Movies - TV
How Star Trek's Transporter Effect Actually Worked
By JENNA BUSCH
The "Star Trek" transporter special effect may not seem significant today, especially with the advent of CGI characters and filming entire movies and TV shows with a green screen. However, there is something to be said about the ingenuity and creativity of this old-school special effect, which continues to inspire imaginations across generations.
In the 1960s, the Anderson Company created the teleporter shimmer using "aluminum powder and old-school compositing." First, they filmed the actors in a standing position, before having them move off-frame to capture the empty set — then they took a container of water against a black background and backlit it with a high-intensity spotlight.
At this point, while shooting at a high frame rate they would drop in the aluminum powder with Alka-Seltzer to create a sort of whirling lava lamp effect. They would then layer all three into the same frame, starting with the actors on set, adding the glitter effect, and finally gradually transitioning to the empty set, creating the iconic shimmer and silhouette fade of the series.