Extensive Interview w/CBS Digital on Star Trek TNG Blu-Ray

The Next Generation is currently being digitally remastered for release on Blu-Ray, and it’s a huge job to say the least. Our friends over at TrekCore recently sat down with the CBS Digital remastering team and talked with them about the process. The extensive 5-part interview is a very in-depth and technical look at the project, and it reveals some interesting tid bits like how the team is digging up 25-year old bloopers and outtakes thought to be lost. More after the jump.

The CBS Digital Team on TNG Remastered
Six of the team embarking on this massive project, Craig Weiss, Eric Bruno (lead compositor), Niel Wray (head of 3D), Max Gabl (matte painter), Wendy Ruiz (mastering), and Sarah Paul (Overseeing VFX Coordinator), sat down with TrekCore to hash out the details of what exactly goes into remastering something like Next Gen. The interview in its entirety spans 5 parts. You can read the full interview here. Below is a small excerpt from their conversation.

Reels and reels and reels of TNG film to go through

TrekCore: So I thought we could follow the [remastering] process through chronologically from start to finish. Let’s kick off straight away with talking about the film negatives. Is the film material you are scanning always in the same condition, or do you have to sometimes do more cleaning or baking of the film before it’s useable?
Sarah Paul: The film is not all in the same condition. There are a lot of times where it’s been damaged, and Eric [Bruno] – for instance – on episode 116 with the Starbase, he had to actually go in and fix it. So [the film] has been in all different kinds of stages. Some that looks really good, and some that has sort of been through the bad stages of life.

TrekCore: A question for Sarah. Could you tell us a little bit about the notes you have to interpret. We saw some of these on the bonus features from Season 1. They seem almost like a different language. [How difficult is it] to find the footage and which takes are filed where? Are bits of film strewn everywhere, or are they kept together in their respective episodes?
Sarah Paul: For the most part, they are kept in their respective episodes. But there’s an occasional shot here and there which maybe they shot when they were shooting the next episode, or the previous episode. And sometimes I have to go through the notes, and sometimes it’s just a little bit of a pencil note written in the corner which tells me it was from another episode. So then I’ll have to go through ALL the visual effects O-negs for that episode looking for one particular shot.

TrekCore: If we can move on to reassembling the footage. How long does it take to rescan the film from any given episode?
Sarah Paul: It usually takes a week to do all the production and all the visual effects. A week for each episode. And if you conform the episode, it will take another week.

TrekCore: And with regards to adding in new VFX. How long would it take to, for example, add in a phaser beam to a scene?
Eric Bruno: It really depends on the scene. If it’s a simple phaser that lasts for a second and is going straight, we could knock it out in an hour using Flame. If it’s multiple phasers, maybe an hour and a half. If the light is reflected it may take half a day. It really depends on the scene itself and the complexity of what’s happening.

TrekCore: So this really gives us a great idea of the amount of time it takes to remaster a given episode. Obviously it’s depending on the amount of visual effects, but half a day for a phaser beam is certainly a lot more than I was expecting. From some of the feedback we’ve had a lot of fans seem to think it’s a job that could be knocked out in half an hour.
Craig Weiss: No
Eric Bruno: Even the simplest phaser scene, by the time you’ve set it up and got all the elements in there… in any visual effects scene, even the easiest shot is an hour on your best day.

TrekCore: Sarah and Wendy, do you sometimes stumble across deleted scenes or bloopers or outtakes when you’re going through the boxes, or has that material all been destroyed?
Wendy Ruiz: It’s not been destroyed. It’s just hard to identify it. There’s nothing really labelling it as an outtake or blooper. We have some notes, but not many, and when we do find notes for what we can clearly figure out to be a blooper or an outtake, we set them aside for the blu-rays.

TrekCore: So there is a chance that those will be coming on future sets?
Wendy Ruiz: That’s our hope, yes!

TrekCore: Can you tell us any more?
Wendy Ruiz: We’re barely starting our search now for Season 3 bloopers and outtakes. If we find stuff, and if it’s interesting enough, then we’ll use if hopefully.

Be sure to read the full interview at TrekCore.


Follow me on Twitter: @kaylai.

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What a fun job.
It’s like being paid to watch TV all day… and TNG at that!

Thanks, Kayla!!

Again, thank you Kayla for posting articles like this. Keep up the good work! Can’t wait for what’s to come in the next six or seven months!

Someone should ask them why Seaon 2 is fifty bucks more than Season One…!

A very interesting read, thanks for posting.

Just pre-ordered season 2 through Amazon UK (region free) for 42 Pounds which equates to AU$67 in my native Australian currency. If I had of bought it from Amazon US the currency conversion works out works out to be AU$112, almost twice as much….I’m not complaining but wonder why the US Amazon is so much more expensive than their UK counterpart???

Amazon only dropped the season one set over time as other retailers did. It was initially as expensive.

Be patient. The price will drop to S1 levels as it gets closer to release.

Thanks for the post, Kayla. Awesome job by Trekcore!

That is a hell of a lot of work, when you think about it. Going through all of those cans of film, recompositing all the FX shots, and restoring the images a frame at a time? It’s like cataloguing each brick in the Great Wall of China. Sad part is, at the end of the day, season 2 will still only be season 2. There were a handful of good episodes (“Measure of a Man” “Matter of Honor”) but on the whole? It was kind of a mess.

I did buy the blu ray of “The Next Level” TNG, and I have to say, they even made “Encounter at Farpoint” look sooo much better (which I didn’t even think was possible). The work is VERY impressive. TNG feels much more theatrical than it ever did in broadcast (and the 7.1 soundtrack is amazing). A gorgeous restoration, but that’s really as far as I want to go with TNG on blu ray (unless they release mini-collection BRs as they did with the DVDs; maybe a ‘Borg Collective’ blu ray package, etc). I’d love to see “Best of Both Worlds” or “All Good Things…” in HD someday.

I think even with lesser episodes the remastering is a plus. When they talk about the ability to do flawless composites now, the fact that you won’t see any blue spill or blurry edges around an effect will be one less thing taking you out of the story. On the other hand, maybe you can see too much detail on some sets and makeup, but that can be accepted as making the show more theatrical and organic. The layers of electronic fuzz of 20th-century television are washed away and you feel more connected to the actors’ physical reality as though you might be watching them live on stage from front-row seats. You adjust your suspension of disbelief accordingly.

Maybe they can expand _Shades of Grey_ out into a longer episode by inserting some of the _All Good Things_ sections set in the _Encounter at Farpoint_ era…

Extensive Article .
Thanks Kayla!

#9 MA

Good point; on “Encounter At Farpoint” I was amazed at how obvious the makeup seams were on Worf and Data. I kind of gives the show a quasi-stage play reality….

@10 why would you want to make the worst episode of TNG even worse by making it longer? Everyone involved regretted making that episode.

Thanks for the update Kayla.
I also felt “sticker shock” at the price tag of Season 2. However, I’ll buy it.
I do wish there was an option for pop-up text trivia and background info. Hopefully there will be options like that on future blu-ray seasons of ST.

Interesting story. I would have hoped to have had some more hard hitting questions conerning the major quaIity control issues they had with the first set i.e. (audio issues, phaser effects, etc.), and how they have learned from that and are hopefully applying that to improved QC on Season 2? Plus, it would have been good for them to respond to the all of the problmes international purhcasers have been having in getting replacement discs.

@15: That issue is not CBS Digital’s problem. CBS-D didn’t even deal with audio, they are just focused on re-mastering the elements of the episodes.

@16. Yea, its obvious CBS didn’t care about the audio. For me, the audio and other issues have caused to put on hold buying any of these CBS blu-ray sets of TNG. I’d rather wait until a future date when they fix all of the issues.

@17: Didn’t care? Don’t be so silly. The audio issues have ALREADY been fixed, replacement discs issued and CBS sincerely apologized for the mistakes.

As someone who is still waiting for their replacement disks to come in the post here in the U.K., I do think that CBS really botched the Season 1 Blu-Ray set. With all the effort they put into it, the quality should have been better. I have noticed many special effects problems not even covered by the replacement disks that I am supposedly going to receive soon.

And sites like Trekmovie and Trekcore seem to want to push these issues under the rug. On this site in particular, just as more people were reporting additional issues, someone at Trekmovie.com all of a sudden closed out further comments, just as I was about to provide my laundry list of problems that I had noticed with the disks. Obviously, these sites are getting a lot of banner click ad income from Amazon for orders of this, so I think they have a economic here to sweep this under the rug, and to only report “atta-boy” type of glowing comments on the CBS effort.

@19: When did you contact Sony DADC? Or did you do it through the store you bought it from?

On the contrary, I am certainly not pushing the issues under the rug! I’ve been actively helping fans get replacement discs sorted, and relaying information to and from CBS regarding problems and fixes. And our comments are NOT moderated at TrekCore. Please don’t just make assumptions and sweeping statements without checking your own facts first.

In reading my post above, it comes across as more harsh than I intended. In addendum, I would like to mention, especially in case some of the folks at CBS-D are reading this, that I really do appreciate the very hard work they are trying to put through on this difficult project. At it’s best, the visuals and episodes are spectacular. Their management just needs to spend a bit more resources on quality control; they could probably easily find fan volunteers to watch/listen to beta versions of the discs, for example, for free.

Argh, my original post above got deleted…guess I was too critical. :-(

Trekcore, I wasn’t aware of your site before this. It looks outstanding! BTW, have you head anything on when they might be starting the DS9 remastering effort?

Got my replacement disks a month ago. All in all, I am extremely pleased with this product. Great work CBS!

@23: Hi MJ, thank you. I spoke with the execs at CBS – Ryan Adams and David Grant – last week and they tell me DS9 has NOT been green-lit yet. As the project will cost more than TNG, they need to demonstrate to CBS Management that the audience is there, which means they really need message boards lighting up with fan demand for the show, as well as good sales figures for TNG. The relevant part of that interview is here: http://tng.trekcore.com/bluray/cbs_adamsgrant3.html

Great info — thanks Trekcore. Guess I need to pony up the dollars for TNG Blu-Ray to support getting my beloved DS9 remastered.

Trekcore, do you have email addresses or URL’s about who/how to contact at CBS to express support for DS9 remastering?

@27: They’re actively looking at message boards, so if you post your desire online, chances are they’ll see it!

Dear CBS, if you don’t remaster Deep Space Nine then you are completely nuts.

There, that should do it, heading over to Amazon now to see if it’s available for pre-order yet….

Kayla, I appreciate your efforts to keep this site going. Very good to have some new news about Trek.

I hope Anthony is okay.

Actually I don’t think DS9 would sell well on BluRay it wasn’t as popular as TNG was right? Especially with a general TV audience. DS9 was my favorite Trek series.

DS9 was a great show. It truly deserves the Blu Ray treatment. But I can understand why CBS wants to see how well the TNG sets sell before making the commitment to upgrade DS9.

I have to figure, that despite many more effects-driven episodes that make up DS9 as opposed to TNG, the remastering technology and techniques developed throughout the TNG upgrading process should allow for a high-def upgrade that is a bit quicker, smoother, and possibly less expensive.

Season 1 Blue Ray of TNG was awesome, im looking forward to enhancement of the Borg Episodes. But as many viewers have been saying its been a bit pricey to dish out. I won mine at Dave and Busters

32… Red Dead Ryan, your absolutely correct, DS9 would be badass on Blu Ray

I loved the results of season 1! And I will be getting every single season! I demand DS9 and Voyager!!!!

An not to open a can of worms – but would ask them to consider making 16:9 versions of the DS9 and voyager seasons that WERE shot with 16:9 in mind ( not all were but the later seasons were)


I don’t think any episodes of either DS9 or “Voyager” were shot in widescreen. All the series except “Enterprise” were shot in 4:3.

There I’m all with you, fellow DS9ers!

Looks like Enterprise is next to get the Blu ray treatment :-). http://ent.trekcore.com/bluray/10062012_entblurumors.html

Enterprise makes sense, no remastering required.

Can’t wait for DS9 and Enterprise on Blu-Ray! And Star Trek: The Motion Picture directors cut of course. Great work so far guys and gals!

DS9 remastered on blu ray would quicken my pulse a bit.
But since I probably couldn’t afford to get all of the seasons, I’d have to ask which seasons would I shell out the money and double-dip for? If I had to make such a “Sophie’s Choice”, I’d probably buy 4, 5 and 6 remastered. But of course, I’d still check Amazon periodically for cheaper, used copies of the other seasons as well….


# 41

I’m guessing they’ll have to remake the FX for the ST-TMP directors’ cut since the original redone FX for the 2001 release were done at 480p resolution only. That would be an intriguing challenge. As a fan of the director’s cut of ST-TMP, I’d love to see a blu ray of it someday (the visuals of my 2001 DVD look a bit ‘soft’ on my upscaling blu ray player).

And ENT will probably be the least dramatic upgrade as far as HD goes since it was shot on HD video (for the last season or so, anyway) and broadcast in widescreen. I’ve seen it on HDNet and it looks great, but not too dramatically different than my upscaled 16:9 ENT DVDs.

The TOS STs were utterly amazing, though. I own all three seasons of those. As Tom Hanks says in APOLLO 13, “Now that is how we do that…” The new FX were beautiful and better illustrated their points than their (mostly stock footage) predecessors. And best of all, they didn’t pop me out of the stories. In fact, they helped pull me a bit closer (actually seeing Mudd’s ship for example, or other elements in other episodes that were implied but never seen). George Lucas could’ve learned from Michael and Denise Okuda on how to do a special edition properly….

I wonder if they do DS9 in Blu-ray if we’d get to see TNG and DS9 released more or less simultaneously like how it was originally done in the 90s? That would be neat.

Wow thanks Trekmovie for making us aware of Trek Core, I just checked it out, like what i see over there, including the forums they have, so I think this will be where i sign off once and for all from Trekmovie.

You guys cant even be bothered to post the article about Enterprise coming to bluray next year, where as its all over the internet everywhere else including Trek Core.

so live long and prosper all
I will be transfering my Daniel Craig is my wookie bitch id over there and saying good bye to the once great trekmovie.com site perhaps I will see some of you over there. So long all

I am anxiously awaiting TNG S2 on blu-ray. I will purchase it on the day it comes out.

That being said – I am more excited over the possibility of DS9 on HD. The colors on that show would SHINE on HD. Plus, I believe the later seasons of DS9 were filmed in widescreen, lending to the possibility of a widescreen release. “Aweeesome” is the only way I could describe that happening.

I am seriously considering moving over to Trekcore as well.

“TrekCore: So there is a chance that those will be coming on future sets?
Wendy Ruiz: That’s our hope, yes!”


@32: Whilst it’s true they *could* make a widescreen transfer, most of the time it becomes impractical because of the filming equipment being visible on either side of the 4:3 safe area, or film scratches or so on. The shows weren’t protected for widescreen in that sense. This is detailed really nicely in the Season 1 blu ray bonus documentaries, where they actually show you what a widescreen transfer would look like.

@44: I’m not sure about simultaneous releases. There is a LOT of work to do for DS9, and the show hasn’t even been green lit yet. However at some point they will have to look at the elements (DS9 featured in Season 6 “Birthright”).

My son had all TNG seasons on DVD, except seasons 2 and 3. He finally found a retailer who managed to get these two seasons, so he drove me up country (he is a learner driver) to get them. We could not understand why season 2 was half the price of season 3 and neither did the shop assistant know. Not that we are complaining or anything…:)

Each season (except 2) retailed here for NZ$38.98, costing me and son altogether NZ$253.87. I think we did pretty well. I don’t know if these DVDs have had all the uptodate remastering or anything, but they service our desire to enjoy TNG very adequately.

Most television DVD series cost around $38.98 each, even the Cumberbatch Sherlock series which only contain 3 one and half hour episodes.