CBS Is Future Proofing Original ‘Star Trek’ October 25, 2006by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Interview,TOS Remastered,Uncategorized , trackback
According David La Fountaine, exec-producer on Trek Remastered and Exec VP at CBS Paramount, there there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the Star Trek Remastered project. As everyone knows, each week the CBS digital team send out a new digitally remastered CGI-enhanced version of the Star Trek: Original Series for broadcast syndication. La Fountaine tells TrekMovie.com that what we are seeing is only one of the many different versions of each episode that the team is making. The first version they make an unedited or ‘network’ version without any CGI enhancements but with all the digital remastering from the original source. Then they make the CGI enhanced version of the full length version, and then edit it down for syndication. This means that some of the new CGI effects being done are not being seen in the syndicated versions. Plus all 3 versions are being done in both High Definition and Standard Definition. In addition all the new CGI space shots and matte paintings are being done in 16:9 wide-screen, so every time you see a new shot in Trek Remastered there is a bigger HD version waiting in the wings.
‘Catspaw’ Castle in Standard 4:3 and 16:9 HD (click to enlarge)
So when can we see the other versions?…how about 2008
La Fountaine explains that they are doing all the ‘extra work’ to maximise their options for the future, saying "we may not get this opportunity again, so we would be foolish if we didn’t do it." Fans will have to wait though, CBS will not be making the other versions available until all 79 episodes done by early 2008. From that point on they will be able to give any station buying the show a menu of choices: with or without CGI, HD or SD, edited or ‘uncut’. So if G4 TV wanted to continue to show classic ‘Trek Uncut’ they can, but with a fully restored cleaned up master (and in HD if they want that too). International fans will also have to wait until all the episodes are done before any versions are made available outside the US. And for DVDs (and HD-DVDs and/or BluRay) La Fountaine says that there are no specific plans yet and there probably wont be until 2008, "For right now we are just focused on getting new episodes out every week." And on the subject of 2008 also being the same year as the release of Star Trek XI, apparently that it is just a coincidence and there is no coordination with Paramount Pictures. "We haven’t talked to JJ Abrams, I don’t even know what he looks like," said La Fountaine.
If HD, then what about Widescreen?
As can bee seen above, CBS are giving themselves options by creating all the new CGI effects in HD 16:9 wide-screen. However no decision has been made on whether they will ever actually see the light of day. The issue is that the live action shots are all in 4:3. Therefore in order to make a fully wide-screen version of the show, the live action shots would have to be cropped using what is called ‘pan and tilt’. For now the HD masters of the show are ‘pillar boxed’ (black bars on the left and right) so you see the full frame live action and the extra CGI shots are cropped to fit. The same issues for wide-screen HD also effect any possible HD-DVD/Blue releases (and maybe even regular DVD). For those who want their Trek in HD sooner, there is a possibility it will be available in syndication for the 2nd ‘season’ starting September 07. "The situation with HD is rapidly changing and is moving quicker than we believed…the second year is an opportunity to take another look at that" says La Fountaine.
Happy with the ratings, but not all those time slots
The first set of ratings for Trek Remastered are coming in and it appears that the show is holding its own against other scifi shows like Stargate, but is falling a bit short of where Enterprise was a year earlier in its first and only year in syndication. La Fountaine says that they did not have any specific targets for the ratings and are pleased with how it is doing. He cites how well it is doing in specific markets "In Detroit it is number two in it’s slot and in Houston it is number one, beating Saturday Night Live." La Fountaine did acknowledge that the show is often showing at sub optimal time slots but says that CBS have no control over that. Another reason for the time slots he cites is "affiliates didn’t know until a few weeks before that they were getting a remastered show with new CGI." Apparently CBS wanted the biggest bang for their buck on the announcement, so they kept it under wraps even from their own affiliates. "Maybe now they will see how successful the show is and move it to a better time," says La Fountaine hopefully.
Why CBS Digital?
One of the questions surrounding Trek Remastered is why did CBS Paramount pick CBS Digital to do the CGI work. CBS Paramount had opened the project up to bid to a number of effects houses around town, but in the end chose CBS Digital. La Fountaine rejects the notion that it is being done ‘in house’ stating "CBS Digital are a world class effects house who have done a lot of work outside of CBS, even with Spielberg." However La Fountaine cites the key economic advantage of staying within the same corporate umbrella "we are spending money within the company, and they do not need to make a profit."
What is Next
La Fountaine says that they will continue to push the envelope with their CGI effects while endeavoring to make it fit with the show, "you can’t do totally out of this world effects and then cut to 60s TV show with paper mache rocks." However they will still try and find those moments that can really make a big difference. La Fountaine cites the recent ‘Arena’ as an example, "you got a guy in a rubber suit, but then he blinks and he totally comes alive." As for the new model of the Enterprise (see article), La Foutaine says they are shooting to have it premiere in either ‘Trouble with Tribbles’ or ‘Mirror/Mirror’, both airing in early November. And on the future of Trek Remastered in HD La Fountaine states proudly, "as great as the transfer is in SD, the HD is a ‘wow’," We can’t wait.
StarTrek.com: Trek Remastered Image Gallery (note images are in 16:9)