Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Where no season set has gone before

I knew I was forgetting something in my last post when I talked about how busy this Christmas season would be for big DVD releases, and here it is:

If you haven't heard, to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, all of the original episodes have been mastered in HD, gotten enhanced special effects and are now being syndicated across the country (here's a list of air dates on local affiliates). The results have been outstanding (see old vs. new) while only occasionally inching into George Lucas touch-up territory. While the episodes are available for broadcast in HD, most areas have them on analog stations (including mine). And unless you have an XBox 360, where they are available for download in HD, you'll never be able to see William Shatner's nipples through his enterprise uniform. Which brings us to the new DVD set.

The moment I heard about the new episode treatment, I couldn't help but feel sorry for all those Star Trek fans who had plunked down $90 for the three season sets released a couple of years ago. Knowing companies are still in the business of making money, they would eventually get around to releasing these hot-rodded seasons on DVD, at an even more astronomical price. But I would have never predicted that the new seasons would arrive in an HD-DVD/DVD combo format! This news is exciting and disappointing at the same time. Exciting because you'll have the episodes in HD even if you haven't decided to upgrade your hardware yet, and disappointing because this has increased the price even more ($200 MSRP).

Still, this is a big milestone for television on DVD and a huge piece of news for the HD-DVD fight. The Star Trek seasons will be the first showcase of what the next-gen formats can do for television, specifically older television. Like many series, Star Trek was filmed on 35mm, which means there is a ton of resolution built into the master prints of it -- a picture quality no television in the 1970s, much less an ordinary DVD can replicate. So this isn't just bumping up to 720p on your upconversion player, these sets will present the genuine article with radically improved picture quality. The DVDs will also have new special features that take advantage of the new format, including the ability to completely navigate through the enterprise with your remote (watch a handy video of the feature here).

In fact, one of the reasons new special effects had to be added was that they didn't hold up in HD. With amazing clarity, the decades-old effects wouldn't be able to blend in like they could on our old Zenith set. Still, there's the price -- and from reading the comments on the Amazon page it looks like that will be a huge stumbling block even for huge Trek fans. I see it as just another reason why the consumer is winning in a big way with the HD-DVD vs. BluRay battle.

No comments: