Next week Star Trek: The Next Generation begins its 25th anniversary year celebration with the release of "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level" on Blu-ray. TrekMovie spoke to veteran Star Trek designers Mike and Denise Okuda, who are working on the project, to get more information on how TNG is being brought into the HD world. See below for part 1 of the interview. We also have some new images from the set to share.
INTERVIEW: Mike & Denise Okuda talk Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level Blu-ray [Part 1]
TrekMovie: For this project, what is your guys’ role and how does it differ than when you worked on remastering the original Star Trek series for HD?
Mike Okuda: On the original series remastered we were creative producers along with Dave Rossi. Here we are consultants to CBS and we are dealing with visual effects, but we are also helping them on an overall basis.
TrekMovie: There has been a lot of discussion, and perhaps some confusion, on how the project to remaster Star Trek: The Next Generation differs from the remastering of the original Star Trek series. Can you compare and contrast the two?
Mike Okuda: At their heart, they are very similar. That is to take the highest quality film you can and to present it in the highest quality possible. With respect to the visual effects, there is a substantial difference. With the original series, the original film elements were not available – only the composites. And so scanning into HD did not look as good because the state of the art optical printers at the time had limitations. For Star Trek: The Next Generation Paramount lovingly preserved virtually all the film elements, so it is possible to re-composite the visual effects — thereby coming very very close to the original shots.
Denise Okuda: We are really very impressed with the archiving that went on at Paramount and now with the folks at CBS finding all the film elements. It is a treasure hunt and so far we are delighted.
TrekMovie: So in a sense, it is both more complicated and less complicated.
Mike Okuda: For the original series you basically took the cut negative and scanned it in. Whereas here the actual original camera negative was never cut together, so all the pieces have to be scanned and reassembled. That part of it is hugely more complicated
TrekMovie: But with the effects, you just find the original shot and scan that in, making it a bit easier.
Mike Okuda: I hate to use the word "just," because it is still a very large amount of work. Star Trek: The Next Generation did a lot of state of the art motion-control work and some amazing blue-screen composites. So reconstructing them in a way that matches the look and feel of the original is not a trivial task. The Next Level was a huge huge project. There were over 200 effects shots in "Encounter at Farpoint."
TrekMovie: With regards to effects originally done in video – such as phasers, photons, transporters – are those all being redone in CG?
Mike Okuda: Over the course of the series, many different techniques were used. For example, some phasers and photons were film elements, others were purely video creations. For example, the beautiful shot of Deneb IV ("Encounter at Farpoint") was actually a matte painting done by Industrial Light and Magic, and that was done on film. The planet is pretty much dead on with what was done in the original shot. Whereas in "Sins of the Father," the planet existed only in video resolution, and so Max Gabl at CBS Digital actually did a new planet.
TrekMovie: Speaking of "Sins of the Father," I noticed that the opening shot of the Enterprise and the Klingon ship looked a bit different. Was that computer generated? And how do you choose when to use a CGI version of the Enterprise or other ships?
Mike Okuda: Virtually all the ship shots are the original film elements. Occasionally a film element won’t be found or will be unusable for whatever technical reason. In that particular case, that was not a CG Enterprise, that was actually a new matte painting. However, they do have a digital Enterprise, because we know it will be needed at some point.
TrekMovie: I also noticed the 13 seconds in "Sins of the Father" that had to be upscaled, because the original film element couldn’t be found. So will that be extremely rare, or occur for one out of four episodes (like on this set)?
Mike Okuda: So far it has been extremely rare, but it will happen.
Come back tomorrow for part 2 of the TrekMovie interview with Mike and Denise, where we talk about if they will be ‘fixing’ things in TNG, why the Blu-ray version isn’t in widescreen, detailed Okudagrams, and more.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level" featuring HD versions of the two-part pilot “Encounter at Farpoint," along with "Sins of the Father," and "The Inner Light" will be released next Tuesday, January 31st. You can pre-order from Amazon for $14.99.
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