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Need help finding a possible jms quote - cgi related

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  • Need help finding a possible jms quote - cgi related

    I remember reading here and elsewhere that the reason why the B5 VFX was originally shot in the NTSC 4:3 format was cost and that it was thought that later, when it came time to display the VFX in widescreen (like the live action shots) it would be easy enough to re-render the computer animations at a suitably hi resolution and just re-edit the new æfootageÆ into the final product.

    Unfortunately this idea was well and truly scuppered when Warner lost all the original CGI including the original animation files, so it was completely financially impractical to recreate all the VFX from scratch.

    Can anyone tell me where this comes from - not just the lost files bit, but more importantly the original plan of events which Warner f*cked up. Was it from a jms quote, fan speculation or something someone else said in the dim and distant past.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Triple F View Post
    I remember reading here and elsewhere that the reason why the B5 VFX was originally shot in the NTSC 4:3 format was cost and that it was thought that later, when it came time to display the VFX in widescreen (like the live action shots) it would be easy enough to re-render the computer animations at a suitably hi resolution and just re-edit the new æfootageÆ into the final product.

    Unfortunately this idea was well and truly scuppered when Warner lost all the original CGI including the original animation files, so it was completely financially impractical to recreate all the VFX from scratch.

    Can anyone tell me where this comes from - not just the lost files bit, but more importantly the original plan of events which Warner f*cked up. Was it from a jms quote, fan speculation or something someone else said in the dim and distant past.
    It all comes from JMS. This very site has it all archived so you could try searching for it, or someone who was there when it was all said might be able to dig up the quotes for you.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by raw_bean View Post
      It all comes from JMS. This very site has it all archived so you could try searching for it, or someone who was there when it was all said might be able to dig up the quotes for you.
      I did a quick search and didn't come up with anything but I may not have been using the correct search terms. I have a feeling that it may have been something said for one of the technical magazines that JMS gave many interviews for, though.

      Jan
      "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

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      • #4
        That could explain it.

        In the archive of jms quotes I’m finding things that relate to the NTSC/PAL/Widescreen thing, but don’t actually say that the original idea was to re-render all the cgi when the time came to go widescreen.

        I'm talking to someone who has an interesting perspective on the thing, and I was curious to know where the idea of re-rendering (that's mentioned on things like the wiki entry for Babylon 5 and others have stated) originated from.

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        • #5
          I thought the issue was not just that Foundation (and Netter after them) chose to render in 4:3 format, with an option to re-render in widescreen in future, but that the technology of the time was limited to rendering in that form, but that as long as the original files were in existence future re-rendering (when it could be done) was possible.

          Much the same reasoning as with filming the live action stuff in Super8 (?), which allows them to crop the filmed images to either 4:3 or widescreen format from the same originals ... JMS knew widescreen was coming but it wasn't around yet, so the show was originally broadcast in 4:3, but he expected to be able to do a widescreen version later.

          Obviously that chance came with Sci-Fi re-running the show in WS followed by the DVD releases.

          In addition to losing the CGI files would it be rude of me to point out that WB also stored the original film stock poorly, and so they were covered with dust and had been nibbled on by rats (or was it cats?) by the time came to dig them out for re-editing into WS?
          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

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair View Post
            [...]
            In addition to losing the CGI files would it be rude of me to point out that WB also stored the original film stock poorly, and so they were covered with dust and had been nibbled on by rats (or was it cats?) by the time came to dig them out for re-editing into WS?
            I thought they were nibbled by ducks...

            Regarding the losing of the files: the CG Society Feature on how the FX for Lost Tales were created has a mention of the original CG files being lost. If it isn't mentioned elsewhere it is mentioned there.
            I don't remember any official statement about re-rendering for widescreen, sounds plausible, but plausibility shouldn't imply believability (that's how urban legends start). If anyone ever finds a statement about this it would be nice to know.
            Such... is the respect paid to science that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase
            James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)

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            • #7
              Couldn’t agree more about the creation of urban legends – there’s already a fair bit of that surrounding B5 that I’ve noticed.

              That’s why I’m not sure about this re-rendering thing, and was curius to know where it originated from.

              Did a quick google on it and here’s three quotes from places you’d expect to be accurate as far as content goes – Wikipedia, The jms moderated group . . .forum thingy and here.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylon_5
              However, CGI shots, and shots combining live-action with CGI, were stored in the much lower-definition NTSC digital format. (Again, the expectation was that it would be relatively cheap in the future to recreate the CGI in widescreen.)


              http://groups.google.pl/group/rec.ar...f39f1790ad5267
              The original FX are totally gone. They only rendered TV grade at the time since just that much maxed out the rendering farm, with the intent of rendering in higher quality if needed in the future with much faster machines.
              rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated


              http://jmsnews.com/forums/showthread...light=cgi+35mm
              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.


              [edit]
              @ Garabldi’s Hair
              I agree the technology would have had (overcomeable) trouble rendering in a higher resolution than the 720x486 used. But I think it was that old lemon of investment from Warner that was the root of it, rather than a choice made by FI and later NDEI. Here’s something Ron Thornton had to say on the subject when asked about the widescreen convertion.
              The widescreen conversion thing was executive short sightedness at it's finest!!! We offered to do ALL of Babylon5 in widescreen mode if Warner Bros would buy us a reference monitor so we could check our output. (only $5000 at the time) Ken Parkes (the "Business affairs" guy) and Netter (penny wise, but pound foolish) said no! So we did everything so it could be CROPPED to be widescreen! Each blamed the other by the way. Doug Netter said, "Ken Parkes said no". Ken Parkes said, "Doug Netter said no". SHEESH!!! So for $75 an episode they could have had AWESOME near Hi-Def. Bet Joe never heard about that!!”
              --------------------------------------------------------

              [edit:edit]

              This is going to look like I’m picking at what you said, sorry.

              I’m pretty sure it wasn’t jms’s idea to film B5 in such a way that it could be easily converted to run on a widescreen format. It WAS filmed in widescreen and converted to be transmitted in 4:3, and it was John Copeland who pushed for it.

              Here’s a bit of a conversation with him (It’s part of the content going into the finished version of B5scrolls)

              Back in the early 90s when we started B5, everyone pretty well knew that Advanced Television Technology was on the horizon. What the Warners Tech Center people (they were the ones who were responsible for Warners product being able to make the transition) were concerned with was the 4:3 aspect ratio of standard def television - everyone knew that ATT would be 16 x 9 or 1:85 aspect ratio.

              What those bright idea folks came up with was stretching the horizontal interval of the image when you were doing the telecine. (I don't know how much you know about episodic television production, so I'll try and elaborate simply). Back in the days of B5 we shot on 35mm film, developed the negative and then telecined the negative to digital video tape. All the rest of the post production process was done electronically. I went over to where Warners was doing a series - Lois & Clark – to see the effects of stretching the horizontal interval. Using this technique the image would indeed play on a regular tv set and also on a 16x9 one.

              However it was a video hack and not a solution. It took only a second to tell that all they were doing was stretching pixels and making the picture noisier. I was able to convince Warners to let us shot 1:85 and we would telecine 4:3 for the broadcast of the series. It gave us a negative that had been shot for the wide screen and ready for when more 16x9 tvs got out there and Warners Home Video wanted to release the show (it was actually broadcast in some international markets in 16x9 - but for some reason the UK didn't take it that way - Portugal did though - go figure).
              Last edited by Triple F; 04-05-2008, 11:35 PM.

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              • #8
                Pick all you want, I am working from memory here, whereas you clearly have information from the horse's mouth as it were. I have a feeling it was a series of posts by Joe DeMartino explaining the process of filming B5 was much like filming a movie in that the format used basically gave the flexibility to crop for either widescreen or 4:3, with the effect that information would be lost on the sides of a 4:3 image and the top and bottom of a widescreen one.

                That, at least, was my understanding of what JoeDeM was saying in explaining the principles behind photographing on Super 35.

                Of course, it could be that you and he are both saying exactly the same thing and I have just misunderstood!



                BTW, here is a post from JMS in 2002, regarding the CGI issue on the DVDs which is probably where I picked up the stuff about the tech not being capable of rendering to widescreen in the first place ...

                Click Here.
                Last edited by Garibaldi's Hair; 04-06-2008, 02:48 PM.
                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


                • #9
                  Those are very interesting facts and a real shame that WB lost all the raw film material.
                  It would have been so much fun watching B5 in HD with all new CGI effects and stuff.

                  @Triple
                  Did you sort out your monitor problem?

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                  • #10
                    Yeah, kind of had to buy this widescreen LCD thing. DonÆt like it, CRTÆs might be old tech but, personally at least, they beat the crap out of your average LCD any day of the week for setting colour and contrast up nicely.

                    @ GarabaliÆs Hair
                    I think weÆre saying the same thing with regards to the filming of the live action and such. IÆve read a few (close) variations of the same type of things. Taking (accidental) Chinese whispers aside it all adds up to more or less the same thing with the show being filmed in 35mm which gave them the option to transmit in both formats.

                    ItÆs the origin of the re-rendering plan/intent IÆm trying to track down. It seems to be a fairly widely held belief that that was what was going to happen at some point (see above quotes from the other sites). I genuinely donÆt know where it came from (itÆs not me doing some chicken shit showing off or anything). IÆm genuinely interested to know if it did originate somewhere ôofficialö.

                    The reason for asking is, someone mentioned a slightly different set of events and IÆm wanting to get my facts straight before saying BUT ??????? said. . . . .

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                    • #11
                      Thanks Triple ... I, too, would be interested to know the official line on that one. If such a thing exists.

                      Going back to your quote above, I imagine the reason that the UK didn't take B5 in 16:9 ratio was that it would have pretty much been the only show on UKTV being broadcast in that way and (knowing us Brits) I imagine people would have complained about the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, since WS televisions were extremely rare (if they even existed over here) in those days.

                      Even movies tended to be shown on TV in 4:3 format until WS televisions became more widespread, and widescreen TV didn't really take off until digital started to take a hold. Movies on VHS were often released in both formats, as they were in the early days of DVD.

                      We, my parents and in-laws all have standard ratio televisions and whilst we set our digi-box to show TV in widescreen (with black bars) both sets of parents set theirs to 4:3 as that is what they are used to. The loss of some data left and right they just live with.

                      BBC News24 even positions its onscreen tickers so that they do not overhang the edge of the screen when viewed in 4:3, so clearly WS is still a long way from becoming the standard over here.
                      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
                        Yeah, I only got a widescreen telly when the BBC got the digital deal off of ITV/Granada. I read somewhere that something like 3-5% (canÆt remember the exact figure) of UK households are still using black & white tvÆs, based on figures released from the beeb û that was a surprise.

                        Like most people I hate (with a passion) paying the licence but when you see what happens in many countries that only have commercial setups (including us with sky and ITV) itÆs hard not to appreciate the service that the beep provide. (even though Jonathan Ross gets paid a ridiculous amount : )

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                        • #13
                          I think this is the quote you are looking for about the plan for CGI on widescreen:

                          jms 12/21/1994:

                          We're already on top of this. At this point what it looks like we'll be
                          doing (having run some experiments and test runs) is to transfer all of our
                          composite shots/CGI to film, and recut the negative using the added
                          replacement footage.
                          jms 3/7/1995:

                          Re: transferring the CGI to film...this will be done as part of redoing each episode to meet HDTV standards and laser disks.
                          jms on the CGI files being lost 1/21/2002:

                          Understand, however, that we did not *have* that software, or those images. WB
                          had literally lost all the CGI archives we gave them every season. All we were
                          able to get, at the very last moment, was a copy of the ship files we had
                          given Sierra for the B5 game. That's it.
                          On the widescreen bit:

                          Originally posted by Triple F View Post
                          I’m pretty sure it wasn’t jms’s idea to film B5 in such a way that it could be easily converted to run on a widescreen format. It WAS filmed in widescreen and converted to be transmitted in 4:3, and it was John Copeland who pushed for it.)
                          jms did mention planning for widescreen as early as 1992, and the plan was specifically to make it an easy transition to HDTV:

                          jms 2/28/1992
                          Although the movie is too early, we're giving some thought to shooting the series for HDTV, but again that's well down the road.
                          jms 9/22/1993:

                          We are shooting in 16:9 aspect ratio, cutting it down to normal TV aspect
                          ratio for its initial broadcasts. When a) the laserdisks are in time
                          released, and b) when HDTV becomes more of a standard, the full letterboxed
                          aspect ratio will be available.

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                          • #14
                            Cheers JoeD80, that fills in a few gaps and confirms a couple of the things IÆve been told.

                            This one though

                            Re: transferring the CGI to film...this will be done as part of redoing each episode to meet HDTV standards and laser disks.
                            After talking to John C (all will be published in due course) I know what that means about transferring the CGI to film later on for HDTV. ItÆs an interesting tale that goes beyond simply loosing the CGI files. The above doesnÆt actually talk about re-rendering the CGI just the transferring to film, they're two differnt things. Though I can see how it could have been taken to mean that - and over time repeating this apparently logical (re-rendering) approach would have become commonly accepted.

                            I know I never gave it a second thought until a related topic came up.

                            Interesting.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Perhaps someone can enlighten me (since CGI is one of the many things I don't truly understand), but when you render an image, don't you render to a specific resolution ... in B5's case standard 4:3 TV resolution in the first place?

                              If that is the case then they would need to re-render to put the stuff straight onto HDTV or Blu-Ray but, I guess, transferring to film negates that requirement, since film doesn't have a resolution ... which is precisely why the live action stuff is not a problem since it was on film in the first place and can easily be used to make HD pictures.

                              Am I getting that right?
                              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

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