Cutting-edge visual effects in Star Trek into Darkness

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Partner profile

Bad Robot Productions is a film and television production company owned by renowned director J.J. Abrams. Both the director and his company are known for psychological action movies that often have a science-fiction twist and are driven by spectacular visual effects (VFX). Bad Robot's television series include AliasLostWhat About BrianSix DegreesFringeUndercoversPerson of InterestAlcatraz, and Revolution. Its movies include CloverfieldStar TrekSuper 8, and Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol.

Star Trek into Darkness, produced by Bad Robot and directed by J.J. Abrams (for Paramount Pictures), premiered May 2013, at the Dolby Theatre® in Hollywood.

Bad Robot has now begun production on Star Wars: Episode VII, with Abrams at the helm as director (for Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm).


Business and technical challenges

Star Trek into Darkness presented unique demands for Kelvin Optical, Bad Robot's in-house VFX team, and Pixomondo, its VFX vendor. 

"I think the challenge of making a movie like Star Trek is that you're trying to create a 23rd-century visual in a 20th-century business model with 21st-century technology," said Ben Grossmann, Visual Effects Supervisor for Pixomondo.

To realize their vision, Bad Robot Productions and the VFX vendors working on Star Trek into Darkness required an accurate reference-monitor solution for reviewing rendered VFX shots.

Given the tight time frame and scope of the film, they especially needed flexibility in their review and approval process. The VFX artists needed to view the rendered images more accurately, without the expense of adding digital projection to more screening rooms.


The Dolby solution

Multiple Dolby® Professional Reference Monitor units were installed at Bad Robot and Pixomondo. The monitors were calibrated to perfectly match the digital cinema projector in J.J. Abrams's screening room.

The true blacks, exceptional dark detail, and color accuracy of the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor allowed the VFX artists and supervisors more freedom to explore creative options such as color choices, lighting, surfaces, and atmospherics.

"There's a mission-critical aspect to having a monitor like this when you're trying to design an environment that's very atmospheric," Grossmann said. In previous workflows, the lack of a precision monitor meant additional revisions would be needed before the shot could be finalized.

The ability to calibrate the monitor to perfectly match a digital projector also improved efficiency. The VFX team didn't lose time waiting for screening rooms, which are not only expensive but always in demand. The Dolby PRM-4220, Grossman said, "had a pretty huge impact on how much we could possibly fit into such a short delivery schedule for such a big project."

The Dolby monitor contributed to a more streamlined and cost-effective workflow, while maximizing the artists' ability to explore their creative vision.  

"Having a Dolby monitor is a very helpful tool because now all of our color, wherever we look at it, is the same," said Ron Ames, Visual Effects Producer for Bad Robot Productions. "A, it's easy to look at, and B, we always know it's correct."

"Having a Dolby monitor from beginning to end is a great way to go, because you now have an accurate assessment of picture from once you are capturing on set until you are looking at it as a final."


Benefits of the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor

  • Delivers stability and accuracy — a consistent standard for evaluating images
  • Provides precise color in the DCI P3 gamut, true blacks, and exceptional dark detail
  • Renders consistent images on every Dolby monitor, with the confidence they will match the digital projector
  • Offers the assurance of a true reference display


About the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4220

The Emmy® Award-winning Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4220 offers a new standard for critical viewing applications. It renders true black levels, highly accurate dark detail, and the most precise colors at all luminance levels and in all formats. It is the first monitor to accurately display the full latitude of today's high-end digital cameras.

No other display provides the high level of image detail, extreme accuracy, and creative confidence of the Dolby PRM-4220, making it the choice of leading content creators. Ask for the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor on your next project.

Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4220

True blacks, superb dark detail, and extended dynamic range make the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor the first viable CRT replacement solution for color-critical work.

Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4220

True blacks, superb dark detail, and extended dynamic range make the Dolby Professional Reference Monitor the first viable CRT replacement solution for color-critical work.