(written from a Production point of view)
Robert "Rob" M. Legato (born 6 May 1956; age 64) is a director and visual effects (VFX) coordinator from Ocean Township, New Jersey, who has worked as such on the first five seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Hired in early 1987, Robert Legato started out as VFX coordinator/supervisor for the franchise and has fulfilled that role for the entirety of his tenure at the franchise. After the production of the pilot episode, "Encounter at Farpoint", it was soon realized that the new show was the most VFX laden television production of its day, much like its illustrious predecessor, Star Trek: The Original Series was in its. A fourth senior VFX staffer was deemed necessary to alleviate work pressure on the senior VFX staff which up to then consisted of, besides Legato, Gary Hutzel and Ronald B. Moore. To that end Dan Curry was brought in, partly on recommendation by his friend Moore. In order to streamline and increase production efficiency, the four were paired in two teams to work on alternating episodes, Legato being paired with Hutzel. The two-team VFX format went operational halfway through the first season, the 16th episode, "Too Short a Season", being the first episode Moore and Curry worked upon as a team. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. 31) The format worked so well, that it has remained in use for almost the entire subsequent run of the Star Trek television franchise (though the boundaries between the two teams became a lot more fluid during the later seasons of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise), and Legato and Hutzel remained a team ever since.
Promoted to supervisor at the start of second season of The Next Generation, and the second one to hold the title after Curry, Legato with Hutzel transferred upon the conclusion of that series' fifth season, to the new television production Deep Space Nine to fulfill the same role. Their place on The Next Generation for the next season was filled by a new team that consisted of David Stipes and David Takemura.
On the first season of Deep Space Nine, he, Hutzel, and reinforced by newcomers Michael Backauskas and Judy Elkins as VFX coordinators, served as the only senior VFX staff, though supported by Dan Curry and one of the few Star Trek television series seasons that did not quite utilize the two-team VFX staff format as theirs was formally the only one. Yet, Deep Space Nine's VFX staff was also beefed out with Cari Thomas, transferring from the scenic art department, and newcomer Sue Jones as visual associates. (Cinefantastique, Vol 23, #5, p. 62) It was Thomas, who unofficially doubled as VFX coordinator on several episodes, thereby de facto constituting a pseudo second VFX team (more or less already starting with the fourth episode "A Man Alone"), alternating between Legato and Hutzel. Upon the conclusion of the first season of Deep Space Nine, Legato decided it was time to move on and left the franchise late 1993 to join Digital Domain, taking Thomas with him. Glenn Neufeld replaced him on Deep Space Nine, while Legato's departure allowed Ronald B. Moore to remain on the franchise as VFX supervisor for the third spin-off television series Voyager.
Aside from his duties as VFX supervisor, Robert Legato was also given the opportunity to flex his muscles as director, and has directed two episodes of The Next Generation, third season's "Ménage à Troi" and fourth season's "The Nth Degree" as well as one Deep Space Nine episode, first season's " If Wishes Were Horses". In addition, he directed the 1991 The Star Trek Logs: An MTV Big Picture Special Edition documentary. His work on the Star Trek franchise has earned Legato two won Emmy Awards in the category "Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects", as well as three additional Emmy Award nominations for the same.
Arguably, Robert Legato's most memorable achievements, at the very least where Star Trek's fan-base was concerned, consistently ranking these among their top favorite Star Trek scenes, was the visualization of the Battle of Wolf 359, both the depiction of the aftermath in The Next Generation's, "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", as well of that of the battle proper in Deep Space Nine's pilot episode, "Emissary". On both occasions, it was Legato who was, by chance, the main responsible supervisor for conceiving and devising the visuals.
Though their duties and work were on par with that of colleagues Rob Legato and Dan Curry, neither Gary Hutzel nor Ron B. Moore received official credits for their efforts on the first two seasons of The Next Generation. This was partly due to Hollywood union regulations, partly due to studio policies, and partly due to the lack of space and time on the credit roll at the end of a show. However, it was Legato who arranged for his colleagues getting the credits they were due, as a grateful Moore pointed out later, "But in TV you only have so much time at the end of the show. Getting your name there is not easy. At the beginning of TNG only Rob Legato had a visual effects credit. Rob went to bat for Gary and I. He eventually got us credits in the shows. It was nice of him to do it. There are so many people who worked on the show that didn't get credit. People whose contributions were essential to the shows received no on-screen credit. It is not always fair. I believe Rob even offered up to give credit on an episode and give it to someone else but the idea was rejected." (Flying Starships, p. 124)
Career outside Star Trek
Before he was hired on The Next Generation, Legato had worked at Robert Abel & Associates and subsequently at Image G, and it was Legato who was instrumental in bringing in the latter company as regular motion control photography supplier for the Star Trek franchise, after the pilot episode. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 1, pp. 60-61)
While employed at Digital Domain, Interview with the Vampire (1994) being his first post-Star Trek credit, Robert Legato received in 1996 an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects for his work on the drama Apollo 13 which he shared with Star Trek: The Motion Picture VFX artist Leslie Ekker. Two years later in 1998 he received an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on James Cameron's drama Titanic (1997, as the senior VFX supervisor alongside several other former Star Trek VFX staffers ), while the blockbuster science fiction movie Armageddon (1998) was the last work he did for Digital Domain.
After leaving Digital Domain Robert Legato has since then worked as free-lance VFX supervisor, What Lies Beneath (2000) being his first credit as such. He worked with director Martin Scorsese on the films The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006), both as VFX coordinator and second unit director. More recent projects include Scorsese's horror thriller Shutter Island (2010) on which he worked as VFX supervisor and James Cameron's science fiction films Avatar (2009), and Battle Angel (2011) on both as virtual cinematography system creator and VFX pipeline engineer.
In 2012, Legato won his second Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for his work on Martin Scorcese's fantasy adventure Hugo (2011, screenplay by John Logan). This was followed in 2013 by his induction into the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).
Subsequent credits he accrued afterwards as VFX supervisor concerned The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, again from Scorcese), and the live-action Disney films The Jungle Book (2016) and The Lion King (2019).
In 2017 Legato was contracted by Director Jon Favreau (whom Legato knew from The Wolf of Wall Street, teaming up again for The Lion King) for the motion control filming of the "hero ship" Orville from Seth MacFarlane's The Next Generation-inspired science fiction series The Orville (2017-). It was decided to fall back on the near obsolete technique in the age of CGI, of constructing and filming a traditional physical studio model for the establishing shots of the hero ship, in order to get the retro feel MacFarlane was aiming for. Even though the majority of the other visual effects shots were executed as CGI, the footage taken of the physical model served as a library of stock footage (especially for the show's intro), apart from the model being used as as scanning model as well as a camera test model. This actually had also been Legato's original intent to begin with for the two original USS Enterprise-D physical models for The Next Generation back in 1987. 
Star Trek credits
- As Director
- DS9: "If Wishes Were Horses" (1993)
- The Star Trek Logs: An MTV Big Picture Special Edition (1991)
- As Visual Effects Coordinator/ Visual Effects Supervisor
(This list is currently incomplete.)
- "Encounter at Farpoint" (Season 1 – Visual Effects Coordinator)
- "The Naked Now"
- "Code of Honor"
- "The Last Outpost"
- "Where No One Has Gone Before"
- "Lonely Among Us"
- "The Battle"
- "Hide and Q"
- "The Big Goodbye"
- "When The Bough Breaks"
- "Heart of Glory"
- "Skin of Evil"
- "We'll Always Have Paris"
- "The Neutral Zone"
- "The Child" (Season 2 – Visual Effects Supervisor)
- "Elementary, Dear Data"
- "The Schizoid Man"
- "Unnatural Selection"
- "The Measure Of A Man"
- "Time Squared"
- "Pen Pals"
- "Samaritan Snare"
- "Peak Performance"
- "Evolution" (Season 3 – Visual Effects Supervisor)
- "Who Watches The Watchers"
- "Booby Trap"
- "The Price"
- "The Defector"
- "The High Ground"
- "A Matter of Perspective"
- "The Offspring"
- "Tin Man"
- "Ménage à Troi"
- "The Best of Both Worlds"
- "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" (Season 4 – Visual Effects Supervisor)
- "Remember Me"
- "Final Mission"
- "Data's Day"
- "Devil's Due"
- "First Contact" (uncredited)
- "Night Terrors"
- "Identity Crisis" uncredited)
- "The Nth Degree"
- "The Drumhead"
- "The Host"
- "In Theory"
- "Darmok" (Season 5 – Visual Effects Supervisor)
- "Silicon Avatar"
- "The Game"
- "Unification I"
- "New Ground"
- "Cause and Effect"
- "Cost of Living"
- "Imaginary Friend" (uncredited)
- "The Next Phase"
- "Time's Arrow"
Legato received the following Emmy Award wins and nominations in the category Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects:
- 1990 Emmy Award nomination for "Tin Man", shared with Gary Hutzel, Steve Price, Don Greenberg, Erik Nash, Don Lee, and Michael Okuda
- 1991 Emmy Award nomination for "The Best of Both Worlds", shared with Gary Hutzel, David Takemura, Michael Okuda, Don Greenberg, Erik Nash, Steve Price, Syd Dutton, Robert Stromberg, Bill Taylor, and Don Lee
- 1991 Emmy Award nomination for "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", shared with Gary Hutzel, David Takemura, Patrick Clancy, Steve Price, Michael Okuda, Erik Nash, Syd Dutton, Don Lee, and Bill Taylor
- 1992 Emmy Award win for "Conundrum", shared with Gary Hutzel, David Takemura, Patrick Clancey, Adrian Hurley, Adam Howard, Don Lee, and Dennis Hoerter
- 1993 Emmy Award win for "Emissary", shared with Gary Hutzel, Michael Dallas Gibson, and Dennis Blakey.
Star Trek interviews
- Star Trek DVD and Blu-ray special features:
- TNG Season 5 DVD-special features, interviewed on 4 April 2002:
- TNG Complete Series Boxset-special feature, "Star Trek Visual Effects Magic: A Roundtable Discussion" (2007)
- DS9 Season 1 DVD-special feature, "Deep Space Nine Scrapbook Year One: Building the Station", interviewed on 30 September 1992
- DS9 Season 2 DVD-special feature, "New Station, New Ships", interviewed on 30 September 1992
- Print publications:
- "Special Effects: The Next Generation", David Hutchison, Starlog, issue 132, July 1988, pp. 54-57, 77
- "The Special Effects Of Star Trek", Mitchell Rubinstein, Cinefantastique, Vol 22 #2, 1991, pp. 32-34
- "Rob Legato: Director of 'The Nth Degree'", Lee Goldberg, The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 19, pp. 43-47, June 1992
- Star Trek documentaries: