Film Friday: Lens Flare

The new Star Trek is quite interesting from a visual design standpoint. Lens flares, light halos and small reflections appear everywhere. It gives the film a clean, high-tech appearance, as though we're watching it through a thin layer of glass. The effect is sometimes distracting and used perhaps too exuberantly, but in reading JJ Abrams' explanation about the effect and how it was done, I can appreciate this artistic decision even more.

"The flares weren't just happening from on-camera light sources, they were happening off camera, and that was really the key to it. I want [to create] the sense that, just off camera, something spectacular is happening. There was always a sense of something, and also there is a really cool organic layer thats a quality of it. They were all done live, they weren't added later. There are something about those flares, especially in a movie that can potentially be very sterile and CG and overly controlled. There is something incredibly unpredictable and gorgeous about them. It is a really fun thing. Our DP would be off camera with this incredibly powerful flashlight aiming it at the lens. It became an art because different lenses required angles, and different proximity to the lens. Sometimes, when we were outside we'd use mirrors. Certain sizes were too big... literally, it was ridiculous. It was like another actor in the scene....

So it was this ridiculous, added level of pain in the ass, but I love... [looking at] the final cut, [the flares] to me, were a fun additional touch that I think, while overdone, in some places, it feels like the future is that bright."

This entry was originally posted in The Captain's Blog (In case you didn't know, I spent a year studying William Shatner and published a book about him in 2007 – with Mr. Shatner's approval. The book and exhibition featured 76 artists' interpretation of his life and career. The Shatner Show was mentioned in his recent autobiography!)