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Digitally remastered episodes are re-releases with audio and video digitally, or computer-aided, enhanced. For video this currently means enhancing, or upscaling, to either 720p (usually for television productions), or 1080p (usually for motion picture productions) high-definition (HD) standards, typically for Blu-ray Disc releases. The 720p and 1080p refer to the vertical resolution lines on a viewing screen. Anything upward from, and including, 720p is considered HD as opposed to the old television standard-definition (SD) of 480i (for America) and 576i (for Europe). Even higher HD resolution formats are currently under development, 4000p in particular. Typically, video remastering entails the digital scanning of the individual film cells of the original masters in 720p/1080p resolution, after which, optionally, digital editing is performed in dedicated image manipulating software packages, such as color correcting or repairing damage on the cells. Digital audio enhancement usually involves upgrades from any older sound system or format to DTS standards, which could be either Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.

Visually, it is the special and visual effects (VFX), most notably in science fiction productions such as Star Trek, which are particularly well served with remastering.

Early Star Trek: The Original Series remasteringEdit

While the current understanding of the Star Trek remastering projects concern the digital projects CBS Consumer Products embarked upon in the 2000s, essentially starting with the 2001 release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition), its predecessor, Paramount Marketing and Licensing Department, had already embarked upon an early Star Trek: The Original Series "proto-remastering" project in the early 1990s. Called "digitally mastered" (as indicated on the below-mentioned UK VHS box-art, and the "digitally" essentially referring to the computerized editing equipment instead of the films themselves) at the time, new, cleaned-up and color corrected, transfers were analogously (meaning that each individual film cell was separately photographed with a high resolution camera, instead of digitally scanned) produced from the old masters. The operation was especially commissioned for the 1992-1993 Japanese Original Series LaserDisc collection releases, Star Trek - Log 1, Log 2 and Log 3. Picture quality wise, it was the best edition commercially available until the advent of the 2007 TOS-R Season 1 HD DVD version, the earlier DVD versions still making use of the original masters. These Japanese transfers were used twice more, for the lesser known UK 1996-1998 VHS re-release, and the likewise UK 2007-2008 Star Trek: The Original Series - The Collector's Edition DVD/Magazine combo partwork release.

Though not seen by American audiences, the new transfers of the second season episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", proved exceptionally useful three years later when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's tribute episode, "Trials and Tribble-ations", was in production, as studio model maker Gregory Jein, who had to recreate the Deep Space Station K-7 model, explained, "Fortunately, the clarity of detail revealed by the newly transferred original footage of "The Trouble with Tribbles" proved useful. The art department sent over a drawing that they'd made of the station, Then we made some modifications based on color prints made from the original negative, which we felt were faithful to the original design. And we sort of winged it from there. Then we made molds and cast them, cut the windows out, and put neon inside." (The Magic of Tribbles: The Making of Trials and Tribble-ations, p. 42)

Little information is available on this project, as this version was never released on any home media format in America or mainland Europe. In 2012 it was revealed that stills originating from this particular project were the ones that were included as illustrative backdrops in the 2010 reference book, Star Trek: The Original Series 365. The authors have elaborated, "Most of those wonderful TOS photos that had never been seen before came from a very expensive project that the licensing department conducted many years ago. In order to find new images for the licensees, the department struck new 16-millimeter copies of the TOS masters—which were then carefully cut up, frame by frame, and mounted into slides." [1]

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's EditionEdit

Air tram station internal, original Air tram station internal
Original footage of the air tram station
Foundation's digitally enhanced version of the same

In 2001, the aforementioned Director's Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released on DVD. While the production did not, strictly speaking, conform to the current understanding of remastering, i.e. the upgrade from SD to HD (as DVD the production was merely meant to be played on television sets and was therefore executed in the SD 480i/576i video format with picture quality enhanced by traditional analog methods instead of digital upgrading [2]), it still was in essence a remastered production as it did receive a new, upgraded soundtrack. Most notably, however, was that many scenes were digitally enhanced and visually changed with the addition of computer-generated imagery (CGI). Striking examples of these were the enhanced air tram station as well as the first and only full view of V'Ger, which was not there in the original version.

The CGI for this production was provided by effects house Foundation Imaging, while the soundtrack was remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 at Robert Wise Productions by Chuck Michael under the auspices of Michael Matessino. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, pp. 52-62)

Star Trek: The Original Series Edit


A shot from the revamped intro

On 31 August 2006, CBS Paramount Television announced that, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series would return to broadcast syndication for the first time in sixteen years. Beginning with "Balance of Terror", each of the series' 79 episodes were digitally remastered to 1080p HD video, and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround audio standards, [3] with all newly (re-)created visual effects and music. The refurbished episodes were converted from the original film to a high-definition format similar to that used on Star Trek: Enterprise. The opening theme was re-recorded in digital stereo with new vocals by Elin Carlson, and William Shatner's opening monologue was remastered from the original elements. Most notably, though, many of the visual effects were recreated using CGI by CBS Digital. The opening credits sequence was revamped, several matte paintings received a CGI face-lift, and spaceship exteriors including the Romulan Bird-of-Prey and the Klingon battle cruiser were recreated using state-of-the-art digital effects. However, for some reason, the credits at the end of the episode were not remastered and digitally enhanced. The new CGI Enterprise was based on the exact measurements, originally taken by Gary Kerr, of the original model, which is on display in the gift shop of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

In creating the newly conceived visual effects, CBS Digital made use of the Autodesk Maya CGI software. (Sci-fi & fantasy modeller, Vol. 26, p. 49)

Comparison TOS original remastered

Comparison of effect shots. Top: original, bottom: remastered

In an interview with, project supervisor Michael Okuda said, "We're taking great pains to respect the integrity and style of the original...Our goal is to always ask ourselves: What would Roddenberry have done with today's technology?" Denise Okuda and Dave Rossi were also involved with this relaunch of the original series; Niel Wray is the visual effects supervisor. A Q & A with the production staff was posted by the official Star Trek website on 6 September 2006. A video preview and interviews with people involved in the project can be viewed by clicking the link to the left of the page.

The "new" Star Trek debuted 16 September 2006. See side-by-side comparisons of the new visual effects from the first episode broadcast, "Balance of Terror".

The first few episodes were rushed, as CBS only gave its team "one month to deliver the first two episodes with over 120 new effects shots." Starting with "The Trouble with Tribbles", a new, improved Enterprise model was used. Members of the effects team have commented that they may go back to the earlier episodes and re-render the ship scenes with the new model, [4] [5] though that did not come to fruition.

When TOS cast member Leonard Nimoy heard about these changes in special effects, Nimoy simply responded "Shame on them" for changing the effects, saying that it was "out-of-bounds" for them to do that. However, after viewing a remastered episode, reportedly he was quoted saying, "I'm amazed." [6]

The seasons were to be released in an HD DVD/DVD combination set, with season one released in November 2007. The release of seasons two and three were canceled in February 2008 due to the decline of HD DVDs in comparison to rival format Blu-ray. However, the second season was released on regular DVD on 5 August 2008. [7] all three seasons are available on Blu-ray Disc, as well as through Apple's iTunes Store (along with a "best of" collection for budget-minded fans), with select episodes available on Microsoft's Xbox 360 Video Marketplace. Unlike the HD DVD releases, the Blu-ray editions also include the original versions of each episode, allowing the original special effects and images to be seen in high-definition for the first time.

CBS Digital wrapped up their visual effects work on TOS Remastered just before midnight on 21 April 2008. The last episode they worked on was the show's first pilot, "The Cage". The last shot rendered was of the Enterprise "sailing off into the unknown at the end of the episode." [8]

Star Trek filmsEdit

The success of the remastered Original Series, as well as the upcoming re-launch of the Star Trek franchise in 2009, encouraged Paramount Pictures to push forward with the remastering to 1080p HD video, and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround audio standards [9] of their movie properties. The remastered versions of the first ten Star Trek films were released from 2009 to 2010 in both the DVD and Blu-Ray disc formats. According to the box-art of the remastered DVD version of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it was this movie that has required the most extensive restoration work and was "fully restored in high definition with brilliant picture quality", whereas the remaining nine were just "digitally remastered". The movie's director, Nicholas Meyer, has stated that this was due to the fact that the original master print "was in terrible shape". (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (2009 DVD)-audio commentary)

A striking detail was, that when it came to the remastering of The Motion Picture, as one of the last released in 2010, only the original theatrical version could be done so. The reason for this was that Foundation Imaging's additional CGI elements for the Director's Edition were no longer available for upgrade (in this case re-rendering to a higher resolution), due to Paramount's failure to maintain ownership of these elements. Reconstructing the CGI effects from scratch was cost-prohibitive. Nevertheless, according to one reviewer, the sound quality was superior to all the others. What this reviewer had overlooked, however, was, that the soundtrack had already received an extensive overhaul in 2001 for the "Director's Edition", a privilege the other nine movies did not enjoy. On the other hand, the eleventh, 2009 movie Star Trek did not need any remastering, as it was already shot in HD standards.

It is unclear which company has been responsible for the remastering of the movies.

Technical ramifications for the Star Trek remastering projectsEdit

The remastering projects did involve some technical aspects that had bearings on those originating from the Star Trek franchise, but which, in general, applied to other motion picture productions as well. Some of these technical aspects are explored in some detail below, as far as their effects on the Star Trek remastering projects were concerned, while several of these did steer some decision making processes of CBS Consumer Products, when releasing their remastered Star Trek products lines.

Analog versus digitalEdit

While analog photography is currently increasingly considered antiquated and obsolete, especially by the younger generations, analog photography still holds, given the current state of technology as of 2015, one huge advantage over digital photography; Due to the underlying physics, analog photography differs immensely from digital photography in that analog images can be (from their negative film cells) enlarged almost ad infinitum, as generations of 20th century cinema goers can attest to. Not so with digital images, once originally shot in a predetermined resolution in terms of number of pixels and predetermined frame size, it will indefinitely remain so. While enlarging an analog image will not noticeably result in loss of sharpness (actually the main reason why, as of 2015, so many professional still photographers still ply their trade "old school"), the same can not be said of digital images. When a digital image is enlarged, each single pixel is accordingly enlarged in size, which works out fine until the Human eye is able to discern each and every individual pixel, a phenomenon known to every Photo-shopper around the world as "pixelation". This is the reason why later episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, originally produced in analog SD standards, can never be shown theatrically – enlarged onto the very big screen, the digitally-rendered VFX scenes would fall apart due to the pixelation phenomenon.

Though it is, due to the underlying physics, impossible to objectively determine the resolution of analog imagery in terms of the later digital resolution standards, serious efforts have been made to do so. Currently, after heated debates among professionals, a sort-of-consensus has been reached that analog imagery struck on the traditional 35mm film is comparable to a 4000p-6000p digital resolution range, while 70mm analog prints (typically for Imax films) were estimated at 18000p. [10]

Downscaling and spatial resolutionEdit

USS Enterprise initial CGI model by CBS Digital USS Enterprise upgraded CGI model by CBS Digital
Original appearance of CBS' high-rez CGI model of the Enterprise on the left, and its lower-rez, but more crisp for spatial resolution reasons, upgraded version on the right

No matter what the "real" resolution of analog film footage was (being more than ample for any 1080p remastered project), in more that one way Paramount "lucked out" with the remastering of four of its ten original theatrical features.

While all the analog, live-action footage could be scanned digitally without much further ado, it should be noted that the four Next Generation films, starting with Star Trek Generations, contained an ever-increasing number of digital VFX sequences, culminating in that virtually all exterior VFX sequences of Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis were digitally composited. This could have been a problem as far as the digital sequences were concerned, were it not that they were all composited for major theatrical features (i.e. far larger screens), and therefore constructed in a resolution which at the very least approximated the resolution of the rest of the live-action footage, i.e. a resolution far higher than required for any contemporary SD television series or home media format. This meant that when the movies were remastered, the digital sequences of the four Next Generation movies were actually down-scaled. Digitally down-scaling comprises the processes computer algorithms perform by, given a set frame size, removing pixels of digital footage stills in order to have the remaining ones fit a given frame. Typically, these algorithms remove the more ambiguously-coded pixels, often resulting in far more crisp and more sharply defined images to the Human eye, even though they are then, most counter-intuitively, of a lesser resolution. This phenomenon, where reducing the resolution actually enhances the perceived image quality, is called improving the spatial resolution and a principle which states that, simply put, the more pixels there are in a fixed frame dimension, the less a pixel can resolve itself – in layman's terms, becoming more blurred to the Human eye.

These technological properties made the remastering of the franchise's first ten Star Trek films a relatively cost-effective – meaning the studio did not need to revisit the original digital VFX sequences for reconstruction in higher resolution – and therefore profitable effort in comparison to its very costly previous Original Series project, and its subsequent, even more expensive, Next Generation project. It has concurrently explained why the studio was able to release the remastered movies in such quick succession, spanning a time period of merely two years, 2009-2010. It also means that if the new 4000p format becomes the new norm, the procedure can be repeated for the first ten movies, though not from the digitally enhanced 1080p versions; the original film elements have to be revisited in that case.

Incidentally, CBS Digital had four years earlier already stumbled upon the "spatial resolution" effect by accident, when they decided out of cost considerations to cut down on computer rendering time by dialing down the (pixel count) resolution of their highly detailed original CGI Enterprise model. (Sci-fi & fantasy modeller, Vol. 26, p. 49) As explained above however, when enlarging, the original high-rez image becomes much clearer and more crisp due to the spatial resolution phenomenon, whereas the down-scaled image falls much sooner prey to the pixelation effect.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Edit

TNG film storage

Canisters of film, in storage, from the show's production

After several months of speculation and partial confirmation, on 28 September 2011 (the 24th anniversary of the series premiere), announced that Star Trek: The Next Generation was to be remastered to, again, 1080p HD video, and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround audio standards, for release on Blu-ray Disc and eventual syndication, starting in 2012.

The remastering process required returning to the original film negatives, as all editing and visual effects compositing took place on video, which lacks the required resolution for high-definition. This collection of footage, totaling over 25,000 reels, was re-edited exactly as was done for original airing. Visual effects were entirely recompositioned, and not upconverted from the original videotape. Audio is the form of 7.1 DTS Master Audio.

USS Enterprise-D, 2364 (original footage) USS Enterprise-D, 2364
The Enterprise as it appeared in the original footage
...and as it does in the remastered version

As with the remastering of The Original Series, Denise and Michael Okuda served as consultants. Unlike its predecessor, none of the visual effects were slated for replacement with newly conceived CGI, or as Project Consultant Mike Okuda explained it, "We love the approach that CBS took for this project. We take the original film elements and put them together in a new way. The material still has all the details and they are beautiful. And the new visual effects are really the old visual effects but a lot more beautiful than you have ever seen them." [11] However, some use of CGI was made. This was restricted to correcting continuity details, or for replacing original elements that were either lost, such as in the case of the Crystalline Entity, or technically impossible to upgrade. The most notable examples of the latter case were the replacements of long shots of planets, which were originally executed as matte paintings, by newly created CGI effects, though Digital Artist Max Gabl took care they approximated their original appearance. Gabl stated, "I think most of them are total recreations. Because the planets we're looking at from the original [TNG] series are very low-res and blurry. There's no way to put more detail into those, so it's basically all recreation. Mike Okuda tells us exactly what we need in there, and it's just back and forth – playing it and seeing what the details are going to look like and then I put them in, compare with the old, [Mike will] look at it, I'll make the changes and that's how it goes." [12]

CBS Digital was again appointed lead company in the remastering project, as well as being made responsible for the creation of the replacement CGI effects. [13] Contrary to The Original Series remastering project, CBS Digital had by this time switched over to the LightWave 3D software (as used by Foundation Imaging for the earlier Director's Edition of The Motion Picture) for the recreation of missing elements in CGI. In order to get the most exposure for the project, CBS Studios reached out to the Star Trek fan community and gave access to the project to the administrators of the TrekCore blog for them to keep the community appraised of every aspect of the project, among others by publishing sneak previews and the like. TrekCore's Adam Walker was given access to production staffers and actors alike for conducting in-depth interviews that were published on the blog. TrekCore is cooperating with another blog, Ex Astris Scientia, where MA admin Jörg broke down each episode for the differences and occasionally received input from production staffers to explain detail issues. [14]

The first release for the high-definition Next Generation was a sampler disc, Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level, released on 31 January 2012, [15] and the full series followed. The TNG Season 1 Blu-ray was released on 24 July 2012, the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray was released on 4 December 2012, the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray was released on 29 April 2013, the TNG Season 4 Blu-ray was released on 29 July 2013, the TNG Season 5 Blu-ray was released on 18 November 2013, and the TNG Season 6 Blu-ray was released on 18 June 2014. The final TNG Season 7 Blu-ray was released on 2 December 2014.

CGI USS Enterprise-D

CGI USS Enterprise-D

Highly anticipated, the first season release was well received and did very well in sales, selling 95,435 copies in the first week after release in the US alone. [16] By then, CBS had already decided to speed up the release schedule for the remastered series. For CBS to be able to do so, they had to sub-contract, considering the amount of work the remastering entailed, other companies to do the work on a season alternating basis. Independent company HTV-Illuminate was awarded the commission for the upgrade of the second season. However, their work was less well received, as many considered their efforts sub-par to that of CBS Digital. [17] Though not having confirmed if this was in any way related, CBS has made the decision to go with another effects house, Modern Video, for the remastering of season four, while simultaneously keeping a tighter rein over the work. [18]

Documentaries and specialsEdit

External links Edit

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