In a 4K, high definition world, it is sometimes painful to watch our old favorite television series in blurry standard definition. This is especially true for several of the Star Trek series from the ’90s. But thanks to a report from i09, we’ve learned that some fans are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to bringing Star Trek: Voyager to HD. Or, at least as close as we may ever get to HD.
But over the past year, several tech savvy fans have figured out a way to bring scenes from the shows to HD. Most recently, Trek fan Billy Reichard, has started converting clips from Star Trek: Voyager with a machine learning program, one which upgrades the standard definition image quality as much as humanly possible. Granted, it’s not true HD. But it is pretty darn close, and miles better than the fuzzy standard definition episodes that are currently out there.
This same process was done for Deep Space Nine last year, by another fan. A YouTuber by the name of CaptRobau made several proof-of-concept videos last years. As you can see in the video below, the difference between the old footage and the machine learning enhanced clips is like night and day. Like Voyager, it’s not true high definition either. But it is far crisper and detailed image than the series has in its current form. To the eyes of all but the most scrutinizing fans, it would be a huge step up.
So why did The Next Genration and the original ’60s series get a proper HD Blu-ray release, but the more recent shows got left out in the cold? The reasons are a bit complex. Although all of the first four Star Trek shows were shot on 35mm film, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager were all edited on videotape. This was the cheaper way of producing television in a timely fashion back in the day. But it also meant that those shows were not protected for any future high-def presentation.
The original Star Trek was shot and cut on film, so a high def restoration was possible early on. But for TNG, it was a long and expensive three year process, where every frame of film was reedited and all the effects re-composited. This was initially done for Blu-rays, but those remastered episodes have since shown up in syndication and on streaming. It was the high water mark for how one does a TV series remastering. But it was very time consuming, and also very expensive.
Those TNG Blu-rays didn’t sell the way that CBS Home Video wanted, and plans to perform the same miracle surgery on Deep Space Nine and Voyager were cancelled. Those shows are even more problematic to recreate in HD, due to the fact that most of the effects for both series were created using early CGI. And a lot of those files are simply lost now. Fans then came to the crushing realization that these two beloved Trek shows would forever remain in the standard definition past. But now, the advent of machine learning software has possibly changed all that.
So will these fan efforts prove that a proper machine learning remaster of DS9 and Voyager is imminent? It’s still a long and painstaking process. But if fans can do it in their own homes, it can certainly be done on a larger scale by the company that owns them. Even though the gigapixel software is new and costly, it probably is nowhere near as expensive and time consuming a process it took to do TNG. Even if it’s not for Blu-ray, which is sadly a shrinking industry, one thinks CBS would want to future-proof these two series for streaming. Hopefully, the right folks are paying attention, and fans will have both Voyager and Deep Space Nine in a format as close to HD as we can get.
Featured Image: CBS