mike-denise-okuda1With season 2 of Star Trek: TNG on blu-ray about to be released in December. Mike & Denise Okuda talk about the different challenges of Season 2 and how the remastering team at HTV with the help of Dan Curry have brought the show into high-definition.

Interview with Trek Core.com

“Does the different film stock that was used for Season 2 change the look on Blu-Ray? Season 1 was very glossy and vibrant, Season 2 seems more matte and dramatic, almost filmic.” – Trek Core

“Star Trek: TNG, as in many incarnations of Star Trek had almost from episode-to-episode a different look. You would have different directors and cinematographers who would try things. There may be a little bit of a different look, but there are different looks within seasons as well.” – Denise Okuda

“Occasionally the Director of Photography would experiment with a different film stock. Sometimes they would change the film development process – that is – shooting it at a film speed so you have more light sensitivity which gives you a different contrast ratio. Those kind of things happened all the time.” – Mike Okuda

The Child Guinan HD“Both of you had the pleasure of having a TNG Staff Reunion with Season 2 as Dan Curry, Doug Drexler and David Takemura came on board. You must have had a real sense of nostalgia…” – Trek Core

“Well it was a lot of fun. We were so thrilled to have Doug, David and especially Dan Curry with us for Season 2. It was a reunion. We all worked on Star Trek, and as with any organization where you work together for a long time – you almost  have a shorthand, you almost read each other’s mind. That gave us a great deal of artistic comfort and also a great deal of fun. To have Dan Curry there who was Visual Effects back in the day was really a hoot. We felt so honoured to have him with us.” –  Denise Okuda

“Quite often there was a different style with Dan Curry’s episodes and Rob Legato’s episodes as they alternated episode-to-episode. Did that affect the look of the second season as a whole?” – Trek Core

“One of our missions was to try – as much as possible – to respect the original creative choices by the original Visual  Effects Supervisors. One thing that Dan did, he had a slightly different – in some  episodes, not all – style for his transporter, a subtle difference. He told us what the style was and he actually preserved the differences, so in shows that were originally supervised by Rob Legato he preserved it the way Rob wanted it. If it was one of his episodes, he did it the way he wanted it back in the day. We were trying as much as possible to respect what the original artists wanted to do, so that you get a sense that you’re watching the original show. It’s just brighter and clearer and sharper.” – Mike Okuda

“That really is the mantra for this project. We are trying – as much as we can – to respect the original artists and have that come forward in the remastering process.” – Denise Okuda

“Was the approach HTV took in creating the planets for Season 2 different to Max Gabl’s approach in Season 1?” – Trek Core

“The approach for the planets in Season 2 was fundamentally the same as Season 1 which was – where HD elements existed, we generally use those elements. Where they didn’t hold up, we asked them to experiment with different looks, different ways to try to recreate the original experience. That said, our request to all the people involved in creating the planets was to try to create a diversity of planets. Star Trek is all about going to strange new worlds and different places, so we very much wanted them to experiment with different looks. We did that back when we remastered the Original Series, and that’s how Max [Gabl] ended up with his style at CBS Digital, simply by experimenting over a number of episodes.” – Mike Okuda

“But also remember that we had Dan Curry! He would put forth his opinion of his artistic view on the planets and many other things. That also was a great deal of fun, to have a guy who has worked on the original help us with the decision making and keep an eye on the remastering.” – Denise Okuda

Icarus Factor Montgomery HD“With having a second team involved for the second season, was it very difficult for you both to ensure there was consistency between the CBS Digital look and the Dan Curry and HTV look for Season 2?” – Trek Core

“We didn’t really see it as being a separate team. We saw it more that the HTV group was joining the team. We were all one team and Denise and I were the common element. We were overseeing everything. The main thing is that all of the effects artists at HTV and CBS Digital – they’re all consummate pros. These are people with an awful lot of experience. That’s  the main thing – we had top-notch people.” – Mike Okuda

“Looking at the second season as a whole, do you have a favourite shot or favourite episode from that season that you were desperate to see in high definition?” – Trek Core

“I think that – Mike and I both agreed – that ‘Q Who’ was an episode that we looked forward to and were very excited. We are really, really thrilled with the results of remastering that episode.” – Denise Okuda

“I was blown away when I saw the new digital matte painting done for the Borg Cube interior with all the steam coming from the vents – it looks fantastic. Was the old matte painting lost? How did it come about that it was replaced by a digital painting?” – Trek Core

“A lot of the original matte paintings – not all of them, but a lot – were done by the legendary visual effects company Illusion Arts by the great Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor. A lot of those were done old-school style, that is – composited in-camera from the matte painting – and in many cases those original film elements still existed, and that was the case here. Usually when we have something like that, we will simply clean up the shot a little bit and use it. However in this particular case, because there was that very dramatic pull back, at the beginning of the shot, they were quite close to the painting and as a result you could see some of the brush strokes. Now this was not at all a problem in standard definition – even though the brush strokes were there, you didn’t really notice them. Now suddenly in high definition, it became an issue. Dan [Curry] suggested – and CBS concurred – that this was a case where it was appropriate to try to recreate the sense of the original but make it look better in high definition.” – Mike Okuda

“And this is a point where we really want to give a shout out to CBS – Ken Ross, David Grant and Ryan Adams. They’ve been extraordinary in the support for this project. We’ve worked on Star Trek a long time and many different projects before, but we continue to be amazed at the support that this project has received. This matte painting, and the extra love that was given to it, is a prime example of how the folks at CBS really want this to be the best it can possibly be, even when we’re running at warp speed to a deadline, they will support us and give us the OK to do wonderful things like that Borg matte painting.” – Denise Okuda

TNG Sesaon 2 Borg Cube HD“In the painting itself, it’s interesting that it has been designed to almost take on a look of future Borg Cubes with more of a greenish-tinge, whereas ‘Q Who’ had a somewhat unique look before. Was that a conscious decision to bring it in line with future episodes?” – Trek Core

“It wasn’t so much to bring it [in line] with future episodes, it was simply that adding that green flicker – to our eyes – brought it to life a little more.” – Mike Okuda

“Let’s talk a bit about the other matte paintings we see in Season 2. They’re spread throughout the season – did you have to recreate any others, or are they the same as we see them in standard definition?” – Trek Core

“For the most part when they existed on film in high definition, we generally kept them on film in high definition, albeit with a little bit of clean-up. The Gagarin station in ‘Unnatural Selection’ was another Syd Dutton painting – I think it was Syd – and it got a little bit of clean-up, a little bit of work on the sparkles in the water, a little bit of work on the shuttle – but other than that, it’s the original painting. On the other hand, not all the matte paintings were shot on film. Some of them were actually created in Paintbox at standard video definition, so if you blow them up they really don’t look very good. One such example is ‘Loud as a Whisper’. Fortunately, we literally had the original artist there. That was a painting that Dan [Curry] did back in the day, so it was great to have him there.” – Mike Okuda

“One of the more infamous shots from the second season is the quite cheesy morphing sequence that we see in ‘The Dauphin’. Were you able to recreate that shot to make it more convincing?” – Trek Core

The morphing shots in ‘The Dauphin’ were – back in the day – an absolutely brilliant use of amazingly lo-tech techniques to create this very complex visual effect. Again, the original elements were done at video resolution so they could not be directly upscaled. In this particular case, it was entirely redone with present day visual effects technology, so it’s a little bit different – I personally think it’s more convincing, but we’ll leave that up to you. Once again we had Dan there who has a shelf full of Emmy’s…” – Mike Okuda

“We relied on his expertise to try to get it as perfect as we possibly could.” – Denise Okuda

Nagilum HD“One of the last shots I want to talk about in Season 2 is that of Nagilum. Looking back at the standard definition it’s still a wonderful sequence – a combination of live action footage and the computer generated elements. Was it possible to recreate the effect faithfully for the remastering?” – Trek Core

“Most of the original elements still exist on film, so I think they did a great job of capturing the original murky creepiness but again – we’ll be interested to know what you think!” – Mike Okuda

“Thankfully both of you were able to contribute to some fantastic audio commentaries in Season 2. How does this experience differ from the famous text commentaries you’ve done for DVD in the past and how much research goes into one of these audio commentaries?” – Trek Core

“Anytime we do any kind of commentary, whether it’s text or audio, we do our homework. We basically watch the episode and go over things. The really fun thing with these audio commentaries is that we got to sit down with Melinda Snodgrass who was the writer of ‘The Measure of a Man’ and Rob Bowman who was the director of ‘Q Who’.” – Denise Okuda

“He was busy shooting Castle and he took a morning off to join us.” – Mike Okuda

“He actually gave us his time, he came down and did the audio commentary. We really appreciated it, and we’re big fans of Castle so we enjoyed talking about that too!” – Denise Okuda

Measure Data Stand HD“Denise, last time we spoke you described doing the extended edition of ‘The Measure of a Man’ as pretty much a crap-shoot, you didn’t know whether it would work out or not. How much of a journey has this been for both of you?” – Trek Core

“It’s been an amazing journey! We really didn’t know if it was going to happen or not. There was so much work that went into it, we still almost can’t believe it happened.” – Denise Okuda

“It’s not uncommon for a finished episode to have a scene or two – or a few lines – trimmed. But it’s very unusual to have that much material trimmed from an episode. Then, to luck out in such an extraordinary way – to have an accurate reference of the original version… Melinda held on to that VHS tape for 25 years and she was so kind to loan it back to us. Then CBS and HTV went through and examined all the fresh material and discovered all of the original elements still existed. When CBS found out about it, they looked at the extended episode and said “Wow, there’s some good stuff here, this really adds to the episode.” They were thrilled to jump through the hoops to make this happen.” – Mike Okuda

“One of the things that I particularly love about Star Trek in general but Star Trek: The Next Generation in particular is the character interaction. I’m not going to spoil it, but there’s a scene between two characters that is new – that nobody has seen – that I very much enjoy, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it as well!” – Denise Okuda

“On the blu-rays it’s described that there’s going to be a “Hybrid Extended Cut” as well as the high-definition extended episode. What is this, and what does it mean?” – Trek Core

“The hybrid extended cut is basically the remastered episode but with the new visual material inserted in its original form. You get a sense of the shots without visual effects, you get a sense of what the editors saw back in the day.” Mike Okuda

“‘The Icarus Factor’ and ‘Up the Long Ladder’ also have fresh deleted scenes included. Could you tell us a bit about those?”  – Trek Core

“In both of those cases there were small amounts of additional material. It’s fun stuff but it’s not so much as to warrant creating a new episode out of it. For those of us who have loved the show for so many years, just to spend a few extra moments with those characters is something very special.” – Mike Okuda

“Speaking of that, we discovered that CBS found an absolute goldmine of outtakes and bloopers from the show that haven’t been seen for 25 years. How did you feel when you discovered these elements had been found?” – Trek Core

“Well we obviously we’re really excited. It’s a lot of work to go through and find these things. I think we’ve said this before – Mike and I, when we’re working on this and being fans of the show, we get really excited about some of the things that come forward – the bloopers, the missing footage et cetera, and of course the quality of the HD episodes. We feel like we’re sitting on Christmas or something like that and we just can’t wait for Star Trek fans around the world to see what we’ve seen. So as far as we’re concerned the release of the second season can’t come fast enough!” – Denise Okuda

“I think it probably will be the Christmas present for a lot of fans! Season 3 is already well underway with CBS Digital – which episodes are you most looking forward to seeing, which shots and which scenes?” – Trek Core

“Season 3 is awesome. ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’, ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, ‘Sins of the Father’…” – Denise Okuda

“‘The Offspring’…” – Mike Okuda

“Yes, ‘The Offspring’, one of my favorites.” – Denise Okuda

“We can’t wait to see it! The trailer for Season 3 looks fantastic. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about from Season 2?” – Trek Core

“I’d just like to add that the people working on this season are all exceptional, talented individuals and we were thrilled to have them. David Takemura started his career on Star Trek: The Next Generation and he worked his way up as a visual effects assistant, he became a coordinator and a supervisor in his own right. He had and has this encyclopaedic knowledge of the material of the show. He was very instrumental in helping to recreate these shots. Having someone like Dan Curry there who actually remembers, “Oh yes, we did this with a pom-pom” or “We did this with liquid nitrogen” or “We did this with the paint box” gave us an enormous leg up on a lot of these things. It’s hard to say too many good things about the professional visual effects artists who we worked with there. They were simply part of the team. A lot of them love Star Trek and I think it shows in their work.” – Mike Okuda

“We also know – of course – Doug Drexler, who is a co-worker of ours. He was on the second season as well. Of course he was an Academy Award winning makeup artist who then went into graphics and worked with us on different Star Trek incarnations. He’s currently in visual effects and he worked on Battlestar Galactica and continues to work in visual effects with Gary Hutzel. Of course we want to give a shout out to him as well.” – Denise Okuda

“I still find it amazing that you were able to get the original team back together after 25 years. It’s such a rare opportunity.” – Trek Core

“Well again, that was our friends at HTV. Those three happened to be available at that time, and when they mentioned to us we said “Cool!”” – Mike Okuda

“We were very, very excited. It was a lot of fun!” – Denise Okuda

Star Trek TNG S2 BLU1“Do you know if they’re going to be coming back to help with future seasons?” – Trek Core

“We really don’t know. If they came back, we would be thrilled again. Both the artists and the folks at CBS Digital and HTV, we have a great working relationship. We enjoy the enthusiasm. Mike and I feel so fortunate to be on this project and part of the team.” – Denise Okuda

“If we were fortunate enough to work with them again, we’d be thrilled.” – Mike Okuda

Original Source Trek Core.com

Released on December 10, 2012 – Pre-order now at Amazon UK