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Video Image, in later years better known and credited under its acronym VIFX (Video Image Effects), and on occasion also referenced to as VIFX/Video Image, has been a first-generation digital visual effects company, specialized in providing the motion picture industry with computer generated imagery (CGI), which included several Star Trek productions.

The company was, as one of the earliest of its kind, founded in 1984 by Greg McMurry, Rhonda Gunner, Richard Hollander and John Wash, and originally located in Marina Del Rey, California. [1] It was also one of the earliest companies that provided CGI effects to the motion picture industry as a core business, and as happenstance would have it, also one of the longer-lived, unlike many other contemporary first-generation CGI companies. Prior to the early 1980s, when CGI was required, the industry had to look for them outside the industry at institutions like universities, such as UCLA's Computer Graphics Laboratory, or non-industry companies like Evans & Sutherland, who both provided animated computer-generated display graphics for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1981.

At the time of the company's founding, the technological state of CGI software was such, that directors and producers of the time were convinced that CGI could only be used in instances where those effects were supposed to look like computer images, such as computer console displays. Nevertheless, such imagery was in high demand as the personal computer made its rapid entry for general use during the 1980s. Video Image became a market leader in providing this imagery, and their work has been seen in dozens of movie productions of the era, including many blockbuster features with heavy science fiction overtones like Weird Science and Escape From LA (1985), Predator (1987), The Fly II and The Abyss (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Alien³ (1992), to name but a few.

One of these also included the computer-generated "Computer Animation and Tactical Displays ", featured in the 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, including the visuals on Spock's instructional computer seen at the beginning of the movie. Incidentally, the company was credited as the misspelled Video Images for the feature. They also provided the same sort of visuals five years later, now referred to in the credits as "24-Frame Video Displays by" for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

In 1993, the releases of the television production Babylon 5 and the movie Jurassic Park, heralded a quantum-leap forward in the application of CGI, as it was from now on no longer restricted to computer consoles alone. VIFX, as the company was increasingly known as, managed to keep track with the new developments and started to successfully develop these more advanced CGI effects as well. While the 1993 breakthrough productions each used the pioneering software LightWave 3D as their platform, VIFX chose one of the earliest contemporary "Autodesk" predecessor versions of, what eventually was to become the Maya software, as theirs.

VIFX's Odo "blob" alien

It was in this software, that VIFX constructed Odo's transformation into a monster in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's 1993 second season episode, "The Alternate". Visual effects supervisor Glenn Neufeld, a former VIFX employee, brought in his former employer in order to alleviate the workload on VisionArt Design & Animation, who were responsible for the normal morphing sequences of Odo. (Cinefantastique, Vol 25 #6/Vol 26 #1, 1994, pp. 106-107)

In 1996, the company, by then located at 5333 McConnell Avenue Los Angeles, California, was sold by its founders to 20th Century Fox. One year later Fox acquired New York City based effects house Blue Sky Studios, and decided to merge the two companies into a new entity, Blue Sky/VIFX. On both occasions, original founder Richard Hollander was retained as President. As Blue Sky/VIFX, the company was heavily involved with the production of the visual effects for Star Trek: Insurrection.

The combination did not pan out very well, as Digital Artist David Stephens later clarified, "At the time of ST9, 20th Century Fox had acquired both VIFX and Blue Sky. We went under the combined name “Blue Sky | VIFX” for about a year, but the companies were never actually integrated together in any meaningful way. Later, Fox sold off VIFX to Rhythm & Hues while opting (rather wisely) to keep Blue Sky and pursue the feature animation market." [2]

Absorbed into Rhythm & Hues, late 1999, early 2000, VIFX ended its existence as a separate entity. According to the International Movie Database, the company has one last 2001 "additional graphics" credit for, what should be presumed, the pilot episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, but it has yet to be confirmed if that was so and for what the credit was given.

Star Trek staff

The following are lists of known staff members who specifically worked on Star Trek productions before Insurrection.

The Voyage Home team

  • John Wash
  • Richard Hollander

The Undiscovered Country team

  • Janet Earl
  • Aaron Katz
  • David Katz
  • Pete Martinez
  • Monte Swann
  • Jim Unsinn

"The Alternate" team

  • Cheryl Budgett – rotoscoping and morphing effects
  • Antoine Dürr – ripple effects
  • Scott Giegler – design and movement
  • Bryann Hirota – design and force field composition
  • Glenn Neufield – effects supervisor

Further reading

  • "The Alternate", Tim Prokop, Cinefantastique, Vol 25 #6/Vol 26 #1, 1994, pp. 106-107

External links