Ryan Adams and David S. Grant from Multimedia at CBS Television Distribution are two of the key figures who have been working for years behind the scenes to get Star Trek: The Next Generation's HD remastering project off the ground. I was fortunate to catch up with David and Ryan who both took time out of their busy schedule to answer questions on TNG Remastered and the future of Star Trek in high definition.
Ryan Adams & David S. Grant:
TNG Remastered Interview, Part 1
Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com
David Grant: Hi Adam, this is David Grant. I’m the VP of Multimedia for CBS.
Ryan Adams: And this is Ryan Adams, I’m the Director of Multimedia for CBS.
TrekCore: Hi guys. It was Craig Weiss who recommended we chat to you. Obviously CBS Digital are not dealing with Season 2, and I know you are both overseeing the project as a whole. I wonder if you could start by telling us a little bit about your involvement in the project?
David Grant: Well, seven years back when we did the original remastering for TOS – the Original Series – we had gone to Comic Con and the fans were… - you know, we went to comic con, we also went to the Star Trek convention in Vegas – and the fans had been telling us the Original Series is great, it looks great – and here’s our next request, which is Star Trek The Next Generation. So, we went back with all the fans’ thoughts and comments, and went back to management and said that we would like to do that. It took us some years of doing some testing and checking elements and stuff like that, but finally the corporation was great, and they were like “Of course we get to do this, it’s a tent-pole project, and if the fans are asking for it, we should do it.” So, we got approved to do it!
Ryan Adams: To continue what Dave was saying… it actually took a handful of years to get the approval. We went through several different tiers of management, before we got to John Nogawski [President, CBS Television Distribution] who was the one that said “You know what, yeah, you guys are right. We do need to put this thing out.” So, John Nogawski was the one that really, and Scott Koondel [President of Distribution, CBS Television Distribution] – the two of them were the ones that we showed the test to, and it was John and Scott that were the ones who were like “You know what? We do need to do this! This does need to be in HD.”
TrekCore: So, I guess a few years ago when there were questions going around the forums on the internet, “Will they, won’t they?” I think even the most ardent fans had always discounted an HD remastering because of the sheer scale of the project. What propelled CBS to take such a huge leap of faith with this effort?
David Grant: Well, [Star Trek: The Next Generation] is what we consider an ‘A’ or a ‘tent-pole’ title. Obviously, the world is going into HD. With Star Trek being such a huge property for CBS, we all knew that it had to be in HD soon or you’re not going to be able to sell it, and there is a lot of technology now out that helps these types of project. There’s stuff, maybe Craig spoke about, that can scan all the negative, can scan all the videotape and tell you what shots are the exact shots that were used in the network version.
Ryan Adams: Let’s be frank: the Star Trek fans are very discerning. They know their franchise. So, the only way to do this project was really… it was either to do it completely right or not do it at all, because we really wanted to give the fans what they wanted. We didn’t want to give them something meet-in-the-middle, and give them something they weren’t going to be happy with, because we know they’ve been loyal since day one. We wanted to show some respect to them as well, and do it right.
TrekCore: It was so nice to see the upscale tests you did first on the Season One blu-rays, and compare them to the huge leap you’ve made with the HD remastering. It was a really nice comparison to see what it could have looked like if CBS hadn’t invested so much.
David Grant: For me at least, but a lot of us feel this way, it surprised me – once we started looking at those HD images from the negative, and the visual effects we composited, it even amazed me just how amazing it looks.
TrekCore: What’s been the feedback about the remastering in the industry? I’m guessing that because it’s been such a success, other studios are now rethinking their strategies concerning HD releases of their shows.
David Grant: I don’t know in general what the consensus is, I haven’t really spoken to anyone. We’re going to be going to the AMIA Conference in a couple of months, where I’m sure it will be talked about a lot. But this is probably, and maybe the other show – 24 – is the biggest project that anyone has undertaken for this type of workflow. So, I don’t if people were waiting for someone to jump first or not, but this is definitely one of the biggest projects – and there are so many moving parts to it – but at least it’s showing everybody that it can be done and is being done.
Ryan Adams: It’s a re-posting of the show: minus being able to shoot it, we’re going back to that original negative and we’re re-posting it.
TrekCore: And we’re so glad that Star Trek was the guinea pig in this type of conversion
Ryan Adams: Us too! We’re having fun with it.
David Grant: The original TOS was much easier because we had cut negative on that show, but this show – like Ryan said – we have to go back and re-post everything.
TrekCore: So Season 1 has been out a couple of months now – how are CBS feeling about sales figures? Are you happy with it?
David Grant: Oh yeah. The DVDs sold, I think what they estimated for a couple of months, or a month or so, [for the blu-rays] sold in a week.
TrekCore: Oh wow!
David Grant: Yes, with preorders. And Season 2 should be just as big coming out December 4th. And from knowing the series, and the storylines, it just gets better as the series goes on.
TrekCore: Well I think this was the concern – that the first season was arguably the weakest, and it doesn’t hit it’s stride until the third season. So to hear it’s sold such phenomenal numbers is fantastic news indeed.
David Grant: Yes, and of course all the different divisions can’t wait to get their hands on it to sell it in their markets.
TrekCore: Craig Weiss mentioned that the decision was made to split the remastering workload between two teams. What brought about this decision?
David Grant: Well for Season 2 – it was basically just the amount of workflow and schedule. We’ve got Season 2 coming out this year, and next year we’re shooting to get three seasons out. So with the amount of work and scanning, there is so much pre-work that has to be done – from going through all of those thousands and thousands of cartons and seeing where the film is – that the schedule for what it takes to put out something like this [requires two teams].
TrekCore: You’ve touched on my next question. Has having two teams led you to revise the original release schedule? I know CBS originally intended to put out two seasons a year.
David Grant: It was really the corporation that told us what they wanted out, it wasn’t us telling them. They decided they wanted to do 2, 3 and 2. So because of that, once we knew, we knew we had to take Season 2 and take it out.
Ryan Adams: The great thing about this, even though Season 2 went out [to a different house], we still have Mike and Denise Okuda, myself and David staying super-close to the project through every season, and on Season 2, even though that was done out-of-house, I would go over sometimes once, twice, three times a week – with Mike and Denise Okuda – and oversee everything they are doing out of house. So, that continuity was still there. You know, Mike and Denise Okuda are well known, respected, connected to the franchise, so having them is – you know – kinda like that safety blanket you carry around.
David Grant: And CBS Digital is still sort of the visual effects house that oversees everything. So they work closely together to make sure the look is the same, and their files are the same. So all of us are working as a team together.
Ryan Adams: There’s definitely synergy even though there is stuff that went out [of house].
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