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Star Trek: TNG getting HD conversion even though it's impossible

Discussion in 'Now Playing - TV Show Talk' started by Johncv, Sep 16, 2011.

  1. Jan 6, 2012 #101 of 328
    mrdbdigital

    mrdbdigital The TBS Archives TCF Club

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    They said they were "recompositing" the effect shots, which means they are going back to the original film shots of the elements and rebuilding them in HD, instead of on videotape as originally done.

    Two ways of saying the same thing. :)
     
  2. Jan 7, 2012 #102 of 328
    Fish Man

    Fish Man Phish Food

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    Yep, that's Type C.

    How time change. When I was shown around my local FOX affiliate recently, they have no videotape format whatsoever set up to play directly over the air.

    They had a Type C machine in the back of a closet. The engineer told me they could conceivably drag it out, re-calibrate it and realign it if need be, (and pray it still worked at all) but they hadn't used it in years.

    They showed me a dubbing station with a BetaCam player. A few extremely old syndicated reruns that they air come in the mail in Betacam. (This station runs "Perry Mason", for instance, at 3:00 AM.) The station is set up to dub the contents of the BetaCam tapes into the digital servers for airing. Most syndicated shows, more and more in HD every day, are dubbed directly from satellite feeds to the servers (and yep, they have national ads), or increasingly, even downloaded via a secure link online.

    Local ads apparently all come in these days on DVD's or even CD's formatted as data format, containing a file of the video. (A CD-R can hold a couple of 30 second spots, in 1080i, at a decent bit rate. The engineer showed me some HD local commercials that they received on CD-Rs.) They simply pop it into the CD/DVD drive of a PC, run it through a software converter to get it into their on-air codec, and dump it into the server.

    They also had a rack of many consumer formats of videotape players, also set up to dub to the digital servers, that they used for amateur video that caught a newsworthy event.

    Finally, in the engineer's "bullpen" area, they had the pieces of a ACR-25 (Quad "video jukebox") dissembled and laying all around, with a few of the Quad "cassettes" that it used. Its the closest I've ever come to seeing an ACR-25 in person (as opposed to photos and videos, there's a neat YouTube video of one operating). It had been used for commercials and retired in the early 80's.
     
  3. Jan 7, 2012 #103 of 328
    dianebrat

    dianebrat I refuse to accept your reality TCF Club

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    Thanks! I could have sworn in the thread someone had mentioned ST:TNG was soft matted in addition to B5.
     
  4. Jan 7, 2012 #104 of 328
    Gary McCoy

    Gary McCoy Active Member

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    Nope. For those of you who have forgotten recent history, ST:TNG was broadcast in NTSC video 1987-1994. ATSC (American HDTV standards) were first released in 1997 which is when we became aware that 16:9 was the shape of things to come. Slowly over 1997 to 2006 series began to be soft matted. But even today much programming is still shot in 4:3 hard matte as it is intended for broadcast on ATSC subchannels.

    Pre-1997 programming released as 16:9 is being cropped from a hard 4:3 matte.
     
  5. Jan 7, 2012 #105 of 328
    mrdbdigital

    mrdbdigital The TBS Archives TCF Club

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    This reminds me of when I started working at TBS in 1981. I was fascinated by the ACR-25's in Master Control. (I was hired as a Production engineer) They had three of them at TBS and 2 more downstairs at CNN. I would stand there and watch tape after tape thread up as it was sucked up the vacuum columns while threading. The machine would spin out some slack from the cassette, the vacuum column negative air pressure would pull the loop up the transport (I still remember the "pop" sound the tape would make when it hit the top of the vacuum column), the vacuum capstan (no pinch roller) and head shoe/guide would come up out of the base plate, and the tape would be cued in just seconds. And with just the momentum of the tape only (no reels), the machine was literally almost an instant roll for playback. It would lock up in something like 5 frames. There were two independent transports, which shared a common cart carousel (24 carts) and cart threading mechanism, so one deck was playing back while the next commercial was cueing in the other transport. A properly operating machine could run 10 second spots back to back with out any problems.

    A fascinating, Rube Golbergesk design, but it worked quite reliably, though the engineers that worked on them really had to stay on top of them with maintenance. One of the biggest pains was the light bulbs in the vacuum column which sensed the tape position (or the top of the slack loop) were constantly burning out. The guys came up with a modification to replace all the light bulbs with LED's, and it was so successful, all the ACR-25's at Turner were retrofited.

    They used one ACR-25 for local broadcast, one for satellite broadcast, and the third was used as a carting station for putting commercials on cart (and also served as a spare air playback when one of the other two machines was down for maintenance).

    They ran those systems at TBS until they were replaced by Sony Library Management Systems (LMS) equipped with Sony D2 machines, with 5 D2 machines in each system. And, of course, today everything is run off dual redundant servers with a really incredible amount of storage capacity, They have something like 12 full height racks of hard drives on each server.
     
  6. Jan 7, 2012 #106 of 328
    vertigo235

    vertigo235 Active Member TCF Club

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    That was a really cool read, and the YouTube video have me the rest of the story. Thanks for sharing that (both of you)
     
  7. Jan 7, 2012 #107 of 328
    dianebrat

    dianebrat I refuse to accept your reality TCF Club

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    except in certain cases like B5 which I referenced, it was shot with soft mattes starting in 1994
     
  8. Jan 7, 2012 #108 of 328
    JYoung

    JYoung Series 3

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    Right, I knew all the live action was shot on film but I don't know about the Speciall Effects elements.

    Yeah, I've been wondering what they meant by "recompositing".
    My question has been, were the original effects elements shot on video (like they were for DS9 and Voyager) or were they shot on film?

    You seem to be saying that all the effects shots were done on film.

    Something I would find a little hard to believe when you consider that some of the original ILM footage was used in Generations and I could tell that the resolution on the big screen wasn't up to the quality of newer effects shots for the film.

    I guess my point is that I've never heard it said conclusively whether or not the effects shots elements were first shot on film or not.
     
  9. Jan 7, 2012 #109 of 328
    Gary McCoy

    Gary McCoy Active Member

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    As I recall, ST:TOS was shot on 35mm in 4:3, and then optical effects were used, just as in older movies. Then a Telecine converter was used to create an NTSC video master.

    ST:TNG, ST: DS9, and ST:Voyager were shot in 35mm 4:3, then digitized and SD video effects were inserted in the SD digital master. Then a final NTSC analog master videotape was created for each episode.

    ST:Enterprise was shot in HD digital video in 16:9 and HD video effects were inserted into the HD master, then a digital distribution file was created.
     
  10. Jan 8, 2012 #110 of 328
    doom1701

    doom1701 Time for a new Title

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    My understanding--and this is something that would have gotten Paramount a lot better press had they actually defined what "recompositing" meant--is that the FX elements for TNG (as well as the others, although I think Voyager was the first ST series to have a lot of CGI FX--but I could be wrong) were filmed on film. The elements were then put onto video tape and composited (each Enterprise shot, for example, was usually 3 or more different duplicate shots with different lighting, and then you've got other elements to add in).

    "Recompositing" means that they are going back to the film--so for an Enterprise pass, they'll go back to the 3 or more individual film shots and digitizing each one. Then they're compositing all of those FX shots digitally.
     
  11. Jan 8, 2012 #111 of 328
    JYoung

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    I've been wondering for months what the hell they meant by "recompositing".

    If they do actually have the film passes, it isn't as bad although I still see some softness in that web video (though it could be because it's a highly compressed web video).
    And as I mentioned before, I did see a quality difference when I saw Generations on the big screen.

    Voyager played with CGI from Season 1 and DS9 in Season 3 as both the Defiant and and Voyager models were scanned into a computer for effects work.
    (The CGI model of Voyager has lighted windows under the Shuttle Bay doors, something the physical model couldn't do as that room was taken up by the motors that moved the nacelles.)

    DS9 went primarily CGI with Season 6 (the better to show those massive fleets in the Dominion War) so I'd guess that Voyager probably did as well in Season 4.

    I have the sneaking suspicion that those effects were all rendered at 480p though.
     
  12. Jan 8, 2012 #112 of 328
    doom1701

    doom1701 Time for a new Title

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    The model primarily used through seasons 3 and on in TNG was a 4 foot model, and that 4 foot model was even more detailed than the 6 foot model they started with. But neither were built for the big screen. Apparently a lot of the footage for Generations was new, made with the 6 foot model with some tweaks to try to make it more "big screen friendly". But ultimately, it was still a TV model, and I'm sure they had to work carefully to hide any issues it may have had.

    One of the reasons they crashed the D at the end of Generations was because the model wasn't conducive to theater viewing, so they had a chance to update it.

    You are probably correct. And while there are fans that would probably love to see a DS9 HD version, I can't imagine anyone is clamoring for a Blu-Ray pass at Voyager.
     
  13. Jan 8, 2012 #113 of 328
    mrdbdigital

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    I think it's pretty obvious from what we are seeing in the HD demo video that the effects were shot on film and then transferred to video for compositing. You simply cannot get the quality improvement that is shown in the HD demo by upconverting effects previously done on SD video tape. They had to have gone back to original film elements to get the quality shown.
     
  14. Jan 8, 2012 #114 of 328
    doom1701

    doom1701 Time for a new Title

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    I would agree. But why on earth didn't Paramount make a big deal about that earlier? Many of us (myself included) have basically said "TNG FX were done on tape, there's no way this will look good and they've said they're not CGI'ing anything."
     
  15. Jan 8, 2012 #115 of 328
    mrdbdigital

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    I think they were too busy yakking about how they were going to use all the 25,000 original camera film elements for the actor scenes to think about the fewer effects shots. I guess they also assumed that most people knew the meaning of "recomposited" in regards to said effects.

    I may actually buy this series. I already have my pre-order in to Amazon for the preview disc.
     
  16. Jan 8, 2012 #116 of 328
    JYoung

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    I'm aware of that (I think they had the same issue with the sets) but with Generations, they actually took Enterprise footage that was shot for "Encounter at Farpoint" and used it in the film.

    Off the top of my head, look at the flyby during Picard's log entry just before the scene in Stellar Cartography and the saucer separation scene (although there, they added "debris").

    I noticed the difference in quality between those and the new effects shots on the big screen.
    (But then, I was one of the few people around here complaining about the first round of TOS CGI upgrades for the first Enterprise model.)

    CBS Video/Paramount probably doesn't see enough potential revenue to do a full HD conversion on DS9 and Voyager.
    If released in HD, they'd probably get the "Farscape" treatment.
     
  17. Jan 9, 2012 #117 of 328
    sonnik

    sonnik Innovations.

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    Did I miss an answer to this?

    Are we talking about two different types of effects shots?

    For example "big entity or enemy floating outside the Enterprise" ala the "Q" cage. That seemed like a purely digital effect to me, and I don't see why that would have ever been on film.

    However, the Farpoint exterior shots (a model in a literal sandbox) - or the Borg carving a section from the saucer section could have been done on Film...
     
  18. Jan 9, 2012 #118 of 328
    Fish Man

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    That shot was WELL beyond CGI capabilities of 1987. (At least, well beyond what could have been rendered on a budget and schedule of a television episode. Yes, I realize that this was the pilot, that almost always has more budget and more time than an episode...)

    But, in any case, there was no CGI in Next Generation, ever. They didn't have that technology available (not affordably, anyway).

    So, the shot you speak of was indeed model work, on film. But then, the individual film elements "composited" together in the video domain.

    Remember, the movie Tron, only a few years earlier, only has a couple of minutes of footage that's actually digitally rendered (despite all the "digital imagery" hype that accompanied that movie). And, that couple of minutes took many months of processing on the Foonly-1 (a super-duper-charged PDP-10 clone). The rest was optical trickery made to look like digital rendering.
     
  19. Jan 9, 2012 #119 of 328
    LoadStar

    LoadStar LOAD"*",8,1

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    Not correct, per http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/CGI. ILM, Rhythm & Hues, Santa Barbara Studios, Digital Magic, Amblin Imaging and the Post Group all contributed CGI to TNG on a limited basis, mostly in the latter half of the run. The page linked above references several examples of CGI used on TNG.

    I'm pretty sure, but not 100% positive, that the Q force field in "Encounter at Farpoint" was an ILM provided CGI effect.
     
  20. Fish Man

    Fish Man Phish Food

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    Interesting read.

    The most intriguing, I thought was that the "crystiline entity" was CGI. I did not expect that.

    However, I highly doubt the Q force field was a CGI effect for several reasons:

    • It was produced in 1987. Lightwave 3D (mentioned in the linked article) became available in 1994 and the article said that most of the, very limited CGI in next-gen was toward the end of the series, when CGI started to become affordable and fast enough for epsodic TV.
    • Look at the "force field" effect. It looks to me like the "cage pattern" was printed on a blue (or green) fabric "flag", with that flag made to wave in a light breeze (e.g. via a fan). Since the flag was mostly blue (or green), the rest of the shot (space, enterprise model) could then be composted in using blue (green) screen effects. That's how it looks to my eyes that shot was done. (Actually 2 shots of the "flag", one compisited in front and one behind the enterprise would be necessary.)
    • The "Tholian web" from TOS was done in a very similar way (and obviously not CGI). Shimmering light (made to shimmer via some sheer fabric waving between the projection lens and the wall it was projected on) was projected on to a dark wall, and that wall double-exposed into the shot. Two composites of the "shimmering light pattern" were composited in. One in front and one behind the enterprise.
     

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