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How to Create the 'Star Trek' Teleporter Effect for Your Own Sci-Fi Film

With ‘Star Trek Beyond’ out today, PBS Digital Studio’s Joey Shanks shows fans how to create the teleporter effect.
Images courtesy the artist

Star Trek Beyond is out today. In celebration, PBS Digital Studio’s resident DIY visual effects guru Joey Shanks is taking on the series’ famous “energize” or “teleport” effect. Shanks shot a previous episode where he created the teleport effect using long exposure and light painting techniques, putting people in chairs and slowly adding Christmas lights frame by frame until he achieved a vortex-like technique. In this episode, however, Shanks tried to mimic the origins of the effect from the 1963 Star Trek pilot.


“Obviously, I’m a Star Trek fan, and growing up as a kid the energize effect from 80s films really had a big effect on me,” says Shanks. “I just thought they were really beautiful, elegant, and simple.”

“From my research it started with them using aluminum silver shavings, and just dropping it in front of the camera, backlighting it with a really sharp spotlight and shooting it at 120 frames-per-second and then compositing it into the scene,” says Shanks.

“Then I learned that they started messing around with Alka Seltzer, with glitter, a lot of different forms of liquids and particles in tanks. Just to show the audience this technique it’s super simple—even getting a lava lamp that has little glitter particles, you can pretty much create the exact same look they did originally.”

After messing with Alka Seltzer himself, Shanks decided to get a bunch of reflective items like wind chimes and throw them out of focus. To make them slowly spin Shanks put the items on a disco ball motor.

“When you see these things blurred out they look pretty and kind of alien-like,” he says. “When I composited it into the shot it worked pretty nicely. And since the new Star Trek film is out this week I thought it was a good time to release [the video].”

Click here to see more of Joey Shanks’ work.


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