Interview: Mike & Denise Okuda Talk Star Trek – TNG The Next Level [Part 2]

Today TrekMovie presents the second part of our interview with Mike and Denise Okuda, discussing the upcoming "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level" Blu-ray coming out next week. This time we get more detail on how the approach to bringing the Next Generation to HD differs from the remastering of the original Star Trek, and how the focus this time is to make the process even more seamless. Details below, plus more images. 


INTERVIEW: Mike & Denise Okuda talk Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level Blu-ray [Part 2]

TrekMovie: One of things that was within the scope of the project for the remastering of the original Star Trek was to periodically fix something that was deemed a mistake. Will you be doing that for The Next Generation?

Mike Okuda: There will be far far fewer of those kinds of things. For the most part, we find that people – for whatever reason – that is part of the viewing experience. So to smooth over things they expect to see we find will disappoint some people. That being said, very occasionally there will be some minor tweaks. An example of that is in The Next Level, there is a shot where Picard orders the phasers to be fired at a low level to bathe the wounded space creature to bring it back to life. In the original version the phasers incorrectly came from the Captain’s Yacht. Having worked at Paramount at the time, the original ship’s designer Andrew Probert was very disappointed because that wasn’t where the phasers were supposed to come from. So we thought "let’s make Andy happy."

TrekMovie: Another thing you did last time was to replace over-used repeated establishing shots with something new, like a new angle. Is that something you will be doing or less of an issue with TNG?

Mike Okuda: If that happens, it will be on a much smaller scale. One thing we are trying to be cognizant of is that people who buy the show, know the show really well. We want them to get the show that they fell in love with and not say "wow, these guys were really clever." We want them to say "the original designers were clever." We want to highlight their work.

Captain Picard in "Encounter at Farpoint" (Click to Enlarge)

TrekMovie: That brings up an issue that has been brought up by some fans who are wondering why this set is not being done in widescreen. Some believe the original film elements have more information on them and it could be done in widescreen without cropping. Is that possible?

Mike Okuda: First of all, it is our very strong desire is to respect the original work by the original directors and cinematographers. By cropping and letterboxing, we change the composition. You make things appear bigger and more crowded. It is true that in some shots – not all – but in some shots there is additional information on the film. But then again you are changing the original intention.

Denise Okuda: And in a lot of cases there are things that aren’t intended to be seen – sandbags, light stands, whatever – on the sides. The major thing is that we want to preserve the composition and the look of what the original filmmakers wanted to offer.

TrekMovie: There is another side to that. As I was watching The Next Level I was impressed with the amazing amount of detail you could see. But you also notice things that were never meant to be seen, such as a scuff on a set element or a seem in make-up – that kind of thing. Is that something you are concerned about? The original intent was never for this to be seen in 1080p.

Mike Okuda: That is a very good point. Our attitude is that it is part of the original show. It is not something we think is that distracting. It is certainly visible if you look for it. For the most part, it is what was shot.

TrekMovie: Well I know you used to drop things into your famed "Okudagrams," like people’s names.

Mike Okuda: For the most part we are going to leave those as they are, as they are not particularly noticeable if you don’t go looking for them. There will be a few places where if we think they are going to be distracting, that is if you watch the show and go "oh, there is Gene’ Roddenberry’s name!" Those kind of things we will look more closely at them and undoubtedly change some of them.

TrekMovie: So how far into it are you now, still on the first season?

Mike Okuda: Pretty much.

TrekMovie: Well good luck and thanks. We are all very excited about the project.

Mike Okuda: Thank you Anthony and we appreciate everything you do to promote Star Trek.

Denise Okuda: And we are very excited too. We are excited that people are going to finally get to see what we have been seeing.

See part 1 of the TrekMovie interview.

Picard and Q face off in "Encounter at Farpoint" (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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Thanks to Mike and the whole TNG-R team! Can’t wait.

And Denise, sorry about that!

Now If only I had a Blueray Player….

I don’t agree with the widescreen explanation. choosing an aspect ratio because it fits the tvs that everyone has isn’t a choice or intent. If you were to film a show in 4:3 today, that would be another story.

@3 blu-ray is cheep. about $70 or so. It really doesn’t cost anymore than DVD anymore unless you’re talking about the old movies in the $1 box.

Glad you asked about the Okudagrams, I was curious about that.

I wonder if it is possible for them to put the original SD version of the episodes on the Blu-ray sets. It may seem redundant since they are staying so faithful to the originals with the new edits, but the completist in me want to have both versions available. This is why I enjoyed the TOS Blu-ray sets so much. Just thought I would ask.


@7 I own season 4 on dvd. There is a reason I stopped there. it was so terrible that it became a low priority to get the rest. by the time it became a possibility i heard about TOS-R and decided to not buy TNG until TNG-R came out.

So I see no reason to include them on the blu-ray sets. On the other hand if the original effect was too bad to use they could probably put that in there.

What I would like to see are the original trailers re-edited in HD. Maybe even the original series promo. “Tonight the world premier movie of STAAAAAAAR TREK the next generation!!!!!” (its on youtube, but in even worse VHS quality)

Actually I do have a question that hasn’t been answered yet. Are they going to photoshop out the construction paper used on the bridge? You can even see it in the DVDs. Fortunately its just in 2 seasons, but it will be worse in HD.

Are we going to see the stage hand chewing gum in the reflection on the lamp while Spock and Picard are being interviewed by a Romulan Tash Yhaw’s daughter?
Or will that be grayed out?
I look forward to the HD version of STNG.

I am curious… I realize they are intending to stay as close to the original as possible, which I fully support, however in the case of “The Pegasus” the USS Pegasus was intended to be a ship specifically designed for that episode. Due to budgetary reasons the Oberth Class model was used despite a graphic on the Pegasus’ engine room set that clearly depicted the specialized ship design. Will the Bluray release take advantage of the ship designed for that episode or will it be an up-convert of the original effects?

Again, I stress no disappointment with me if that’s not in the plan as I’m thrilled just to see TNG in HD!

This should settle all further conversation about the aspect ratio. (As if there was really a reason for it to have been much of an issue in the first place.)

The TNG-R team is composed of film/video professionals. They understand and respect the cinematographic choices made during the original filming. Period.

#9 I assume you mean the black posterboard that was used to hide the lighting glare on the aft bridge stations? They figured out how to light things better sometime in season 2.

I had the same question, but Tony only had limited time with the Okudas so he cut that question.

I would love the STAAAAAAAAAAAAAR TREK THENEXTGENERATION trailers on the first season blu ray.

I knew they wouldn’t change anything, which is fine with me.

I think Mike and Denise are the best. What they do with trek is just so Geeky Cool. Thank you for taking care of our beloved show.

The only thing at this point I really want to see is them do away with the over reuse of ships and the Angel One matte painting.

I can think of one other time when the phasers came from the wrong place, out of the torpedo launcher or something. Glad they’re fixing that sort of thing. It would be kind of crazy not to since recompositing the effect means you are the one placing the phaser beam on the ship again. Deliberately repeating a mistake is taking originalism too far.

I appreciate the OAI stuff. But the original artists were limited by the technology of the day. And if it’s mostly the original guys working on the remaster anyway, why not take the opportunity to brush up on their own work. Especially some of the horrendous stuff in episodes like “The Battle”


My guess is no, so far in the shots posted so far, I’ve found 3 or 4 reflections in the LCARS panels of stage lighting, mics, stands etc and a couple where they’re seen on the side of the frame.

One of things that was within the scope of the project for the remastering of the original Star Trek was to periodically fix something….

Mike Okuda: There will be far far fewer of those kinds of things. For the most part, we find that people – for whatever reason – that is part of the viewing experience. So to smooth over things they expect to see we find will disappoint some people….

Really, Mike? Really? People will be disappointed to see anything changed? They love every frame that much? So when they expect to see an obvious technical error or some kind of visual limitation from the production and you don’t fix it, then they’ll be happier?

Sheesh, you ought to be in politics.

Sure artistic intent and all that, with other aspects of this project, but don’t try to make me believe that you guys wouldn’t be doing more to refine the effects where needed, if, you guys were getting the funding. And you’re not.

Updating the effects isn’t necessary to the extent needed for the original series, but I remember from watching TNG that some “fixes” would be nice. And they really wouldn’t change the vision of the film makers, either.

I’m certain this will be a worthy project and it’s better then what is seen now, but please don’t make us believe that this is as good as it gets and doesn’t need to be better.

Because it does.

I’m just glad I’m an original series fan. Before the Remastering project ran out of gas, we got lots of great fixes/upgrades and artistic changes. Bob Justman loved it.

I was a fan of the original Star Trek and I wasn’t disappointed with the artistic fixes and choices of the team that did it.

The Next Generation Fans deserve that too.

A look at the packaging for the soon to come season 1 set:

#21: I’m of the complete opposite mind. My preference is for them to stay as close to the original as possible and thus I’m very happy with the decisions that have been made so far by the Okudas and the rest of the team.

As for your politician crack towards Mike… I think that was really unfair. You don’t know the man, thus you have no basis to question his motives in such a manner.

@4: It makes perfect sense to me. The aspect ratio limitations of the day forced the cinematographers to compose each shot so that it would suit that 4:3 space. The aspect ratio itself indeed wasn’t a “choice” or “intent”, but everything they did within that canvas was.

It’s the same today; shots get designed to take advantage of a 16:9 or 16:10 or whatever aspect ratio. If, down the road, we all switch to ÜberWidescreen 18:3 screens, to crop those “old” HD shows would be to disregard how the show’s creators wanted the shots to be composed.

You’re right, but I’m not questioning his motives. Far from it. You aren’t reading my whole post in it’s entire context.

You have your opinion, I have mine. I just happen to know they don’t have the money to do much more then bring it to blu and keep the costs down.

And if you know Mike, he is a man who chooses his words carefully.

Like a politician. A good one.

The fact that there are fewer changes just means I’m more eager to know what they are!

#26: He does choose his words carefully, because he’s a team player. That said, I’ve never known him to be anything other than a straight shooter.

whoops I meant #25…

#28, ok, I can live with that.

First of all, it is our very strong desire is to respect the original work by the original directors and cinematographers. By cropping and letterboxing, we change the composition. You make things appear bigger and more crowded. It is true that in some shots – not all – but in some shots there is additional information on the film. But then again you are changing the original intention. ”

Now lets hope that shuts up people once and for all who just cant wrap their minds around respecting Artistic Intent and choices.

I also think he wasn’t allowed to confirm the use of the CG enterprise (which has to happen eventually as there were CG shots of it back in the 80s), so he said it was a matte painting, which could still be true even with the use of CG. It also gives people that hate CG the opportunity to believe in a hand made drawing. I don’t believe that though as its too perfect unless your painting right over the blurry version. However if you were going to do that, then why would you change the lights?

4 if you cant understand what that means then I dont know what to tell you. But based on the fact that most tvs at that time were 4×3 and knowing the show was going to be shown 4×3 they chose to compose the shots the way they did with that 4×3 aspect ratio in mind. to take and alter that now can completely change and ruin how a scene plays out really dont understand whats so hard to understand about this.

24 thank you stated it perfectly.

@ 21 Thomas Jensen, I completely agree with you. Of course people want to see some cheesy effects updated. And they have to understand in order to sell these discs they need to have a bigger selling point than just improved color and detail. It’s not just trekkies buying these things.

Instead of just admitting that there is no budget to do more, they’re finding all kinds of lame excuses to defend what they were allowed to do.

On every question they give the same answer: that they are staying with the original artists intent and people want the original. Please…

@21 – I agree with the interviewees, that sometimes the nitpicks are enjoyable. After all, there are books about mistakes, people delight in finding them, and there’s essentially a culture that enjoys reading about them and then seeing the mistakes themselves. That said, if they’d put the goofs in a bonus feature, and put corrected versions in the episodes, that would be fine with me.

Season 1 and the sampler will be released in Australia during July.

Now that they’ve fixed the phaser emission in “Farpoint” please fix the phasers coming out of the torpedo tube in “Darmok” and I’ll be happy. Other than that I’m good.

>34. Bart – January 26, 2012
>On every question they give the same answer: that they are staying with the >original artists intent and people want the original. Please…

Count me as one of the fans who is extremely happy that they’re respecting the original artists, because I DO want to see how the original work looks remastered.

They’re not just rescanning ‘completed’ FX, the FX are being rebuilt from the individual elements but this time with modern compositing software.

Yes, it’s the same footage but the final result looks many times better due to the resources at their disposal. For all intents and purposes, they ARE new FX.

This whole process is pretty awesome…and expensive. To be honest I never thought anyone would have put the money behind a project that would require rebuilding every episode. I just don’t think people appreciate exactly how huge this project is….instead, they’ll always see the glass as half full and complain that they’re not getting ‘having it their way’. It’s not a McDonald’s drive thru folks…and thank goodness for that. It’s nice to seem them exercise some restraint on this project….even if the restraint is a result of a limited budget. The original artists and the show deserve it.

I would like to ask if they will be using any CG to add depth to backgrounds on the ourdoor sets, as they did in TOS-R. There were a lot of outdoor scenes, especially in TNG seasons 1 and 2, where the set clearly was very limited.

They need to do more than just clean up the footage, they need to fix mistakes, improve the quality, consistancey & depth of the special effects if they want people to buy.
This can be done without majorly changing the look of the shots or overall show- I do think “respecting the original” is a bit of an excuse

@40. Trekboi.
No they don’t. Original footage all the way, I say. Either you loved it as it was or you didn’t. Dicking around too much with the VFX just to modernise it and make it look ‘cool’ is a waste of time. The live-action footage itself IS dated (seasons 1 and 2 certainly), they can’t change that or update it, and they can’t fix goofs made in dialogue, sets or costuming. It is what it is. Why do you want to ‘improve’ a cultural icon?

#40 “This can be done without majorly changing the look of the shots or overall show- I do think “respecting the original” is a bit of an excuse”

Agreed to an extent. If something is wrong, fix it. The “Giant” BOP always bugged me, but I see they retconned it to be a second version of the same design. Whatever.

There are a lot of space shots that look wrong because of budgetary constraints, or prep time constraints.

40. Trekboi – January 26, 2012

They don’t HAVE to do anything…they didn’t even have to do as much as they’re doing. We could have simply gotten a crappy upconversion, how gross would that have been? They’re rebuilding the entire show from uncut negatives, looping sound, and re-compositing all of the effects. The show is essentially in post production again. That’s a hugely expensive undertaking…one that I have honestly not seen. If you think you’re being short changed by that, then you’re quite honestly being a spoiled brat. Really, given the amount of work this is going to take, we’re all spoiled to even be nitpicking.

@31 – Yes, he did confirm that they have a CG Enterprise they can use when need it – this is in part 1 of the interview: “they do have a digital Enterprise, because we know it will be needed at some point.”

“I don’t believe that though as its too perfect unless your painting right over the blurry version.” What? Do you understand how matte paintings are done? They don’t need to paint over anything – just draw a new rendering in Illustrator and replace the existing shot.

Colors look great I’ll admit, but the detail still looks a little soft to be HD 1080P. Perhaps its the screenshots cant really do the final product justice. I just hope details are little more crisp that these screenshots depict….on the best of sets that is…still not buying the entire season sets…too much digging to get to the good stuff.

#42 – Giant BOPs, use of the Excelsior, Miranda, and Oberth classes over and over and over again (what would they have used if ST III never existed???).

State of the art late 24th century starship always rendezvousing with a 80-plus year old clunker. Give me a break.

That shot in “Darmok” with the phasers coming out of the photon torpedo port is just screaming to be fixed.

#46 – Whether you like it or not, those are established as part of the story. Those ship classes were used in the 24th Century, and personally, I like that some 23rd Century vessel designs were still on active duty in the 24th Century.

It’s realistic, and establishes a greater sense of history, firmply placing TNG in the same universe as TOS and the TOS Movies.

TOS Remastered added a lot of new things, without rewriting basic Canon, but the changes were extensive, and somewhat rushed.

TNG has learned the value of restraint, and it’s much more of a restoration project than a Star Wars: Special Edition.

Which is as it should be. Change only what needs to be to get the series to look good in 1080P, without changing the series itself.

One or two minor corrections in the effects shots is good, as they had to recreate some elements used in the shots anyway.

They are doing this RIGHT.

I’m all for them sticking very close to the originals., but let’s not forget that they’re expecting us to pay full whack (probably more than the original DVD price) for these. The least they can do is to correct a few obvious flaws in the episodes, flaws that while ignorable in the DVDs will be very much “in your face” at 1080p.

I’m glad the phaser out of the captains yacht was corrected. But I’d very much like to seem them correct a few other things too:
* Reflections of rigging, crew, cameras, etc in panels and other shiny surfaces.
* More phasers coming from the wrong place, like in Best of Both Worlds when Picard says Fire all weapons while they’re stuck in a tractor beam.
* The red alert lights not flashing below the viewscreen when the ship is at red alert
* and other stuff like that.

I don’t expect them to fix anything major like the wrong ship being used (Pegasus, as mentioned in the comments above).

Make it so! :)

#45 – To be fair, the softness has always been there. The soft focus was a purposeful style of shooting TV (and a lot of film too) in the 1980s and early ’90s.

In the last 5+ years we’ve gotten used to razor sharp HD digital video for TV shows and perfectly edited movies done with high-resolution (2k or 4k) digital intermediaries so there is no film generational losses, etc.

Also I’m pretty sure you’ll find that when you sit back and watch it, rather than scrutinize a single lossy JPEG file up close, it won’t seem so soft.