Art Binninger's STAR TRIX: Of Clay And Cardboard

10. Building Sets And Momentum
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Art and the malignant sets.

   With the completion of SMEG II and the holidays over, I took up set building where I left off about two years earlier. During the downtime, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN was released and put the STAR TREK franchise on a steadier course. There was more reference material released allowing me to study the sets and observe changes that were made from the first film. I intended to keep my characters in the same style outfits from ST:TMP but gave Admiral Bullthrower a red uniform similar to those in WRATH OF KHAN.
   The engine room was the first set to be completed in 1983. It also had an outside corridor like the one built onto the transporter room. The space office transporter room where Klurk beams up was next. With the rapidly multiplying sets, I needed to conserve space in my apartment so I made some of the minor ones serve multifunctions. The space office had a corner built with sliding panels for the Klingon bridge and Space Station K Mart. Another locale that was mentioned in the Gene Roddenberry novelization of  ST:TMP was an Egyptian museum where Admiral Kirk is summoned to return to Starfleet. There were a couple of gags built into this set such as a gold Darth Vader that resembled an ancient Egyptian statue and a scroll that was from a Camel cigarette advertisement. 

The engine room is well along and the corridor is shaping up. January 1983
The round opening is for the docking door where Mr. Specks makes his entrance.
The engine room with the forced perspective chamber. The wall leading to the corridor nearly complete. February 1983
The transporter for the space office complex. The open area at right would be the multi-purpose set area.
The Klingon bridge shared the same area with the interior of Space Station KMart. April 1983
The Egyptian museum set prior to details being added to the display cases and walls. About May 1983

Grant displays the saucer with fiber optics. 1983

   In May of 1983, while I was in set-building mode, a friend of my roommate Dennis told him about meeting someone who was interested in animation. The information was passed along to me and soon I was meeting with Grant Hiestand at my the apartment. Although I'm a bit hazy on the details, I remember showing Grant the sets and the starship model that had lights attached to a battery inside it. He offered to redo the model and add a more elaborate lighting system involving LEDs. The repeated glueing and separating the pieces took it's toll on the original model but after a couple more kits Grant had lights throughout the ship. He even installed amber LEDs that lighten and darken to simulate the impulse engines in the rear of the saucer section. Before long, our collaboration took Grant deeper into the project as he added lighting to the sets and numerous other enhancements. We were soon spending our weekends haunting thrift stores for old projection equipment and other hardware to accomplish some of our shots. Grant even cannibalized a combination flashlight for it's fluorescent bulb capability to light the warp engine. The film began to grow to a greater complexity than I had imagined in 1980.


The beginnings of the recreation deck where Klurk assembles the crew to explain their mission. June 1983
Progressing along with the rec deck viewscreen and opening for display area. July 1983
Close to complete, the pictures in the display are the two ships that bore the name Fulton's Folly. August 1983.
A Starfleet landing site took shape after a living room set for an unmade Spritzer Family film was demolished. August 21, 1983
With the living room set gone, the Starfleet shuttle bay took shape. The shuttle craft model kit from the original Star Trek series was used. August 21, 1983
Adhesive shelf paper with a pattern was used for the floor with the addition of Starfleet stickers that were sold in a book. August 22, 1983
The completed shuttle is in the landing pad while construction of the wall begins. September 1, 1983
Grant seals the saucer section closed with LEDs inside. September 1, 1983

Reggie salutes the Fulton's Folly II crew in 1983.

   If you've noticed that a pattern in this story is my getting uprooted just as I'm making headway on the project, you'd be correct. My roommate Dennis was leaving the area at the end of his enlistment so I had to make other rooming arrangements. Grant lived in the on-base trailer court so he was able to continue on the models uninterrupted. The disruption was less severe for me this time since I was able to partner up with a friend named Reggie Capers, whom I met around the same time as Grant. Reggie already had a two-bedroom apartment not far from me so I got the spare room. I had to jettison a lot of furniture since he already had enough of his own. I was able to get back to work on the sets soon after moving in and installing a long shelf to store them.


   On October 30, 1983 I used my sound camera to shoot test footage of the story and added music and sound effects later to get some idea how things were going to look. No attempt to animate the figures could be made since this camera had no single frame capability. Even the effects of the ship were done by simply by placing the model against a black background and doing a few required zooms into it. I edited the rough footage together and put in the audio and wasn't very pleased. I began to work on the story and discussing the weak areas with Grant. He was sure that once the models were complete and shot properly the film would come alive. It wouldn't be known for sure for over a year.