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JMS comments on DVD quality

I'll just let the man speak for himself:

There are a number of elements to this discussion that need to be addressed.

First, a lot of the flaws being seen on the film were there in the beginning; the difference is that the DVD transfer shows those little flaws more clearly than when the show is broadcast on tape over the air. Just as a CD will pick up any glitches in the original analog master, so a DVD will show any shortcomings in the film or the transfer.

On the CGI question, bear in mind that we were making this show at the very beginning of CGI effects, and that they had never been done for TV on this scale before. Many andvancements have been made in the intervening years, but at the time, the hardware and software we had was pretty rudimentary.

We did not have the tech, at that time, to do our comps in widescreen super35 versions. The software that we used to dump the footage into couldn't handle it. So we had no choice but to render the CGI and the comps in standard ratio.

We cannot intercut full-frame CGI with widescreen non-cgi tuff because sometimes we intercut in two-second intervals or less, and the banging back and forth between aspect ratios would be extremely hard on the eyes.

Nor can this footage be re-rendered because the separate elements do not exist anymore, only the original un-comped film elements are there. The CGI files are not around anymore, and to recreate every shot would be prohibitively expensive. In a big way.

Because of the trend to HD, the widescreen versions, even with these small glitches, will still have a longer shelf life than if we put them out in regular aspect ratio. And that is the purpose of the story, to keep it around.

We were the prisoners to the tech that was available to us at the time (for the first season we were using home Amigas, no less). It was all experimental and by the seat of our pants kind of stuff. But it was the best anyone was doing at the time, and we did the best we could with the tools we had.


(all message content (c) 2002 by synthetic worlds, ltd.,
permission to reprint specifically denied to SFX Magazine
and don't send me story ideas)
Since the wide screen versions were first shown on SciFi I have thought (and occassionally said) that the vast majority of the f/x shots are just fine with the cropping and many of them are better (from an artistic composition POV).

However, in my ideal world (which I realize is not where I am living /forums/images/graemlins/rolleyes.gif) I would love to see Warner spend the money to re-render or composite just those very few shots where the cropping materially detracts from the viewers perspective on what is going on. Of course, the one that comes to mind right now is in the already released first season; Delenn among the broken globes at the very end of Soul Hunter.

Everyone needs their dreams, right? /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
(Given the choice, though, I would take a fifth season of Farscape over fixing those few shots scattered over the run of B5.)

One question. I have watched the DVD of "The Gathering" (and "In the Begining") on a nice 65" HDTV. I also watched right afterward, "Midnight on the Firing Line." The CGI in "The Gathering" as well as "ItB" looked a LOT better than the CGI scenes in "Midnight." I found this odd since The Gathering was done first I thought. Any speculation as to why there seemed to be such a difference in CGI? It wasnt that Midnight looked BAD its just that after watching The Gathering just before it, it seemed so much brighter and sharper in the older one.
Three reasons:

1) The Gathering originally had a production budget more than double that of any of the episodes, and wasn't produced under the insane time pressure of a weekly series. They had more time and money to devote to the CGI.

2) Unlike all subsequent B5 material, The Gathering was shot in the standard 35mm film process, not Super35. Since the live action was always intended to be presented at 1.33:1 rather than 1.78:1, the CGI did not have to be processed to match a different live action aspect ratio.

3) In 1998 TNT put up a fair amount of change to re-edit, rescore and correct/add CGI shots to The Gathering. So the version of the film on the DVD, and particularly some of the CGI shots, are actually newer than the S1 episodes. You're not actually seeing a 1993 film.

BTW, people were also screaming about the "lousy" quality of the first DVD release, and many of those who have problems with the S1 set will still concede that it looks better than the first disc did.

The final reason may be this: If you're watching the S1 set on a 1.33:1 (4:3) standard television, the image has to go through some processing in the player before being output to the set, so that it displays in the proper aspect ratio. Some players are better at this anamorphic "down-conversion" than others. Since The Gathering isn't widescreen, much less enhanced for 16:9 televisions, you're player doesn't have to go through this extra processing step. I suspect that one of the reasons I'm so much happier with the image quality than some folks is that I'm watching the unprocessed widescreen image on a widescreen TV, therefore getting the full benefit of the increase resolution this makes possible.


This was on a Mitsubishi 65" Widescreen TV as well. It makes sense about some of the Gathering CGI being newer in places. I just thought it was odd that Midnight didnt seem as crisp. Then again, a lot of S1 always struck me as less crisp even on TV than later seasons, so I wouldnt be suprised if quality of later sets "appears" to look better than S1 does. Overall the DVD was great, just a weird observation thats all.

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