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Star Trek’s High Definition Dilemma

Star Trek’s High Definition Dilemma

Star Trek’s High Definition Dilemma 2017 images

What’s great about Star Trek: Axanar or at least its prelude, is that it translates very well into HD. The VFX was done very beautifully, very professionally for a fan film, threatening to overshadow Paramount’s upcoming Star Trek: Beyond. It turns out that they had nothing to worry about as Beyond was the best film of the Kelvin timeline. Now Axanar was recently left off the hook provided it follow some conditions. But if they manage to work through those conditions and still deliver, then it will turn out to be an HD masterpiece much like the remastered The Original Series (TOS) and HD The Next Generation (TNG). The same can’t be said about the two much-loved TNG spinoffs Deep Space Nine (DS9) and Voyager (VOY).

So far, DVD quality video is all the two series can hope to aspire for. It’s ironic for a couple of series about the distant future but with no future in high definition. While I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid, my adult mind grew to love Deep Space Nine and Voyager when they were shown on the Hallmark Channel furthering my love for the Star Trek franchise which was both cerebral and exciting. It’s a series about space exploration, spaceships and aliens. A genre I love aside from the supernatural. So it’s unfortunate that Deep Space Nine and Voyager which I like as much as TNG and probably more so (no offense to Kirk and Picard), that they won’t be seeing any Blu-Ray and HD streaming releases in the near future unless something can be done about it.

But why? Both series are pretty much modern and even made use of CGI. Surely translating both series to HD would be a walk in the park. But unfortunately, their own modernity is what outdid them not to mention the lack of foresight. To remaster Deep Space Nine and Voyager today would take a lot of time and millions of dollars and CBS which owns the franchise is pretty hesitant unless they know they’ll get substantial returns.

For their time in the 90s, both series are pretty cutting edge making use of modern effects, CGI and bigger budgets for TV shows. However, those budgets are nowhere as big as some shows like Agents of SHIELD and Game of Thrones enjoy today so post-production techniques had to match the budget. Before digital recording came along, all TV series are mostly shot in 35mm film which was the industry standard equivalent to 20 megapixels of digital information which is more than enough for high-definition. The footage is then scaled down to 640×480 NTSC resolution (640p) for broadcasting. Those are for scenes involving the actors and practical effects. Other effects like ship battles, phaser shots, torpedoes, energy fields, transformation and transporter effects are added in post-production.

does star trek have a high definitely problem to solve

For TOS, all the effects were added to the 35mm film not to mention there was the remastering project for the series at the height of the DVD explosion which modernized the series effects that initially included analog meters and timers. That meant that all the effects are carried over to modern re-scanning to Blu-Ray quality video with zero or little effort. TNG, DS9 and VOY on the other hand, were also shot in 35mm film but post-production effects were unfortunately done on the scaled down 640x480p video due to economic concerns. Doing so was cheaper, and 640p was already great TV until the digital age came about. 640p can still work scaled up to 720p or 1080p, but things get blurry from there. In short, there are no high-res post-production negatives to work from. TOS has no such problems. TNG on the other hand also enjoyed a re-mastering for DVD release which seemed profitable at the time. For TNG, all post-production scenes were redone from scratch.

So the only way to bring DS9 and Voyager to the world of HD is to work from scratch. That would involve using the old 35mm negatives and rebuild everything in post-production like they did with TNG. Everything would have to be re-created faithfully unlike the dated Han Solo flinch when he was shot by Greedo. That work would also have to include remastered sound effects converted to DTS. Now that would just be perfect. It would be great to see DS9 and Voyager that way with crisp effects and color. Seeing DS9 Way of the Warrior and VOY Scorpion would be just awesome much like the new appreciation fans have for the remastered TOS which we wouldn’t have imagined was 60s era television, except for the hair.

However, the release of the remastered TNG coincided with the popularity of streaming services and the closing of the DVD era (and they said that DVD was forever), so DVD sales tanked, and CBS was disappointed with the results despite their effort. So now, the studio is hesitant to invest in not one but two remastering efforts. Also, unlike TNG, most ship and space shots for both series were done in CGI so what effort they put into remastering TNG would be doubled. And somehow, they don’t think syndication and selling rights to Netflix and other streaming services would be profitable enough to warrant the remastering effort. With the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery itself being a gamble, it’s unlikely CBS would be willing to gamble millions of dollars more on two older series.

Here’s a solution, how about hiring the Axanar team or someone else and crowdfund the project. Millions of Star Trek fans would probably be willing to back it up just to watch DS9 Sacrifice of Angels, or VOY Endgame in high definition. It’s very much possible; backers get their digital versions while millions more will get to enjoy DS9 and Voyager through streaming and re-syndication. Thanks to Star Trek Net for making us aware of this with their original story on this.

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