Discussion with Director of Photography Benji Bakshi on “Star Trek” Season 2 and Beyond

Paramount+ has brought a fresh and exciting addition to the Star Trek franchise with the release of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Cinematographer Benji Bakshi, known for his forward-thinking approach to technology, has played an integral role in shaping the visual experience of the show. In an exclusive interview, Bakshi opens up about his involvement in the series and provides insights into two standout episodes from the season.

Bakshi’s journey into the world of Star Trek began when he was approached by his agent and had fruitful conversations with Chris Fisher, the producing director of Strange New Worlds, and Glen Keenan, the cinematographer of Star Trek: Discovery and most of season one of Strange New Worlds. The connection was instantaneous, as Bakshi’s background as a classical cellist with a deep interest in science perfectly aligned with the creative and scientific aspects of filmmaking. Although it was his first foray into the Star Trek universe, Bakshi felt it was a natural fit.

Having grown up watching reruns of series like The Next Generation, Bakshi developed a deep appreciation for the franchise. While he initially found The Original Series somewhat dated, he later came to see it as the epitome of timeless science fiction. Unlike other sci-fi shows that fade into obscurity, Star Trek has always remained relevant, and Bakshi wanted to capture that enduring essence in his work.

When it came to developing the visual style of Strange New Worlds, Bakshi and the team focused on embracing the freedom to approach each episode individually. While there were certain canon elements that needed to be adhered to, such as the iconic Transporter Room, they were able to experiment with the lighting, camera techniques, and overall tone of each episode. This approach allowed them to create a series of mini-movies that still felt connected to the larger Star Trek universe.

Constructing and filming the sets presented unique challenges for Bakshi and his team. The recurring sets, like Captain Pike’s quarters and the bridge, followed a more traditional approach due to their physical nature. However, when it came to depicting the various planets and environments encountered in Strange New Worlds, Bakshi utilized the AR wall, a cutting-edge technology that allowed for real-time set extensions and immersive visual effects. This approach not only enhanced the authenticity of the scenes but also provided a more naturalistic feel for the actors involved.

Bakshi credits Glen Keenan and the team for their dedication to perfecting the AR wall technology. While they drew inspiration from shows like The Mandalorian, they wanted to create a unique and optimized system. The customized stage built for Strange New Worlds featured a ceiling, which played a crucial role in reflecting light and enhancing the overall lighting of the sets and characters within the AR wall. The learning curve was steep, especially considering the added complications of filming during the COVID-19 pandemic, but by the time season two rolled around, the team had mastered the art of utilizing the AR wall.

With Bakshi’s innovative approach to cinematography and the seamless integration of technology, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds offers viewers a visually stunning and immersive experience. As the series continues to explore new frontiers, Bakshi’s dedication to blending art and science ensures that the Star Trek legacy lives on.

 

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