TrekMovie got some time with Trek Remastered Producer David Rossi to talk about how the project is going and where they are going next.
Like any Trek endeavor, the CGI-enhanced Trek Remastered project has spawned much discussion. In general the show has been well received. The re-recorded theme and the digital transfers get a lot of praise. Much of the CGI work like the new matte paintings and planets have gone over quite well, and some of the live action touches have been pleasant surprises. However, much discussion has focused on how CBS have been digitally recreating Kirk’s classic Enterprise. Many seem to feel that the team have not got it quite right yet, but what may surprise the critics is that the producers at CBS agree. "It is not that we are unhappy with the work, but it is not yet the Enterprise as we want to see it" says Dave Rossi, going on "we want it to be there as much as everybody else does." And this is not just talk; the team has a plan…and a new model.
Not enough time and too much detail
The reasons for the Enterprise not meeting the most exacting standards are twofold. Firstly there is the matter of time. The CBS team only had one month to deliver the first 2 episodes with over 120 new effects shots. "People need to understand the amazing amount of work these guys had to do from a dead stop," says Rossi. Secondly the team started with a model of the Enterprise that was in essence ‘too good’. It had detail all the way down to the nuts and bolts which you would never see, and the problem is that it takes forever for their computers to render the shots. Rossi explains, "It was taking time from us to do the lighting and the things that make the Enterprise shine." Together these things gave the team little to no time to make the changes they felt were necessary.
A ‘new’ Enterprise for Trek Remastered
Things have settled down a bit for the team now that they have done a few episodes, but the biggest change is that they have a brand new digital model of the Enterprise. This week a new model with less of the render hungry (but invisible) detail is being delivered to the Trek Remastered team. Rossi says the new ship will cut down the render time dramatically and free up time to ‘do some of those cool things’ that they have wanted to do. "We will have time time to test lighting, coloring, and yes…those nacelle caps," says Rossi, "it is going to totally change the process, we are very excited about it." The team is so up on their new model that they hope to go back to some previously done shots and redo them. It is a welcome sign that the team is willing to make these improvements going forward (and backward). Many of those early shots get re-used throughout the series (an example would be the plastic-looking ‘left turn shot‘ seen last week in ‘I,Mudd’, which is a reuse of one of the first shots the team made for ‘Miri’). Due to the lead time in putting together an episode, the ‘new’ Enterprise won’t be making its debut until November.
More shots and more ships
Not only is the Enterprise getting a new look, it is also going to continue to show off new moves that were impossible to do with a physical model. "In the original series you only see it in 17 poses, we are going to give you 50 or 60," says Rossi. In addition to the Enterprise the team is also working on a number of new ships. Just last week they started working on the Khan’s Botany Bay for ‘Space Seed’ and according to Rossi it is going to get spruced up, or more accurately spruced down.” It is going to look like it has been in space all those years, it is going to be pitted and have scarring on it," says Rossi. Beyond that the team are also going to start creating some ship models for brand new ships, for example a new Gorn ship for ‘Arena’, an Orion ship for ‘Journey to Babel’ and a new freighter for ‘the Ultimate Computer’. The team feels that they should not be constrained to the same limits as the original effects team that often ran out of time and money. "Our job is to do ships, so why not give people ships," says Rossi enthusiastically.
And more ‘little surprises’
One thing that has been a pleasant surprise is the little changes in some of the shows, such as the android’s new innards in ‘I’Mudd’ or Sulu’s new chronometer in ‘The Naked Time’. These live action touches were not part of the original mandate for the show which was supposed to focus solely on replacing space shots and matte paintings. According to Rossi, when he and fellow producers Mike and Denise Okuda first look at the show they start thinking about what to fix and what they can convince the CBS Digital effects team to do in the time they have: "there are always things in each episode where you go ‘oh that looks bad I wish we could do something.’" Their priority will always be the space and matte shots, but when there is time they will always strive for more. "We are all very passionate about it and want to do everything we can, it is just a matter of having the time to do it," explains Rossi. This weekend keep your eyes on the Gorn in ‘Arena’ for another one of these touches.
Getting their space legs
The Trek Remastered team has been up and running for almost 3 months and has gone through some growing pains. The producers admit that with more time and money things would have gone smoother, but as Rossi points out "anyone who’s ever worked in series television will tell you that there’s never enough time. That’s the nature of the beast. We always complain about inadequate time, but CBS Digital is stepping up to the plate like the professionals that they are." One thing is for sure, Rossi and the Okudas have the respect, dedication and eye for detail that Trek deserves. The rest of the CBS Digital team has been on a learning curve, but it appears that they are getting the hang of it and the new model should be a big help. There are dozens more episodes to go, with a projected completion of all 79 in early 2008. TrekMovie wishes the team good luck and, of course, we will be there every step of the way to keep track of their progress.