Star Trek Remastered24 Jul, 2009 By: John Latchem
While the new Star Trek movie soars at the box office, the original series upon which it is based has never looked better, thanks to a lengthy remastering process that is now on display on Blu-ray Disc.
“The idea was they were going to bring this 40-year-old show back into syndication, and the advertisers were balking,” says Dave Rossi, one of the producers of the remastering project, along with Mike Okuda and Denise Okuda. “There were discussions about what we could do to differentiate it, and the idea that stuck was to do new visual effects. I said, ‘Absolutely not! That’s a horrible idea!’ All I could see was Han Solo not shooting first.”
After a few weeks of reflection, Rossi agreed the project could work, if done right.
“I didn’t want to go down the route of making the show about special effects,” Rossi says. “We had to maintain the vision of the story.”
According to Mike Okuda, the remastered live-action shots of the original series looked very good, but the original visual effects would not hold up to the scrutiny of high-definition.
“The original effects were absolutely cutting edge at the time, but they were done with optical printer effects,” Okuda says, referring to a filmmaking technique that involved re-photographing different elements of a shot onto the same piece of film, which often caused the earlier images to degrade.
“The single most important thing was to try to respect the original material and not insert things just because it would have been fun,” Okuda says.
That meant not mimicking the effects style of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and its spinoffs, such as streaking stars in warp speed, or visible tractor beams.
“We agreed to treat the original series as its own entity,” Okuda says. “We imagined ourselves working for the creative team of the original show. I’m very pleased with what CBS Digital was able to do.”
But there was no getting around the fact that the footage they were keeping was still 40 years old.
“One thing we had to do was add film grain to every new [CG] shot,” Rossi says. “The switch from the old footage to the new shots was very jarring without it.”
The first season of the remastered “Star Trek” is now available on Blu-ray, with the second season due Sept. 22 from Paramount Home Entertainment and CBS Home Entertainment. The discs come with a number of featurettes and the ability for viewers to toggle between the original and remastered versions of episodes while they watch.
“I’m so happy CBS incorporated the seamless branching onto the discs,” Okuda says. “There were technical issues they needed to overcome to make it happen, but to their credit CBS stuck with it.”
CGI was used to replace space shots and matte paintings from the 1960s “Star Trek” series. The top photo depicts a new shot of the Enterprise orbiting a planet, compared to the original image under it.
The original matte painting seen in the bottom photo has been swapped with a more-extensive backdrop, as seen above.