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Contents: Overview - Notes


All special effects for Babylon 5 are computer generated. Foundation Imaging, headed by Ron Thornton, produced the special effects for the pilot movie and seasons one through three. Starting in season four, the special effects were moved in-house to Netter Digital Imaging, another subsidiary of the parent of B5's production company.

The B5 effects teams, both at Foundation and at NDI, use Lightwave 3D by NewTek and specialized software to design and render the visual effects. For the pilot, the effects were rendered on a network of Amiga computers; later, Foundation used 12 Pentium PCs and 5 DEC Alpha workstations for 3D rendering and design, and 3 Macintoshes for piecing together on-set computer displays. The NDI team uses a similar array of equipment; see George Johnsen's comments below.

CGI space scenes are clearer and have more realistic movement than model shots. Some interior shots such as docking bays are "virtual sets" combining live action with computer imagery. Computer-generated aliens make regular appearances on the show as well.

Babylon 5's makeup is put together by Optic Nerve Studios, which has done makeup work on such projects as Batman Returns and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, among others. On B5, they've made an attempt to break away from the minimalist approach often seen on weekly series, preferring full-head (and, in some cases, full-body) prosthetics rather than simple changes to the nose or forehead. Their work has paid off in the form of an Emmy award.

The Babylon 5 FTP archive's Pictures directory contains numerous examples of the show's special effects and makeup.

[More Info] An interview with Ron Thornton.
[More Info] An interview with Mojo (supervising animator.)
[More Info] BlackPool Studios home page

Assorted production notes

From Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz, Foundation Imaging animator

From coproducer George Johnsen

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Last update: August 12, 1997