Please Stand By – a Star Trek fan’s dream project

VFX Legion was called upon as the sole visual effects vendor for Please Stand By. The team were trusted to bring some visual familiarity to this story of a Star Trek fan’s journey across America.

To be asked to work on your dream project is not something that comes round very often for many CG professionals. But, for VFX Legion’s Rommel S. Calderon that’s exactly what happened when he got a call about Please Stand By.

“I was in seventh grade when the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation came out. It was then that I decided I want to do visual effects as a career,” explains Calderon. “Personally, Please Stand By is a dream project for me.”

Please Stand By tells the story of a young autistic woman who runs away from her caregiver in order to boldly go and deliver her 500-page Star Trek script to a writing competition in Hollywood. On an adventure full of laughter and tears, Wendy, played with exquisite delicacy by Dakota Fanning, follows the guiding spirit of Mr. Spock on her journey into the unknown.

As the sole VFX vendor on the film, it was vital the studio utilise its pool of international talent, bringing in artists and compositors from all over the globe, to deliver 51 shots across the film, including two key atmospheric environmental shots made to look like they’d been pulled directly from Kirk’s 1960s adventures in space.

These shots, also featured in the trailer for the movie, involved recreating the space suits used in Star Trek: The Original Series.

“I’m very proud of the two CG shots I got to work on in Please Stand By. They were a lot of fun to produce as we had to recreate the goofy space suits of the original series for these two characters walking on a red, desert planet,” says Calderon.

Pinning down the animation in these shots was one of the most challenging aspects of the production. The team relied on a motion capture library to make the performances more realistic.

“We started out with a six foot model and retextured it, then we attached the motion capture data and modified it so it looked like a limping person carrying another person.” Calderon explains. “We then placed the characters into our digital matte painting of the desert environment, and then I reprojected it over a 3D surface so I could get the texture and terrain right. Those shots were then sent over to our compositors, who added a really cool wind effect.

“I’m really proud of the final look of those shots, I think they look great in the trailer and will play out beautifully on the big screen. I’m really excited to see the final cut of the film, Dakota Fanning is a force and Patton Oswald speaking Klingon is a memory I will treasure for a long time.”   

Please Stand By is available now on Amazon Video, iTunes and On Demand.

Post Magazine: VFX Legion’s new studio model

James Hattin (pictured below) is the co-founder of Burbank, CA-based VFX Legion, a provider of visual effects services for the film and television industry. Hattin’s career as an artist and VFX professional includes time at Luma Pictures, Zoic Studios and Industrial Light & Magic. When he launched VFX Legion in May of 2013, he rejected the traditional VFX vendor-meets-sweatshop setup, opting instead for a forward-thinking approach that prized one thing above all else: the artist.

Today VFX Legion operates a global remote workforce, with creatives contributing from one side of the world to the other. Legion artists can be found all over the globe, working on projects such as How To Get Away With Murder and El Chapo from the comfort of their own homes.


Why did you choose to set up VFX Legion and what was it a reaction to?

“We built Legion to attract the artists that were senior, experienced and tired of running around the world for jobs. Nothing says ‘burnout’ like moving across the country, chasing tax credits, and trying to raise a family – all while working 16 hours a day.

“There’s a whole group of very talented mid- and senior-level artists that want to contribute to the VFX industry, but also want work/life balance, and that’s unfortunately so rare. Legion was established to tip the balance of scales in their favor. Over the years, we have built a community of incredibly talented artists, from all over the world, who can work from the comfort of their own locations while still contributing to amazing VFX projects. It’s been an incredible journey and we’re still going, bringing the experience to more and more talented people.”

Read on to find out more about Legion’s truly global studio