The Future Is Here
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J.J. Abrams Admits Star Trek Lens Flares Are "Ridiculous"

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If you've seen a single second of Abrams' Star Trek you know the film is stuffed with audience blinding lens flashes. J.J. Abrams admitted he got a bit carried away, but explained why they're there.

At the Star Trek press conference this weekend, J.J. Abrams addressed the press and when it was io9's turn, we asked him the one thing that had been plaguing us since the first shiny Trek clip was released:

I'm curious to hear more about why you decided to use so many lens flares, and exactly when you decided to use them?


[Smiles] I don't know what you're talking about. [Laughs] I'm kidding. I know what you're saying with the lens flares. It was one of those things... I wanted a visual system that felt unique. I know there are certain shots where even I watch and think, "Oh that's ridiculous, that was too many." But I love the idea that the future was so bright it couldn't be contained in the frame.

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....


We had two cameras, so sometimes we had two different spotlight operators. When there was atmosphere in the room, you had to be really careful because you could see the beams. 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.

So now you know, and honestly after hearing his reasoning and his admission that maybe he got a little carried away in some scenes — like the above Spock meets Scottie moment — I can see what he's saying, especially about keeping it from looking too greenscreen or fake.

Also, Abrams touched on what he had to cut from the movie and will be appearing on the Trek DVD:

What's going to be on the DVD and BluRay, we heard something about the character Uncle Frank?


[Kirk's] Stepfather and young Kirk have a scene, there is a Nero prison scene, young Spock as a baby, and more... there are a couple scenes that were brought out of the movie. Some things, like that prison sequence, just confound the audience. Every time we screened the movie for a group, that sequence threw them, even though it had some of my favorite design in the entire movie. The wardrobe, the location, some of the visual effects were really fun. But you know it was better without it, when we cut it.