Babylon 5 2×01 Effects Update Part 004- Steamed, Not Boiled

Today’s update is a fairly straightforward sequence. We’ve now reached Act 2 of the episode, which begins with one of the common season 1 establishing shots of the station.

The stock shots of the station were something I wondered about earlier in this project. On the one hand, part of the philosophical basis for doing this is to give the show a more unified appearance, rather than the variations from shifting styles and evolving technology during the original run. On the other hand, I would like it if each chapter of the show had it’s own style (more than just how many and what kind of spaceships are loitering around Babylon 5). This didn’t quite occur in the original run, with very early stock footage being used in later episodes where the look of the show had evolved into something totally different, so what I’m shooting for can be described as stylistic evolution over the five seasons, but technical consistency for the run of the show. Another concern was the ever-present question of when I want to make a direct recreation of the original shot, and when I think I have my own idea for how to set it up. It’s hard to think of a “better” way to do any given generic, interchangeable establishing shot, as opposed to something with a more specific context.

What I think I’ll end up doing is to try to preserve the “feel” of the original establishing shots, while recreating them in my own idiom. For instance, a lot of the establishing shots in the first season of B5, including this one, either started from came to a complete stop, with a very spline-y acceleration or deceleration that screams “early computer graphics.” Eliminating that, along with framing it from the start in 16×9, makes the shot feel a lot more comfortable and cinematic than the version on the DVD.

Assuming this project continues on, I’ll probably make adjusted versions of early shots when they pop up in later seasons to fit in better with those episodes. A good example of this is one of my favorite touches from the new Battlestar Galactica. There was one particular establishing shot of the ship which was used throughout the series, and in later appearances, as the Galactica became more beat-up, new versions of the exact same shot appeared with the additional weathering. It was a fun twist on the concept of stock footage, and something I’d like to do myself.

The other segment in this update is from (the first half of) Sheridan’s good-luck speech in the Observation Dome. There are two shots out the window, one of which had a pivot and a zoom, and the other which was locked off. I found that the first shot was more difficult for After Effects to track than I had anticipated, so I’m going to mark that as another one to revisit down the line. The locked-off shot looks gorgeous, though. I only wish it lasted more than a second or two so I could appreciate the spinning stars while the observation drones pretend to be amused by anecdotes about the Dali Lama.

I’ve also been having a lot of trouble with the Premiere file I’d been using, so there’s an odd editing issue with the first Observation Dome window shot, and there are no crossfades or subtitles in this batch. I’ll probably just recreate the project file within the next couple of updates. Hopefully it’s just the Premiere file that’s gone bad, and the program itself isn’t reacting to something in the source videos.

Next up is another establishing shot of the station (which I’ll probably swap out for continuity reasons I’ll go into when I post it), then the Battle of the Line flashback, which will be preceded by what I’m sure will be an epic dissertation on just what happened during the Battle of the Line.


Model Credits:

Babylon 5: Ed Giddings
“Epsilon 3”: Nick Stevens
Epsilon Nebula: Amras
Starfury: Mark Kane
Starfury Wingart: Chris Guinn
Shuttle: Alexander Shareef