Does anybody know how they made the glittery spiral effect when teleporting on the original Star Trek series?

  • 5
    I don't see any evidence that you performed any research on this. The topic is very well documented. Feb 7, 2015 at 18:38
  • 1
    Although Star Trek is a sci-fi series, wouldn't a question specifically about special effects belong on Movies & TV SE, or perhaps even Photography SE?
    – Omegacron
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


There's a pretty good description in “Inside Star Trek: The Real Story” in an interview with effects specialist Robert Justman

"My other major worry (the first being no gravity in outer space, which was “solved” by Gene Roddenberry’s decision to equip the Enterprise with it’s own artificial gravity field) was the enormous cost of optical effects to land the Enterprise on a new planet every week. Gene’s clever solution: the transporter effect, “beaming” people to other locations with no apparent loss of molecules, other than when required for story purposes.

When I first viewed the transporter effect, I was as curious as anyone else might be and asked the inventive Darrell Anderson how he achieved it. Darrell said, “I just turned a slow-motion camera upside down and photographed some backlit shiny grains of aluminum powder that we dropped between the camera and a black background.”

A technical description of the film editing process is described by Stephen E. Whitfield in “The Making of Star Trek

The dematerialization and rematerialization of crewmen (the Transporter Effect) is accomplished as follows:

The crewman to be transported steps into the transporter and is filmed. As the camera continues to run, the crewman steps out of camera range and the empty set is filmed. Later, the action of the man leaving the set will be clipped out of the film … and the footage spliced into one piece.

On a duplicate piece of film shot in 2, above, a mask, exactly outlining the person’s figure as he appeared in the transporter, is superimposed, creating a piece of film with a “hole” in it.

These pieces of film are then rephotographed simultaneously in the optical printer:

a. The original film.

b. The masked film.

c. A length of film containing only the glitter effect of the transporter.

To obtain the “glitter effect”, aluminum dust was photographed as it was dropped from overhead, falling through a beam of high-intensity light.

The “glitter effect” goes through the “hole” in the second piece of film and thus coincides with the outline of the crewman. When the film is run, the man is slowly “faded” out of the picture, momentarily leaving the glitter effect in place of his body.

The glitter is then faded (“dissolved”) out as well.

  • 2
    Quite amazing for that time ;)
    – TomTom
    Feb 7, 2015 at 17:23
  • @TomTom - Yes, revolutionary in a lot of respects.
    – Valorum
    Feb 7, 2015 at 17:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.