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Exclusive Interview with Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-ray Producer Robert Meyer-Burnett

By: Ben Gourlay | Editorials in HT & Movies | Posted: Jul 26, 2012 8:46 am
Manufacturer: Paramount

TT: Some segments of the online Blu-ray community were disappointed with the choice to retain the original 4:3 aspect ratio, and this is touched upon in one of the bonus features. So do you feel the right decision was made to get the original aspect ratio?


I absolutely do, because while there is sometimes a lot of extra room on the negative, you would have to almost recompose every single shot of the series in some way, shape or form. The problem with that is who is going to make that choice? You no longer have the director of photography involved, you don't have the directors of the individual episodes involved, and I think one of the criticisms which was leveled at the restoration of the original series, at least in terms of the visual effects, is there was no real singular vision of how to change things or what to change, sure Michael and Denise Okuda and Dave Rossi and those guys did a great job, but to me it was like, I think that there was a few missteps made, like the size of the ships. I think as Star Trek moved on the ships tend to move faster, you don't get the feeling that these are lumbering large starships. I thought the best way that large starship combat was ever displayed, in terms of the Star Trek universe was in Star Trek II, the way the Enterprise pummeled the Reliant, and vice versa.




When you are shooting a live action plate, television was 4.3. They did not know at the time that there was going to be 16.9 shots and so many times, especially with the visual effects, there is only 4.3 imagery and we use an example were they actually, in the episode 11001001, from the first season, you have a plate that was originally created by ILM for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, of the inside of the space dock and the Enterprise D comes into the space dock in 11001001, they only have an element of the Enterprise which is 4.3, because it stretches off the 4.3 frame you actually see Enterprise go off the edge of the frame. Because that's the only element they have, they couldn't recompose that shot into 16.9 without blowing way into it and then re-doing the whole background and I think this is the case throughout the whole series. At the time, television was 4.3, it just was and I think why not preserve it at that aspect ratio? I appreciate that I have a wide screen TV and I think it's actually fun sometimes to watch things in 16.9 that are 4.3 because it looks like it's more cinematic, but that's how Star Trek was made and to go in and change it just because we have 16.9 screens, that's great, but there is a historical preservation issue regarding how the show was made. The Twilight Zone, I love Lucy, MASH, these shows are all 4.3 and that's was the way they were created and it's like saying "wouldn't it be great to re-compose Jurassic Park and make it 2.35, because Steven Spielberg shouldn't have made Jurassic Park in 1.85" but he wanted to be able to show how big the dinosaurs are and that's why he made Jurassic Park in 1.85, as opposed to 2.35 like Close Encounters or Raiders of the Lost Ark.


I think that's a rambling answer [laughs] but that's the thing; Star Trek was 4.3 and my answer is; so that is the way it should be.


TT: For fans who may be hesitant about reinvesting in the series on Blur-ray again, what never before seen features are in store for them?


Well first of all, the actually episodes themselves look so vastly different. I can honestly say if you think you've seen Star Trek, think again because you only have to put in one episode to see how different it is. It's like watching something that was shot yesterday. One of the episodes, The Big Goodbye, that won a Peabody award, that was really the first big holodeck episode, when they walk out into the wet streets of Dixon Hill, it looks like Miami Vice or something. The neon's glow off the water on the streets, the colors are so vibrant, blacks are no longer grey. Even the colors of the uniforms look totally different. If the set had no special features at all, I would recommend buying the show anyway because it looks so different. I mean, you really have never seen Star Trek look like Star Trek if you are a fan of The Next Generation. So that in itself is worth owning. I think that there is no reason, at all, if you have a Blu-ray player to hang onto your old DVD's. I wouldn't say this about most things, but in this case there is no reason to hang onto those old DVD's, at all, unless you wanted a few of the text commentaries. But I would say we've also done, the Ernie Anderson voiced promos [mimics voice] "Next time on Star Trek: The Next Generation!". We've found all of those; they're also on the disc and were so funny. It was great to get those back again.




I would also say, not to toot my own horn too loudly, but we did two hours of documentaries where were literally involved everybody that we possibly could, including the entire cast and Rick Berman and director Jim Conway. Angelo Dante, who works at CBS Home Entertainment, even found the original camera tests for all of the actors, for their makeup and their costumes and their lighting tests. He found that and he didn't even know what it was, he found that when they were finding all the material, and we've used a lot of that. One of the things that I love, there's a bit when DeForrest Kelly's makeup is being tested and into the frame walks Gene Roddenberry himself, who came to visit DeForrest Kelly when they were trying his makeup on, and I'd never seen that image. It's never been in a book, it's never been anywhere and it is just a brief thing, but for me as a fan, I'm like "œoh my God!" They kind of hug each other and smile, there's no audio but it was amazing.


Whatever we could find, we would put out on these discs. Roger and I are fanatics that will not stop, like The Terminator. Whatever we could find we will put on these discs, things that people have never seen before and I think that if you're a fan, the 90 minute Star Date Revisited documentary and the Energize! documentary are some of the best stuff, if I do say so myself, ever put together for Star Trek. To be far; we couldn't go in some of stories, you can't"¦ I still want to celebrate the joy of Star Trek. Star Trek during its first two seasons had a lot of clashes of egos and a lot of writers that came and went from the show and cast members that also came and went from the show. You want to get into that stuff but you also don't want to besmirch the memory of the show. I think we walked a fine line sometimes, but I think in the documentary we hint as to why Gerald and Dorothy Fontana were so deeply disappointed in working on season one, but at the same time we still celebrate season one.

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