My recent purchase of the German SLIDERS standard definition blu-ray set has me wondering if all upscaling options might be a complete and total waste of time for home video distributors. AI upscaling is great for fans trying to improve poor home media. But surely studios could simply re-scan their existing video masters at the highest possible level of fidelity and put them on blu-ray / HD streaming services without the compression that was once needed to release this content on 8GB DVDs.
If the video masters are a good quality standard definition file, the uncompressed rescans won't look like full fledged high definition, but they will look above and beyond the limits of DVD storage. Seasons 2 - 5 of SLIDERS benefitted from excellent video quality when their 35mm and 16mm film were transferred to videotape for editing and effects. They look great in uncompressed standard definition blu-ray files. Season 1, sadly, got a fuzzy film to tape transfer and looks a bit dull.
For the most part, I think it is very likely that most 90s shows that were shot on film and edited on video exist on videotapes that look as good or better than the uncompressed Seasons 2 - 5 of SLIDERS. Paramount doesn't want to rescan all the film for DEEP SPACE NINE or VOYAGER and rebuild all the effects because THE NEXT GENERATION had poor blu-ray sales. That makes sense, but why not rescan the completed episodes from videotape at maximum bitrate and put them on streaming? They wouldn't be HD, but they would be more on the HD side than on the SD side.
We all have a common impression of the upper limits of DVD video quality and of poor VHS quality, but it's clear from the Season 2 - 5 blu-ray of SLIDERS that these video masters, despite being on tape, have excellent visual depth, detail, sharpness and clarity that home video distributors had to downscale to fit onto DVD discs. Master tapes are not high definition videos, but they can exceed DVD and reach within striking range of HD.
My God, I just watched "The Guardian" in 640x480 on the blu-ray and I can see the blades of grass beneath young Quinn's feet as he defeats his bullies. Resolution is just the container for the video and with SLIDERS after Season 1, that container is filled to the brim.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ALEX MACK is a terrible Mill Creek DVD release that crunched down the video files to at times 200 MB per episode; a blu-ray release could have let the standard definition files be rendered at 1GB per episode and with a fairly modest price increase, even with Mill Creek's bargain basement approach to blu-rays.
BABYLON 5 and LOIS AND CLARK are two shows that might have been better off with rescanned videotapes rather than rescanning the original film. Both shows feature effects that exist only on videotape and not on film. As a result, any time there is a special effects shot in the HD releases of these shows, the video quality becomes jarringly blurry in contrast to the sharpness of the film sequences. A videotape rescan would have been cheaper and the video quality would be consistent throughout.
Recently, STARGATE SG-1 was released to blu-ray in something resembling HD. The show was, like SLIDERS, shot on film and edited on videotape for the first seven seasons, and the blu-ray is apparently the 480i STARGATE SG-1 DVD releases, AI upscaled to 1080p in resolution. It's also been subjected to various filters to reduce film grain, screen out compression, increase pixel contrast, etc.. https://www.gateworld.net/news/2021/03/ … than-dvds/
Reviews indicate that it's fine, acceptable, enjoyable and consistent. But it might have looked even better if they'd scanned the tapes, made full use of 44GB discs to leave the episodes as uncompressed as possible -- and then left them alone.
Regarding the reduced compression of the video assests on the german release, and your post in general, do you think the 1.6 gigs per episode really is showing the full capacity of what is possible, or is there still some image loss? Because these blu-ray distributors still are trying to reduce the number of discs they have to put in the package, to maintain some profit margin. Discs may be 30 or 40 cent cost. And I wonder if we are still losing what would be noticable quality difference because of this compromise?
Not sure what the process is like for rescanning tapes. But I really wonder how well organized some of the studios are. Do they have all the tapes? Is it a hassle to find them? Did film stock get lost in fires? Pretty sure any special effect files are GONE.
I think the studios have limited machines, limited people and limited time. Rescanning or upconversion, or video processing, or all the other things that come w/ these projects became not worth their time if the title is not significant enough. Maybe in some cases their is some profit to be made, but it's not big enough vs. what else they could be working on, using machines for etc.
And they don't tend to be willing to outsource this work readily to smaller operations, or they give potential licensing partners a hard time on licensing fees. Take someone like Shout Factory. They could do a great job on a sliders blu-ray but Universal in negotations probably won't price the license reasonable enough to make it worth Shout's while. And Universal, out of habit, doesn't want to do super small deals... as it sets a bad precedent. I bet even Mill Creek may have lost money on their DVD release. I doubt it quite sold what they may have expected. It wasn't aimed at hardcore fans, who already owned it. But the everday person shopping at wal-mart, who may have remembered the series and were OK with a twenty dollar spend. I just doubt it hit that market particularly as well as maybe Mill Creek may have expected. But that's off topic.
I think what studios are missing, in not working w. smaller players to upgrade content, is in the streaming era, your library matters. And if it looks like shit, how do you expect it to perform?
From what I understand, the production facilitites at the studios get territorial about this work being outsources, because they want the money, budget and work for the content at their studio and its IP. So smaller actors who can do this work dont get the jobs, and the title is too small, and it gets lost in the fray.
Re-scanning the tapes might be an excellent idea though. I do think a re-scan of the negatives w/ upconversion on effects shots should be done on anything you want to put on streaming nowadays. And then find a way to make the content "new". Get the actors to provide commentary tracks etc. Support podcast rewatch series. And bake it into your streaming service. Make it relevant. Let people have a conversation around the content. Similar to what Gil is doing with The Prisoner, that tracy has appeared in episodes of. Just make an ecosystem out of it.