About The Babylon 5 Sets

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by RogerH, Oct 24, 2006.

  1. RogerH

    RogerH Supporting Actor

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    I've really liked this series and I want to buy these but I've been hearing some not-so-nice things about the video transfers on these sets.

    Can anybody clarify how good or bad these are? Will it impact the enjoyment of watching the show? I have the whole series on VHS but as you know that is not ideal.
     
  2. Andy_Bu

    Andy_Bu Supporting Actor

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    All 5 seasons and movies (accept for The Gathering) are anamorphic.

    The DVD transfers are infinitely better than the VHS's obviously but don't go in thinking Star Trek Enterprise quality because they are not any where near that good.

    Andy
     
  3. David Williams

    David Williams Cinematographer

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    It won't affect your enjoyment of the sets unless minor video problems niggle you. It's the best the series has looked in any format.
     
  4. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    Any shot that had a special effect, including either end of a dissolve was zoomed in and cropped. One or two SFX shots were even squeezed. The video quality degrades significantly during these shots. But no, it never affected my overall enjoyment of viewing and owning the series on DVD.
     
  5. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    As others have said, the video quality is not great. It was filmed in widescreen, but all effects shots were composed in 1.33:1 - so the release is in anamorphic widescreen, with cropping in any effects shots, and subsequent loss in picture quality.

    But the fact is that quality of the show far outweighs problems about the visual quality of the show. The image problems certainly are not enough to put me off watching and enjoying the show.
     
  6. Randall Cyrenne

    Randall Cyrenne Stunt Coordinator

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    I was disappointed in the video quality. Not just the SFX shots, either--- regular scenes appeared overly compressed to me. Some scenes were "OK", others looked kind of yucky but still basically watchable. However, while my enjoyment was slightly impaired, I wouldn't have given up the chance to experience the show. It's fantastic.
     
  7. Qui-Gon John

    Qui-Gon John Producer

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    I thought it was fine. But also, keep in mind, Babylon 5 is more about the story than anything else. And it is a great story.
     
  8. joshEH

    joshEH Producer

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    Can't say much else that hasn't already been said above. But also remember that the video quality improves substantially with each subsequent season -- the first season is the "weakest" (though still boasting the strongest 16:9 image it's ever sported), and the values increase year after year. Lower budgeted than Star Trek, perhaps, but then again, you can't exactly hold that against the show.

    Season 5 looks the strongest of all, IIRC, and again...it's all about the story. If you're watching it straight through again, pilot-to-finale, you'll hardly even care.
     
  9. RogerH

    RogerH Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the opinions. This show has to be one of my favorite sci-fi shows it ranks right up there with Battlestar Galactica.

    Its been awhile since I have seen any episodes so I'll be ordering season 1 soon (hard to find it in stores around here). Kinda wish The Gatherering was in the season 1 set instead of the movie set though. Oh well I'll get them all eventually.
     
  10. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    So they claim, but it is patently obvious that at least Season 1 was not shot with 16:9 in mind at all. It is so obviously cropped that characters lose their foreheads, and often chins, in close-ups of dialog. And of course there are at least two egregious cases of effects shots being squeezed from 4:3 into 16:9, making it look pretty silly.

    That said, I echo Matt's conclusion that it's about the story, and this is the best that B5 has ever looked on any home video format.
     
  11. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    As I said, some of those cropped shots might have been on either end of a dissolve. For some reason, they didn't have wide versions available when a dissolve was involved (along with the spacila effects). I think most of the other shots are actually wider, but without me digging up some old VHS tapes to compare, I can't be sure.
     
  12. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Plus there are some special effects shots where the widescreening actually lost the effect. I remember hearing something about a shot in the casino that would otherwise have been special-effect-free, but they added a small special effect right in one corner - a futuristic roulette table or something - which meant that the entire shot had to be cropped, cutting out the very effect that caused the problem to begin with.
     
  13. RogerH

    RogerH Supporting Actor

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    Well I ordered the first 2 seasons from Columbia House Canada this morning. They had a special on 15% off + free shipping [​IMG] Great deal esp. considering I couldn't buy it locally. Now I just have to wait.
     
  14. Simon Massey

    Simon Massey Cinematographer
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    Wonder if WB will ever put some money up for re-doing the effects to allow them to use the widescreen masters without having to mess with them. ? I dont mean necessarily changing the FX but matching the original shots.

    Either that or it would be nice for them to release a 1.33:1 version as well
     
  15. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    It would be prohibitively expensive to redo all the FX shots from all 110 episodes, as lovely as that idea would be. We are talking about the equivalent of 45-50 movies. Also, it's unknown if any of the elements needed to redo composite FX shots still exist.

    Had the movie been made, then a good portion of the needed models would likely have been made in amazing detail, and they could have possibly been used to redo some shots at some point.
     
  16. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    I believe the shot in question was one where they actually squeezed the 4:3 frame into 16:9, precisely because the fancy CGIed roulette wheel was at the bottom of the frame, and would have vanished if cropped for 16:9.

    I've participated in some heated debates about this in other threads and really didn't want to drag it up again, but my one bugbear with B5 was that it isn't OAR. I know, JMS said/claimed that it was always shot with 16:9 in mind, but in S1 it very clearly wasn't, and I believe in the debates it was raised that even JMS admits that the directors (or DPs) in S1 didn't always shoot 16:9 protected. If so, IMHO they really should have just released it as broadcast, rather than try to retro-fit it to 16:9 with the consequence that it always looks too tightly framed, or worse you get those cases of 4:3 frames shoe-horned into 16:9 to preserve effects shots.

    And the over-tight framing of dialog shots wasn't always at the end of the scene when a dissolve took place. Entire conversations take place, with the camera angle switching back and forth between the two speakers (as usual) and the entire time I am discomfited by the fact that either or both speakers' chins and foreheads are out of frame.

    Or, at least S1 should have been left 4:3. But that would have been inconsistent and may have confused consumers. Oh well.

    But at the end of the day, it's the story that counts. And I will add that I actually also own the entire collection of B5 on VCD, with its crappy PQ and all (I started buying it on VCD before DVDs really took off, and completed the set before B5 on DVD was announced. Since the VCDs are 4:3, theoretically I can always go back and check/compare...)
     
  17. Simon Massey

    Simon Massey Cinematographer
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    I think much might depend on the future success of releasing the redone Original Series of Star Trek on DVD with the CGI enhancements they have done. From what I understand B5 was a great success on DVD and if they are looking to sell the series in the future on HD, I think it may well come to doing this. The could always do a test run with the TV films they did and see how well they sell before committing to redoing the series.

    Don't get me wrong. I am not advocating new effects for the sake of it - rather trying to match the original shots as much as possible. It would at least mean they would not have to compromise the widescreen shots with FX in them.

    Either that or they should release the show as broadcast 4:3
     
  18. RogerH

    RogerH Supporting Actor

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    Either way I'll be happy when I get the whole series on DVD. I know its not perfect but it'll be alot better than my vhs copies.
     
  19. Marc_Sulinski

    Marc_Sulinski Supporting Actor

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    It looks like Amazon has all 5 seasons bundled for $150! That is way cheaper than buying them spearately. Its strange that no one else even sells a bundled season set.
     
  20. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    After The Gathering all the live action for B5 was shot Super35, so technicaly neither the 4:3 nor the 16:9 versions are "OAR" in the sense of representing the complete original frame. Both are cropped. Like everything else on the show, Super35 shooting was new to everybody and there was a learning curve. At the time precisely two TV series were shooting Super35 with HDTV and widesceen in mind. (The other was Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman - don't ask.) There were few TV directors who had any experience with it. Some S1 directors were better than others and everybody was learning as they went.

    And redoing the CGI and composite shots wouldn't just be prohibitively expensive, but virtually impossible. Warner Bros. policy required that the various FX companies turn over all their files for completed shows at the end of each season, and when a company was dropped (or the series ended) they had to turn over all of their files to the studios and they were not permitted to keep copies of any of it.

    None of which would be a problem if the studio hadn't accidentally discarded and/or destroyed all of these files. Every CGI model, every finished shot, every wireframe, background plate, stock shot, you name it - alll gone. (They found this out during production of Legend of the Rangers when they requested copies of the files for their Canadian CGI contractor to use for the film.)

    JMS always intended the permanent archival version of the series to be in widescreen. Because nobody knew from anamorphic widescreen at the time (the DVD format didn't exist, JMS assumed everthing would simply be cropped for a laserdisc release) and because of the limitations of the then-TV CGI state-of-the-art, the result is flawed, but still the best we've had or are likely to have.

    (Unless B5: The Lost Tale is huge or it spawns a feature film a couple of years from now, since they will have to re-do a lot of the CGI models and stock shots as it is, and giving the original series a new lease on life in true HD syndication and eventual hi-def DVD release might repay the effort.)

    And that Amazon deal is fantastic. They also have the individual season sets for $29.99, and the movie set and the Crusade set at the same low price. (The Rangers pilot is not included in the movie set - but they're selling it for $9.99.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     

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