Today is the day. We’ve been telling you about it for months and teasing it for almost as long with snippets of news and exclusive clips. Now, finally, Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level is out for fans everywhere to enjoy, via CBS Home Entertainment. As you know, The Next Level is a sampler set heralding The Next Generation’s transition to Blu-ray, and it includes the feature-length series premiere, “Encounter at Farpoint,” as well as the landmark episodes “Sins of the Father” and “The Inner Light.” Continuing our coverage of The Next Level’s release, StarTrek.com recently caught up with Ken Ross, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Home Entertainment, who provided some additional insights into the making of The Next Level and discussed the timeline for releasing subsequent TNG Blu-ray sets.
How pleased was everyone with the work done on the High-Definition TOS sets? And what lessons were learned on that project that carried over to the TNG Blu-ray project?
Ross: TOS and TNG are really two very different projects. While the end result of a pristine picture and beautiful visual effects is the same, we had to use two totally different processes based on the assets we had for each. The visual effects on TOS were re-imagined since we did not have the original elements, whereas on TNG we had the original film to work with and tried to keep the visual effects as close to how they appeared in the original airings.
What would you say the CBS Home Entertainment mission statement was when it came to upgrading TNG?
Ross: The mission statement was to make this the best it possibly could be, to put it on a pedestal like we do with our other TV home entertainment releases. We wanted to stay as true to the original as possible and blow fans away with what they saw and heard.
How massive a project was/is it?
Ross: It was and continues to be an enormous project that will take several years to complete. From a manpower perspective, we have more than 20 people working on this project full time in three shifts 24 hours a day. It’s a huge commitment to transfer all seven seasons to high definition.
Give us a sense of what we’re talking about – how much footage needed to be sorted through? How many effects shots? We’ve heard about salt mines?
Ross: Paramount/CBS did a great job preserving the original film from TNG. For years, it’s been stored in salt mines in Pennsylvania. There were 2,500 cartons with at least 25,000 reels of film in them – and that’s a conservative estimate. Once we decided to go forward with this project, it took months to truck all the boxes out to Los Angeles. The number of VFX shots varies depending on the season, but to give you an idea, the first season had more than 1,700 VFX shots to recreate.
How hands-on were you? And how much of what you did was bringing on the right people to carry out the nuts and bolts portion of the job?
Ross: I’m hands-on in an overview capacity. I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that the answer to how you get something done is who you get to do it. Therefore, bringing in people like the Okudas, Craig Weiss at CBS Digital and David grant and Ryan Adams from CBS, who are all perfectionists like me and experts in their field, will result in a tremendous final product.
What, if any additional extras will be on the full first-season TNG Blu-ray set?
Ross: There will be a nice complement of extras and some really cool stuff, so stay tuned!
When will it be out?
Ross: Late summer or early fall 2012.
What’s the game plan in terms of releasing seasons 2-7 of TNG?
Ross: We’re aiming to release two seasons per year.
Everyone is asking about DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. Enterprise was shot on HD, but how about DS9 and Voyager? What are the plans for those two shows?
Ross: Our focus right now is on TNG, but we will certainly consider all of the other Star Trek series.
Star Trek: The Next Generation -- The Next Level will be released today by CBS Home Entertainment. Click HERE to order.