Visual Effects Master Doug Drexler talks about his time on Battlestar Galactica

Doug Drexler shares a treasure trove of amazing Battlestar Galactica photo reference and images locked away in his personal files for over a decade.

Visual effects and special makeup effects fans of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and even movies Dick Tracy will be quite familiar with the Oscar, British Academy, Saturn, Emmy and Visual Effects Society Award winning artist, designer, sculptor, illustrator, visual effects, makeup artist and all around renaissance man, Doug Drexler.

Drexler’s amazing work on Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica alone are legendary to many science fiction fans and for these reasons among many others, Doug Drexler also has quite a social media following, where his posts are often times quite entertaining as well as  immensely interesting, as is the case with his recent posts about the time he spent in Vancouver helping to create Emmy Award winning special effects as the CG Supervisor on Battlestar Galactica, Caprica and Blood and Chrome, not to mention Defiance.

Below is an amalgam of several of his recent Facebook posts, which when put and read together, help to create an amazing and very telling behind the scenes, tapestry-like peek into what it was like to be a part of the magic producing special effects and creative teams behind the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. Thank you Doug for this fascinating treasure trove of images and unique first hand commentary as it pertains to one small part of a fan favorite science fiction series!

When they pulled the plug on television based Star Trek, I had 17 years under my belt literally living on the greatest spaceships and space stations ever designed for film and television. Believe me, it was a grim ride home the night we received the word from the front office. It was bad enough that I had lost my fleet, but after a run like that, I figured I had used up my stash of luck. I’d probably never work again.

Then I got home, and on the answering machine were the golden tones of my old friend, Gary Hutzel. Gary served Trek for 14 years on Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. Gary had been scooped up by producer Ronald D Moore to supervise the visual effects on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. “Heard about Enterprise,” sympathized Gary, “But you know what? Every cloud has a silver lining!”.

 

The next thing I knew I was winging my way to Vancouver, and Battlestar. It was yet another dream come true. Ron was one of the guys who made TNG and DS9 the engaging shows that they were. He took it deadly serious. I was a fan of the new BSG already, and was blown away by how Ron was pushing that upper right hand corner of the envelope. It was no surprise to walk the sets of the Battlestar, and be blown away… the CIC, the hangars, and the full sized Vipers which were loaded with astonishing compound curves. Something we could never do on Star Trek. I knew that Ron’s sensibilities guided the realism of the sets, but when I met the shows production designers, Richard Hudolin, and Doug McLean, it all became crystal clear. I fell in love with these guys instantly. It was one of the best working relationships we have ever had with an art department.

I had arrived for the start of season two of BSG, and was again in hog heaven. Joining BSG and Gary was an adventure. It meant spending a lot of time in Vancouver… that was tough. I was only getting home to Dorthy and Beaky once every four weeks or so. It was very different from Trek. The production office was like a commune, and everyone shared space . When you entered, there was a large central room dominated by the art department. Around the perimeter of that room, all the various departments had their respective offices. You got to know everyone. Just outside the door of our VFX offices was the main meeting room where story conferences and episode planning happened. I was thrilled by the incredible cooperation that I was witness to every day. No one was afraid to speak up and throw an idea into the pot, and Ron Moore and David Eick encouraged it. It’s no wonder that the show was a cornucopia of astonishing riches.

There are so many amazing stories behind the production of this show and the incredible odds against it, there deserves to be a “Making of Galactica” written. I’m guessing that there will never be a full behind the scenes accounting of it. What a crime. This show is a singular thing, and like the Battlestar Galactica itself, it way defied the odds.

Opposed to the squeeky-clean world of Star Trek that I had come from, Galactica was gritty. On Trek, after the crew wrapped, everything would be covered in plastic to keep it clean and sparkling. On Galactica, the dirtier it got, the better and more realistic it became. When I see a first season Galactica episode, I’m shocked at how new it looks compared to what it would ultimately become.

There is nothing like a complete spaceship, inside and out. Galactica’s small craft were beyond belief. Picture sitting in this cockpit, and seeing the Galactica Flight Deck outside. I genuflect to the BSG art department, and construction crew. Like the show itself, a masterpiece.

Click on the following link to Doug Drexler’s Facebook photo album in order to view over 300 images of a ‘Galactica Raptor in Absurdo Vision’:

https://www.facebook.com/doug.drexler.7/media_set?set=a.10153201611646104.1073742179.570346103&type=3&pnref=story.unseen-section

Last season, the Vipers had a complete cockpit, but were built into the body of the Viper. This year, Richard and Doug had built a new “wildable” version of the cockpit that was able to be pulled apart in any which direction. This would make shooting much easier. The other beautiful thing was that the guys took what they learned from season one, and designed a cockpit that was beyond astonishing, and you are about to see it in extreme detail.

 

One morning, Gary asked me to build a CG version of the new cockpit for POV shots. Would I mind? Gary is a great kidder! Usually when I remotely asked someone on stage to take reference photos for CG, it was a disaster. You really need someone who understands what the needs are. So this was perfect. I would shoot my own reference, and build the CG set myself. Well I shot the frak out of it, and had the best time building the set. You beautiful Universe.

Click on the following link to Doug Drexler’s Facebook photo album in order to view over 150 images of a ‘BSG Mk VII “Wildable” Cockpit’:

https://www.facebook.com/doug.drexler.7/media_set?set=a.10152327744391104.1073742118.570346103&type=3&pnref=story

After we moved back to LA, the reference went missing for almost ten years. Yesterday while doing housekeeping on the dozen or so drives I have socked away, the reference tumbled into the present. Simply wow. so here they are for you to enjoy. Have fun, and good hunting!

Hey Hutzel! THANK YOU for hiring me! You can’t imagine how grateful I am!

Tye Bourdony is the co-owner of scifipulse.net as well as the U.S. based content editor for Sci Fi Pulse. Tye is also a Sci Fi cartoonist and creator of ‘The Lighter Side of Sci-Fi’, a mediator, deep space traveler, and the lead interstellar reporter for the Galactic Enquirer. He is also a graduate of the Barry University School of Law, SUNY Purchase and H.S. of Music & Art. Tye currently works in Florida’s 9th Circuit as the staff Family Mediator and has a regular self-published column in Sci Fi Magazine. You can visit Tye on facebook and at www.thelightersideofscifi.com or send your thoughts and story/article ideas to [email protected]

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