At the end of the July, Star Trek fans get an extra special treat with the release of a high-definition transfer of the twenty-five episode first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Today at San Diego Comic-Con, we had the chance to see an extra-early peak at the restoration process performed on this historic series.
The panel opened with a twenty-five year old teaser for Star Trek: The Next Generation, a hyper-nostalgic introduction to the original TNG cast. The process to update the original series began in 2005, driven by fan outcries for an updating of The Next Generation. Mike and Denise Okuda, consultants for the re-mastering of the original Star Trek series, spoke of the additional difficulties of taking on a remastering of TNG. TNG was not originally cut to negative, but videotape at a resolution of 480i. Behind this videotape is 10-15 layers of negatives for each visual effect present, creating a daunting and expensive task.
The project's film transfer technician, Wade Felker, sifted through countless cans of film negative to follow the original intent of the cinematographers and meet their vision. The episodes are finished at a resolution of 1080i. The remastering process featured zero CGI edits to special effects shots. The group behind the project chose to stick with 4:3 instead of making decisions to crop to 16:9, as no original 16:9 footage exists due to shooting decisions made during the filming of TNG.
The panel revealed several minutes of standard definition versus high definition footage. The difference is stunning -– one would not think a twenty-five year old show needs a high definition upgrade, but the increase in crispness and color quality meld for a much better viewing experience.
Three documentaries will be included in the Blu-ray release, with the third featuring an in-depth discussion between cast members and Denise Crosby about the controversial death of Tasha Yar. Personally, I'm looking forward to the included gag reel the most, a chance to see some of the most stoic members of the Star Trek Universe in their less than serious moments. One of the documentaries also features an interview with the actor that passed over the chance to play the role of Jean-Luc Picard. Season Two will be released in 2013, featuring an entirely new seventy-five minute roundtable interview with the TNG cast.
In addition to the release of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray later this month, over 500 theaters throughout North America will hold screenings of two episodes from the first season as well as some of the documentary footage.
"Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Datalore" will screen on the day before the box set release, July 23. Unlike most screenings, many smaller cities are covered (two theaters are holding the event in my sleepy hometown alone), so you might just have a chance to get a seat to this sneak preview before you run out at midnight to pick up your Blu-ray copy.
Images and video courtesy of CBS/Paramount.