Hello and welcome to another episode of Truth OR Myth, the general blanket Star Trek Web Series for this channel. In today’s episode, we’re doing something very different and exciting. We’re going to see if today’s current software available to the average individual could really allow for DS9 and Voyager to be remastered at a very low cost into 4k Glory.
After the release of the Remastered Editions of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, many fans held their breath to see what Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Star Trek: Voyager would look like after getting the same treatment, of course, they’d end up sorely disappointed, after Paramount made the decision not to remaster those series, citing the expense of such a project, versus the poor sales of the TNG remastering.
However, in the past decade, the technology to upgrade and remaster older television shows has been steadily developing and is now readily available to any “Joe Shmoe” such as me to do our own upgrades and remastering of the different Trek shows, but the question here is has the technology really come far enough for ViacomCBS to use as a cheap alternative to the more traditional forms of remastering? And what exactly would this upgraded version using today’s software look like? Well good “Tri-naries,” today, you’ll find out…
Just a few side notes, I am NOT a professional film restorer by any stretch of the imagination, rather learning as I go. And so although I have NO doubt that someone more familiar with the software and technology could refine things to make the video clips better, I have found the setting that I believe an average person like myself would and could use for a project such as this, and the other side note is in regards to upgrading itself. Before any of you ask, No, I will not be upgrading DS9 and Voyager episode by episode for this channels use, the reasons for that, I’ll get into a little later. Anyhow, with all that out of the way, lets begin…
In order to understand the need and want for remastering these 2 series, along with why it’s such an issue, we first need to take a look at Star Trek‘s remastering history.
So another big question I get on this channel is basically, Why do these shows need upgrading at all. The answer to that question is simple really. As television technology grows, with resolutions on those TVs getting higher and higher, older shows which had a much smaller resolution begin to seem blocky and pixelated, making the shows much harder to watch. And of course, Star Trek is no exception to this. Back in 2006 and 2007, Streaming Platforms, Namely Netflix, was becoming a major thing. The convenience of streaming, of course, can’t be ignored today. In fact, it’s pretty obvious that one day in the future, probably sooner rather then later, All cable television will be replaced with streaming of some sort. But how did this idea effect Star Trek back in 2006?
Well put simply, Star Trek was showing it’s age. The original Series was becoming harder and harder to watch, as the visual quality plummeted with each new generation of bigger, flatter fantastic televisions. And this itself was bringing Star Trek‘s value down considerably. You see, again in simple terms, in order to broadcast a show on their streaming platforms, the streaming platform would pay for the rights to do so. And Star Trek, being a major franchise would fetch a hefty sum if not of course for the poor quality it was beginning to suffer from and so the powers that be decided to take the unprecedented step of Remastering the entire Original Series, and expensive and long process, that they hoped would end up paying for itself in the long run.
TOS special effects though would still be a problem, as even upgraded, they were of significantly poorer quality then what audiences of today expected. And so they also authorized all the Model Shots and special Effects to be upgraded using computer-generated imagery or CGI. CGI was a god send really for television shows. Now the amazing special effects that had been pretty much reserved for big-budget films, were easily available to TV shows at a fraction of the cost. But it was CGI that would, in the end, be the downfall of remastering DS9 and Voyager.
With the successful remastering and release of Star Trek: The Original Series, and the hefty sums that show was now bringing in for them, the powers that be turned their eyes to Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was decided that TNG would receive a similar upgrade, but to CBS Paramount Television’s delight, TNG would require less work to do the TOS but would still be a major financial investment for them.
Starting from scratch and using the original TNG film negatives, the remaster team digitally scanned the raw 35mm film. The RAW high definition footage was then re-edited back together in sequence to make a complete episode, using time codes and production notes from the original editors, since the special effects shots, suck as the Enterprise D firing it’s phasers or travelling at warp, was filmed in the same way as the rest of the show, generally speaking, the same process could be used on those shots, producing amazing quality footage.
But here’s where Star Trek ran in to a problem.
First, the sales for the TNG Remastered Edition were abysmal at best. Fandom, for whatever reason, was NOT going out en mass and buying these brand new DVDs and BluRays. But, the bigger obstacle to remastering Deep Space 9 and Voyager came from the aforementioned CGI elements.
You see back in the 1990’s CGI was becoming a major thing thanks to Babylon 5. It’s groundbreaking, at the time, animations, were proving the worth of CGI as a television force, that could not be ignored for much longer. And when the 3D CGI software known as Lightwave hit the commercial shelves in 1994, bringing the costs of CGI related imagery down significantly, Star Trek began to incorporate CGI into their 2 newest Star Trek series.
By 1997, the transition to CGI was fully completed, meaning that pretty much all special effects shots for Deep Space 9’s season 6 and season 7 were CGI based, and for Voyager, everything from Season 4 on, was also CGI. Star Trek had truly turned a cornerback in 1997, But flashing forward to the idea of remastering these series a decade later and the problem became crystal clear. To do so, would require all special effects shots to be remade, driving the cost of these projects up substantially more than the TOS or TNG remastering.
I should note here, that there has been some confusion surrounding the CGI remastering shots and why they would even need to be redone as some of the original production teams members have claimed to have these original CGI files in their personal libraries. That would basically mean, that all they’d need to do is reload the files for a particular shot, make any slight detail changes that needed to be done, and then just render the shot at a much higher resolution.
The validity of these statements made by these particular individuals I haven’t been able to confirm. In fact, most of my sources within the old design teams find the claims hard to believe, but they themselves don’t doubt that some, if not most, of these files, could still exist. The problem they have though is believing that they ALL exist, as they themselves had various issues with files over the years they worked on the show, everything from corrupted data files to files simply going missing.
So regardless of whether they exist or not, a remastering of the 2 shows would definitely require new material to be created, again a very expensive ordeal and the one other factor may be how much these individuals would want for ViacomCBS to buy back their own files… To me, that type of situation seems a bit of mess, to be honest, and so I could see ViacomCBS saying we might have to remake everything and then deciding not to go ahead with the project following the dismal TNG Remastered sales.
So now that we’ve got the history out the way, let us move on to the part I’m sure you’ve been waiting for, technology today, can it provide the answers we as Star Trek fans seek to remaster question. For those of you not familiar with software today, there’s a particularly bright program that has been dazzling people with its abilities, and that is a program called Video Enhance AI by Topaz Labs. The designers claim that this program can create high-resolution videos from any low-resolution source.
So, when some of the Facebook Star Trek Groups I’m apart of began having its members arguing with each other over whether using this type of software was truly a viable solution for the 2 series, I got straight down work and began my own research into the whole matter.
The lucky thing for me was I didn’t have to pay for the software as they have a free trial version, which means all you good fans out there interested in trying it out for yourself, can easily do so… I have to say, this project excited me to no end, as obviously not only am I into making videos, but I’m also into Star Trek. And software that could help the channel by improving old clip qualities such as my special presentation releases of old promotional media was of very special interest to me indeed.
So sitting down at my main computer, A computer which is pretty top of the line, I began to plug in special scenes I had created for this test. then fiddled with all the settings until I got what I felt would be the best-looking output I could get, and hit render. Well let me tell you this, first this program used ALL of my computers resources to create the projects I requested of it. And the time for outputting a project was VERY long…
To render an entire episode of Voyager, would take my computer for over 24 hours. That’s rendering “Bride of Chaotica” at 8k resolution. Then, of course, there’s the output file size to contend with. Although extremely large files sizes might not be a problem for a company like ViacomCBS, it certainly is for me, hence why I stuck to smaller, more manageable clips, that could show off what this program could do, and hopefully wow me. This program also allows you to view side by side the original and render frame by frame and watching it, I can tell you I was impressed. There was an obvious increase in detail over the original.
When it came to people especially, you could really tell the difference. And so I was also very excited to see what this program could do for those pesky CGI sequences, but unfortunately, i was a bit more underwhelmed by them.
Sure there was a marked increase in quality, but nothing that blew my Commbadge off. In fact, in some sequences, i felt the enhanced version was of less quality then the original.
So sitting back I needed to come to a conclusion for you good “Tri-naries” and try to decide if this process was really worth it, solving that remastering question that Viacom has continually faced. And my answer No, not yet at least.
The clincher for me was going back and taking a look at the DS9 Documentary “What We Left Behind“. In it, they show newly created CGI scenes and what they could truly mean for a remastering, and when I watch those, it becomes clear, that currently, this process, is simply not at the level it needs to be yet. Of course, in 5-10 years, it may very well be, in fact at the rate this software is progressing, it may be able to solve the problem long before this decade is out.
But right now, today, if anyone says they should just remaster either Deep Space 9 or Voyager using this type of software, simple direct them to this video and tell them, it’s just not ready yet.
I would love to see both those series in HD Remastered detail, and I’m firmly in the camp of One Day hoping it will be done, but we as fans must remember that CBS Viacom is a business. and as a business, they must make the choices that are best for them as that business.
And so for now, Ill just sit back with the rest of you and wait, silently praying to the Roddenberry god, and waiting for my prayers to be answered….
Thank you for watching today’s episode of Truth or Myth, what do you think of the remastering software? Do you want to see DS9 and Voyager both remastered similar to the Original Series and The Next Generation? Well leave your comments in the section below and don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to the channel, hitting that little bell icon so you wont miss a single video we release.
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Thanks again for watching, Live long and prosper…