To mark the second season release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-Ray in just over a week, I spoke with the consultants on the TNG: Remastered Project, Mike & Denise Okuda. We talked 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.

Mike & Denise Okuda

Mike & Denise Okuda: Season 2 TNG-R Interview, Part 1

Interviewed by Adam Walker for


TrekCore: 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.

Denise OkudaStar Trek: The Next Generation, 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.

Mike 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.

TrekCore: 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…

Denise Okuda: 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 honored to have him with us.

TrekCore: 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?

Mike Okuda: 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.

Denise 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.

TrekCore: Was the approach HTV took in creating the planets for Season 2 different to Max Gabl’s approach in Season 1?

Mike Okuda: 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.

Denise 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.

Season 2’s planets are a departure from the style we saw Max Gabl use in Season 1. Mike Okuda mentions that their aim is still to recreate the original viewing experience.

TrekCore: 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?

Mike Okuda: 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.

TrekCore: Looking at the second season as a whole, do you have a favorite shot or favorite episode from that season that you were desperate to see in high definition?

Denise Okuda: 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.

TrekCore: 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?

Mike Okuda: 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.

Denise 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.

The iconic matte painting of the interior of the Borg Cube from ‘Q Who’ was digitally recreated for the Blu-Rays (exclusive preview shot shown)

TrekCore: 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?

Mike Okuda: 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.

TrekCore: 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?

Mike Okuda: 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.

Go to Part: 1 2

With just over a week to go until release… be sure to pre-order Season 2 below so you get it on release date in your country. All Amazon stores have significantly discounted the title – at the time of writing it’s under $65 in the U.S.£47.00 in the U.K. and under 57,00EUR in Germany!

Order Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 Blu-Ray today!

Order Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 Blu-Ray today!

  • I’m a little concerned over the change in the way they’re doing to planets now. They don’t look as sharp as Max’s Season 1 planets.

    • Chris Jay

      I agree.

      The planet here:

      Looks a little sad…

      • Corran

        Yeah that’s bonafide awful, it looks like an old video game, and the Enterprise looks like its been conposited in by a bad ufo conspiracy theorist.

        • Chris Jay

          I think the planet is what offsets the shot, because the Enterprise looks fine, the planet looks off… so the Enterprise looks off…

          • Corran

            Yeah but it’s also lacking that bit of extra work CBS-D would have done like butting a bit of a blue sheen on the enterprise hull to blend them together a bit better, not that that would save the shot, because holy hell, that planet.

      • Esmeralda

        I agree. That planet is the worst so far.
        It is only upscaled. And that is very sad. 🙁

        • trekcore

          The planet has NOT been upscaled. It may look that way, but it was actually recreated by the team at HTV.

  • archer923

    Kind of sucks that the original matte painting didn’t hold up. I hope the original is in a documentary at least. It be cool to see a time lapse of the artist(s) making the new one.

  • James

    The new matte painting for the Borg interior is really good. I have to agree with other comments that the planets just aren’t as good, though maybe it’s personal preference.

    • Timothy Verheecke

      I’m not 100% sold on the new Borg interior. It can’t shake the CGI feeling and looks a bit flat. Like a lot of the other season 2 FX it’s lacking in shadows. I also don’t understand how they are on the one hand trying to stick to the orignal to the point of recreating blurry (!) planets, yet on the other hand they go and change one of the series most iconic matte paintings by adding in movie/voyager era stuff. If they felt it needed more green, they should have stuck with the look of the Borg alcoves established by TNG and not by wat came after.

      • Corran

        It seems like they wanted to do it cgi from the outset then found an excuse to make it happen, I doubt photoshoping out a few brush strokes was going to be more work than recreating the entire thing from scratch. I don’t mind necessarily I’m just not sure I buy the reasoning.

        • Corran

          Actually after seeing the original matte painting again I take that, back, it’s a cool painting but I get why they couldn’t use it

  • holy… that palnet looks like a blurry nightmare. sorry guys, but many skilled people out there would have done 100% better than this. and okudas only excuse is that it should be true to the original?! very disapointing – definatly not buying season 2.

    • hypnotoad72

      Think of it this way: If you see a photograph with depth of field blur, where background items are partly fuzzy yet the foreground subject is crisp, clear, and delicious… that’s how I’m going to accept season 2’s planet shots. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably one of the better ways to make it more palatable… the original planets in editing had a surreal, somewhat soft look to them as well…

      But I have to admit, season 1 did a fantastic job at recreating the original experience, while having sharply-defined planets…

      It’ll be a wait-and-see for when the set does arrive…

      • Justin Olson

        Or you could just think of it like this which might make a bit more sense: if a world looks blurry, it probably has a thick, obscuring atmosphere like Venus or Titan. 😉

        If you look at pretty much any photograph of the Space Shuttle or ISS in orbit, both the vehicle and our planet look sharp and in-focus. This is because both objects are at optical infinity with respect to the camera (that is, they reflect rays of light which are parallel)… so shallow depth of field wouldn’t really be expected, unless the camera were very, very close to the foreground object or very, very far away using a long focal length lens — but then you would probably see much less of the planet than your typical ship-in-orbit shot on TNG.

  • Quinn

    “… so that you get a sense that you’re watching the original show. It’s just brighter and clearer and sharper.”

    I guess CBS-D made things a little too bright, clear, and sharp and spoiled us for different looks. I’m still buying the sets – I mean, come on! – but the disparity between the two seasons’ looks are just so vast, it’s really hard to ignore.

    The Borg shot, though, is pretty great, and I’m sure it’s even better in motion (with that steam and those drones that are shown here)..

  • hypnotoad72

    The new Borg matte image looks excellent overall. Then again, once you see the shrouded tribute to Uncle Fester in the lower white corner, then look up to see him on the next deck, one can see how they composed it… it’s a minor nitpick as, in the 5 seconds that one sees the pan, the human eye won’t recognize it. (but the dude to the left of Uncle Fester isn’t repeated… 🙂 )

    The planets are a step down but not in massive way. The actual Blu-Rays will reveal all, but I doubt it’s going to be the catastrophe people are believing. The original TNG shots as edited looked half-garish as well. It’s somewhat soft, but it’s not murder or anything.

    Oh, here’s Earth:

    The TNG season 2 planet shots are not horrifically bad, even if they are slightly softer…

  • MalcolmTucker

    In the shot of the Borg interior is that phaser damage from the battle in the top left of the frame?

  • New Horizon

    Well, from the sounds of it they’re planning to outright ignore the vibrant, fresh and reinvigorating work CBS-D in order to recreate the effects ‘exactly’ as they were. If HTV had been involved from the very beginning, I would have had less of an issue with this…but CBS-D reinvigorated the original filmed elements with such vibrancy and energy…I’m simply gobsmacked that the original team couldn’t see how it refreshed the show and made it feel young and relevant in 2012.

    VERY disappointed.

    I guess this confirms once and for all that I won’t be buying Seasons 2, 4 and 6. Sorry Mike and Denise, but I wanted a consistent product. 🙁

  • Alex Webb

    What a mixed bag.

    The ‘Q Who’ matte shot is beautiful – evokes enough of the original, while subtly updating it to fall more in line with future Borg stylings. Can’t wait to see it in motion.

    But that planet, I’m sorry to say, is the worst we’ve seen yet. That shot looks almost comically bad, given the extreme crispness of the Enterprise and the horrendously low-res planet behind it. Even a static image of a planet made in Photoshop would look better =/

  • Corran

    Kind of sad that an in game screen shot from Star Trek online looks better than the work from these so called “consummate pros” with “an awful lot of experience”. That planet shot has crossed the line to actual embarrassment, Couldn’t be more disappointed.

  • Bart

    If the wanted ‘the same viewing experience’, then why not just watch the dvd’s? It’s 2012, there should be crisp planets and stars. They will not attract a new audience with this kind of quality.

  • Toneman Goodwin

    Man. Okuda makes it sound like this was a creative decision, not the result of HTV’s decidedly lacking skills. I’m sure it’s just covering their tracks, but I sure hope that this doesn’t mean that season 3’s planets look like this (“They looked like crap in 1989 so creatively we decided they should look like crap in 2013”)

    • New Horizon

      CBS-Digital is working on Seasons 3, 5 and 7, thank goodness. Unfortunately, Seasons 2, 4 and 6 are by HTV-Illuminate…so we can look forward to 3 of the Seasons in this set looking like this, blurred and dated. For a bunch of professionals, the two teams sure have gone out of their way to create completely differing styles.

      • trekcore

        Nothing is yet known about Season 4. The schedules and assignments at CBS are totally fluid and subject to change. All I can tell you for certain is that CBS Digital will do (and are doing) Season 3.

        • New Horizon

          I hope that means CBS-D does the remaining seasons. No offense to the folks at HTV, but I’m not at all pleased with the result, but I and others have said that too many times already…so that’s my last comment on the matter. Hopefully Season 2 will be the last we see of this.

  • Esmeralda

    Planets in Season 2 are awful. A huge step backwards. They look just as bad and blurry as in the SD version. I do not understand what is the point to have a TNG in HD if the scene in the universe are so blurry and badly made.

    Point of HD is high Definition. If I want original bad and blurry look, I will watch SD version.

    There is no point of TNG in HD if they will do VFX in other seasons like in S2.

  • Revolution

    This planet looks embarrassing cheap!

  • Revolution
    • Giuseppe

      That planet looks like it came out of a 15 year old video game.

  • Matt

    I can’t believe the amount of bitching about HTV when you haven’t seen the final product.

    Remember if you don’t buy it, they might not fund the rest of TNG or go on to DS9

    • Esmeralda

      If rest of the seasons and DS9 will be remastered in the style of S2 then I do not care. I want TNG-R, DS9-R and VOY-R only if the quality level and style will be like in S1 of TNG-R.

      If not, then I do not care whether they will continue or not with this project.

      • Data

        Esmeralda, thats exactly what I think!!!!

      • Matt

        The fact that you haven’t seen the final product still stands.

        Let’s say for argument sake, that these HTV produced seasons aren’t quite as good, they are still going to be a damn sight better than the original VHS transfer DVDs look on a large HDTV. They are still scanned into HD from original film source, and are going to look like night and day compared to the originals!

        Typical bitching Star Trek fans, nothing is ever good enough. It’s this behaviour that put our beloved franchise into exile in the first place

        • Chimney

          So seeing pictures with our own eyes isn’t enough we have to actually pay a lot of money before we are in a position to see if we should pay a lot of money? How does that make any sense? and I’d say Star Trek fans putting up with the garbage writing of Voyager and Enterprise until the franchise got driven into the ground by hacks, is what killed Star Trek off. Maybe people should have demanded better quality sooner and not settled for anything with the Star Trek brand name.

        • New Horizon

          “Typical bitching Star Trek fans, nothing is ever good enough. It’s this
          behaviour that put our beloved franchise into exile in the first place”

          So after getting a stellar 1st Season release, we should just shut up and put down our hard earned cash for what many of us feel is a huge drop in quality from Season 1? Clearly you have more disposable income than I do. Sorry, I’m not going to blow my cash on something I can clearly see I won’t enjoy.

          1. We’ve seen plenty of material from the second season to form opinions. The live action looks fine, but the work on the VFX is not up to par.

          2. The first Season by CBS-Digital was MORE than good enough, and personally that’s why I’m upset.

          Season 2 may be scanned from the same original film sources, but then a lot of the stuff has been intentionally blurred, washed out by poor lighting, glaringly obvious matte lines, etc.

          This behavior didn’t put Trek into exile, dwindling quality did.

          • Matt

            Pictures don’t tell the whole story in my opinion. We’ve only seen a dozen or so screenies, I’m not willing to shoot down the whole set based on these.

            You can’t say “so much has been blurred and poorly lit” when all you have seen a dozen odd frames. That’s less than a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the entire thing.

            I’m not saying blindly buy it. I am saying people are over reacting. If you don’t want to gamble your cash on what could be lacklustre set, go hire it first from your local rental store (whatever you have in your country), or go watch it demoed at your local HiFi store (I know our local JB Hifi stores in Australia were playing it quite regularly when season 1 was released)

            I know the later Star Trek years suffered from stuff like Threshold and Acquisition. I’m just saying the fact that this show is getting this treatment now, when so much other stuff from this era is going to be left in SD forever more, we should be thankful.

          • New Horizon

            I am very thankful, but that doesn’t mean I have to shower praise for whatever crumbs they throw our way. If something doesn’t measure up to what came before, it’s our responsibility and our right as the consumer to make it loud and clear that we’re not happy about it and that we don’t want it to happen again in the future. If Seasons 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are all of similar style and quality to Season 1…I will buy Season 2 last, but from here on out, I’m just going to watch and wait to make sure CBS handles the rest of the Seasons more carefully.

            If the quality is going to be uneven like this every second season, I would rather the show stay in SD. I’m not going to blindly reward a company for making what I feel was a huge mistake.

          • Esmeralda

            I seen only dozen of screenshots of S1, and I was amazed.

            Remastering of S1 was amazing.

            I saw enough screenshots from S2 that I can say ”I’am very disappointed”.

            For me this is not better than SD version.

            For me the most important thing in TNG-R are the new VFX in HD.

            I already seen all this episodes. I have DVDs.

            If they want that I buy TNG-R and other star trek series on blu-ray,

            I expect the quality level of S1 of TNG-R. I will not be satisfied with anything less.

  • Mad as Hell

    How can the Okudas stand up for this sub-par work from HTV? Don’t they know how important it is to keep the quality standard consistent throughout the 7 releases? Now the set will forever be marred by some stupid corporate suits and their brilliant decision to crank the series out like some fast food. Let’s hope CBS re-releases Season 2 to make good on this fiasco.