Post Magazine

August 2012

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restoration CBS Digital 'makes it so' L OS ANGELES — Star Trek: The Next Generation has undergone its first digi- tal facelift, courtesy of CBS Digital, the visual effects and post production arm of CBS. Responsible for bringing Star Trek: The Original Series to fans in HD in 2007, the studio recently finished remastering the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation for Blu-ray release last month, and plans to remaster the remaining 152 episodes in HD over the next two years. As Captain Picard would say, CBS Digital will "make it so." Visual effects supervisor/head creative " access to today's tools and compositing algo- rithms puts us at an advantage. Working with Autodesk Flame Premium software, which offers an integrated timeline, 3D visual effects tools and realtime color grading tools, Weiss and his team scan the original film with 2K Spirits, ingest it into the software, conform it and create a timeline — stripping out the original visual effects. The timeline is passed to the Flame artists, who rebuild the visual effects. Once rebuilt, the effects are brought back into the timeline, and then color corrected all within Flame. "We're able to pass timelines through each department easily amongst the different systems," explains Weiss. "The way the timeline, effects tools and color grading tools all live together in the same universe and work Craig Weiss and his team built a stabilization workflow using the creative toolset in Autodesk Flare. Restoring Star Trek: The Next Generation for Blu-ray release. director Craig Weiss is spearheading the project — tapping a team of 13 artists, as well as a group of consultants who act as the eyes and ears of the fans. "This project is a huge undertaking," he explains. "Going in, we knew it would be a challenge to create truly beautiful effects that take advantage of today's technol- ogy, yet remain faithful to the original look that fans know and love." Star Trek: The Next Generation was originally shot on film, posted in SD, transferred to 1-inch tape and filed away — leaving no path back to the negatives and posing significant technical obstacles for CBS Digital. Without access to the negative cut list, Weiss' team had to reconstruct the series in high def and rebuild the visual effects from the ground up. This required extensive compositing and remastering on a number of archetypal effects, like the Starship Enterprise. THINKING OUT OF THE BOX "This kind of project calls for out-of-the box thinking. Normally you have an edit decision list (EDL) for conform, but there is no EDL for the VFX," shares Weiss. "Our team has to be very inventive in reconforming. That being said, having 50 Post • August 2012 them to register. Using Flare, we're able to stabilize the footage, correct warping and prepare it so everything lines up for the com- posite," he says. "The tracking capabilities in Action and powerful feature set in Distort Node give us the flexibility to attack every shot and continue pushing elements through without bogging down the compositors." CBS Digital also uses Autodesk Maya 3D animation software to create missing particle elements — vortex clouds, light tunnels and more. Adds Weiss, "When we can't find an effect, we turn to Maya to recreate 3D ele- ments. The Crystalline Entity was a rudimen- tary computer creation made in '87, but with Maya we're able to give it new life. You can see a remarkable difference when you look at the before and after shots." To ensure the VFX stay true to the original series, CBS Digital brought Flame artist Don Greenberg on board; he was a compositor on the original series. "Even though it's been 23 years since we worked on the original show, Remastering shots of the Starship Enterprise were especially challenging for CBS Digital. together so seamlessly — it's powerful. You can easily move from the timeline into Batch Setup and do fixes without having to go back to the effects team, which saves a lot of time. " Remastering shots of the Starship Enter- prise in particular presents a huge composit- ing challenge for Weiss' team, because they involve a lot of multi-pass photography. "You have a pass of the Enterprise against a blue- screen, a light pass and an engine pass. Once everything is scanned, due to the warping of the film, it doesn't always register right and things drift," he shared. To overcome this challenge Weiss and his team built a stabilization workflow that takes advantage of the creative toolset in Autodesk Flare software, the creative companion to Flame Premium. "We have to take multiple layers and elements, reconcile them and get the shots are so fresh in my mind," he says. "It's terrific to look back at the effects we created so long ago with a hammer and chisel, and redo them with the technology we have today. "I remember the days when you had to make sure each layer was perfect before piling another on top of it, because you couldn't go backward," he continues. "If the VFX supervi- sor didn't like the fourth layer, you'd have to start from square one. "The difference in production footage between today and 1987 is beautiful, but when you compare the visual effects side by side, it's truly amazing," concludes Weiss. "You see a tremendous amount of detail that you just don't get in the original film. With technology like Flame Premium and Flare, we're able to take something gray and make it truly cinematic."

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