ST5 and Torpedo Shielding

(Here's another unpublished post, this one from late May. The reason it wasn't published and was forgotten will probably be obvious in the first sentence.)

So I'm watching Star Trek V . . . hey, yeah, I know, shut up, I'm drunk and I like the "What does God need with a starship?" line. Or maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Whatever.

So anyway, I'm watching Star Trek V, and it dawned on me that the example does as much to prove torp shielding than anything else I've mentioned. From orbital height, the E-A shot a torp which, within seconds, impacted against the surface. A similar example appears in the Voyager ep with the small-size torp glows, "Alliances"[VOY2].

A ballistic de-orbit of a vehicle like the shuttle or like the old space capsules (or, actually, like the planned Orion space capsules) takes minutes, and even then they're heated to thousands of degrees. A de-orbit measured in seconds must therefore involve significantly higher temperature increases. Oh sure, most meteors don't reach a higher temperature than the thousands of degrees when they come barrelling in like a bat out of hell (or into it as the case may be), but sudden heating of a surface by thousands of degrees is surely not normal procedure. This is, after all, what many weapons are designed to do. So unless we want to believe that the very thin skin of a photon torpedo casing is capable of extraordinary levels of insulation, we must accept this as an independent proof that torpedoes have their own shields.

Environmental Security

(Another blog post I began but didn't quite know how to conclude . . . so it's basically just some idle ruminations.)

In ST:FC, the Borg alter the environment on assimilated decks to a temperature of 39.1 Celsius, 92% humidity, and the pressure is raised two kilopascals (which, for you hurricane watchers out there, would mean it went from 1013hPa to about 1033hPa).

I never really did the conversion before . . . I knew it was hot and muggy, but damn. 39.1 Celsius is 102 Fahrenheit. And that's 92% humidity.

I've been in low-humidity, above-100-degree places on still days. You bake, but it's not really that bad out of the sun. And I've been in high-humidity, above-90-degree places on still days. You boil alive because sweat no longer serves its function, though it sure keeps trying.

In other words, a Borg ship is a hot and humid hellhole. Little wonder they don't worry about folks beaming aboard and milling about . . . what are they gonna do, take over the ship? They couldn't walk twenty paces without stopping for a Gatorade. I wouldn't go in there without a spacesuit, or at least a dehumidifying mask of some sort and a wall-mount air conditioner strapped to my back.

Besides, in those conditions the whole ship would just feel icky.

Of course, we never saw folks aboard Borg ships sweating to death in TNG. By the same token, though, they were never aboard for long. Little wonder ... I wouldn't want to be either. People were aboard for longer in Voyager, but I think they had 'em sweating most of the time.

(Kinda puts a new spin on "Regeneration"[ENT2] and the Borg waking up in Antarctica. No wonder they got the hell off the planet so fast. "Midair shrinkage is futile ... but sh-sh-sh-sh-shit we gotta go!!")

This got me thinking about other races. For instance, "Emissary"[DSN1] gives us mention of the environmental controls in Ops being stuck at 32 degrees Celsius. That's 90, and although Sisko mentioned it was unusually warm he didn't say anything about the humidity. There's never been any solid evidence for the default humidity of Cardassia or Cardassian ships as far as I know, and we can't be sure what the Starfleet standard levels are either.

Indeed, there's no telling what that might be. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends 30-50% humidity in homes for various reasons, not all of which would apply to a starship. I'd wager that a Vulcan would generally find Earth conditions cold and damp, whereas Ferengi would probably find Earth rather dry. And of course you get outliers like Tholians.

The point is, although we've seen extremely rapid air exchange in places like the bridge ("Evolution"[TNG3], et al., where the bridge is cleared of smoke almost instantly), it seems that the rest of the ship can't have its environment rapidly altered for some reason. Of course some of that has been so-called "dramatic necessity" (i.e. weak writing).

Still, I don't think we've ever seen anyone really fiddle with life support to contain boarders, with the exception of the Romulan drone being made to irradiate a room in "United"[ENT4]. And of course I'm not counting the obvious knock-out gas from "Space Seed" et al. Indeed, most of the time when we've seen boarders they haven't been prepared for any such occurrence . . . I'm thinking here of the Remans beaming to the lower decks in Nemesis in just their uniforms and evidently expecting to make it to the bridge.

Of course spacesuits, even high-tech ones, would undoubtedly slow one down. Even a simple life support belt a la TAS would work, and is doable with modern effects. But I guess by the time folks figured this out it was too late.

(I have to say, though, that the best example of environmental security was from Stargate SG-1 . . . a Goa'uld brig didn't really have a forcefield at the door, as I recall, nor did it need one . . . when the switch was thrown, the floor became a wall, and the brig entrance became the ceiling. That modification to artificial gravity was an ingenious security device.)

Some Interesting Comments from StarWars.com

I'm trying to get done with some old blog posts that were started but never finished. So here's one:

Here we have some interesting commentary from StarWars.com regarding differences between the original films and the DVD Special Editions. We don't know who the author is, but the page presents itself as the "ultimate authority".

I highly recommend scanning through the article, but I'm also providing links to the original images. The following highlights are regarding some debated material, including the Death Star and some images relating to the scaling of the Falcon.

N.B. This 'backstage info' is interesting, but not canon.

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The original shot of Alderaan also had effects artifacts in it, appearing as a hazy blue outline that surrounds the planet.

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The original laser blast was hand-animated to have jagged lightning-like fingers of energy surround Alderaan, which didn't scale convincingly. The Special Edition instead had the atmosphere ignite as it spread from the impact point.

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The original jump-cut explosion was replaced with a blast that featured a shockwave ring and more properly scaled debris.

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In 1997, the original matte painting of the Falcon was replaced with one that used a digital ship model as a foundation. Also, the Death Star hangar design was changed to match the one seen in Return of the Jedi.


Why Not EdenFX for TOR?

It finally dawned on me why TOS Remastered looks the way it does.

First off, some have asked whether they could do anything like this with TNG, DS9, and the other standard-definition shows. The answer is that they could, but the answer is also that they never will. TOS was never meant to be an effects-heavy show . . . Desilu would've gone broke. But twenty years later, Trek audiences had (as per the statements of the time) come to expect the same quality of special effects that had been seen in the films. And, thanks to advancements like video compositing via the Quantel "Harry" (which took high-quality 35mm film elements and could allow you to mix (composite) them electronically) and other such devices, they were able to put out a high level of effects work at reasonable cost.

As you might've seen in the Basics section of the site, standard definition TV in the USA is also known as 480i . . . 480 horizontal lines of resolution, shown in interlaced frames. The new TOR is being created with 1080p in mind . . . the best format of HDTV. That's 2.25 times the number of horizontal lines of resolution.

The Quantel Harry's output was basically 480i. So if you wanted to remaster TNG, you'd want to take all those 35mm filmed elements and recomposite each and every one in HDTV quality. I don't know what elements they'd still have available, not to mention which ones were shot on film. For instance, some of the niftiest TNG effects were done at bargain-basement prices, and might've only ever existed on video. That mylar pom-pom shield effect comes to mind, not to mention the computer-generated phaser beams from DS9 and perhaps earlier. Weaker effects like that excessively-crappy purple-static-disintegrator effect from "Angel One" (which looked like CGI off of an Amiga) would probably demand some modern CGI replacement, too.

Think about that for a moment. Some might say "sounds good, let's do it!", but it'll never fly. TOS was great for its time, but when you get right down to it that show was light on the visual effects. Even episodes like "Balance of Terror" only have a few opticals. Probably "The Doomsday Machine" ranks highest insofar as opticals are concerned, but I'd wager that your average TNG episode trounces "Doomsday"'s count. The audience had come to expect quality effects and a little bit of "wow!", and the tech and budget was there to allow Roddenberry et al. to deliver.

Redoing TOS is a cakewalk. The effort they're going to spend on TOS Remastered is probably less than the effort that would be spent recompositing just TNG's first season in HDTV.

So will the TNG-era Trek shows always look like low-res ancient TV, with TOR and ENT looking 2.25 times better? No, not at all. When the time comes for TNG, DS9, and Voyager to appear in Blu-Ray, credits to navy beans says they're just going to upconvert it.

Upconversion isn't new. Even old DVD players taking a 480i movie, de-interlacing, and making it progressive scan 480p are upconverting to some extent. But there's consumer-level equipment out there now which will take 480i signals and upconvert for viewing on HDTV plasmas, LCDs, and so on.

It won't look as flawless as a totally redone TNG, but TNG-Upconverted won't look bad at all. Just witness the Ten-Forward scenes they lifted from TNG and reused in "These Are The Voyages"[ENT4] to see what I mean.

But of course, it won't look perfect, perhaps especially when it comes to the effects. Some of the early Image G ultraviolet compositing work looked a little weak at times compared to the ILM shots from the first season . . . and not just because of the "Bulldog" four-foot model.

However, that leads us back to the original point.

While faithfulness to the original effects is a laudable goal, and while I'm sure in-house CGI done by CBS Digital was cheaper than using the awesome work we've come to know and love from EdenFX, I think it's also true that they didn't want to show up the TNG-era shows too badly. The EdenFX test footage was awesome, but imagine looking at "Balance of Terror" or "The Doomsday Machine" in an EdenFX version, then popping in even an upconverted "The Defector"[TNG3] or even "Best of Both Worlds"[TNG4] . . . or for that matter, even the Dominion War fights from DS9. It just wouldn't compare . . . TNG-era shows looked great and hold up well, but even upconverted it would be trounced by the beauty of EdenFX.

(There's also the matter of the sets. TOS sets looked alright for the most part (but even in standard definition I remember shoddy bits like the button for the Tantalus Field device). However, according to some interviews with production staffers, the TNG sets were often built with the intent of 480i and no close-ups . . . it was the DS9 sets that first got the movie-quality-close-up treatment, and even then it was probably mainly just the standing sets.)

In short, then, I think they want to keep consistency. The Enterprise really could be done a whole lot better for TOR, but as soon as they whipped out an EdenFX-quality Enterprise they'd be stuck in a few years with 21 seasons of the TNG-era shows that look like crud by comparison. And there'd be nothing they could do about it unless the TOR team signed on for another 20 years of work.

"Better to keep things faithful to the original" would be the logic there, I'd say. And of course, since 1080p HDTV is pretty much the end-all be-all of resolution (since even high-quality movies like Star Wars Episode III were filmed on 1080p digital cameras and looked gorgeous blown up to theater-screen-size), getting a good-enough 1080p Star Trek Original Series, mixed with upconversion of the rest, is all they really need to do, and realistically all they can do.

But, alas, I still would've liked streaking warp stars . . .


ST:TOR Second Look

As you might've noticed on the "Balance of Terror" page update, I have finally acquired a pretty high-res version of the premiere remastered episode.

In my first look at TOR in the last post I expressed some concerns. Many of them now seem unfounded, while some others are reinforced.


1. Things do indeed look better in full motion.

2. The nacelle end-cap color is still a little icky-looking, but the spinning effect and Christmas lights are there and good. They all seem to be off at the same time from time to time, which seems to be the exact moments when that guy made his screenshots. But all in all, they're not bad.

Remnant Complaints:

1. The lighting style for the ship could really be a little less TOS. In some shots it even is, and things look okay. I'm not suggesting that they go all dark and moody, but the main reason the ship was so scandalously-well-lit for TOS was technical . . . as I recall they didn't really have the ability to do a hold-out matte to prevent dark areas from compositing badly, so all the ship edges stayed well-lit. Re-doing this excessive lighting in CGI just comes across looking a little silly.

On the other hand, in the midst of the episode (shortly after the weakened plasma torp hits the ship) we get a darkly-lit view of the top of the Bird of Prey showing off some rather bland and uninteresting hull plating, basically a checker-board pattern of reflection on the ship. That stands out pretty wildly from the rest. I wish they'd pick one.

But still, the ship looks flat and a little cartoony. The shadows on the ship during the final phaser shots (this being one where they left the lower saucer in shadow to show off the phaser bolts reflecting off the hull) are very, very soft, so it looks about as realistic as if one were to hold a model near an open window. I sincerely wish they'd chosen to go with Eden FX instead of doing things in-house at CBS Digital. The Eden FX test footage showed up at TrekMovie.com . . . and as I was just looking for a link I saw the following comment regarding "Devil in the Dark"[TOR] that I must now echo:

In general, though, as I look at these shots I’m more convinced than ever that the model is over lit and under textured. There’s hardly any tonal or specular variation over the hull surface, particularly in the side-on orbital view, it’s all just a flat, featureless gray. I’ve seen the still images of the CG model that clearly show weathering, gridlines and other subtle surface details but they are apparently too subtle to survive the bright lights and the transition to full-motion video, at SD resolution anyway. I presume they are trying to evoke the somewhat overexposed look of the originals, but this is one of those cases where I feel they are adhering too closely to authenticity and missing an opportunity to truly improve these shots.

Well said.

(Oh yeah, and here are the links to the Eden FX stuff: Great, and Hella-Cool. Note even in the small pics how you can discern hull plating reflections and so on . . . details seemingly absent from the CBS Digital effects. Cartoony, big-time.)

2. The Bird of Prey lacks the faint blue glow on its clear nacelle end-caps, visible in the TOS DVDs. In the TOR version they just look like solid metal hemispheres. I thought the clear bits with a blue glow visible from the front were nifty as hell when I first realized they were there, and hate to see them gone.

3. This isn't the fault of the remastering, but the cuts for TV broadcast suck, badly. Many of the best little moments of the episode were chopped out, from Spock's reaction shot to seeing the Romulans for the first time, to Kirk walking in a commanding fashion upon calling the orders to attack, and so in. Yet left in are seemingly random scenes. It's weird.

4. I've been itching for them to add just a hint of blue glow to the inboard nacelles or deflector dish, but I'm just a little bit revisionist that way. I guess they gave up on doing that when they did "Trials and Tribble-ations" and of course "In a Mirror, Darkly" and so now we're stuck with that choice. Ah well. It'd look cool.


Overall, I'd say the remastering is a good thing, since it simply had to happen in order to keep the new kids from just dismissing it out-of-hand. But since they're staying largely true to the original versions, there simply aren't going to be any "the kids are gonna piss!" moments . . . that'll have to wait for the remake movie.

In the future, though, I'm thinking that the overall view will be that they had a chance here to do things better and didn't, both by going with CBS Digital and by CBS Digital's choice to stay so true to certain elements they could've done without, like lighting and limited detail on the ship.

As for broadcasting the remaster mostly in standard definition, I'd say that while that might help support the project a little by providing income as it's going on, it seems like it's going to hurt in the long-run. I'll definitely want the Blu-Ray discs, for instance, but I'd imagine a lot of potential interest is going to get cast aside when people see it in standard definition and think "oh, ho-hum".

Time will tell.


Uh-oh ... ST:TOR First Looks

"The Original. Remastered." is the tagline on ads for the new TOS, so I'm assuming TOR is the appropriate three-letter designator.

In any case, TrekMovie.com has some images of the remastered Balance of Terror. The images are at standard definition quality, so it's not the HD glory we're hearing of.

While it's unfair to judge based on these screenshots, I have to say that perhaps the attempt to replicate the 1960's over-lighting of the Enterprise was not the best plan. The ship looked pretty good rendered in the ST:ENT lighting style, but while I haven't seen her in motion yet, in these images the ship looks flat and kinda cartoony, with only the vaguest hints of the details seen in the beauty shots posted online. Of course perhaps the show looks better in HD, but perhaps TOR is not the best thing for standard-def.

One thing that seems clear, though, is that the forward nacelle caps are crappy, with none of the multicolored christmas-light look. I don't get it either . . . the ship looks absolutely frickin' gorgeous in the beauty shots, lit properly and with nacelle caps that are multicolored and very wait-is-that-the-real-model?-esque. But in the images we're seeing the nacelles look like they were done in Windows 3.11 Paintbrush with the Pepto-Puke color selected.

Hopefully the situation will improve, and Balance of Terror (serving here as the "pilot" for TOR) will either look really great on HD or else will be redone to do so. Or, most hopefully, maybe the screenshots are just crappy and things look great in full motion.

Fingers . . . crossed.


I've finally ported over the canon arguments to CanonWars.com, so as to allow better focus for pure ST-v-SW material here at ST-v-SW.Net. I'll be removing the relevant material from this site (or putting in redirects as appropriate) as soon as I get around to it.


And Now For Something Completely Different

Go here immediately! It's the secretly-released clip of the video J.J. Abrams made when he was pitching his new Trek movie to Paramount. It shows us what the theme of the new film will be, including modernized musical score, with clips of TOS as stand-ins for new actors.

It's really gonna be a helluva film!


Pablo on Trek

I knew I liked this guy . . . he's a Niner. And a Star Wars fan who doesn't hate Trek (which, given the usual Star Wars fans I deal with, is quite refreshing). And besides that, he reminded me of what day it is.

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!


Leonard McCoy ... call him Flash, not Bones

I just realized something that had never occurred to me before. I've also misplaced my tongue, though I think it might be hiding in my cheek . . .

You see, in Star Trek V, we see McCoy watching Kirk climb El Capitan. Take a look at the last pic on TrekCore's screencaps page to see how far away McCoy is:

Caps by TrekCore.com

His distance is also confirmed by the angle at which he holds the little Starfleet binoculars . . . pretty close to level instead of close to straight up. And the image through the binoculars is also confirmation . . . Kirk's area being climbed is viewed from closer to level than as if from below. Both of these can be seen in TrekCore's Chapter Two of screenshots from the film.

A few minutes later, Spock's doing his little jetboot happy dance, distracting Kirk and causing a fall. The fall takes mere seconds . . . McCoy starts running from his position toward the mountain as soon as the fall begins.

Spock and his amazing technicolor jetboots manage to save Kirk, and moments after the fall is stopped mere feet from the ground McCoy comes running up at a jog.

Surely, though, he must've gone faster than a standard human jog to make that kind of distance. He had to have run a mile or two at least, and had to have done so in well under a minute, give or take. This implies running speeds of no less than 100km/h (60mph), and probably two or three times that at least.

No wonder Dax still fondly remembered his hands. If he could move his legs that fast, just imagine what he could do with his fingers. ;)





And so . . .

Now what? Which version is canon? Do I have to toss all my old analyses featuring TOS? Hell, I still haven't caught up regarding the DVD editions of Star Wars!