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Friday, September 26, 2014

How was the "LCARS" computer effect in Star Trek: The Next Generation executed?

From Quora.com

LCARS is the computer system on the Enterprise that the characters of Star Trek: The Next Generation use in the show. I am interested in what computer or graphics system was used to display the effect, whether it was visible to the actors or added in post-production and what software and/or hardware Michael Okuda used to create the effect.

answer from Robert Frost, Hardcore Star Trek fan since he was 2:

Most of the time, when we saw a scene like this:

LCARS

The LCARS display is created by using a large piece of film that is backlit by gel lights. Turning individual lights on and off could give the appearance of animation, but it was really just a static piece of film. Here is a picture of Scenic Art Supervisor, Mike Okuda, with one such film. Mike was responsible for designing the diagrams, and they have become known as Okudagrams.

Mike Okuda

Any LCARS effect that required real animation or incorporation of video was added in post-production. The actors were looking at a blue rectangle.

As for software used, Mike and his team constructed static images using the Macintosh version of Adobe Illustrator and animations using the Macintosh version of Macromedia Director. Both of which were brand new applications when the show started.

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