Comic-Con 2012 included a panel celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation and promoting the July 24, 2012 Blu-ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation—Season One. Shortly therafter, a roundtable interview at the nearby Hilton San Diego Bayfront regathered most of the panelists: project consultants Mike Okuda and Denise Okuda; Creative Director for CBS Digital Craig Weiss; Director, Multimedia for CBS Television Distribution Ryan Adams; Vice President, Multimedia for CBS Television Distribution David S. Grant; lead compositor Eric Bruno; and producer/director of the Blu-ray special features Roger Lay, Jr. Covering for GrouchoReviews was correspondent David Canavese.
GrouchoReviews: Do you guys have any of the other original artists from The Next Generation working on the remasters with you, and...how big is the team?
Craig Weiss: Yes, actually, on the visual effects side, we've had a couple of the original compositors that worked on the original Star Trek: The Next Generation—still in the field working, brought them back, and they're actually redoing some of the original shots.
GrouchoReviews: Very nice.
Ryan Adams: For Season Two, we had Dan Curry come on, and oversee a lot of the visual effects, as well as—
Roger Lay, Jr.: Doug Drexler. Michael Okuda: David Takemura.
Roger Lay, Jr.: And Doug Drexler, who worked on DS9 and Voyager in that capacity, I think.
David S. Grant: David Takemura.
Mike Okuda: David Takemura, yeah.
Ryan Adams: So we've had several of the fellas come over...
GrouchoReviews: At this point, has all the original footage been found? I know "Sins of the Father" footage was located in April.
David S. Grant: Yes. You probably know the day and time.
David S. Grant: Yes. Yep.
Ryan Adams: Thirteen seconds!
GR: Is the footage mixed in with other shows?
David S. Grant: Yes.
GR: Is it in the big, dusty vaults?
David S. Grant: Yeah, footage has been pulled. I mean, we talked before about—the editorial staff on this show was amazing. And they kept incredible notes. And stuff, effects, had been pulled from one episode to another to another season. But we have been able to find, to date (knocks wood), everything, so far.
Eric Bruno: We just found—we had a shot with "Q" and the cigar, on the bridge—
Mike Okuda: Oh, you found it? Denise Okuda: You found it?
Eric Bruno: The little head—we were missing the head.
Denise Okuda: Right.
Eric Bruno: We couldn't find it, and Sarah [Paul] found some notes that led her to a box that we're pretty sure is gonna have that in it...We think we can't find something, then all of a sudden, something will happen and Sarah Paul, who is one of our co-workers, and she's in charge of gathering all this stuff and coordinating it, and she finds things that you never thought you'd be able to find.
Ryan Adams: And she will not stop until she finds something.
GR: That's what it sounds like.
Ryan Adams: Thirteen seconds!
David S. Grant: And it's interesting: the film team now has understood the language of what those guys said back then. That they're in such a groove of—now they understand what their notes mean and what—it's like, "Ohhh! When they say this, that means this, and—", y'know. It's like deciphering code. And they seem to be on to it. Good stuff.
Eric Bruno: It's crazy...
GR: How do the later seasons of Next Generation as well as DS9 and Voyager...compare: would an HD Blu-ray release of those shows require less work since they used relatively newer production methods?
Mike Okuda: We haven't gotten that far yet; however, the use of film stock changed a little bit, so that there was finer grain. Also, the visual effects got substantially more complex. So I know these guys are planning ahead. And they're saying, "Oh, we're gonna do this."
Eric Bruno: Yeah, we're getting our techniques down, and we're making efficiencies, but as we move forward, the effects get more and more complex. So we've gained some time here; we've lost some time there as we—there's always new challenges in every episode, every shot. There's, y'know—we never have it pinned down.
Craig Weiss: They definitely got bolder and bolder, and, y'know, got more comfortable shooting models and adding stuff and making bigger effects as they went on.
GR: Are there combined shots that are saved for Voyager or DS9, or...that all, again, would have to be recompiled and reassembled from original elements?
Craig Weiss: I think all reassembled, yeah.
Mike Okuda: When the show first started, the original concept was we would have about a dozen stock effects shots: the Enterprise orbiting, the Enterprise doing this, the Enterprise doing that. And the thought was use those shots, put a new planet in every week, and maybe twice a year you shoot some new ship shots. That's kinda what they did first season, although almost every episode, they shot new ship shots. But starting—as it went on and on, they shot more and more and more and more. So even though the plan was to use a lot of library shots, in fact, there's always new stuff these guys have to come up with...
GR: For the Okudas, going way back for a moment, what's your earliest memory of Star Trek, and how and why did you become superfans...?
Mike Okuda: I grew up watching Star Trek reruns, like most kids at that time...I grew up watching the Apollo moon landings, and watching the amazing things that the astronauts and the nation did, going boldly and doing it for the benefit of all humanity. And here is this television show that embodied that. That was just so cool. And then all the cool starships, and all...those things. That inspired me to—it helped inspire my interest in science; it helped inspire my interest in filmmaking. So many years later, when the opportunity came to work on one of the Star Trek movies, I jumped at it.
Denise Okuda: When I was five years old, my parents tell me, I looked up at the stars, and I said, "When I grow up, I want to study those." But unfortunately, I am not very good at math.
Denise Okuda: So that dream went out the window.
Mike Okuda: But you did take Astronomy.
Denise Okuda: Oh my gosh, took a lot of Astronomy, and I took Physics, and I took Math. But Star Trek just kind of took my love of science and my love of imagination and exploration and just kind of put it together. And it was a perfect marriage. And it kind of led to a perfect marriage.
Denise Okuda: So Star Trek is—y'know, it's very spiritual. And it's just a television series, but it is very spiritual. And I think the core values...are very much my core values: that we are one people, and that we do strive for goodness. And there is hope for a better future. And that's Star Trek. And that's what I passionately believe. And so it just kind of works out perfectly...
GR: And then what projects had you both worked on before? I think you had said you had gotten your first job on The Voyage Home because they had seen some of your small TV projects before.
Mike Okuda: Yeah. I—gosh.
GR: Anything we might have heard of?
Mike Okuda: Star Trek was the first national thing I worked on. I worked on a bunch of local things that you're very unlikely to have seen.
Denise Okuda: And I worked in an entirely different profession.
Mike Okuda: My first thing in the media was: I worked at a local television [station]...KITV in Honolulu...
Denise Okuda: I worked as a registered nurse; it's a totally different profession.