The long-awaited Star Trek: Deep Space Nine retrospective documentary What We Left Behind finally lands in theaters on May 13, but ahead of that special event, TrekCore has some exclusive new looks into the eye-popping new episode footage, remastered in high-definition for the first time as part of the project!
We’ve known for more than two years that the long-gestating documentary has been aiming to include as much high-def material as possible, including running a second round of fundraising specifically to facilitate the complicated process of rescanning remastering the original film elements from the series to a 1080p presentation — which we covered extensively when CBS Digital, back for this project, took on the Next Generation remastering several years ago.
While the What We Left Behind documentary is being treated as a standalone effort — meaning that the material converted to HD is not intended to be part of a full-series DS9 remastering — the results of the production team’s efforts, assisted by original director of photography Jonathan West, are no less than outstanding, as you’ll see in some new, exclusive footage we bring you today courtesy of Shout! Studios.
As you may have seen when we broke down the documentary trailer last month, the remastered Deep Space Nine episodic footage has been reframed for a 16:9 widescreen presentation as to be more visually compatible with the lengthy interview segments which fill the majority of the film.
(If the series ever gets a full remastering green-lit, we would expect it to remain in its original 4:3 aspect ratio like the Next Generation project.)
In this first clip shared with TrekCore, you can see clearly illustrated how this scene between Quark (Armin Shimerman) and Kira (Nana Visitor) in the final moments of “Emissary” have been reframed for the new presentation: by opening up to the picture information available in the full film negative, the editors have been able to adjust the framing for the documentary with minimal top-and-bottom cropping.
There is still some picture information lost around the upper and lower edges of the frame, a limitation of the early years of production on Deep Space Nine. As the series progressed, and DP Jonathan West came on board for Season 3, the filming team protected for a potential future widescreen presentation.
As documentary producer Kai de Mello-Folsom told us last August:
“We have been consulting with director of photography Jonathan West,” de Mello-Folsom told us, “who confirms that, at least from Season 3 on, camera operators were framing ‘action-safe’ for widescreen — in order to future-proof [the episodes] for eventual, possible, widescreen release.”
Framing is one thing, but the biggest impact this remastering project has had on the series footage, as expected, is the remarkable improvement in image quality. We first got a taste of what Deep Space Nine could look like in HD back when “Birthright” arrived as part of the TNG Season 6 Blu-ray set, showing how the physical station model and Promenade sets could look given a proper rescan and regrading.
The earliest episodes of Deep Space Nine contain some of the most difficult-to-watch footage of the franchise, from an image fidelity standpoint — series producer Ira Behr has publicly called the current DVD-quality releases “[not] something to be proud of” — and “Emissary” remains one of the worst offenders.
Details are lost in murky dark scenes aboard the trashed station, the gorgeous matte paintings of Bajor are blurry messes, and familiar settings like the Enterprise bridge and transporter room are full of haze, a notable step down from the TNG Blu-rays we’ve now all grown accustomed to watching.
In this second exclusive moment from What We Left Behind, the infamous first encounter between Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) — set inside the Enterprise conference lounge — bursts to life after a pass through CBS Digital’s remarkable restoration process.
From the bright reds of the officers’ Starfleet uniforms, to the true-white tea set on the table, to the shot of Bajor out the window, this feels like a shot we’re seeing for the very first time. (Also note the new framing in this moment appears to have no cropping at all, just an expansion to the sides of the picture.)
Just think of some of the other moments from the early days of Deep Space Nine that might benefit from this treatment: Kira’s first run-in with Julian Bashir in the dark, abandoned infirmary, Sisko’s first encounter with Kai Opaka in her underground Bajoran temple… the list goes on.
Finally today, we have a full minute of documentary footage debuting for the first time here at TrekCore, which centers around some of Odo’s (Rene Auberjonois) relationships with his fellow station residents — from his profit-seeking nemesis Quark to his eventual love interest, Kira Nerys.
Along with brief interview segments with both Auberjonois and Shimerman — as well as a look at some of the new interstitial graphics created for the documentary, this clip also includes full-HD moments like Quark and Odo’s farewell from the series finale (“What You Leave Behind”), and Odo and Kira’s first kiss on the Promenade (from Season 6’s “His Way”).
If you compare two matching frames from the Odo-Kira kiss sequence, you can see that not only is there a clarity and color improvement, but you can see how the original DVD master includes some slight film distortion which occurred during the original processing of the raw footage, now corrected in the HD re-scans.
This ‘twist’ correction is something that we saw occur plenty of times when we created our SD-to-HD Next Generation comparison videos as we matched up the footage frame-to-frame; it’s an issue that viewers would likely never notice without a ‘clean’ film scan to compare it to — and a rarely-discussed benefit of the modern remastering process.
We’ll have much more on What We Left Behind as the days count down to the May 13 theatrical release, including our full review of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine retrospective later this week.
In the meantime, let us know what you think about this new look at DS9 in HD in the comments below — and be sure to order your tickets for the Fathom Events screening before they’re gone!