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.

On September 1, 2006 at 8:22 AM, Sam Ford said:

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.

On September 1, 2006 at 2:10 PM, Dustin Bratcher said:

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.

On September 1, 2006 at 3:26 PM, Sam Ford said:

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?

On August 1, 2007 at 1:40 PM, Scott Ellington said:

I love Dustin's point that film is still king, and that currently-available forms of street-quality digital are like pure contraband that's been stepped on several times before it arrives at a friendly, neighborhood dealer near me.
Jason Mittel's essay on narrative complexity suggests to me that the popularization of VHS tapes and cable channels in the 80s removed temporal control of access to content from broadcast networks and placed it in the libraries of us consumers.
A return to network tyrany may be made attractive by prettier digital pictures, but the additional cost of HD playback equipment is dwarfed by the cost of replacing an aging DVD library with the new hotness (as it becomes commercially available), and it still isn't as rich-looking as film. So which entertainment titles TOTALLY justify consumer adoption of the HD brand?

On the other hand, there's an upcoming release of a new Serenity DVD, with 60 additional minutes of previously unreleased special features, and new bells and whistles, and remastered whatever...and I guess I'm just another one of those suckers who's born every minute.
But HD? NO!


For those of us who have built our DVD collections up over time, it is quite a legitimate question about whether we then would want to move it all over. And until the format war is completely dead, there's fear of investing in the wrong technology; there's someone with a pile of laser discs somewhere meekly nodding their head right now.

As a semi-arvchiver myself, I have four tubs in the basement full of tapes; some from old primetime shows, many from wrestling, some from daytime. I have moved over to digital archiving system now for things that I know will never come out on DVD but that I want to keep.

I know a professor who spent many years amassing an archive of classic television. For him, it was vast and quite an accomplishment. Then, digital archiving came along, and his collection of Beta and VHS now seems outmoded, especially when whole series sets of many of those shows are now out.

When it comes to fan archiving of daytime, wrestling, or any other immersive text, (Are there nightly news archiveists out there?), where the archiving is usually selective, there's something still valuable in one's own archives, and it has to do with subjectiveness and context. All the clips of one's favorite character, or what one person feels is the memorable scene, is what makes these archives valuable. Often, fans feel their own version of a show is quite better than what actually aired, because the worst parts of the show were not recorded in "the archive."

On September 1, 2007 at 6:32 AM, Sam DiMartino said:

Regarding the HoneyMooners, is there or will there be a digitally remastered copy of that classic TV series available. or is this going to be a long wait? It would be nice to have a cope with all the scratches of the original show removed.


I don't know the answer to that, Sam, and I wonder myself if there will ever be a way to completely clear that up. I would think that there is probably some work that could be done, and it is a show definitely worth dedicating all of our resources possible to making as high quality as possible, since it is one of the most important programs in television history. I'm just glad they digitally archived it before the quality got even worse.