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5.0 out of 5 stars A word to the wise on ratios and HDTV's..., 31 Jan 2012
This review is from: Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level (Blu-ray) [2012] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
This is in reply to all the "It's not fair, it doesn't fill my TV... why do I have these black borders at the sides?" people:

The ratio on the Blu-ray discs is the same as it ever was for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Same as it was shot in, same as it was broadcast in, same as it was presented on VHS and the same as it was presented on DVD. Why on earth some people expect Blu-ray to magically alter this situation is beyond me, but you only have to note the two and one star reviews to see they are. The series was filmed in 4:3, a quarter of a century ago, long before anyone envisaged that we'd all have 16:9 widescreen TV's in our homes in the future. "But I could make my Star Trek TNG DVD's play in widescreen", I hear you cry. No, actually you couldn't. What you were doing was stretching or zooming the image to fill your widescreen TV. This is fake widescreen, and something purists never do, but was quite easy to achieve with a standard definition DVD, on a standard definition DVD player, over a standard definition connection. This is HD though, and stretching or faking widescreen is not really an option. "Why?", I hear you cry. Well, HDTV resolutions are either 720p or 1080i/p... 1280x720 or 1920x1080. These are 16:9 'widescreen' resolutions by default. This means that your Blu-ray player HAS to display everything as a 16:9 image. In the case of films and TV shows shot and framed for cinema or 16:9 broadcast, it will fill your widescreen TV. Sometimes with small black borders at the top and bottom if they have chosen to present the original cinematic ratio. Now, when they are presenting a 4:3 image on HD Blu-ray... this same rule applies. It HAS to be displayed as part of a 16:9 frame. Meaning the 4:3 picture displayed correctly in the middle of the screen, and two black bars, one either side of your TV's screen, which all forms the 16:9 frame. It is pretty much unavoidable.

"But wasn't there more screen information on the 35mm negatives", you may ask. Well Mike Okuda has said in some scenes there was. Not all, but *some*. However, in many of the scenes there was lights stands, bare studio, crew and other equipment in the wider frame. In other words, it was framed *purely* for 4:3 broadcast.

So zooming and pan scanning was the only other alternative. I have ONE DVD set that had this treatment out of the thousands I own. The TV series 'From Earth to the Moon'. This was shot and framed for 4:3 broadcast, and it was released in America in the correct ratio. However, when it released in the UK, for some bizarre reason, they decided to zoom the image out to 16:9. The result is not pretty... you think those black bars at the side of the screen are ugly? You have not seen ugly! From Earth to the Moon in Region 2 DVD is the most claustrophobic and fuzzy mess you will ever witness. There was also a huge public outcry when they recently did this same thing to The World at War documentary series, and people returned their box sets in droves. It literally means that in closely shot scenes, of which there many in Star Trek: TNG, that people's faces are cut off at the eyebrows, and legs are cut off at the knees. Further, it will no longer be true HD as you are zooming the image. Think passport photo blew up to A4 size. In other words, it is FAR too much of a sacrifice to even contemplate for something as cherished as Star Trek. Had they done this to Star Trek, there would have been an outrcry from fans, and they wouldn't be selling too many box sets. Of that I can assure you. Plus, the people charged to see that this franchise is represented the best way it can be, people like Mike and Densise Okuda, who oversaw this restoration, could never sanction such a travesty.

So I can only suggest you try get used to those black borders at the sides, as if you have a fondness for anything filmed for TV from this era or before, that is how your Blu-ray discs will come. It is the same for Star Trek: The Original Series on Blu-ray, seasons 1-3 of Farscape on Blu-ray... anything and everything that was shot for 4:3 broadcast. It is also true of many films, such as It's a Wonderful Life on Blu-ray, and very old films like The Wizard of Oz. All of these come with fixed black borders in HD. It isn't some sinister Big Brother forcing you to watch it a certain way, it is literally the only way they can present 4:3 without totally ruining the composition. The good news is that everyone goes through this stage when they first play 4:3 on their widescreen sets. At first you can't help but be conscious of the offending black bars. However, hand on heart, I never even see them now, and many people will tell you the same. Your brain just cancels them out. It just takes time, and a little appreciation for why this situation happens.

Back to the Star Trek The Next Generation: The Next Level on Blu-ray:

It is superb. There are details no one has ever seen before. This series may have been shot on 35mm film, but it was edited and stored on videotape. Even on DVD we were watching videotape resolution and quality. I believe one popular sci-fi magazine had nicknamed it "Blurry Trek" in a preview from before it was even broadcast. All that is in the past now, or at least it will be when we can buy all seven seasons on Blu-ray. Unlike with Star Trek: TOS Remastered, which I loved, they have not chosen to re-create the special effects scenes in CGI. Instead, they have re-composited the images from the original negatives (a far more lengthy and costly exercise than new CGI). So what we are seeing is the original effects and the original studio models in all their HD glory. Elsewhere, they have lovingly restored every last frame, freeing it of dust and debris. The grain structure is still in tact, meaning no sacrifice in fine detail from the use of DNR filtering. The result is beautiful. Colours and contrast are perfect... rich, deep blacks and vibrantly coloured Starfleet uniforms. One of the biggest let downs for me as regards the DVD sets was that they didn't try and restore the series a little back then. This meant washed out VHS quality colours. Not so here, I'm pleased to report.

The sound is impressive when listening to it in the context of the era it was made. It is not a modern summer blockbuster made with multichannel audio, it was only ever recorded in stereo. So they have fashioned a 7.1 surround sound mix from what they had. With this in mind, I am impressed with both levels and channel separation. Decent speakers will punch the air in all the right places, mark my words.

In summary, it is a huge success. Pre-orders for the complete season sets will be the easiest purchasing decisions I will ever make. This teaser disc also comes with a five pound 'cashback' voucher, to offset against the cost of the first season on Blu-ray. You send your receipt for the first season off with this voucher, and they send you a cheque for five pounds. It effectively means this teaser disc will cost you peanuts, and will let you taste TNG in HD eight months sooner than those waiting for the complete season sets. What are you waiting for? Just buy it!
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 28 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Jan 2012 22:03:32 GMT
Paul Boland says:
Fair play to ya for shooting down all thos people complaining about the 4:3 aspect. You are absolutely right in what you said. Only Star Trek Enterprise was shot in Hi-Def widescreen so any DVD releases of TNG, DS9 and Voyager will be 4:3. My disc hasn't arrived yet (it shipped yesterday) but when it does, I won't mind at all about the 4:3 aspect ratio. I'll be buying all TNG on bluray and all the other Star Trek series if they get released.

Posted on 1 Feb 2012 09:28:04 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Feb 2012 09:28:48 GMT
Nick Simon says:
Yes well done in illuminating the widescreen issue for those who can't seem to grasp it, Bertie, although I'm convinced half of them are trolls. You mentioned 'From Earth to the Moon' but there are a few other examples. The 1970s TV series "Kung Fu" (season 1 at least) was released in fake/cropped widescreen and is still only available in that format. Season 1, Part 2 of "Route 66" suffered similar indignities until a public outcry resulted in a 2nd release in the correct aspect ratio (although only if you bought the full season 1 set - and many people had already bought Season 1, Part 1 separately and therefore had to get it again - and those first 15 episodes were given a really shoddy video transfer anyway). I'm sure there are many people who are watching their digital channels and seeing 60s-70s-80s TV shows in fake/cropped widescreen and don't even know what's going on. It's the old "Oh, I don't like black-and-white movies" mentality all over again, I'm afraid, and unfortunately aspect ratio is much harder to explain.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Feb 2012 10:17:58 GMT
Thing is, when they just go with it, they'll eventually forget about the black bars anyway. I never see them now, I just see the 4:3 image... it's like my brain cancels them out. I admit it was a process I had to learn back when I first got a widescreen TV in the SD age, perhaps we all did. I just knew I never liked a fake 'smart zoom' image as it distorted things too much, and I hated a full zoom as it chopped people's heads off and lost too much picture information... so I went with the native ratio of whatever I watched. So when Blu-ray, HDTV, HDMI and hard encoded 4:3 ratio came about... I just went with it. I suppose those who have been using their TV's zoom button have to learn this process starting now, otherwise they're going to miss a lot of good stuff from long before widescreen TV was a concern.

It is something I care deeply about, as if TPTB ever pander to this concern, it will be more instances of crop and zoom. I'm convinced most of those expressing negative comments haven't really thought about the alternative, so hopefully I can clue them in a little, and then they can start to greet native ratios as a good thing.

Thanks for your comments.

Posted on 1 Feb 2012 15:19:04 GMT
Thanks to Amazon user 'Mr F' for this info:

To quote from this interview with the people responsible for the remastering:

TrekMovie: That brings up an issue that has been brought up by some fans who are wondering why this set is not being done in widescreen. Some believe the original film elements have more information on them and it could be done in widescreen without cropping. Is that possible?

Mike Okuda: First of all, it is our very strong desire is to respect the original work by the original directors and cinematographers. By cropping and letterboxing, we change the composition. You make things appear bigger and more crowded. It is true that in some shots - not all - but in some shots there is additional information on the film. But then again you are changing the original intention.

Denise Okuda: And in a lot of cases there are things that aren't intended to be seen - sandbags, light stands, whatever - on the sides. The major thing is that we want to preserve the composition and the look of what the original filmmakers wanted to offer.

So there we have it. Having owned Buffy on region 2 DVD, in 16:9, and wondering... "hey, what's that big ol' studio light stand doing there?" As well as seeing actors clumped into the middle of the frame, with nothing but empty set to the sides... I for one don't want to go through that again. And in this instance, they don't have that extra info in all shots anyway. Case closed?

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2012 10:29:38 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Feb 2012 10:54:00 GMT
Big Bad Bill says:
The truth is that sadly ST: TNG was not made for the 16:9 HD world. It was made for 4:3 SD. You really need to film digitally to get a really clean HD picture as HD shows enough detail to show the grain from old fashioned film giving the grainy appearance. I will not be buying the BluRay TNG disks because I can't watch stuff on any TV with black bands. In the old days of 4:3 TVs I could never watch fims shown in a letterbox as for some reason my eyes kept being drawn to the black lines rather than the picture. Me saying this from personal preference does not mean I do not understand the 4:3 ratio on bluray or even that I think it should be forced to 16:9. If you can watch the 4:3 box that is great for you, sadly for me it is too distracting. I have the original series remastered with new CGI on DVD but use my old DVD player to play them which allows it to be stretched to fill the screen. I hate the distortion but it is better than my eyes constantly being drawn to the black bars I get if I play the discs on my Bluray player. Wish I had kept an old 4:3 tv for watching my trek collection LOL.

Just out of curiosity how many episondes are here and which ones. The description fails to give this rather vital information.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2012 14:33:38 GMT
It has Encounter at Farpoint (double episode pilot), Sins of the Father, and The Inner Light.

All of us had eyes drawn to the black bars at one time or another. You do get used to them at some point. Watching in the dark helps at first. Now I don't even see them. I feel sorry for you if you've given up trying, as you're gonna miss some good stuff. But I respect the fact you're not calling for it to be butchered to suit your taste.

Posted on 4 Feb 2012 12:15:14 GMT
Andrew Beet says:
i can get used it because i have the first series of Space 1999 on blu ray and network have stuck to the 4:3 ratio so on that release you do get the black bars on the left and right hand side of the screen. a series like star trek the next generation or Space 1999 does not need to be in widescreen.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Feb 2012 17:47:54 GMT
R. Shore says:
I take it then that you don't watch widescreen films in the 2:35:1 aspect as your eyes are drawn to the black bars top and bottom of the picture. It must leave your viewing options very very limited. Either 16/9 material or nothing at all which rules out 99% of all TV shows and films ever made. Film (35mm and 70mm) has far more resolution and detail that digital video tape. HD pictures are "clean" because there is no grain. Doesn't mean it's better. The sharpest images you are going to see are from true 70mm prints. A good example is the remastered Zulu.
If you were to shot the same piece of footage on HD video and 35mm film and then project them, the film would win hands down. There would actually be more detail in the film print.
To date there isn't actually an HD format that could handle all the detail available in a 35mm print. You could actually get even more detail out of the remastered Next Generation if an even higher resolution HD format existed.

Roger Shore

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Feb 2012 11:23:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Feb 2012 11:30:22 GMT
Andrew Beet says:
in reply to Paul Boland's post i'll be getting st:tng on blu ray i watched the blu ray taster disc and it was brilliant the detail on the enterprise d was staggering. and in reply to R Shore's post i do watch films in the 2:35:1 aspect last week i watched Demolition man and that was in 2:35:1 aspect. i just don't think that a programme made in the 4:3 ratio should be in widescreen

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Feb 2012 11:27:59 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 6 Feb 2012 11:28:35 GMT]
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