough draft of the Writer's Guide for the series and stated, "We should specify that the old-style transporter system will still be used (although we ourselves may improve the optical a little)." (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 29)

Initial film appearances[]

The beaming effect was redone for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Spock actor Leonard Nimoy remembered, "A camera unit and special effects crew spent countless days and hours shooting tests in the transporter room – as though it had never been done before." (I Am Spock, hardback ed., p. 167) The revised beaming effect was done by John Dykstra's company, Apogee, Inc. They combined two methods to create the illusion. The company bought several expensive candy dishes, shattered them, mounted the broken shards of crystal on a motion-control mover and then shone an argon laser through them, rephotographing the patterns that the bits of crystal created on a wall, which are known as Lissajous patterns. This provided the outsides of the effect, whereas the center was created with filtration light flares and moire patterns that were done by moving one pattern atop another before rephotographing the result. Of the inner effect, Dykstra remarked, "[It was] what we call a slot gag […] It was a two-dimensional effect that looked three-dimensional, because the convention of the way the moire looked." (audio commentary, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition)) Commenting in simple terms about The Motion Picture's transporter effect, SFX artist Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz said, "One of the elements is just sparkles in a bottle of water. That's very easy to do. You just light it, film it, and stick it into a shot as a composite." (Star Trek Monthly issue 86, p. 51)

The sequence from The Motion Picture in which two transportees die in a malfunctioning transporter incorporated both of the effects methods typically used for the beam-in as well as a third, using Mylar to distort footage of the two actors playing the victims. "Essentially what it was," explained John Dykstra, "was a flat Mylar sheet which worked as a perfect optical mirror when left flat. But then when you distorted the surface, it created these very unusual optical distortions. So, we rephotographed the actors, in their normal form, through this mirror and did motion-controlled distortion of the mirror to create the distortion of their image." (audio commentary, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition))

For The Director's Edition DVD release of The Motion Picture, the transporter effect was not altered, unlike many of the film's other visual effects. "When you're trying to generate everything with the computer," stated Mojo, "you have to find a way to make the sparkles happen. And it actually can wind up taking a lot more time than doing it the 'old-fashioned' way." (Star Trek Monthly issue 86, pp. 51-52)

For the subsequent trilogy of films – namely, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – the visual effects involved in portraying the uses of transporters fell under the supervision of Industrial Light & Magic. The beaming effects were repeatedly revised in these early Star Trek films, along with other basic effects such as warp jumps and phaser beams. Kenneth Ralston, who supervised the visual effects of all three movies, had concerns about the ongoing changes, though he was outvoted at the time. "The directors were driving the film, and we begged them not to do that," Ralston stated. "They were cool looks, and although I didn't like those in the first films, to me it's like a car. I don't really care what it looks like – it's just taking me from point A to point B. Wherever you're beaming them, that's the most important thing. I was just trying to save a few pennies and do something quick and painless. I don't remember which movie it was, but it was as if the design on it went on forever." (Star Trek Monthly issue 49, p. 41)

Transporter effect for Star Trek II

An early version of Star Trek II's transporter effect

For Star Trek II, the transporter effects were provided by Visual Concept Engineering and some initial consideration went into re-envisioning the standard appearance of the effect. "The way we wanted to do the transporter effect would have been more interesting than what they ended up with," stated VCE founder Peter Kuran. "We would have liked to show a person's body sort of building as he was beaming in… skeleton appearing first, then veins and finally clothing. Not exactly like This Island Earth, but more like an effect I saw once in The Outer Limits." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 34) In fact, the proposed redesign was specifically inspired by The Outer Limits episode "The Special One". Producer Robert Sallin, however, opted for a more conventional approach to achieving the effect. (Trek: The Unauthorized Story of the Movies, p. 68) "Paramount wanted a very high-tech electronic look, with a moire effect and strobes and flashes," Kuran explained. "And one of the things they emphasized was that they didn't want to use freeze-frames for the transporter process the way they had in the old series and the first movie. They tried to make a point of having people moving while they were being transported. We did a lot of articulate mattes to follow most of the action in those sequences, which took a lot of time. Then they decided they didn't want to see that effect, so we ended up throwing most of them away." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 34) Finally deciding upon the look of the effect, Paramount settled on merging two pillars of light; the transporter effect still varied from its appearance in the first film, yet was not so radically different. (Trek: The Unauthorized Story of the Movies, p. 68) The idea of having people move during beaming remained as a new element of the second film, in which people even talk during the beaming process, two aspects of the effect that Director Nicholas Meyer decided to emphasize. (text commentary, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition) DVD)

During the making of the sequel films featuring the original series cast, one controversial aspect was the degree to which the visual effects involved in the films' depictions of beaming resembled the equivalent effects from the original series. Industrial Light & Magic Animation Supervisor Charlie Mullen, who worked on the appearance of the transporter effects for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, commented (shortly after the making of that film), "I think it depends on who's directing the movie. Everyone wants something distinctive, but nobody wants it to get far enough away from the TV series to really startle the Trekkies." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56)

It was with a visual effects team from ILM that Charlie Mullen created the look of the transporter beam effects in Star Trek III. Mullen recalled, "It was the first thing on Trek that we worked on." One requirement was that the revised transporter effect be stylized for both Starfleet and Klingon beaming sequences. It was also thought preferable if the new effect could be positioned more precisely on the person or item that was being transported than vaguely in the general area. At first, an animation effect was experimented with, but this did not prove to be entirely successful. "It looked too animated – a cel animation type of thing," Mullen explained. "We kept trying to get closer to the source of the effects – to use light as artwork, rather than animation cels as artwork." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56)

The ILM group finally settled on another method, attaching a high-intensity light bulb to one of several paint bars on an animation stand. The bulb could be positioned exactly wherever the effect was intended to begin, such as directly where the diaphragm of a transportee was, thus achieving one of the team's goals. Each beaming effect started with a rotomatte of the person. A horizontal slot was then cut, providing a window that the light was positioned in. The contents of the window was all that could be seen by looking at the animation stand. "It's a little sharper look – hot in the middle and tapering off top and bottom," commented Bruce Walters, one of two ILM Effects Animators who worked on the film. "A computer-generated move would cause the light to fade up quickly and spread from the center to one edge, where it would die off. Then the bulb would return automatically to the center, fade up again, and spread from the center off the opposite side. The height was controlled by two things – the exposure makes it higher or lower, and the optical printer can be taped off to soften it, in case we couldn't make it as small as we needed." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56)

The transporter effect in Star Trek III involved filters and some subtle animation. For example, a flashing blue and white color element that was part of the effect was given a vertical look via the use of numerous kinds of filters that were located at the front of the lens, making the light seem as if it was actually stretched into vertical bands. These filters were basic hand-made creations. "We used a piece of acetate that had been rubbed with an eraser in one direction until it looked frosted," Walters clarified. "All the abrasion that's been done with the eraser tends to stretch the light out in one direction. It's almost like looking at a reflection in a piece of stainless steel." Other filters used were color gels. Two layers of this type of gel were laid over the artwork. "We'd lay a yellow with a red on top, for instance, then scratch the red so that a light passing underneath would flicker red and yellow," explained Walters. "We even used moire patterns on some of them that ran together – it didn't give it a moire pattern look, but it broke up the light in an unpredictable fashion. The computer repeated the moves left and right, creating something like a curtain of light that defined the shape of the individual – then over the shape of the transporter tube in which the body was disappearing." Effects animation subsequently added tiny, flickering highlights that were known as "bugs" and were actually residual ripple-glass elements that filled the empty spaces where an apparently transporting individual had seemingly been. With this basic method, each transporter effect had to be filmed with at least four passes. It was then decided that the top and bottom of each transporter tube should have an initial glow as if the tubes were lighting up. (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56) "Those had to be rotoed at the edges," stated Charlie Mullen, "and in a lot of cases there would be somebody standing in the foreground, in front of a light that had to go on in the background. A lot of people had to be articulated – at least mattes for their head and shoulders had to be done – so the glow in the background wouldn't take the top of their heads off if somebody's transporter lit up behind them." (Cinefex, No. 18, pp. 56 & 59)

Lastly, Star Trek III's transporter effect had to look differently for its alternate Klingon and Starfleet versions. Charlie Mullen commented, "The Klingon transporters are red and yellow – they look more aggressive, more flickering than the Federation ones. The Federation's transporters are a lot smoother, while the Klingon transporters are more erratic. It's just a subtle thing, but it works real well." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 59)

Creating complex beaming sequences for Star Trek III sometimes involved as many as four or more ILM crew members, and the work became fairly intensive. (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56) In fact, most of the people involved were ultimately in agreement that the film's transporter effects turned out to be more trouble than was absolutely necessary. However, Charlie Mullen accepted the considerable effort expended on creating those effects as an implication of having become ambitious for a particular look. (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 59)

The transporter effect for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was handled by ILM's animation department. (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 70) Bruce Walters (who was credited as an Animation Camera Operator in Star Trek IV) was involved in creating the typical beaming effects, doing so in much the same way as had become the norm for achieving this type of illusion. By now, the basic transporter effect was fairly easy to generate, as Walters had a program for controlling everything except the actual positioning of the effect. (Cinefex, No. 29, p. 26)

Star Trek IV presented the first case of a person walking while being transported; this happens to Spock as he is pacing toward camera, with trees in the background. The historic illusion was done via a motion control effect, executed by Bruce Walters. Animation Supervisor Ellen Lichtwardt regarded the effect as "the shot with the most interesting problems to solve" and went on to comment, "We had to do the transporter beams and match the move to Spock's movement." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 71) Spock's walking, however, presented some new issues for the animators, mainly because Leonard Nimoy swung from side to side as he paced. "[It] wasn't really obvious until we tried to match-move it," explained Bruce Walters. "But when we match-moved the transporter to his movement it looked funny because it was swinging from one side to the other. To avoid that problem, I plotted Spock's movement and found the average path of his moves – sort of a central core of movement that the transporter beam could follow." Conjuring up Spock's disappearance was no easy task for the film's visual effects department, either. Optical Supervisor Ralph Gordon recollected, "The problem was that the live-action plate had a minute but continuous pan in it. It didn't lock off as they usually do in a transporter shot. As a result, we had to isolate Spock, put the beam on him, fade out that side of the plate and then dissolve to an empty plate there – while still maintaining the […] other side [of the live-action plate]. So the challenge was to find an area where we could do a split-screen without this big gaping line coming in to show. Animation wound up hiding the line in the shadow of the trees." (Cinefex, No. 29, p. 26-27) Of the final effect, Lichtwardt observed, "The dots that appear as he's being transported fade out in perspective as he's coming toward camera." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 71)

Bruce Walters also created an unusual beaming effect for the whales in Star Trek IV, George and Gracie. "The whales needed to have sort of interesting transporter look, because they're so big," said Ellen Lichtwardt. (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 71) Owing to the largely horizontal shape of whales in contrast to the vertically-oriented transporter beam, Walters described the challenge of creating the effect as "particularly difficult." "To do it, I wound up creating a whole row of transporter beams just to [cover] them up. The beams were still vertical, but there were several of them laid side by side. We had to do about thirty passes on them – about fifteen passes for the yellow and orange [gels], and another fifteen passes for a white flare." (Cinefex, No. 29, p. 27) Remarked Lichtwardt, "It's very similar to the other look [i.e. the regular Klingon transporter pattern], but there are more panels of beams which expand across the screen, over which we added a nice white element." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 71) However, the white flare ultimately wasn't used. (Cinefex, No. 29, p. 27)

For Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, transporter beam animation was once again provided by Visual Concept Engineering. (Cinefex, No. 49, p. 41)

Sequel series representations[]

A new transporter effect was designed for Star Trek: The Next Generation, by Robert Legato. (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13) There were several vital aspects Legato had to consider for the illusion, including its design approach. "It was probably the most difficult shot I did when I first came onto the show," he confessed. "At first, the producers suggested that we screen all of the different transporter effects used over the years to see what we liked and what we didn't. It was decided to go with the effect that was used in the old TV series, but updated a little." (Starlog issue #132, p. 56) "We thought we could do better than that," noted Fred Raimondi, who was the effects editor on TNG's first season. (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13) Continued Legato, "Of course, in addition to updating the old effect, I had to come up with something that could be done fairly cheaply on videotape week after week. Now, any effect can be accomplished, given enough time, but if it takes six hours to do one and you have five transporter shots in a show, you're going to spend all of your time in the video editing bay just doing transporter effects […] I had to devise something that could be done literally in one hour. Effectively, we needed to be able to just stamp them out." (Starlog issue #132, p. 56)

Multiple methods of creating the TNG transporter effect were experimented with. Explained Rob Legato, "It took three tries to get it right […] First, I had it quite a bit different with three different layers of sparkles which would change from a [small] type of sparkle to larger and larger ones so that what was left was maybe three or four large ones which slowly dissipated. Well, that was too dissimilar to the old TV series. However, I wanted to have a little streak effect at the beginning to initiate its transformation, instead of it just being all sparkle. I wanted an effect that suggested something appearing to shoot through the system, causing it to break down. So, I refined it a little bit more in terms of timing and so that the effect left a pattern as it did in the old shows." (Starlog issue #132, pp. 56-57)

Rick Zettner and associates

A production card for the transporter effect

The production company Rick Zettner & Associates, Inc. produced the TNG beaming effect. ("The Making of A Legend", TNG Season 1 DVD/Blu-ray special features) Rob Legato related, "We shot various streaks and sparkles on back lit artwork." (Starlog issue #132, p. 57) Ultimately, the latter of the two elements was actually represented with glitter. ("The Making of A Legend", TNG Season 1 DVD special features) These regular metallic sparkles were dumped into a water tank, then stirred. Another method of suspending the sparkles for filming would have been to have them float in air, although Legato described the use of a water tank as "the easiest way" to suspend them. (1988 "Reading Rainbow" segment with LeVar Burton, TNG Season 2 Blu-ray special features)

The creation of the revised transporter effect proceeded with Rob Legato bringing all the elements of the illusion to Fred Raimondi. "He had done some full-screen animation of blue streaks that dropped into frame over a black background and also some full-screen animation of sparkles," remembered Raimondi. "He wanted to combine them into an effect that would last five seconds, creating the element that would comprise the actual 'beam in' effect." (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13)

The transporter effect, which was ultimately created on film but with some video work, underwent some further refinements. Fred Raimondi handled the actual hands-on manipulation of the visual, while Rob Legato directed the session. (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13) "We moved the two sparkle patterns against each other to create a moving moire effect," Legato explained, "and then with some video ADO [originally Ampex Digital Optics, but now used generically] I extended the streaking." (Starlog issue #132, p. 57) Fred Raimondi similarly recalled, "We decided that the streaks needed more 'oomph' – so we took the streak element and displaced it by five frames in the DDR [an Abekas Digital Disk Recorder], creating a two-layered streak. That looked promising so we did it again, creating a three-layered streak." (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13) Legato added, "We made it more three dimensional by moving the different layers of the effect at different rates, the foreground is larger and moves faster than the background layers. Dimensionally, it adds a little roundness to the effect." (Starlog issue #132, p. 57) Concluded Raimondi, "We added the twinkles to the streak element by doing a soft-edge wipe between the two, using our switcher which has a built-in wipe function. The wipe tracked the edge of the streak element, replacing the streaks with sparkles. Once we were happy with the transition, we dubbed it from the DDR to one-inch tape, which became our master 'beam in' effect." (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13) Hence, a master transport effect could be applied, any time the beaming effect was to be used. (Cinefex, No. 61, p. 72)

As well as the streaking "shower curtain" element, which initiated the beam-in and beam-out, and the generic field of sparkles, the transporter effect also included original photography of the actors disappearing. The illusion of a group of people beaming to a location was done by first shooting the set clean, then filming the set with the performers in it, and finally adding a five-second dissolve around the actors. "That's a simple effect," noted Effects Editor Peter Moyer, who regularly provided the transporter effect for TNG. (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 12, p. 20) As Rob Legato had not liked the TOS concept of using sharp silhouttes as part of the beaming effect, the team who devised the illusion's TNG rendition decided to do something different for the outline mattes. "We made special silhouette mattes which soften the inside edges so that the sparkles seem to go out and fade off!" exclaimed Legato. "Again, a feeling of roundness is achieved by having the effect get a little darker at the edge so it appears to be going around the back edge. That combination seemed to be the best." (Starlog issue #132, p. 57) Explained Fred Raimondi, "Then we had our artist – Laurie Resnick – use the Quantel Paintbox to make articulate mattes with a soft edge […] For the transporter we used an airbrush-style function to create people mattes with a ghostly soft edge." (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13)

To help blend the TNG beaming effect into each live-action scene, a final subtle touch was devised; an Ampex Digital Optics enabled Fred Raimondi to feed in the full-frame master transport effect. "From there it was a relatively simple matter to position and rotate the ADO panel – which now contained the transporter effect – to fit over each actor individually," said Raimondi, "creating a sense of perspective and depth. As each shot progresses, a series of circular soft-edge wipes from the switcher is employed to manipulate the sparkles into various areas of the body." (Cinefex, No. 37, p. 13) The final stage of the illusion was residual glitter on the actor's chest or the center of the object that was meant to look like it was being transported. ("The Making of A Legend", TNG Season 1 DVD special features)

Mike Pethel viewing transporter footage at CIS

Technician Mike Pethel views transporter footage at Composite Image Systems

Showing en masse uses of the transporter was made much easier to accomplish using digital technology. "We're able to have five, six, seven, eight, nine people on transporters and it's all single generation quality accomplished as a complete composite in an hour," stated Rob Legato. "With tape, it would have taken hours just to get 17 machines running in sync through the switcher." (Starlog issue #132, p. 77) However, the dissolves were not necessarily simplistic to create. Peter Moyer remarked, "When you have people or objects in the foreground, […] then we have to have custom mattes made, which we do with the DF/X 200." The Ampex ADO 3000, a holdout matte to define the area of transportation, and a switcher wipe for the creation of the subtle afterglow were still all used for these more elaborate dissolves. (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 12, p. 20)

The Klingon beaming effect in TNG was hurriedly conceived by Visual Effects Supervisor Ronald B. Moore and Dan Curry. However, neither was particularly pleased with the results. (Cinefex, No. 61, p. 73)

Dan Curry was assigned to generate the Borg transporter effect. "I wanted something that didn't look like the Star Trek Starfleet transporter," he noted. ("Q Who" audio commentary, TNG Season 2 Blu-ray) The effect was achieved with animation. "Dan did it with a very simple art," Michael Okuda offered, "with pieces of film sliding against each other so that they would reveal light in different ways." ("Energized! Season Two Tech Update", TNG Season 2 Blu-ray special features) Curry himself explained, "It's basically a slot gag where I would draw by hand on a paintbox […] A slot gag is dragging one clear element over another, and the illusion of motion like the spiraling energy around the Borg results from dragging basically a series of figure eights over contour drawings of the Borg." This rendered the illusion in such a way as to give it a remarkably dimensional appearance. "Yeah, 'cause basically when I drew the contour lines, I took into account the, you know, the anatomy of the Borg," said Curry, "and how they, energy beams, would run over its surface." ("Q Who" audio commentary, TNG Season 2 Blu-ray) Okuda described the illusion as "interesting" and one of many "absolutely genius, old-school techniques" that Curry employed on the series. ("Energized! Season Two Tech Update", TNG Season 2 Blu-ray special features)

The creation of a transporter effect for the episode "Identity Crisis", in footage featuring actors seemingly frozen in time, turned into a notable experience. Because Ron Moore had a lot to oversee during the filming of the scene, he didn't notice that the camera began to move during the beam-out. "I didn't talk about it much but when I was in the edit bay with my postproduction team, we discovered […] [the] glitch […] Today that would not be a big thing but at the time it caused us to sweat a bit getting the effect to look right. So this became one of the first episodes with a transporter happening while the camera was moving." ("Chapter 1: A Night on the Set", Flying Starships)

When tasked with producing the beaming effect of the USS Jenolen in the fifth season homage episode "Relics", Dan Curry remembered seeing the box storing the actual effect element for the TOS transporter, while working as an intern at Cinema Research Corp., and he was thus able to retrieve it. "We blew the cobwebs off, dug through, pulled out the strip of film, and discovered it was in perfect condition," Curry recalled. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 274)

In order to handle the transporter effects in TNG series finale "All Good Things...", Ron Moore took a moment from working on the then-upcoming film Star Trek Generations. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 302)

Adam Howard and Scott Rader each wrangled with the beam-in and beam-out effects for The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. (Cinefex, No. 69, p. 106) The company initially responsible for the transporter effects in DS9 was Digital Magic, where Adam Howard worked at that time. (The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, p. 242) The DS9 transporter effects were subsequently done by Pacific Ocean Post, where Scott Rader worked. "We work on live action plates – all the transporter effects and gags of making people disappear into thin air," he commented. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 64) The transporter effect used by the Hunters in DS9: "Captive Pursuit" was inspired by a scene in the film Metropolis, in which the "Maria" robot transforms into humanistic form. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 28) For Star Trek: Voyager, the series' visual effects artists felt that, since the starship Voyager was conceived as a newly established craft, a slight redesign of the beaming effect was again justified. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 105, p. 59) "We were thinking about changing the transporter effect, figuring that Starfleet would have upgraded it," remembered Dan Curry. "The features all had their own different effect and we tried working with some of the CGI houses to see if we could make the transporter effect a 3-D effect. We felt that the results we were getting were very mechanical looking and we kept looking back on our original transporter effect, particularly our sparkle element. That has such a nice organic feel that we wound up modifying the existing transporter effect where we retained our traditional sparkle that gave us a nice sense of continuity, but we used an element [hellip;] [of] glowing balls of light that go up or down." These newly added balls of light were created by Amblin Imaging. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 57) Curry stated about the blue light pulses, "The theory is that they're doing these scans and preparing the way for the materialization of the person." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 105, p. 59) The VOY visual effects staff decided to omit the "shower curtain" element from their version of the beaming effect, as it had always "looked very flat" to Curry, in his own words. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 4/5, p. 57)

The Okudas view transporter scene

While working on the remastering of TNG, Michael and Denise Okuda view a transporter sequence

For remastering TNG on its Blu-ray Disc releases, a roomful of compositors were tasked with taking the raw elements of the series' transporter effects and putting them together in a way as close as possible to how they were originally composited. (Star Trek Magazine issue 168, p. 57) Though very minimal changes were made to the beaming effects, there certainly was inherently more depth to them. René Echevarria liked the remastered transporter effects, referring to them as "really nice" and noticing the increase in depth. ("Preemptive Strike" audio commentary, TNG Season 7 Blu-ray special features)

Michael Okuda witnessed Dan Curry teach visual effects artists who worked on the TNG remaster project about how the Borg transporter effect was achieved. As the illusion seemed three-dimensional and highly state-of-the-art, the learners were amazed to discover the effect was actually done very simply. ("Energized! Season Two Tech Update", TNG Season 2 Blu-ray special features)

To help distinguish the Jem'Hadar from other Star Trek species, a new transporter effect had to be designed for the group. It made its first appearance, along with the Jem'Hadar themselves, in DS9 Season 2 finale "The Jem'Hadar". (Cinefantastique, Vol. 25/26, No. 6/1, p. 108)

Later appearances[]

A new three-dimensional look was introduced for the Starfleet transporter effect in Generations, supervised by Ron Moore. Being considered fairly routine, the transporter beams were not created by ILM (though that company worked on all the exterior space scenes in the film). (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 313) Rather than customary vertical streaks appearing over the profile of each person transporting, the redesigned effect – created at CIS Hollywood – consisted of curved streaks that were made to flash downward and suggest the transportee's actual body contours. "We went in with Flame and redid the beaming effect, which wound up being a bigger deal than we had hoped," stated Moore. "We didn't have a 'master' transport effect that could just be plugged in, as we did on the series – instead, each person being beamed had his or her own custom effect. It took days, instead of the hour or so we were used to; but Flame really brought out the dimensionality of it." The beaming was also composited with Flame. Additional tweaking, used to add subtleties which would integrate the effects and live-action footage, was carried out in CIS Hollywood's electronic paint and effects suite. (Cinefex, No. 61, p. 72)

The Klingon transporter effect was also redone for Generations, after the opportunity to make improvements to the illusion – following its somewhat dissatisfying TNG appearances – was seized by Ron Moore. He prepared a demonstration of what the revamped effect might look like, a demo realized by Scott Rader at Digital Magic, then went to CIS to accomplish the finalized effect. (Cinefex, No. 61, p. 73)

The Starfleet beaming effect was returned to its TNG appearance for Star Trek: First Contact. This encore of the transporter effect was due to Adam Howard and Scott Rader at Pacific Ocean Post. (Cinefex, No. 69, p. 106) The effect was ultimately updated for First Contact, however, building on how it had appeared before. Visual Effects Supervisor David Takemura later explained, "That was my decision – to do something cooler, to add one thing I always thought was lacking in some of the other movies for the transporter effect: a measure of dimensionality, a little more 3D sense of what was happening inside their bodies as they're materializing. So we created some new CG elements at Pacific Ocean Post and added that. I think it makes a big difference in giving the beam-in effect some depth." Laughing, Takemura concluded, "I certainly like it better." (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 123)

A Starfleet transporter effect, albeit made to look more energetic and have more contrast than the usual one from TNG, was created by POP Film and POP Animation for Star Trek: Insurrection. Though this was initially done for the materialization effect of an on-line replicator featured in an ultimately deleted scene, POP's numerous transporter effects were retained after the scene was cut. POP also provided these transporter elements to Blue Sky/VIFX and Santa Barbara Studios, for compositing into their own effects shots from the movie. (Cinefex, No. 77, p. 78)

Uses of a Son'a beam-out effect in Insurrection were originally to have been realized with a CGI version of the traditional ILM transporter effect from previous Star Trek films. Max Ivins, who served as one of two Digital Supervisors for the film's Second Unit filming team, stated, "I had the people turning into vertical light streaks, with residual particles that continued to drift in the direction of their original movement. I used a 3-D process based on each person's outline and contour. But since this was not a Starfleet/Federation beam-out, Paramount decided that effect would not be appropriate." Instead, Blue Sky/VIFX ultimately approached the effect, which came to be known as a "tag-out," by utilizing distorted-glass imagery typical of glass used in showers. (Cinefex, No. 77, pp. 83 & 84-85)

The Starfleet transporter effect in Star Trek: Enterprise was intended to look reminiscent of its forebears, though still believable for its audience. "[It] is still coming out of process," reported Foundation Imaging VFX artist Dave Morton, early in the series' development. "We did some experiments with that. Dan Curry had a very specific mental picture [of this effect]. I think it will hearken to the [Star Trek: The Original Series] style, but we also want it to look good to today's audiences." With a chuckle, Morton added, "I don't think we're just going to resort to dropping sprinkles in front of a bright light." (Star Trek Monthly issue 86, pp. 22-23) Curry himself later commented, "We had to do a variation on the transporter that looked more primitive than what we were doing on Voyager and Deep Space Nine, yet took advantage of the increased technology we now have available that was not available when we did TNG." (Star Trek Monthly issue 92, p. 11) Curry also explained, "In this case, we did more of a blur rather than just an enhanced dissolve, where you'd see the object kind of blur in and take shape a little bit more, of an event that's happening in the air." ("Broken Bow" audio commentary, ENT Season 1 Blu-ray)

Although the transporter effect was handled by much the same group of visual effects artists from TNG to ENT, producing the effect – by the time of the latter (and later) series – had not become completely easy for all occasions. "You would think that a transporter effect that we had done so often would be a piece of cake. But there are a lot of elements and mattes being used and even though we had done it hundreds of times, each shot was unique," explained Ron Moore. "Things made it more difficult than you would think. One thing that changed was the ambient light. For example, if a person beamed down to a planet surface in the daytime it could be tricky to make the beam and particles look good. If the person beamed down at night it was completely different. The transporter beam should act a little like a light bulb and cast light on objects around it. All this had to be added. If there was someone standing near him or her during the transport you would expect to see light on them and even throw a shadow […] So, even though we had done many transporters, they could still be a real challenge." As an example, Ron Moore found, much to the surprise of Jonathan Archer actor Scott Bakula, that the hardest effect to create for ENT pilot episode "Broken Bow" was a transporter shot wherein Archer was beamed out of a temporal chamber aboard a Suliban helix while the actor playing him ran towards camera. ("Introduction", Flying Starships)

One of the first steps in the process of revising the transporter effect for the film Star Trek involved Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett studying the various beaming effects created for the previous Star Trek films and television series. (Cinefex, No. 118, p. 67) As Director and Producer J.J. Abrams found the original series' transporter effect too static and two-dimensional, the redesigned effect was made to encompass more movement to increase how realistic it looked, such as by having the energy beams swirl around an actor and be shown with a moving camera. Abrams also wanted the effect to envelope every part of the actor's body and even some of their surroundings. He later recalled, "It was the idea of light circling around people and the space they occupy. It wasn't just the shape of a person that would go into a light color, rather the person was enveloped and defined by the energy and light." (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 105) ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Russell Earl offered, "J.J. described the effect as transporting particles of not only the person but also the immediate space around them. As particles formed, they generated light and became visible, spinning in space. This built to a flash, and then the person disappeared." ILM continued the efforts to bring a photographic realism to the effect. "We focused on the idea of the space around the person starting to activate," Earl explained, "encircling the subject as particles were sucked away and reconstituted elsewhere." Still adhering to the premise of objects and people transporting as particles, digital artists at ILM generated points of spinning light by using a three-dimensional particle simulation. "We built matchmove proxy geometry of characters," said Earl, "and then ran [the] 3D particle simulation, slowly building up the number of particles, which produced trails of light." ILM compositors then blended the effects with warping and interactive light passes using ILM's high-speed SABRE compositing system, adding even more realism to the overall design. "We did warping in the composite, and did Saber [sic] work with particle passes and interactive light passes to simulate a three-dimensional effect," Earl related. (Cinefex, No. 118, pp. 64 & 67)

The visual effects team which worked on Star Trek Beyond had to find some way to portray the USS Franklin's antiquated transporter. Raymond Chen, visual effects supervisor at Double Negative, Vancouver, explained, "We did a lot of research into Star Trek transporter beams, and developed a look for a much cruder version. We created the shell of the person's body, and also what we called 'glitch chunks,' because the body was being transported in packets. Those would snap into place, with glowing edges, and there was also an element of swirl, with the particles of the body encoded as a rotational interior element. Then we had electrical lines on top of the whole thing. A lot of it was dialed and balanced in the composite to get the glow and the smeary edges looking correct." (Cinefex, No. 148, p. 89)

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