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Feature: Star Trek Re-mastered

Title page

Starburst takes a look at the making of the new High-Definition re-mastering of Star Trek: The Original Series

It should surprise absolutely no one that Star Trek is boldly going to the final frontier of technology – at least until one realizes it’s the original Star Trek series, those glorious old episodes from the 1960s, that are being digitally spiffy-ed up. The cheesy main title sequence? Cheesy no more, and complemented by a digitally re-mastered rendering of William Shatner’s immortal spoken intro. Those laughable ship-to-ship battle sequences? Laughable no more. Hell, George Lucas would be proud. Those matte paintings that looked like, well, matte paintings? Gone, replaced by…

You get the idea. Everything old is new again thanks to some serious 21st Century breakthroughs in digital visual effects. And it’s all showcased in Star Trek: The Original Series, a 10-disc whopper of a HD DVD/DVD combo collection from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment. The set features the legendary first-season episodes, including Where No One Has Gone Before, The Menagerie Part I and II, Balance of Terror, The Galileo Seven, Space Seed and Errand of Mercy, all in HD DVD. The extras include documentaries about the overhaul, an interactive Enterprise tour, home movies taken by an extra, trailers, documentaries about Spock (Leonard Nimoy), William Shatner, 23rd Century romance and more.

Helping oversee the project were three names very familiar to the Star Trek faithful: Dave Rossi, who started out as Rick Berman’s assistant and worked his way up to production associate and later associate producer on several Star Trek series and features; and Michael and Denise Okuda. She spent more than a decade in the Trek fold as a scenic artist and video supervisor, while he assumed such positions as scenic artist, scenic art supervisor and technical consultant on Star Trek ventures dating back to The Next Generation. They also wrote the Star Trek Encyclopedia and helped organize the wildly successful auction of Star Trek props, costumes and models held at Christie’s in New York City last year.

As creative line producers on the Star Trek HD DVD project, their responsibilities included going through every single episode, eyeballing time codes, jotting notes on spreadsheets, and identifying what shots required replacing. They then had to devise the new composition of each replacement shot, how they wanted to see it, and how they felt it best interpreted the original ideas of the creators of the show. Rossi and the Okudas usually met twice a week to watch a given episode, go through the spreadsheet, and to debate and argue, Then, working hand in hand with CBS Digital, they went through the process of coming up with the shots and getting the work done.

The finished product?

“What excited me most was the amazing clarity of the transfers,” Denise Okuda says. “The first time the three of us viewed an episode that had been restored and cleaned up our jaws dropped. It is spectacular. Just that alone is worth the price of the DVD.”

Adds Rossi, “In many cases you’ll get the fun opportunity to have side-by-side reference of the original shots and what we have done with the re-mastering process. I think that’s going to be very cool for people to watch.”

by Ian Spelling

Read the full feature in
Starburst #356

Photo © Paramount
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #356
November 2007
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