Interview: Mike & Denise Okuda Talk Star Trek – TNG The Next Level [Part 1]

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.

The USS Enterprise-D with two space life-forms in "Encounter at Farpoint" (Click to Enlarge)

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."

Away team beaming down in "Encounter at Farpoint" (Click to Enlarge)

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.

Picard playing flute in "The Inner Light" (Click to Enlarge)

"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.

POLL: Picking up TNG Blu-ray sampler?



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TNG in HD? Nice.

Can we get a Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Edition: The Next Level while we’re at it? It’s hard to believe it would cost any more than this, maybe less!

Hopefully this will put an end to the ridiculous amount of confusion circulating, and perhaps even cause a gentle hush to fall over the posters who think they know what they’re talking about.

Those space jellyfish are OBVIOUSLY CGI, look how much sharper they are!

Shame about the missing footage upscaled from videotape. Any hope for that, or is it lost for good?

^4. Reminds me of the long-lost but eventually found color footage of “The Cage”. If they ever find it they’ll put it in. Hopefully they’d let people exchange an individual disc of the Blu-ray set in that circumstance.

Hope the Okuda’s can convince someone @ Paramount to redo both STMP:DE & Star Trek5 VFX both need some work for Bluray hopefully they can get the CBS Digital team to do this @ 1080P resolution.

Obviously for STMP Daren Docherman would be the man they should bring in & for Trek5 Shatner if he’s still interested in fixing for nothing as I doubt there would be any money in it for him only the satisfaction of finally fixing his 1 major directors job & giving us Trek fans the chance to see it the way it was originally intended to be made before savage budget cuts made the VFX work a joke for many. They would need to redo practically every single VFX shot but nowadays that can be done quite cheaply all it needs is someone @ Paramount to say yes we will pay for it all !!!!

Will be coming back tomorrow for the rest!

So, the opening shot of the enterprise and the bird of pray in Sins of the father is “not a cgi enterprise” but a “new mattepainting”. That doesn’t make sense.
Somebody sitting down with colours and canvas or a pane of glass and painting a new still of the enterprise and the bird of pray. Of course not.

Then perhaps somebody sitting down in front of a computer, painting this particular angel of the enterprise and the bird of pray. Maybe, but in this case, it would be cgi, because it means computer generated imagery.
And on second thought, unlikely, because if you have a full scale cg 3-d model, why bother painting a new one, just for this shot.

So the only logical conclusion is, this opening shot is the cg model of the enterprise. That means, they have changed, are changing more than they claim they would.

I for my part welcome new effects, if they are done right and not cg loooking. I just wonder why they lie about it or maybe they are not just telling the whole truth.

#8 – “that was not a CG Enterprise, that was actually a new matte painting.”

Why the heck would he lie? He just they have a digital version, so he has no reason to!

I am amazed that you think you know better than the man on the inside. sheesh!

Also, notice it’s not “CGI” it’s just “CG” in the technical jargon.

^ “He just _said_ that was a new matte painting” – I accidentally left out “said”

FYI, the “CG” not “CGI” comment is not directed at #8, just in general.

Great job Anthony. I am so looking forward to TNG in HD. Can’t wait to see the rest of the Interview.

The Enterprise at warp scene from “The Inner Light” seems to be CG.

Lets be clear about the image of the enterprise and the bop.

It IS a matte painting.

In the old days, matte paintings were traditional glass matte paintings that were photographed and scanned into a computer and then combined with a live action plate.

Paint has now been superseded by digital images created using photo references, 3-D models, and drawing tablets. Matte painters combine their digitally matte painted textures within computer-generated 3-D environments, allowing for 3-D camera movement.

For more information, go here:

Maybe Mike could confirm this?

@12 – Respectfully, I believe that a matte painting must be 2-D.

From the same article you link to: “Matte painters combine their digitally matte painted textures within computer-generated 3-D environments, allowing for 3-D camera movement.”

That sentence suggests that the (2-D) “matte painted textures” are combined with 3-D computer graphics (CG) to complete the shot, but retains the distinction between those two types of source material.

I believe what Mike Okuda is saying is that the opening shot of the Enterprise and the Bird of Prey is a 2-D matte painting, with no 3-D CG.

are there new effects? i love the remastred version of tos, but do not know if there will be new fx in the tng blueray. that is what i have to know, before i will buy it or not.

I think whatever Okuda was referring to, it isn’t the BoP shot. He’s probably talking about a planet or something.

Distinguishing between ‘CGI’ and a matte that uses a CG Enterprise model would just be splitting hairs here.

@13 – Thanks for that clarification, I think that you are right.

Looking at the image, it doesn’t look to have been ‘painted’ in the ‘with a brush’ method that most people associate with the word ‘painting’. It has surely been created (as a 2D element) using digital ‘painting’ techniques.

An example of a digital matte, compared to an old matte can be seen in this old post from TrekMovie:

I have read that for DS9 and VOY (prior to season 4), Star Trek augmented its model f/x shots with CG elements.

I am very interested in CG and model f/x work, perhaps TrekMovie might consider running an article on this fascinating area.

Kudos to TrekMovie for bringing us this article.

Are they going to CG all the makeup off of Data’s collar?
Are they going to CG his cat from a boy to a girl?

>15. Spacecadet – January 25, 2012
>are there new effects? i love the remastred version of tos, but do not know >if there will be new fx in the tng blueray. that is what i have to know, before i >will buy it or not.

The subject has been covered many times here, and it has been explained by CBS themselves in the press release.

The original ‘filmed’ models will be recomposited with modern technology. Check out the screen shots to see how much this improves the quality of those effects.

In the meantime, there is a convenient faq for tngr at the top of the page.

@16 – no, he is talking about the shot that TrekMovie brought up, the one with the Enterprise-D and a Bird of Prey.

This is a screenshot of the redux version:

And this is a screenshot of the original:

In the original shot, the two ships are stationary, with only the starfield behind them moving. I don’t know if the ships are moving slightly in the HD version, but if they are moving more than just a little, it would be obvious they’re 2-D digital drawings, not 3-D CG.

So, since he said this shot is a matte painting, I’m going to assume the ships are either stationary like in the original, or floating almost imperceptibly against the more noticeably passing starfield. The ships are easy enough to paint digitally (if you have the talent) with a stylus in Illustrator, and composited together with the moving starfield in AfterEffects. That project just gets dropped into FinalCut for editing. No CG.

Seriously, I could do this right here on my computer, if I had the inclination, time and all of Paramount’s assets at my disposal. Mike Okuda’s explanation that this is just a matte painting is totally plausible.

I wonder if CBS will ever broadcast these remastered TNG eps like they did with the TOS ones. I strongly think that there is an audience for these and it would be profitable, either in syndication or on cable.

I hope Netflix will get this. I want to watch it but I don’t have the cash for the ridiculous prices they’ll be asking for when full seasons start coming out.

Maybe if Amazon or Netflix streams it, I’ll take a look, but there is NO way I’m shelling out for seven seasons. Never happen.

#20, Excellent observation.

#2 – Agreed

I know CBS and Paramount are separate companies, but it seems like madness that Classic trek and now TNG get treated so well on Blu-Ray but there is no sign of ST TMP DE or (even less likely) STV DE on Blu Ray
and the transfers for most of the other movies 1 to 10 a pretty poor. Surley the cost of these “remasters” has come down enough that at least ST TMP DE must be viable by now. It is simple paramount, you produce it and we will buy it!!!!

Double ditto on what #2 said. And #25.

Does anyone (Anthony?) know if the new remastered high def TNG will be syndicated out for broadcast the way TOS was?

#13 – There are 3-D matte paintings. ILM uses them all the time (first pioneered with HOOK) and so does Pixar.

You can put new visfx in Star Trek 5, but you can never change one small detail:

“Written and Directed by William Shatner”.

@ 29 Tony Todd’s Tears, really? Yes I agree there are some bad spots in the Trek 5 story but if they could redo the FX in Trek 5 that would fix 80% of the movies problems.

I actually think Trek 6 had more story problems with the explosion of the moon Praxis causing the Klingons to have to find a new homeworld and 100 years later in TNG the Klingons still seem to be on the same planet.

The color schemes of TNG never did look very good, maybe now they will be a bit more vibrant and not as dull. But it will still take a “best of” bundle to make me shell out money for it…too many stinkers and not enough winners per season to pony up the cash for an entire season set.

Isn’t this what Lucas did with Star Wars? Hello,???

Then Abrams does the prequel, same thing as Lucas.

Good luck selling these discs in a global depression. Personally I will never spend the money to replace my dvds with Blurays.

Btw, I thought everyone hated the Next Gen, DS9, Voyager? Where are the die hard Star Trek 09 fans on this?

32 – This is absolutely NOT what George Lucas did with the original Star Wars trilogy, for several reasons:

– The replacement elements are only those needed for the conversion to High Definition, without changing the essence of the original material.
– The original episodes of TOS and TNG are still widely available, completely unaltered, on DVD.
– The story of each episode is not changed (ala Greedo shooting Han first in Star Wars).
– The replacement effects don’t look in any way out of place with the original footage from the series.

Also, JJ Abrams’ prequel was more of an in-continuity reboot/origin story that altered events while keping largely to the spirit of the material, while the opposite is true of George Lucas with Star Wars.

When I eventually upgrade to Blu-Ray, TOS and TNG in that format will obviously be purchased by myself.

#29 re: Trek 5

Come on. Yeah, the film had issues – the fx were the worst of the series (Not Shatner’s fault – ILM was booked) and the film was shot during a writers strike (again not Shatner’s fault).


The Final Frontier had some great – and i’d even argue unmatched moments in the TOS series of films. Finally the crew was out and about doing things, running around – anything other than just sitting at their posts on the bridge. Ironically George Takei was given more to do in any other film besides The Voyage Home by …. drumroll…. Shatner. Nichelle got to sing and dance. The crew got to run around with phasers and shoot at things. It had some great Kirk/Spock/McCoy moments.

I concede the story was marginal but it still provided some great Trek character moments.

looks like we are all agreed then – we want a STV with new SFX!!!!!

Trek V is charming just the way it is.

Kirk gives up his ship without a fight
Klingons apologize
FX from Hoboken, New Jersey
Misnumbered (and too many) decks
Scotty loves Uhura

…and all the rest.

The Wikipedia entry reads like a list of excuses. Smoking cigarettes and blowing the smoke into the ill-fated ‘rockman’ costume so it could be regurgitated? Give me a break.

Glad to see CBS is once again using Max Gabl’s fine talents at recreating planetscapes and (I assume) enhancing the original matte paintings. His work was some of the best stuff to come out of the TOS-R project :)

OK, so Okuda never confirmed if the transporter effects will be redone using new CG. I would say yes, just because looking at the photo of the away team beaming down, the light beams and twinkling effects look much different than the sparkles we all know from TNG.

I was never a fan of the TOS, TNG or Voyager beaming effects. My favourites are from the early TWOK-TUC, I love those light beams especially from Undiscovered Country. I love the TNG movie transporter effects. And the swirls in the new movie are pretty cool as well.

See Star Trek is not just about the character interaction and connections, but the intricate and minute technical details make this wonderland SO MUCH FUN!!!!

Not going to buy the Next Level promo, I think its a waste of money, especially when it comes to trade in. But TNG season 1 blu-ray…ill be buying that on launch day.

Oh, do we have ANY hints at when the first season will be released? Is the date not set in stone yet?

>38. Commodore Adams – January 25, 2012

The transporter is a filmed element and has been rescanned.

There is a comparison shot from EAFP and they match.


I agree. While I love TNG, its beam effect always came across to me as a bit weak. On the other hand, the TWOK beam effect looked like it had some power behind it, like molecules were really being taken apart rather than just a simple fade out and fade in with some sparkles on top.

Just one of many things that movie got right.

Or was that effect first used in TMP? I can’t remember….

It should be noted that in the original version of the Sins of the Father shot, the Bird of Prey is a re-use of a shot from The Search for Spock. I’d imagine they’d use CGI to replace those recycled VFX shots. I think a first season episode uses a shot of a K’Tinga from The Motion Picture.

#39 – We only know sometime in 2012. Probably the end of the 3rd quarter or beginning of the 4th.

its 2PM and part 2 isnt up!!!! *F5* *F5* *F5* *F5*

Come back tomorrow for part 2 … why the Blu-ray version isn’t in widescreen”

this is why

This is a perfect example of when it will look terrible. There is really no way to see his head and the flute.

I’m so glad this did not get the TBS treatment and is being done right. I can’t wait to see these

TNG HD is looking gorgeous, I really kind of want a bluray player now…

Stupid poverty. :(

I am excited for this project because the DVDs do look very washed out and blurry, they do have a charm to them though. Like watching the old box tvs with the bad reception and murky colour palette. As for the TNG transporter effect, I thought it looked good even on the dvds, the one on Voyager looks like crap. I’m talking N64 crappiness where it looks cheaply produced and embarassing for an at the time very expensive TV show. I cannot wait to see DS9 on blu-ray… that’s gonna be interesting to see. I hope it gets the love that TNG is obviously getting with this treatment. I’m actually more excited for this than the currently filming Trek 2 movie.

My eyes are glazing over from all the geek-talk about composites and film elements. All I know is, Me Want TNG Blu-ray! Me Want! ME WANT!