A couple of weeks ago, Don Mayer received an email with the intriguing subject, “A G5 for the 24th Century?” The email was from Charles Root of Retro Film Studios, best known for their highly regarded and hugely popular web-based series Star Trek: New Voyages.

If you are a Star Trek fan or simply a fan of great web-based movies, you’ve probably heard of New Voyages. For everyone else, New Voyages is a highly regarded, broadcast-quality, fan-created series set in the Star Trek universe, focusing on the fourth year of the Starship Enterprise’s five-year mission. It is distributed on the web for free. Episodes produced so far include the pilot, “Come What May,” followed by “In Harm’s Way.” “To Serve All My Days” will be released on September 8, 2006, at the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration & Conference. Two more episodes are in preproduction: “All The World and Time” and “The World Above, The Sky Below.”

According the the New Voyages website, the idea of the series originated with James Cawley. He had already assembled a large collection of Star Trek set pieces and props, and had even built an extremely impressive set based on the original Starship Enterprise bridge. He had an idea to make a fan film, and with input from director Jack Marshall, the series was set to launch.

New Voyages has attracted great interest from Star Trek alumni. “In Harm’s Way” featured Eugene Roddenberry, Jr. as a consulting producer. The excellent special effects are handled by Max Rem, who also worked on the Enterprise television series. Several writers from various Trek series have pitched in as writers and even actors. The next episode, “To Serve All My Days,” was written by D.C. Fontana. Indeed, “To Serve All My Days” will feature Walter Koenig in his famous original role of Pavel Chekov — truly amazing for a web-based series. George Takei will return as Sulu in the next episode, set to begin shooting in September.

The New Voyages website proudly declares “STAR TREK LIVES!” Some of the actors may only vaguely resemble the original cast, but the sets, music, costumes and uniforms, and alien makeup seem as if they were beamed from the late 1960s to the present day. It feels like a bona fide, CBS-produced Star Trek TV series. Indeed, most of the effects (especially space and ship scenes) are superior to the effects in the original series.

New Voyages has the pioneering spirit of the original Star Trek series. In real life, New Voyages is comprised of a diverse crew working toward a combined goal. Charles Root, who sent the original email to Small Dog, plays Mr. Scott. The other recurring cast includes James Cawley as Captain Kirk, Jeff Quinn as Mr. Spock, John Kelly as Doctor Leonard McCoy, Andy Bray as Lt. Pavel Chekov, John Lim as Lt. Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu, Julienne Irons as Lt. Nyota Uhura, Ron Boyd as Lt. Vincent Desalle, Shannon Giles as Nurse Christine Chapel, and Katrina Kernodle as Yeoman Janice Rand. James Lowe, who is a Co-Producer/Art Director and Website Co-Administrator (and also plays an alien Federation Ambassador) wrote in with links to some pictures (all photos are property of Star Trek New Voyages):

http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/files/j-lo/sfm/album/

Effects and editing for New Voyages happen on of a variety of computers and in a variety of software packages. Previous episodes were cut on Adobe Premiere, with ship animation created in Lightwave. Other post effects were added with Adobe After Effects. Some rotoscoping and additional visual effects were done in Combustion. Apple’s Motion program might be used for some of this in the future.

Previously, some editing was done on a G3, which simply could not keep up with production. Small Dog Electronics loaned New Voyages a 2.3 GHz Power Mac G5 to finish the current episode, “To Serve All My Days,” with Walter Koenig, which premiers September 8 at the Star Trek: 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration & Conference at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle.

It is important to remember that the creators, cast, and crew of New Voyages do not profit from its production. The best way to donate is through gift cards from the retailers they buy supplies from. You can also contact them with other ideas.

Successful, incredibly popular productions blending professional knowhow, digital “prosumer” equipment, and amateur enthusiasm are uprooting the traditional movie creation and distribution model. If you want to see the future of media on the internet, visit New Voyages here:

http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/1024/home.php

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