On Tuesday Star Trek The Next Generation finally makes the move to high definition with the release of “The Next Level,” a sampler of four episodes from the new project to remaster the entire series. Today TrekMovie takes a detailed look at The Next Level.
REVIEW: Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level
Blu-ray – 1 Disc
CBS/Paramount Home Entertainment
Retail: 22.99 (Amazon: $14.99)
With rumors of a Star Trek The Next Generation remastered effort dating back to 2007, most fans were skeptical of ever getting a fresh version of TNG with HD quality. Yet quietly there was a test project in the works at CBS to see if it was reasonable to re-transfer and re-edit all the footage into newly minted HD versions of the episodes. The first fruits of their labor is a sampler disc called The Next Level. It contains the pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint, third season’s Sins of the Father, and the acclaimed fifth season episode The Inner Light. Read on for the details on how each episode looks and sounds thanks to modern digital technology
The Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level Blu-ray packing is pretty basic. It comes in the common “eco” version of the Elite brand Blu-ray case that nearly all single-disc releases use. The case is enclosed in a cardboard sleeve which has the same front and back design.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level – Packaging
When you load The Next Level it will auto-play the trailer for Season 1 of TNG on Blu-ray and a DTS-HD demo, both of which can be skipped. Then the disc menu opens with a new version of the TNG planets from the season 1 credits, it pans over to a TNG logo and then opens an LCARS menu over a moving star field.
Being that this set is a sampler, the choices are limited. You can play all the episodes, or pick them individually. There is a "Set Up" option allowing you to choose the original stereo audio instead of the 7.1 DTS. And then there is the "Additional Data" section with some trailers (see Features section below).
Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level – Navigation Menu
The presentation blows any other available releases of Star Trek: The Next Generation out of the water. The existing standard definition versions found on the DVD set, TV syndication, and streaming on Netflix and Amazon have a rather flat dull look to them. The image on this Blu-ray has more contrast and the colors are richer. Things are much sharper too. You can see lots of texture on the walls of the bridge as well as costume fabric and even variations in people’s skin.
Close-up on Worf from “Sins of the Father”
With the increased detail something in the opening credits caught my eye. There are some people walking around in the observation lounge as the Enterprise passes under the camera during the last part of the opening credits. I didn’t remember them being there, but sure enough I put in a DVD copy of TNG and they’re in there, they just aren’t really very noticeable in standard definition. It also doesn’t show up very well in a static image, they’re more like little moving silhouettes, so it is easier to see them when watching it in motion.
People walking around behind the lounge windows during the opening credits
While there is more detail, it is important to remember that this show is 25 years old and so things were shot differently back then. The look can be a little soft (partially because of the purposefully slightly soft style common in the 1980s), and they have varying levels of film grain (again an indicator of the era), though nothing overly distracting.
Shot from opening credits of TNG on Blu-ray
While much of the focus on this set is bringing it into high definition, the sound for The Next Generation also sees a marked improvement. The dialog certainly sounds better – fuller and clearer. As a show originally made in stereo the soundscape is mostly in the front channels, however the music and some sound effects (warp effects, ambient bridge noises, transporter noises, the noise Q makes when he appears, etc.) are mixed into the surround speakers with good results. The music track definitely gets the most benefit out of the high-resolution lossless audio mix. Explosions get a nice bass boost, but nothing exaggerated, it is very in keeping with the rest of the soundtrack (i.e. not mixed to loudness of a modern action film).
Thanks to the dedicated LFE (low frequency effects) channel (the .1 in the 7.1 audio), if you have a subwoofer, there is a very nice throbbing of the engines. Similarly, down in the tunnels of Farpoint there is a nice subtle ambient sound like a deep organic throbbing (almost like a heartbeat).
Like the visuals, the increased detail on sound can also highlight some of the more obvious boxed in “we’re all on a soundstage” sounds to “Encounter at Farpoint,” something which isn’t apparent on the other episodes from later seasons (after sound engineers worked out the bugs). But it isn’t too distracting, and certainly no worse than when you can periodically hear the wood stage creaking on the original series set.
Being that this set is really a sampler for what is to come, there is not much to say regarding bonus features. There are a few trailers and that’s it. One of those trailers is for Season 1 of the TNG Blu-ray set and it shows how there will be new features on that set. Certainly looking forward to that.
Season 1 TNG Blu-ray trailer gives brief glimpse of some of
the special features in development
Season 1 TNG Blu-ray trailer shows off packaging
(NOTE: CBS tells TrekMovie packaging is not final
Encounter at Farpoint (Parts 1 &2)
The matte painting of Deneb IV from orbit and the physical minitures of Farpoint Station and the old Bandi city that ILM made are gorgeous. They remind me of the amazing matte paintings and miniture work done for the original Star Wars trilogy, there’s a lot of detail in their planet surfaces.
Apparently Brent Spiner needed a stunt double to skip down the rocks and pull Wesley out of the stream in the holodeck, the HD transfer makes it quite obvious that it changes from Spiner to a stunt person. I would imagine the similar stunt man stand-in will be more noticeable in Datalore too. Both were always noticeable on DVD, but now it’s crystal clear. Again, this is something that was also part of the original Star Trek HD release.
There has been a lot of talk about if this set will be making changes, but the team behind it have been clear that their focus is to stay as close to the original intent as possible. However, in this episode CBS did tweak one thing – they fixed the error in the location of the energy beam that feeds the Farpoint creature. It now correctly emanates from the phaser array rather than the captain’s yacht.
Sins of the Father
There is a new digital matte painting derived from the original shot, stars drift behind the two fixed images of the Enterprise and a new perspective of the Klingon Bird of Prey that better matches that of the Enterprise. While not a new 3D rendering, this new matte fits in pretty seamlessly.
The new orbital planetscape by Max Gabl is great. This was replaced because, as with many of the planets in season 3 and beyond, it was done with primitive computer graphics that were dubbed directly onto videotape. You can see the details on the 6-ft Enterprise model as it gets into orbit of Qo’noS. There is also lots of nice color variation and detailed panels/hatches on the hull.
The Inner Light
Being the newest episode on the disc, it is a little better looking, with a bit less noticeable film grain in the brighter scenes. The lighting of the bridge set had changed quite a bit over the years, but in this 5th season episode things are definitely a bit clearer and it is easier to see all stations around the bridge.
The aging makeup holds up very well, there’s a reason why TNG’s makeup department was considered to be one of the best in the business.
The 4-ft Enterprise makes an appearance, and yes now in 1080p one could argue it has a bit exaggerated detailing, but regardless of the esthetic debate, it looks very good like the rest of the episode.
A huge thanks is due the CBS Home Video, the CBS Digital team and the Okudas for undertaking this project. Hunting down all the footage and re-editing and re-compositing it all from scratch is no simple task, a far larger one than TOS-R was in this regard. The Next Level sampler gives us a good idea how the different seasons of TNG will look (and sound) in HD, and the future looks good! This set is recommended for any fan of TNG, unless you can hold out and wait for the season releases. Season 1 is due later this year, with others to follow.
Please note that the screenshots in this article are only a still-image frame. A screenshot of a moving image is not a perfect representation of the actual film due to the static nature of the screenshot. The screenshots are only intended to give you a general idea of what things look like.
TNG on Blu-ray available Tuesday
“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.
For more from TrekMovie’s full coverage of TNG on Blu-ray:
- Interview with Mike & Denise Okuda Part 1 & Part 2 (with more images)
- Anthony’s First Impressions of The Next Level (with more images)
- Exclusive Images from The Next Level
- HD comparison Trailer
CBS provided a review copy for this article.
Hopefully it’s in my mailbox in the AM!
Great review, Matt. My copy is arriving tomorrow-can’t wait!
I had always known that there were figures moving in the windows [I assume that is the meeting area]. I had read an article in Starlog or a similar publication about it and had noted the shadow movement in the opening credits.
I love Star Trek The Next Generation, I was born in ’84 so I grew up watching it with my Dad. I have seen every episode more times than I can count, I can honestly say I have not been this excited about watching these episodes again for a long time, with my Dad of course. Amazon says it will arrive tomorrow, I’m going to go crazy at work tomorrow!
This is my first post, I always read but never post.
I’ve always been able to see one person walking in the lounge, but I had no idea that there were a number of people in the room!
That was some great attention to detail!
5 – Red Dead
I never saw anyone at all-I’m amazed!
Mongo always see one guy mans move in window. Nice see mans better now.
Mongo say hi The Blaize persons. Mongo say welcome Trekmovieinternets.com. Mongo think it good you have share TNG with dad.
Mongo love TNG. Go to store and buy soon.
Will be getting my copy tomorrow. Can’t wait to see Tng in Blu-Rey. Will be fun. Not as much fun if I was with the Great Mongo though.
Thanks for the review and the Okuda interviews… Mine should be here tomorrow! Can’t wait!
Looking forward to seeing “Encounter at Farpoint”. I’ve been impressed with the teaser images… the uniform colors look so vibrant, not to mention the impressive detail now revealed in the creature/station, and of course the Enterprise.
Maybe Mongo and Commodore Mike mans get bluray and watch together! Mongo think that fun!
Thank you Commodore Mike mans but Mongo not great. Mongo pretty good, though.
I got an email from Amazon saying that this already shipped and that I should get it by Friday, which so happens to be my birthday! Talk about an amazing birthday present!
“It now correctly emanates from the phaser array rather than the captain’s yacht.”
Incorrect. While the original was most definitely incorrect by having the beam emanate from the Captains’s Yacht, the “fixed” version doesn’t do much to improve things. Seeing as we’ve otherwise seen on the show, “energy transfer beams” have most commonly been emitted from the main deflector. Including the “infamous” scene of the mega phaser used in Best of Both Worlds.
If Mike Okuda says that’s where the beam emanates then that’s good enough for me.
Wow, this stuff looks amazing. Makes me wish I had a Blu-Ray player or drive.
Just until Anthony fixes it, the full-size screenshot of Worf’s closeup can be found by erasing the “_small” portion of the URL. At the time of this comment, the thumbnail links to…the thumbnail. :)
@4: I was born in ’86 myself. The TNG cast are nearly as familiar to me as my own family!
3. The silhouettes are from the conference room just off from the main bridge. And I also have know about them for many years
Mine arrived from Amazon tonight. Love to hang around and chat….BUT…I’m outta here. Talk to you in about 3 hours.
All sounds very good, but I read on another site that the one scene in Sins of the Father which had to be up-resed because the footage was missing is very noticeable. But in the grand scheme of things, this epic undertaking of taking TNG to the HD level, it really does not matter all that much.
I want to get this Next Level disc…..but I am going to wait for the full first season.
I really hope they include the outtakes of all the seasons on the respective special features disc!
The lounge figures were pinblocked into the scene, a fairly laborious pre-digital process ILM folks were pretty good at. I think they used something similar to put the shadows of the two women fighting into a shot in DEATH BECOMES HER.
Something to keep in mind regarding the space fx model shots, which I recall being in one of the very first TNG magazines, is that when the subject of realism in space comes up, Probert or Justman says, it looks very realistic … if the Enterprise happens to be in a system with 12 suns.
Lighting is hitN miss for a couple years on the space stuff, and never looked as good as DS9’s pilot opening, IMO.
“Things are much sharper too. You can see lots of texture on the walls of the bridge as well as costume fabric and even variations in people’s skin.”
You left off that you can now also see Riker’s chest hairs popping out of the top of his collar in Encounter at Farpoint as well lol.
Oh and in case anyone thinks iam joking, I am not you can actually see it in several different shots through out the episode. I thought my eyes were playing a trick at first.
I appreciate the review, and my copy is en route as well.
I didn’t quite get what you wrote about SOTF. They replaced both the ship-vs-ship shot and Q’onos with new mattes? How do you get a non-static starfield with a matte?
TNG-era Trek always had an overly-diffused look. No doubt, to assist with hiding the edges on the prosthetics,
Not to mention to flatter the female leads, as TOS always did.
I’ll spring for the sampler, and Season 3. (TNG’s finest hours.)
Then I’ll save up and look forward to eventually getting ALL of the remastered DS9 eps!
you could always see a person in the briefing room behind the bridge on the opening scene
#23 — Since it is a digital matte, they matted their new BOP angle with their new CG starfield which moves a little bit behind them, like the two vessels were drifting together in space. Pretty much if you see a moving starfield (like the opening credits) it had to be recreated in CG with the filmed physical model work re-composited over it.
Similarly, since the Klingon Homeworld was a low-resolution digital matte painting output directly to video tape for editing (see Video Toaster if you want to know more), CBS Digital made a new high resolution version and then composited the filmed footage of the 6-ft Enterprise model back into the scene as it was done orignally, only now it has the new digital matte of the planet with increased detailing.
#15 — Thanks for pointing out the Worf image issue, it has been fixed.
Also a pretty decent Blu-ray player is quite affordable these days, you can pick up a good basic brand name model for ~$100 for you look around for sales. These also almost always include the ability to use online streaming features like Netflix and Amazon Instant, etc. If you need Wi-Fi built-in, you’d need to move one step up the model ladder to one that is around $120 – $150.
God, this looks fantastic! Those matte paintings are glorious! I’m holding out for the full Season 1 set though. Maybe by that time I’ll have the latinum for the show and the bluray player…
It is nice to see that little ‘bits and bobs,’ such as the phaser stream from ‘Farpoint’ are being addressed.
Let’s go, nitpickers…Let ’em know what to fix!
You can see the reflection of the cameraman (with camera) in one of the devices in the room where the Ambassador Spock hologram makes his speech and Data uses the nerve-pinch in ‘Unification II.’
Was going to march down to HMV tomorrow to pick this up but I notice on http://www.hmv.ca that they’ve pulled all their listings for Star Trek related dvd’s and blu ray’s. I’ve also noticed my local stores seem to have slowly stopped selling Trek related dvd and blu ray’s. Did HMV lose their distribution deal with Paramount/CBS in Canada?
Shoulda ordered on Amazon I guess…
27 you can get them even cheaper than that you can find brand name bluray players in the 49.99 to 79.99 range depending on if you want a wifi built in or not, you can even find Bluray 3D name brand players in th 60- 80 dollar range.
“You can see the reflection of the cameraman (with camera)”
I’m not expecting them to try to fix any of the mistakes in the live action footage. It’d be NICE but it doesn’t appear to be in the scope of things that they are actually taking the time to do.
Just a quick note – The shots of the Farpoint station and the Bandi city (shown on this page), at least in the original episode, were tabletop miniatures built by ILM based on a few of my sketches. I’m not sure one would call those mattes.
Ahh interesting, I wondered if those weren’t actual minitures given the depth they have. Thanks Rick! I’ll fix the text of the article. It’s too bad that there isn’t a better behind the scenes record of how the different VFX of TNG were accomplished.
Watched Encounter at Farpoint yesterday in puny SD with my girlfriend, so when the blu ray arrives today (hopefully), we can compare both resulutions with a fresh memory. Really looking forward to this, I grew up with TNG.
And as much as I love and respect Marina Sirtis, she was right (she tells this story very often): She really stunk up the place in the pilot.
“Pain…….. lonelines……” “HATE…… ” “Gratitute…..”
Watched the sampler and Next Gen looks amazing in HD. Going back to the original film is great and we see the show the way it should have been.
I cant wait for season 1 later on. Do the guys in the US goet a coupon to get money off Season 1? In the UK there is one for £5 off
@13 – I’m afraid you are wrong – the dialogue in the episode clearly states setting the phasers to as low a level as possible. It wasn’t an energy transfer beam at all.
Although to be fair the new effect whilst now originating in the correct place seems a little wrong in comparison to what we know phasers should look like when eminating from the phaser arrays – however I suppose as it could be argued they had been set to a very low power setting maybe that’s what happens?
Double dipping….triple dipping…quadruple dipping. Bottom line this remastering isn’t what we saw in the original presentation. If it’s done well, I like it. But CBS/Paramount took the cheap road remastering the original series, acknowledging that earlier episodes didn’t look as good as hoped, e.g., “The Corbomite Maneuver.” The opening credits of Enterprise flybys of the original series didn’t impress. They’re probably doing a better job on The Next Generation, but I won’t buy it.
Plan for today:
1. Complete workday
2. Gather Trekkie friends
3. TNG Bluray Action!
The Next Generation will be another Blu-ray release with 7.1 surround sound, just like TOS and movies 1 – 6. Maybe we could ask Mike or Paramount why the TNG movies didn’t.
WHOA, that DOES look phantastic… so the 4ft model had a detailed sensor strip? – Interesting…
Oh and I noticed the people walking behind the lounge windows even while watching the show on TV back in the day… although I could never be sure whether it wasn’t just some image flicker ;)
Watched Encounter at Farpoint last night….totally stunning picture & sound. The aged makeup on McCoy was amazing. There is grain in the picture, but then again True Blood also has grain at times.
This is £7 in the UK a bargain….looking forward the first season
Great read, thanks for that Matt. You mention in the opening credits that you can make out people in the observation deck. What I’d like to know is have the title sequence planets been remastered “sins of the father’s” style? So do we get a new earth, moon and solar system?
I’ve ordered my copy too, but being in Australia I’ll have to wait a week or two for delivery from Amazon. I’m right there with you guys in my anticipation though. ;)
This is exciting!! Something with TNG that is NEW!!
In Australia waiting too…
Just watched it, they fixed the transition on the holodeck.
I will hold off on my review until “All Good Things…” is released in 2017.
@ 30 if you have a bestbuy around you, get it there it is $16.99 or hit up a futureshop I believe it is 14.99 there. Even if HMV had it, it would prob be double either of those prices.
One of the hallmarks of Star Trek has always been its attention to detail, and that’s probably part of what drives the desire to improve on the original episodes (both TOS and TNG).
It’s also a little OCD when you stop to think about it. I’m a video editor, and I work on non-linear video equipment, meaning (a) the process is non-destructive – you can go back and change things to your heart’s content and never mess with the original footage, and (b) a show is never really “done.”
At some point, regardless of how much Paramount regards Star Trek as its cash cow, people are going to stop paying money for six different versions of the same episode. First it’s VHS, then it’s DVD, then it’s Blu-Ray, then it’s remastered, then it’s 4K, then it’s God only knows what else.
While I congratulate the restoration teams on both TOS and TNG for a marvelous job – and it’s obviously a labor of love – Paramount should at least offer a buy-back program so the sticker shock of the newest releases is reduced a bit.