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August 31, 2006

Original Star Trek in HD

Earlier today, I posted about the drive to release content from the film archives on high-definition DVD. However, most of my recent focus on HD has been on the development of high-definition content for broadcast television. A few days ago, I linked to a chart that outlined how much primetime content the six broadcast networks are offering in high-definition.

But, one should remember that the transition to hi-def. is not only taking place in content for the future, although it will be best exploited in content produced specifically for HD. There is also a drive to remaster content from the archive to make it high-definition friendly.

Enter the new editions of the original Star Trek series. The cult classic, starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as the incomparable Capt. Kirk and Spock (Mister, not Doctor, as Steve so astutely pointed out), is going to receive dramatic alteration, with the 40-year-old content being re-released in syndication.

The new epsodes will feature new music and special effects, including the move to high-definition format.

The plan is to make all of the 79 episodes from the original series available in syndication on stations across the country. Initially, the episodes chosen to be remastered are listed as "fan favorites."

For everyone collecting television on DVD, will there soon be a new round of almost everything, digitally remastered? But what good would a digitally remastered Honeymooners or I Love Lucy be, aesthetically speaking? Maybe, with shows that rely fairly heavily on the visual, and especially with special effects, high-definition remastering seems to make sense.

The question is what would make viewers who already own a television series willing to purchase it again and in what shows it would be worth investing that much new capital.

It will be interesting to see if other television series are going to follow Star Trek in this remastering process--and particularly how soon this process begins to become more prevalent.


Sigh. A blog about pop culture that can't keep straight the difference between Dr. Spock and Mr. Spock.

The doctor was an activist and pediatrician. And quite real. The mister was a Vulcan (half-human, of course), and mostly fictitious.

Alright, Steve, you caught me at one of my weak points. I'm not exactly the biggest Star Trek mark out there, so I guess I'm guilty of some cultural blind spots. To my credit, this is something I'm aware of, but a gaffe that came out in a moment of rushed posting without a double-check. Our inadequacies always comes out at moments of unpreparedness, eh?

To my credit, even if I was a Star Trek guy, I guess I would be of the Next Generation generation, so...I'll use that as my excuse.

Posted by: Sam Ford | September 1, 2006 8:22 AM

I don't think that people really grasp the whole high definition concept in terms of older shows like Star Trek and especially old movies.

What people don't realize is that any movie that was shot with film (and a film copy still exists) can be converted into the highest quality high definition there is. In fact, film is many times over better quality than HD so it is easily converted. But until now there hasn't been HD TVs to view the movies or stations to broadcast them the way they were meant to be viewed.

I have a satellite dish that offers HD movie channels and some of the old movies that they show are fabulous. One month a channel showed nothing but James Bond movies in HD and watching Goldfinger from the early 60's in HD was incredible. It is so crisp and clear that it looks like it was shot today in a perfect 60's period setting.

I've watched movies from the 40's with Humphrey Bogart in HD and was astounded. The widescreen format isn't there, but it is still HD.

I'm probably more excited about watching an old movie converted from film to HD as I am a new movie or show that was shot in HD.

The only problem is that I've heard rumblings that there is a limited supply of copies of old films out there.

Posted by: Dustin Bratcher | September 1, 2006 2:10 PM

You bring up an important difference: the extant old film archives are important. When material has been digitally stored becuase of the breaking down of the actual film stock, we are also losing the original, which can be hampering.

The Honeymooners was an example I used particularly because some of the episodes contain technical glitches and worse prints that simply seem to be the best that we have left because of old archives that had to be transferred before we lose the show completely.

Films have a far greater history of restoration and maintenance because people have realized the value of keeping film longer and because television is so pervasive that less energy has traditionally been spent on archiving.

I think you have a good point about the possibilities in opening the film archive, and I wrote yesterday about a number of films from the archives being released on Blu-ray, such as Rocky.

But you are talking about HD broadcasting, as the Star Trek episodes will be. What will be interesting is, when it comes to buying DVDs, whether people who already own All in the Family seasons boxed sets would be willing to trade them in for a digitally remastered one transformed to air in HD. In other words, is there enough visuality to those shows that would make a high-definition image matter?

Posted by: Sam Ford | September 1, 2006 3:26 PM
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