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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One thing they were doing that I could REALLY could have been improved: Repeat shots.
Original trek reused shots all the damn time. Enterprise flyby, Enterprise firing phasers, phasers exploding (?!)
Would have been really nice if they had been more varied there. Shoot them from another angle or something! Show the phaser shots exploding in different places, show the Romulan ship shadowed by the explosions...
Just could have been much better.

I watched with a friend (Who is a warsie, btw) and he pointed out the same thing you did, about the Enterprise being very flat and cartoony.
I thought it wasn't that bad. The original model was very simple, very low detail, and said that this seems to be being done by someone with a decent amount of respect for the source material, to the point of not changing stuff like that. Not new models, just shinier effects.
Compare that to the Wars remakes: Better ship models, but also random changes for other stuff. CGI creatures all over the place, changing minor plot points just for fun (The Earth Outpost shoots first!), etc.