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Can Babylon 5 go to High Def?

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  • Can Babylon 5 go to High Def?

    With The High Definition revolution upon us I found myself wondering how difficult would it be for Babylon 5 to make the High Def leap. My conclusion is that there is one major positive and one major negative.

    Positive: Babylon 5 was shot on film in a 16:9 aspect ratio. This is perfect.

    Negative: All the effects shots (space battles, exterior shot of the station etc...) were rendered for standard definition and a 4:3 aspect ratio. This is not so perfect.

    The negative will pretty much prevent Babylon 5 from making a succesful leap into the high def world. However one can only wonder if a "Babylon 5: Special Edition" is around the corner. If B5:TLT is succesful then the infrastructure to re-create (ala what is being done with the original Star Trek) all the effects shots from the show will gradually be built i.e. ship models, planets, backgrounds. One wonders if Warner Bros. or JMS has considered this. I know I'd love to pick up "Babylon 5" with all the effects re-rendered (NOT re-imagined!!!) on Blu-ray.

    Finally, can anyone tell me how composite effects shots i.e. Sheridan on Z'Ha'Dum or Kosh in "Tha Fall of Night" were rendered? That is, were the effects for those shots done in high res or standard def?

  • #2
    I can't really answer any of the questions about how the shots were done or the feasibility of doing such a thing and such, but I can say two things, being...

    1) There's no way around the fact that if they did an HD cut of the series, all the EFX shots would have to be redone

    2) The original Star Trek series looks *sweet* in HD. They updated it without Lucasizing it, and it's quite awesome.

    So, uh, what I'm trying to say is that this would be awesome if WB ever considered trying it, but probably still a massive undertaking. Too bad too, because the aged FX does stick out a little too much when you're running it on an HDTV, particularly in the earlier seasons.

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    • #3
      All the effects shots are now only left in 480i. The plan was to re-render the comped shots for HD, so they turned over the original CG files to WB... who then lost them.

      That they're now remaking a lot of the models for TLT might help, though my guess is that it still likely would take millions to remake the actual B5 shots and everything. I asked JMS last year how likely it was that an HD version of B5 was made, and if it was at all possible. This is what he answered:

      [email protected] wrote:
      > JMS,
      >

      > Star Trek: The Original Series is getting a
      > makeover for the HD era (more info can be found on their website here:
      > http://www.startrek.com/startrek/vie...cle/23775.html ). The
      > show is being remastered for High Definition video, and the effects
      > scenes are getting a CGI makeover. I had a twofold question about such
      > an HD makeover, if I may. A deal with the Sci-Fi Channel got us a
      > widescreen version of the show. How realistic is it to expect a similar
      > HD treatment for original B5, maybe when HD has become as common as
      > colour television now, after another network or syndication deal?
      > Possibly with the CGI re-rendering we never got because WB lost the
      > computer files?
      >

      That's a studio question, far outside my expertise. I suppose it's as
      possible as anything else.

      > Second, is it _technically_ possible to do an HD version of original
      > B5? Does the Super 35 film that I believe the live action was shot on
      > offer the option of re-scanning for HD? For the live action / CGI
      > composited shots, are the live action parts of those still stored in a
      > format that would allow rescanning into a higher resolution and
      > different aspect ratio? And last, with new CGI assets being created for
      > The Lost Tales, would that make it in any way easier for the CGI to
      > finally be re-rendered at some future point in time, even with the
      > original files missing?
      >

      Yes, you can up-rez 35mm to HD fairly easily, especially since we had
      to deliver film negative masters to WB...but again you'd have to crop
      the CGI if you wanted it in wide. We tried experimenting with
      up-rezzing Jeremiah to HD and it looked fine.

      jms

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm a little confused by JMS's response. I can't tell if he is addressing the composite shot issue or not i.e. do the shots that were used for composites still exist in a form such that new CGI can be easily integrated into them? Is that was he is refering to by film negatives? if so please confirm.

        And thanks for posting the JMS response .

        I imagine, as time goes, on that it will only get cheaper and cheaper to do a complete re-rendering. Given the way B5 has sold on DVD, a special edition, done right, could be very profitable.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Kevin View Post
          I can't really answer any of the questions about how the shots were done or the feasibility of doing such a thing and such, but I can say two things, being...

          1) There's no way around the fact that if they did an HD cut of the series, all the EFX shots would have to be redone

          2) The original Star Trek series looks *sweet* in HD. They updated it without Lucasizing it, and it's quite awesome.

          So, uh, what I'm trying to say is that this would be awesome if WB ever considered trying it, but probably still a massive undertaking. Too bad too, because the aged FX does stick out a little too much when you're running it on an HDTV, particularly in the earlier seasons.
          It'd be nice if the early CGI (e.g. ship explosion effects) could be redone. Remember ships exploding into flat polygons flying off in all directions, like in an early videogame?

          Did Remastered TOS have any comp. shots (CGI plus live action) like B5 did (e.g. Delenn with the soul containers hovering about her at the end of "Soul Hunter")? I'm just wondering if B5 could recreate the CGI (with better, newly made models, and be rendered 16:9 for Hi-Def), AND mate that with the existing film footage, or would those scenes of live action have to be reshot?
          Mac Breck (KoshN)
          ------------------
          Warner Brothers is Lucy.
          JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
          Babylon 5 is the football.

          Comment


          • #6
            I believe they still have the uncomped live action elements of the comped shots Tim, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm pretty sure those elements were turned over, and it seems likely that the uncomped originals would've been stored together with the rest of the 35mm film masters that they used for the scifi and DVD wide versions. But I'm not sure. As you noticed, it was part of my question, but JMS didn't quite directly answer it.
            Last edited by Shabaz; 04-08-2007, 12:23 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              well to use trek as an exampe again, mating new or updated scenes with old is doable. look at trials and tribulation in ds9
              not the same issue but if they can do that as seemlessly as they did redoing updating hding(whatever term) shouldn't be too difficult

              Comment


              • #8
                I still hold out hope that the B5 CGI masters still exist, and are just in the archives under another label. If that were true, re-rendering would be not much of an issue. If it is not true, remastering all the CGI seems to me to be a pipe-dream. the show is not "hot" enough to do it, and even with successful theatrical releases probably wouldn't be worth the effort.

                I just have a sinking feeling that WB cannot locate the originals because it isn't worth it to them to search through the archives, since the DVDs sold well without any re-rendering. If it does become worth it, the originals may appear.
                I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think there is more reason to be optimistic about a re-rendered high def Babylon 5, Grumbler.

                  First: Babylon 5 cost per episode was about $ 1,000,000 in the 90's. Some fraction of this was FX costs. Lets err on the high side and say 50% was FX costs. Then lets double that resultant amount to correct for inflation (Again erring on the high side). This means that in todays dollars we could guess that it would cost around a hundred million to re-render.

                  But...

                  second: CPUs and memory costs have declined greatly in the last 10 years. Indeed, what was once considered a super-computer 10 years ago is no longer that. The cost of rendering comes mainly from model building and CPU time. With many of the B5 ship models being re-made for B5:TLT (and possibly more if TLT is successful..as it will be) that will further reduce costs for a complete re-render.

                  and finally

                  third: The Babylon 5 DVDs sold very well on Standard Def i.e. no re-rendering was really required (only cropping, which may go unnoticed by many). Indeed, as the world converts to Hi Def, those B5 DVDs will not look as good alongside the latest releases on Blu-ray. Many fans will wish to replace their existing sets (we've seen this happen before when format changes take place) and I'm sure that Warner will have a great profit motive in seeing that those fans do get B5 in true high def.

                  My crazy way of estimating gives me a figure between $20 million and $30 million for a complete re-rendering. Given that sales of B5 on DVD have far exceeded that number I'd say that B5 in high def with complete re-rendering is inevitable. Indeed, if it is done 5 or 10 years from now then it will be even cheaper.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Just one a couple of nits on that analysis -- although rendering costs have come down, the resolution is much higher so the savings aren't as great since more CPU and memory is required. Also, as technology costs come down, labor usually comes up. All those sequences would need to be restaged and rekeyed, even if you had all the models you needed. All that isn't to say that it won't happen, but I think it would be a gamble at this point in time to spend a lot of money betting that people would re-buy the series. Maybe in a number of years when the format has stabilized and more people have the equipment to take advantage of it.
                    "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I can't see it happening until High Def DVD (of whichever form) takes the dominant position that DVD currently has. As long as DVD players are so cheap and widespread and High Def players are so expensive, the vast majority of people have no incentive to upgrade so they won't bother.

                      Once DVD has got to the point that VHS now has, then the incentive will be there ... and I imagine it will happen a little quicker than the VHS/DVD thing because (as I understand it) you don't have to re-buy all your movies because the High Def players can still play standard DVDs, in theory, so as player (and HDTV) prices come down people will start to pick them up in greater numbers.

                      When that day comes, it will likely be worth the extra outlay for WB to make the series available in HD. Until then, I just don't think it is.
                      The Optimist: The glass is half full
                      The Pessimist: The glass is half empty
                      The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair View Post
                        I can't see it happening until High Def DVD (of whichever form) takes the dominant position that DVD currently has. As long as DVD players are so cheap and widespread and High Def players...
                        and High Def TVs. Don't forget High Def TVs ($1000 to $5000).


                        ...are so expensive, the vast majority of people have no incentive to upgrade so they won't bother.

                        Once DVD has got to the point that VHS now has, then the incentive will be there ... and I imagine it will happen a little quicker than the VHS/DVD thing because (as I understand it) you don't have to re-buy all your movies because the High Def players can still play standard DVDs, in theory,
                        But who's going to want to watch their standard DVDs on their new High Def players and TVs? Do the High Def players upconvert, or are people going to have to buy an upconvert DVD player (which are quite inexpensive, BTW) so their large library of existing DVDs don't look bad on their High Def TVs?

                        Me, I think it'll be a long time before I go High Def. (unless I win the lottery for at least a couple hundred grand*), because I'm perfectly happy with my standard DVDs.

                        * If that happens, I'll be out of debt completely, tooling around in my two 4-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicons, one soft top and one hardtop, and my Parnelli Jones/Saleen Mustang, and I'll have a 1080p 54+ inch TV, Blu-Ray and Toshiba High Def players.

                        http://www.muscularmustangs.com/2006...eenmustang.php
                        Mac Breck (KoshN)
                        ------------------
                        Warner Brothers is Lucy.
                        JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
                        Babylon 5 is the football.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          KoshN, yes HD-DVD and BD players do up-convert SD DVDs.

                          I'd really love for this to happen, but I agree it won't be at all likely until HD has cemented itself firmly in the mainstream.

                          Actually it may be interesting to see how WB go about releasing TLT in HD (currently X-Box Live, perhaps on HD-DVD/BD in the future?): they might use this to 'test the waters' the way they did with the first tentative release of The Gathering and In The Beginning on DVD?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            upconversion is a bit misleading. Its an interpolation scheme that will try to sharpen the image up. However it is not true HD i.e. it is still missing the information necessary for 1080 res

                            While it is true that labor costs go up. It will take less people to perform the rendering since turnaround on a render (and thus seeing the results of what you've done) will be so quick.

                            I guess all we can do is hope (and bug WB ) for a true HD version of Babylon 5

                            Also don't you just want to see a Vorlon Planet killer blow a planet to smithereens in wonderful Hi Def (it was never actually shown on the show but now with the miracle of high def re-rendering.....).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tim_Fleming View Post
                              upconversion is a bit misleading. Its an interpolation scheme that will try to sharpen the image up. However it is not true HD i.e. it is still missing the information necessary for 1080 res.
                              I know, but the question I was answering made it sound like KoshN already knew what up-converting was, but was wondering if he'd need a seperate DVD player to do it as well as a HD disc player.

                              I borrowed a friend's up-converting DVD player recently to try with my HD TV\PC monitor, and although I've no true HD image to compare it to (other than computer games running on equivalent resolutions), it was a definite improvement.

                              EDIT: I've only just remembered, but I was trying it out on my B5 dvds!

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