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: Season 2 TNG-R Interview, Part 2
Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com
TrekCore: 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?
Mike Okuda: 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…
Denise Okuda: We relied on his expertise to try to get it as perfect as we possibly could.
TrekCore: 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?
Mike Okuda: 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!
Nagilum from 'Where Silence Has Lease' was faithfully recreated in high-definition to capture the original 'murky creepiness'
TrekCore: 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?
Denise Okuda: 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’.
Mike Okuda: He was busy shooting Castle and he took a morning off to join us.
Denise 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!
TrekCore: 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?
Denise Okuda: 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.
Mike 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.
Denise 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!
TrekCore: 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?
Mike Okuda: 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: 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.
TrekCore: 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?
Denise Okuda: Well we obviously were 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!
TrekCore: 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?
Mike Okuda: ‘The Offspring’…
Denise Okuda: Yes, ‘The Offspring’, one of my favorites.
TrekCore: 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?
Mike Okuda: 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.
Denise 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.
Mike & Denise Okuda were thrilled to have three of the original creative team on board for Season 2 (Left to Right: David 'D-Tak' Takemura, Dan Curry and Doug Drexler).
TrekCore: 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.
Mike Okuda: 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!”
Denise Okuda: We were very, very excited. It was a lot of fun!
TrekCore: Do you know if they’re going to be coming back to help with future seasons?
Denise Okuda: 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.
Mike Okuda: If we were fortunate enough to work with them again, we’d be thrilled.
TrekCore: Mike and Denise, it’s been great talking to you again. Thanks for all your continued hard work, and we look forward to Season 2!
Mike Okuda: Thanks Adam and thanks for all your coverage and we hope everyone enjoys Season 2.
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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!