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The Empire strikes Warrenville
College student's film uses new technology to create Star Wars-style effects
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff

Bill Parker


Warrenville native Bill Parker spent $100 for a computer software package that allowed him to create this kind of visual effect for a short film called "Star Wars vs. Star Trek" that has now been seen online by almost 500,000 people.


Associated Press

Four years ago, Warrenville 20-year-old and budding filmmaker Bill Parker didn't have the means or the money to create the visual effects for his viral video "Star Wars vs. Star Trek" when he first envisioned it.


Associated Press

Bill Parker's mother claims that the visual effects in her son's viral video "Star Wars vs. Star Trek" were so realistic that she was worried that he made a cell tower in Warrenville explode.


Associated Press

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Published: 3/2/2010 12:00 AM

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Bill Parker's video homage to the never-ending feud between Star Wars and Star Trek fans was so realistic that his mother asked whether she needed to retain a lawyer.

"I was slightly concerned that possibly there was some actual fire involvement in the making of the video," Julie Parker said. "I was worried about insurance liability and lawyer fees. I didn't know what was going to come our way."

The 3-minute 25-second film by the Warrenville native answers the one lingering question of the Star Wars saga: What happens to the introductory words that go floating by at the start of every movie?

In the 20-year-old Parker's mind, the letters rain chaotically from the skies above Warrenville, decimating the city's infrastructure and threatening his friends. The terror ends only when Star Trek's original USS Enterprise suddenly appears in the sky as well and destroys the remaining verbiage with photon torpedo blasts and laser beams.

Parker assured his mother that every exploding cell tower, blasted public works garage wall and flaming pothole was created with computer software he purchased for $100.

"That's probably one of the best $100 I've spent," said Parker, a sophomore at Indiana's Taylor University studying media communication with an emphasis on film.

He imagined the concept about four years ago, but had no way of making it a reality without thousands of dollars and access to a team of Hollywood visual effects artists.

"I put it in the back of my mind until I learned enough stuff and was ready to do it the way I knew it could be done," the 2008 Wheaton Warrenville South High School graduate said.

Parker's short movie - available for viewing at YouTube by searching for "Star Wars vs. Star Trek" - is one of scores of online videos popping up with visual effects that just a generation ago would have been possible only for big Hollywood studios, with big budgets and armies of computer animators. Today, the falling cost of computing power and cameras, along with the free distribution possible over the Internet, are giving everyday people more chances to follow their creative instincts.

Of course, big Hollywood productions, such as James Cameron's "Avatar," are advancing special-effects technology to expensive new heights. But even with a small budget, there are enough special effects available to people creating videos inspired by existing franchises or entirely new imagery for original shorts.

Nearly 500,000 people have watched Parker's video. Not bad, considering he invested only 30 minutes of shooting, eight minutes of actual footage, but about four weeks worth of editing. It's also spawned the traditional war of words between devotees of both sci-fi franchises.

Star Trek is the hero of Parker's video, though he swears equal allegiance to Star Wars' "Empire Strikes Back" as his favorite movie.

"I actually do appreciate the comments where they say Star Wars is better than Star Trek, but still compliment the video rather than just saying, 'You suck!'" Parker said.

His mother gets a kick out of the banter between the two camps as well.

"That's what's most amusing to me," she said. "That's a whole war going on in itself."

Other than the Web notoriety, Parker hasn't been inundated with offers to leave school and become a Hollywood filmmaker. But he wasn't really expecting that, anyway.

"The response has been nice and it will be good for my portfolio," he said.

But the world may have to wait for a sequel.

"I got to spend a lot of time making this the way I wanted to do it and make it the way I felt was right," he said. "I'm kind of busy with school right now, so that's a reason to not jump into any sequel. Plus, I'm kind of empty on ideas. I figured I'll let them cook a little while until I do something else big."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.