The Star Trek: Aurora series of Star Trek fan films is unique in the genre because of its format: it’s entirely computer animated. It’s the creation of Tim Vining, and using elaborately designed sets and character models, Star Trek: Aurora follows the exploits of Captain Kara Carpenter and her new (and only) Vulcan first mate T’Ling on their tiny merchant cargo ship, the Aurora. These fully CG-animated movies are set just after the original Star Trek series in a lawless sector of space, where Kara and T’Ling engage in their marginal venture while trying to both turn a profit and stay out of trouble – but even in the vastness of space, trouble is never far away … and sometimes the past is never far enough behind.

The series makes extensive use of motion capture, and the voice acting is great in some places, uneven in others. Aurora is, however, a towering achievement in fan films in general, and in Star Trek fan films in particular.  This is the second film in the Aurora series, and it features one or two familiar faces, including a startlingly good recreation of Roger C. Carmel’s character Harcourt Fenton Mudd, the disreputable trader who made two appearances on the original live action series.

Star Trek: Aurora is produced using a variety of software programs and techniques. Until just a few years ago, these necessary tools for creating a full animated production were far out of the reach of the ordinary consumer, or even of small companies, but the technology has advance rapidly to the point where one person can create an entire animated production on their own. Except for the voice actors, and not counting the 3D models Vinings has purchased during production, everything has been done by one person on a single Mac computer.

Vining’s main tools are Smith Micro’s Poser , Maxon Cinema 4D, and the NaturalPoint Optitrack motion capture system. He uses Kuroyume’s Interposer Pro to import Daz/Poser content into Cinema 4D, and he uses Cinema 4D to render. Here’s his workflow:

  1. Record voice using a decent microphone (M-Audio Nova mic, Mobile Pre preamp, Apple Soundtrack)
  2. Record motion capture movements with Optitrack motion capture system.
  3. Import mocap data into Daz Studio via Arena plugin; export bvh.
  4. Import bvh file into Poser; edit/refine animation, add hand movements.
  5. Create mouth moves in Daz Mimic
  6. Apply Mimic file to character in Poser; save pose
  7. Apply pose to character in Cinema 4D environment and render to TIFF files
  8. Create .mov file from TIFFs (using Quicktime Pro)
  9. Import .mov file into Apple Final Cut Pro, edit into animation
  10. Add voice file/sound effects

He also uses Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator for textures and graphics where needed.

One person can make some amazing stories for others to share and enjoy. We hope you enjoy watching this one, and we congratulate and thank Mr. Vining for his fine work.