By far, one of the funniest and most beloved of the fan-produced Star Trek parodies is STALLED TREK, the hilarious CGI-rendered puppet characters from the comedically brilliant mind of MARK LARGENT.
Mark’s first Stalled Trek fan film “Amutt Time” was released in 2012 and followed the adventures of the crew of the USS Second Prize when its first officer, Mr Spott, began going through heat and needed to return to his home planet of Vulcanine to mate. It’s a MUST-SEE fan film.
After doing this blog interview with Mark back in 2016, we collaborated on a parody of Prelude to Axanar, which was really a parody of the Axanar lawsuit. Called Prelude to Ax’d-We-Are, it featured the same puppet-style of characters and was just as funny as Mark’s first offering.
Then, last summer, Mark announced a new Stalled Trek: “The City of the Edge of Foreclosure.” This time, he would be returning to a parody of the TOS characters, and he successfully funded a Kickstarter with $4,181 (over an initial $600 goal) from 114 donors.
It was time to start animating! Well, kinda. As Mark informed donors along the way, animation was a slow, tedious process, as he was rendering on a single Macintosh computer, using a 3D application called Animation:Master. Although it’s a great, affordable all-in-one app (according to Mark)—and he’d been using it reliably for the last 12 years—a single frame could take 3-5 minutes to complete.
With 30-frames-per-second being the accepted norm, each second of Mark’s fan film could easily take 2 hours to render…or more ominously, each minute could take 120 hours of non-stop computer render time! And of course, a single glitch in the rendering of any scene would require starting all over from zero.
This was why Mark told me that “The City on the Edge of Foreclosure” might be his last Stalled Trek. But to make matters worse, a few weeks ago, the makers of Animation:Master announced that their application would no longer be supporting the Macintosh platform…and Mark didn’t have the funds to buy a new PC with the power necessary to render frames of animation at any speed where he could realistically finish in months, possibly even years!
Was this the end of the road for Stalled Trek???
Mark explained the problem facing him in a recent update to donors…
I had held out hope that a way to continue the support would pop up, but they’ve made it clear that they don’t have a desire to do it.
I’ve held back updating my Mac to newer operating systems, just for compatibility with that app and had even convinced myself that this would be my last animated puppet parody, since it was unlikely the app would work with the next Mac I bought.
I had convinced myself that there weren’t really any other options. I had believed that the app I was using was so different than other 3D apps, that I would have to start all over learning it and most of them are VERY expensive.
The situation seemed grim, and the outlook dire. But as I read on, the update changed tone to one of unexpected good news…
Then I heard about the new version of Blender 3D in development. Blender (for those who haven’t heard of it) is open source, actively being updated …and FREE!
So, I looked into it and thought I’d dip my toe in, just to see what it was like. To my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all! In fact, it was great!
Here’s a screen capture of a shot that Mark rendered in Blender…
And that was without much time spent learning the ins and outs of a strange, new interface. Mark expects the finished production to look significantly better once he gets the hang of using blender.
And Mark says that there was an even better bit of good news…
One of the big issues with doing 3D is render time, and it has cast a shadow over everything I’ve done. Blender renders very quickly. To give an example, a render in my old app that took three minutes and fifty-eight seconds rendered in less than eight seconds in Blender!
To save you from doing the math, a second of footage can now render in about four minutes instead of two hours! A minute of footage could be completed in four hours instead of five days!!!
And what’s even better is that you can work in Blender while it renders in real time. This means, if there’s a glitch, Mark doesn’t have to wait until after he wakes up the next morning to discover it. In Mark’s old 3D application, he had to leave the computer alone for hours at a time to render, not doing anything else while all of the processor power went into doing the CGI calculations (as I said, he’d been using his old application since George W. Bush was still president!).
Mark provided a screen capture of the Blender interface and how it looked after loading some of his existing 3D models into it…
So, does this mean that “The City on the Edge of Foreclosure” will be finished and released in no time flat? Well, not exactly. Here, the news is mixed…
I’ve jumped in and started converting my assets to work in Blender. There is definitely a learning curve, but it’s going well, and the results have definitely got me excited about the possibilities again.
What’s more, this means that the future has opened up again! This doesn’t have to be the end of the road.
I know some of you are saying, “That’s great, pal, but when are we getting the movie?”
The answer is that I’m not quite sure, but I am working on it. Certainly this is going to add some more time on the front side, but the faster render time will definitely save time on the back end. Also, I’m discovering that much of what I learned on Animation:Master can be translated to the new application. So I’ve got a little bit of a leg-up on the learning curve.
Yes, obstacles seem to keep popping up on this one, but I’m committed to making the best darn fake-puppet movie I can.