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MARINER Q&A #1

What do you like most about Star Trek?

Leanne Murphy: I like the idea of wandering the galaxy to see what unique life exists out in the cosmos!

Eric Cheung: I've been a fan of Star Trek for twenty years, ever since I watched an episode of TOS before a brand new episode of TNG every Saturday night.  On my birthday in 2007 I even stood in line at a casting call for extras in the latest movie.  I met some good friends on the set of that film.[1]

The Star Trek universe was rebooted in the movies.  Why isn’t your series set in the new timeline?

Leanne: I believe J.J.’s crew signed up for three movies. As so much can change in an alternate timeline - and already has in the 2009 show - it is impossible for us to guess where that will go. We didn’t want any of the events in our series to later be contradicted by the new movies.  

Avai D’Amico: Absolutely. When CBS gave Cryptic the license to develop Trek material they made it clear the responsibility to carry on the prime timeline came with that license.[2] Because we want our series to be as much in line with canon as possible, we set our series during the same time period as Star Trek Online.

It’s great to finally see the first episode!  When can we expect another?

Avai: Episodes 2, 3, and 4 are a single continuing story. Our goal is to have that trilogy finished before releasing episode 2. We want a buffer because if something comes up, you shouldn’t be left hanging in the middle of a story. Episode 5 is finished, so we can release that next in case production slows down.

Do you plan to get the Trek fan community involved?

Leanne: Yes! We’re already planning contests like “design an alien starship” and “become an animated crew member.” It will be a lot of fun! We’re open to suggestions for other ideas, too.

How long does it take to make each episode?

Avai: As this is a volunteer project, that is difficult to gauge. It’s a slow process. We usually spend a few weeks iterating each script, then once we have a few scripts we send them to the voice talent. I’ll start sketching scenes and coming up with new art for the episodes while we wait for the dialogue recordings to come back. Then I’ll animate and edit a rough copy of the episode so Eric Olson can start working on the soundtrack. I’ll put more detail into the animation while I wait for the soundtrack, then once we have everything together I’ll render a new cut and upload it. The actual number of hours put into it is probably a couple hundred, but it can be spread out over the course of a few months as we each have other jobs and families.

How are the episodes written?

Leanne: We outlined where we wanted to take the overall story for the season and then broke it down into smaller episodes.

Eric: When looking at the episodes you'll watch, I tried to ask where the characters were at a given point in their journeys, and how it informs their choices, and therefore the plot. By studying the characters from their biographies and their actions in previous episodes, I try to discover how they get from where they are at the beginning of the episode through the choices that form the episode, to the end. That requires an outline to back me up, but the flexibility to move things around so that they make more sense. It's why people play Sudoku by writing all possible numbers in tiny print in some of the trickier boxes. In that way, writing a scene is like a performance itself: take the characters in the scene, give them a goal, and have them talk it out. The characters will usually tell you stuff you didn't even think to include.

What software programs are used to create the show?

Avai: We share the scripts with Google Docs, then we record and tune the dialogue with Audacity. I draw and animate using Anime Studio. Some of the early backgrounds were done in Illustrator. The soundtrack is produced with Cakewalk Sonar. We put it all together in Final Cut.

How many animators do you have?

Avai: The artwork was initially divided up between a few people; I was focusing on the characters while someone else was to design backgrounds and another to draw ships. I soon became responsible for drawing everything. We’re looking other artists to help out. Anyone with vector drawing software such as Anime Studio or Illustrator would be a great help!

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