Star Trek Transporter: Adobe Premiere

on 01 May 2009.

This step-by-step tutorial is a specific followup to the more general Transporter video you may have already watched. If you haven't seen it, it's way more fun and interesting than this little segment, which focuses like a phaser on Adobe Premiere.

Let's start with a review of the three parts of a Star Trek transporter effect (1) we need a clean plate reveal of our crew member, (2) we can optionally cover that with an overlay animation and, for authenticity, we should (3) create a crewman mask with a sparkly interior of some kind.

We are, of course, assuming you have appropriate footage, shot from a locked-down tripod, of a clean plate and the identical shot with a Trekkie in it. When shooting, do not touch the camera and maybe use your camera's remote if you need to start/stop recording. (The start/stop is strictly optional, since you can edit out the middle easily enough.)
Clean Plates, Cross Dissolves and Overlays

Let's very quickly set up our timeline for parts (1) and (2). Let's do a transport OUT effect:

  1. Insert a clean plate into a track on the timeline.
  2. Add the clip with the crewman.
  3. Add a Cross Dissolve between the two clips (Effects > Video Transitions > Dissolve > Cross Dissolve).
  4. Add an overlay animation in a track above so that it covers/hides the transition.

The overlay animation is strictly optional and, in fact, if you want to be authentic, is not a part of the original transporter effect at all. Still, I think they look good and, perhaps more importantly, they are really easy and effective. I happen to be using graphic elements from Digital Juice, specifically Motion Design Elements known as Revealers.

Trek Trivia!
When did overlay animations first appear in the Trekiverse?
A: Star Trek the motion picture (1979).
Traveling Mattes and Transporters

Now let's get to the fun part, the masked interior sparkle effect. The only trick here is that we need to create a crewman-shaped mask that is going to let us put a sparkle effect on the interior and still allow the background to show through, with the background being the crewmember/clean plate transition.

NOTE: I am going to use a pre-prepared mask in this tutorial since Premiere does not have its own vector mask tool. Adobe After Effects does, however, and that might be the preferred method here. In any case, you can read about how to create a black-and-white matte from a still image grab here: Star Trek Transporter: Image Mask.
  1. Arrange your clips on the timeline:
    • Video 4: overlay animation
    • Video 3: crewman matte
    • Video 2: interior sparkle animation
    • Video 1: clean plate/crewman
  2. Add a Track Matte Key to the crewman mask clip on Video 2 (Effects > Video Effects > Keying > Track Matte Key).
  3. In the Effects Control window (for the clip on Video 2), select the Track Matte Key and set the Matte to Video 3.
  4. Set Composite Using to Matte Luma.
  5. Click the Toggle Track Output off for the Video 3 track.

Steps #2 and #3 can be confusing, since we're adding the key to the sparkle effect in Video 2, but setting it to use the crewman matte in Video 3 as the source. The other bit that can trip you up is that you need to counter-intuitively toggle Video 3 off (as you can see in the screenie above). This is a very common technique across all Adobe compositing products, so it's worth learning and easy to get used to.

Of course the devil is in the (dark) details here, like the nice little fade in and out on sparkle.avi (Video 2) that I created with the Opacity rubber bands (handles, envelopes... whatever). Personally, I find the original series effect to be both very difficult to recreate with modern video sources AND not all that impressive from a visual effects standpoint. My favorite variation (so far: the Star Trek 2009 effect looks pretty darned cool) is the effect from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan best, but once you understand the principles, it is just a matter of time and experimentation to get a look you like.

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