Interview: Mike & Denise Okuda On Star Trek: TNG Blu-ray Season 1 + New Images

The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation will be released on Blu-ray in just a couple of weeks. Mike and Denise Okuda are working on the project of bringing TNG into the HD world and they took some time out to talk exclusively to TrekMovie about the project. The interview is below, along with some new images released today for Comic Con.

 

Mike and Denise Okuda Talk Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray

Mike and Denise Okuda were there at the inception of Star Trek: The Next Generation, both working to help define the look of the series. Now twenty-five years later the pair are consulting with CBS to restore the show for HD and Blu-ray.

TrekMovie.com: To start off for those who are not familiar with the background on this project, what is the big difference with how CBS is remastering Next Generation and how it was done with the original Star Trek series?

Mike Okuda: The original series was shot and edited on film so the completed episodes existed on film so all – not that it is that easy – but all they had to do is scan the film, do the restoration and then do the visual effects. For The Next Generation they had to go back to the original camera negative and rescan it all and reassemble it all by recreating the original edits. They had to do quite a bit of detective work because even though Paramount did a wonderful job of archiving there were always pieces where they had to hunt them down. Then they had recreate the visual effects and in many ways it was more demanding because, unlike with the original series, the mandate was to match the original shot as close as possible – just making it clearer, sharper and better. And as anyone from CBS digital would tell you, this was a huge huge task.

TrekMovie.com: Are there are any other examples of CBS or anyone doing something like this for a TV series?

Mike Okuda: While not experts in everything in home video, we have not heard of a restoration project of this magnitude for any television series.

TrekMovie.com: To be honest, the first time i heard what CBS was doing to bring TNG into HD, I didn’t believe it. How much of a debate was there internally to spend the money to do this? Especially doing all seven seasons, instead of just a "Best Of" set or something of a smaller scale?

Denise Okuda: I can say that when we got the call about this two or three years ago and we were asked that if it went forward would we be interested. Of course we would but after that conversation and we hung up Mike and I looked at each other and said "this will never happen." Because it was so complex and so expensive and require so much manpower. The fact that this is being done and being done right is amazing.

Mike Okuda: This is a considerable leap of faith on CBS’ part to support Star Trek in this extraordinary way.

TrekMovie.com: After watching a few more episodes I am taken aback at the level of detail. As the show was never really meant to be seen in HD, do you ever dial it back as you could end up showing too much? Possibly making people look unflattering or revealing unseen details?

Mike Okuda: Occasionally but that’s relatively infrequent and just the nature of the process. Thinking back to when we worked on the show originally we would always lament, it is really too bad this was being broadcast on television because you lose so much detail and color richness that it is a shame it couldn’t be on the big screen. And now it is.  What we are finding is the material holds up. In fact, one of the delights I found was if you look in Troi’s hair, Marina wears these interesting red jewels. Because of the limitations of standard def they look kind of dull red or even grey. Now they are these beautiful…

Denise Okuda: …they actually sparkle!

TrekMovie.com: There is a lot of fascination with new effects shots. In the first season, besides the pilot of course, which episode was the most challenging and required the most new CG work to be done?

Mike Okuda: Every episode has some little unexpected thing that requires extra effort. Sometimes it is how do you make the planet look better in HD but stay true to what the original artist did.

Denise Okuda: You would be amazed at what we can obsess about, like phaser shots, explosions, planets. We try to put everything under a microscope and see if we can get it as close as possible as we can 25 years ago.

Mike Okuda: For example, one little thing that our compositor Eric Bruno does is whenever the Enterprise is orbiting a planet – whatever color the planet is, he will put a little of that color onto the ship as if it reflecting on the ship, and making it look natural and making it look like it is really there.

TrekMovie.com: Now are you talking about the original shots or new CGIshots.

Mike Okuda: The original film. There is always some tweaking going on.

TrekMovie.com: But there are some uses of a new CGI Enterprise D model being used as well, periodically.

Mike Okuda: The vast vast majority of the ship shots are the original film, but there were some shots that were missing and so CBS Digital brought in Tobias Richter who built a beautiful Enterprise and CBS went on to tweak it further. As an example, and it is a shot I actually thought was the original film, was in "Encounter at Farpoint" – one of the shots of the saucer pulling away from the battle section was with the digital ship.

TrekMovie.com: Speaking of missing things, I understand you found those "lost" thirteen seconds from "Sins of the Father."

Denise Okuda: That was Sarah Paul. We keep telling her she is our hero. She along with Kiki Morris, have the mission of finding all this stuff going through boxes and boxes. They are not daunted by the massive undertaking.

TrekMovie.com: Are there other instances of having to upscale or are you finding everything so far?

Mike Okuda: For the live-action footage there is a two or three second close-up shot of Riker in one of the later episodes that had to be upscaled. I think that is pretty much it.

TrekMovie.com: Speaking of finding things, after watching some of the special features I was impressed with some of the never seen before images and behind the scenes footage, like the original makeup and wardrobe camera tests for the different actors. Are these little nuggets things that they are finding randomly while they go through the archives or are they looking for specific things?

Mike Okuda: It is a mixture of all of it. A lot of early tests were grouped. We had a couple days of test shooting during pre-production for "Encounter at Farpoint." One of the camera tests that I personally found fun was when I borrowed a friend’s hair clip to become Geordi’s VISOR. Herman Zimmerman and Andy Probert were trying very hard designing Geordi’s VISOR and Gene [Roddenberry] wasn’t seeing what he wanted and so I one day I brought in a friends hair clip and gave it to Herman and he loved the texture and so he got it painted and immediately did a camera test and Gene loved the look and that is one of the shots we found.

Denise Okuda: My favorite is the pencil drawings of the people walking around inside the window on the Enterprise during the opening credits. I had never seen that before. Wasn’t that cool?

TrekMovie.com: I also love the gag reel. Where did those come from and will we see more on future season sets?

Denise Okuda: There were only gag reels for the first two seasons and we stopped doing them.

TrekMovie.com: Looking ahead to season two, recently Melinda Snodgrass tweeted about a possible extended version of "Measure of a Man." Is that going to happen? Do you think you will find all the deleted scenes for that?

Mike Okuda: They are investigating that. I would love to see it happen. It is one of the best of the series. It came in quite a bit long – twelve or fourteen minutes – so they had to cut out quite a bit. So back in the day we made an original cut for Melinda. So we emailed her and asked "do you still have that tape?" And thank goodness she still did.

TrekMovie.com: So you are trying to find the original film elements from those extra bits?

Denise Okuda: Yes. We are trying to find them because we all think that episode is important and it would be so cool.

TrekMovie.com: There must be examples in every season of episodes that came in long…

Mike Okuda: This is an unusually large amount. Mostly it is a scene here or there.

TrekMovie.com: So this is a special occasion?

Denise Okuda: I would say probably. Unless we get anything else with additional footage, but we haven’t so far.

TrekMovie.com: Earlier this year a CBS executive said there would be two releases a year, which would have season seven coming out in 2015. Do you think that is still realistic based on progress?

Mike Okuda: If a CBS executive said it, then we agree with it.

TrekMovie.com: OK, well on that note thank you guys for taking the time.

Mike Okuda: Thank you. Anthony, appreciate the support 

Denise Okuda: Yes and we will see you soon.

REMINDER: Star Trek Season 1 Pre-order available now

The first Blu-ray season for Star Trek: The Next Generation comes out July 24th. The six-disc set includes HD remasters (in 1080p and 7.1 DTS audio) of all 26 episodes, plus brand new special features (see below for full details). The official retail price (according to CBS) is $118.00 in the US (which is actually a little less than the MSRP for Star Trek: TOS Blu-ray Season 1).

You can pre-order the set at discounted prices. Walmart is selling it for $78.86 with Amazon matching the price and Best Buy selling it for $79.99 with a $10 in-store savings rebate.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One
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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One
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The set is also available for pre-order at Amazon sites around the world.

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I hope we see more extended versions of episodes… or lots of deleted scenes. That certainly would get me to shell out the funds for these sets.

Great job, you deserve our support. Let’s all buy this. I hope that VOYAGER is easier to do.. I can’t wait.

Wonderful interview, Anthony. Thanks

One final complaint about 16×9. I saw a photograph of the cameras and the 4×3 mask that they used. The 16×9 negative simply does not exist.
How shortsighted of the producers.
I would not have felt cheated if they had decided to give TNG the TOS treatment and simply re-create and update the FX….
Ah well- I still see nothing that changes my mind about making the purchase, so I forfeit the right to complain further….

I can’t wait!

#4 Did YOU want a widescreen TV in 1987?

That Earth had better spin in the right direction! The Okudas don’t have the best track record in that area!

I’m getting my boxset in 2 weeks. Can’t wait. Great work Mr & Mrs Okuda and CBS digital. Looking forward to ‘re-discovering’ TNG all over again.

I wonder if, after this is done, the process will be cheap and efficient enough to do DS9 and VOY. It’s an obvious question I suppose, but I would think the process would have to improve in that respect to be cost-effective for the slightly lower-demand series.

I also wonder if this process makes the show ready, by default, for the UHDTV 4000p resolution already being worked on, or any future releases. Will the show’s film negatives be stored on film, as TOS was back in the 60s, so that any improvements for future releases would basically just be a refinement of the CGI?

Lastly, I wonder if shooting much of ENT in HD will be seen as short-sighted in that light as it’s still basically video, and therefore stuck at whatever resolution in which it’s shot.

I can’t believe its been almost 20 years since this show has been on weekly tv! I’m getting frakkin’ old!!!

I am very impressed with this initiative! The DVD standard def releases were so dark and uninspired! I WILL be purchasing all of these releases in BluRay! (My Pioneer Elite is sweating!!!!!)
It will be like re-discovering the show all over again! Very exciting prospect!! Thanks Okudas and CBS.

The trickier things with DS9 and Voyager and early Enterprise are that the CGI effects will probably have to be re rendered for HD.

A similar thing that is delaying the Director’s Edition of Motion Picture.

But i think it will be done.

The one pity is that they didn’t create a few more flyby shots of the Enterprise, like they did with Star Trek: Remastered. The same old shots used in TNG got very boring.

I notice that the effects image in the article are a full 1920 x 1080, with the images filling the entire frame, and not pillar-boxed to a 4:3 aspect ratio of SDTV. Are these just publicity shots and not frame grabs from the blu-ray? The test disc had all effects shots in 4:3, like the live action.

It would be nice to see the effects go wide screen, even if the live action stayed 4:3 (a debate that happened with TOS Remastered, too)

I get frustrated with this giant hard-on they all have for the insistence of “staying exactly as the original”.

There’s nothing wrong with making some improvements. That’s the whole reason of the demand to see extended episode.

These aren’t 3rd party people re-writing the show. This is the original production staff getting a chance to solidify what they were rushed to do 25 years ago.

It makes no sense to stay with substandard elements and mistakes just because “that’s what originally happened”.

It’s art and entertainment. So let it evolve.

This bizarre mind-set is what kept TOS Remastered with cheesy 60’s visual overlays, James R. Kirk on the tombstone and NO WARP SPEED EFFECT.

And now that the dust has settled, you see very clearly how minimalist the TOS Remastered project really was.

Sure, the production staff will tell you they agonized over dust and scratch removal on the film, etc, etc, but in terms of a final delivered product, you have to ask “what is the final viewing experience for the consumer and was it a meaningful new product that made things fresh and new?”

I imagine some of the special effects were done widescreen, (Vista-Vision camera maybe?) probably all the ILM footage, and cropped to uniformly match the on-set filming and other opticals. So they sometimes turn up in their original ratio, as part of a bonus feature.

Emperor Mike of the Empire

This is an impressive feat. Back when Tos was being remastered a lot of us my self included did not think that Tng could be remastered. But C.B.S is doing such a fantastic job. it’s no wonder that C.B.S is number one in the rating’s.

interesting image of deforest kelly and gene roddenberry. never saw that one before.

I’m impressed but there is too much obsession with keeping it the same as before mistakes & all.
TOS Remastered missed many opportunities to imrove or add things, I still can’t believe they didnt show the enterprise go to or at warp- even when the script stated it

14. ST:EXP

Yeah, I guess it’s a balancing act: what Daren Dochterman (IIRC) referred to as respecting the originals but giving a bit more bang for your buck!

I do find it a bit odd that they would upres a two-second shot. Couldn’t they find an alternative?

I remember when Twin Peaks got remastered from the source materials into HD by David Lynch (only for DVD so far unfortunately!) there were raised eyebrows at shot substitutions, but I’d rather they found an alternative shot than upres to be slavishly accurate to the original. End of the day, I guess it’s a judgement call.

Yes it looks like its well done.
At 80 bucks price is reasonable too.
Met Tobias Richter last month at PII shoot in NY
Looking forward to seeing his Enterprise D

That photo of DeForest Kelley shows him wearing different hair than what has been previously seen.

Also note Gene Roddenberry’s hearing aid.

21:

His model was used in all 3 of the episodes included in the Sampler. The opening shots of both “The Inner Light” and “Sins of the Father” and the saucer separation in “Encounter at Farpoint”

Mike!

Do you remember my idea about creating special content of the Starships in flight. Long (running) shots that show the ships in orbit or flight so that we can kick back and enjoy more than small clips of our favorite ships in action????

Of course, I emailed ya long ago when TOS went to HD.

Thanks for the interveiw!!!

#21 – I’m guessing that was a makeup test of McCoy for his cameo in Farpoint… maybe.

Anthony — do you know if the Okudas are including any footage of the set construction / revamping of TMP sets for TNG in the special features? There is a ton of behind the scenes stuff shot from years of Entertainment Tonight on the Paramount stages that I would LOVE to see included in these blu-ray sets. Really a tribute to those set designers and art directors to be able to re-use that scenery that dates back to Phase II

By and large I liked TOS-R. Though I have to agree with others on 2 points. They should have fixed things like James R Kirk. They’ve tried to explain that in universe, but really they all fall flat. It was the second pilot and they hadn’t settled on a middle initial yet. Changing it to T would have just fixed what was at the end a mistake. There were other examples too like that, though not many.

The second was I really wished they updated the warp field effect. I always liked the streaking stars from the other series and the flash. I was disappointed they kept the same look (which was really indistinguishable from impulse).

Sometimes they try so hard to stay true to the original. It’s important to an extent, but some of these changes would have been fixes and others would just update effects. If it otherwise did not alter the writer’s story, I don’t see a problem with it.

People WANT extended Nex Gen episodes??? They are bad enough at the normal length……

Funny. I would’ve placed that photo of De from 1991 during the filming of Star Trek VI.

‘sins of the father’ opening scene was terrible those visuals looked really bad on the sampler. Also the shot of the ‘D’ in Encounter at Farpoint shooting the energy beam down to the planet. If these are the “great” shots then they are not worth the money.

Cool! I can’t wait for this!

And for those asking why CBS isn’t releasing the visual effects in widescreen, just like TOS Remastered, they are saving that feature for the next format.

The Crystal Entity looks cool!

Just for the record; I did about fifteen pages of sketches of Geordi’s VISOR (check the TNG coffee table books); I couldn’t tell you what Andy Probert might have done in that area.

Rick

I’m glad they are sticking to making it look like it originally did or as it would have. Its not like hamfisted destruction Lucas has done with Star Wars

#32

Agreed. We don’t need to see t-shirts that say: “Picard shot first!” or some other nonsense like that. Respect the original work and the era it was made.

Not to get ahead of ouselves here, but it will be interesting to see if the “red-headed stepchild” (DS9) gets the same treatment someday. It will largely depend on the response to the TNG release. As much as I enjoyed TNG over the years, I can only imagine how the Defiant and some of the battle FX would look in HD.

So all the ship flyby shots are going to be original, good. But not so good in some cases, the same ol’ shot, why can’t it be done with some original shots and some better? Lots of that stuff, was just stock, over and over. How about some newer shots and angles of the ship approaching a planet or another ship, etc.

Some of that stuff looked good then, but now it could be better without being jarring. I’m looking forward to something new, too.

#34 – I’d LOVE it if DS9, and VOY got this attention. I wonder what the different challenges would be with the CGI? Those shows used it so much more, but what scale? Is it easily upgradable or would they have to rebuild all of those sequences? I could see the latter being cost prohibitive, but what do I know? I just know that I can’t wait for TNG season one. I’m curious to see what is done, if anything, to clean up and improve “Skin of Evil” and “Conspiracy.” There are some effects in there I’m very curious to know what will stay and what will be upgraded.

#31
Fifteen pages! Wow! Over what period of time?

Would love to see some of those sketches.

Anthony forgot to ask if this was gonna be widescreen!! Did they develop the technology to stretch a square into a rectangle? THAT’S the big question!!! ;-)

I cannot *wait* to get this first season of TNG. My son and I (he’s 11 now), after watching the entire original series all the way through, tried starting on TNG but it looked horrible on my 82″ TV.

Couple of things:

#1. I wish these seasons could be released faster. 6 months between is just far too much. I’m afraid he’s going to lose interest.

#2. When do you guys think the movie Generations should be watched? I watch the TOS, then the TOS movies, but at what point in the TNG series should Generations be watched? After? Sorry, I’m not much of a historian as I know you guys are… but I love Star Trek through and through.

I’m not sure Generations should be watched at all. Bad movie except for the first 15 minutes, roughly. (The botched death of Kirk & the senseless destruction of the Enterprise D are only a few of the films flaws)

JMS had Babylon 5 shot in 16:9 – forward thinking….

Warp effect – just use the existing effects – just speed them up 10 to 100x.
Some of the warp shots from the movies are so lethargic as to be laughable. Some one should play around with some clips and put them on Youtube, if I don’t do it first….

“Denise Okuda: There were only gag reels for the first two seasons and we stopped doing them.”

That’s part of the problem I have with TNG…the producers got so full of themselves, they forgot how to have fun. And sadly, it transcends to the final product…which, at times, borders on annoying pretentiousness. I can hear it now…” no more of that foolishness…we’re professionals!!”. I know a lot of people love this show, and they will dig all the work, but I think it’s mostly scenic nostalgic waves viewed through rose-colored glasses. But at least now those waves are now in 1080p! ;)

Cleaned up those two new beauty shots of the Enterprise-D for those who’d like to use them as wallpapers:

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Fixed some errors on that first image:

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#37 – Well, fifteen or so sheets of sketch paper. Some sheets had a single design that was eventually xeroxed and hit with colored markers, other sheets were full of felt-pen doodles trying to get a handle on the design. I do seem to recall Mike bringing a tortoise-shell colored plastic banana clip into the art department after a number of earlier designs were shown to the producers, and then everything pretty well fell into place. The VISOR adaptation of the plastic clip became nicely simplified, with the polished aluminum surround and the vertical gold-toned rods, and the little graphic disks on the sides. I have no recollections about what Herman and Andy could have been doing on this prop.

Here is a thought…..imagine The Animated Series getting a complete reworking of of the animation portion (a la the animation level of the Clone Wars: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi142410009/ I am not a huge fan of clone wars but it is a great example to imagine this from) but with the voices of the actors kept in tact. This would allow for extended space action sequences and would make for a very intriguing TOS offering. An interesting twist would be to “keep” the animated series original music “as is”. Thus tieing old and new together more.

As good as the animated graphics are these days THAT would make for some of the most compelling new/old Trek conceivably possible! In my humble opinion…..

tying not “tieing”….I need to proof more….sorry!

I saw a fair number of Rick and Andy’s drawings for Geordi’s visor, and I liked ALL of them. I really did. The problem was that Gene didn’t really know what he was looking for, so he wasn’t really able to articulate his needs. This is fairly common, and is NOT the designer’s fault. I just happened to luck into an opportunity to contribute to their efforts.

-Mike

Mr. Okuda: I saw this interview (http://tng.trekcore.com/bluray/okuda3.html), and read your thoughts on possibly doing DS9. While it seems that each of the series has its challenges, it’s encouraging that you’re talking about it at all.

Good luck and good work on all the Remastered shows!

AND…..once completed the box set could have the new versions and the old versions. There are soooo many possibilities of potential things that could be done….(RANDOM EXAMPLE: Chris Doohan picks up some of his dad’s voice over’s to add some novelty…Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and George Takei add new dialog for enhanced new scenes like an hour long animated Tribble episode with David Gerrold’s help….etc etc….)

Maybe it’s just me wanting this….but damn it seems like it could be so cool…AND make Paramount, CBS, Whomever another zillion dollars off of the franchise….

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