S tar Trek turns 50 today; a great reason for Trekkies to revisit the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, both of which have been remastered in high-definition.
The 1966 television season, during which Star Trek premiered, was the first in which the major networks broadcast an all-color slate of programming. Meaning, it’s very likely the majority of televisions that tuned in to the first episode were still black and white.
Had Star Trek been filmed in black and white, would it have grown to become the film and television juggernaut that it is today?
Thankfully, CBS had the foresight to future-proof the series by shooting it on 35mm color film. Years later they were able to rescan the original film and remaster it for a television resolution that many with black and white TVs could hardly imagine.
Some may argue that Star Trek and TNG were not totally future-proofed because they were remastered in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, not widescreen 16:9. While the 35mm scans could have technically yielded a widescreen image, a documentary accompanying the TNG release explained that because shots were staged specifically for 4:3, lights, microphones and crew often appeared just outside the 4:3 frame.
Still, it could have been much worse. Many TV shows of the era, like the BBC’s Doctor Who, were recorded straight to video tape, captured in a low-resolution, interlaced format unsuitable for remastering today.
Future, Future-Proofing in HDR
The staging and direction that constrained Star Trek remasters to 4:3 are less of an issue today as widescreen has become standard across television and film. And in 2012, CBS became the first network to shoot new television programming in 4K, protecting against resolution obsolescence… a practice that has allowed for a healthy selection of 4K content already available for early adopters.
Now comes the idea of mastering in high-dynamic range (HDR).
An HDR production pipeline captures and maintains a greater dynamic range between brightness levels of images. Black is really black, not just really dark gray. Increased contrast captures more image detail in the shades in between colors, closer to what the human eye sees. For example, the ARRI Alexa 65 digital camera captures 14 stops of dynamic range. The human eye can see around 13 stops at a fixed aperture. Getting that detail to the screen requires a post-production process that can work at a 10-bit or higher color depth, which equates to over 1 billion distinct colors.
So while 4K gives us more pixels, 4K UHD HDR with a wider color gamut specification, gives us more pixels of higher quality, capturing many more distinct color combinations… a much better formula for future-proof mastering.
More, Better Storage
All that extra detail requires more storage. HDR-capable cameras typically record in high-resolution RAW image files. Before RAW camera files can be edited, they need to be converted to a format that can be used by editing and effects systems. This “debayering” process yields file sizes on disk that are even greater than the size of the original camera RAW files. The first theatrical film released in HDR was Disney’s Tomorrowland, shot on a Sony F65 and color graded on DaVinci Resolve. When F65 frames are debayered to 16-bit EXR files they require a whopping 53 MB/frame.
53 MB/frame x 24 fps = 1,272 MB/sec
1,272 MB/sec x 3600 sec = 4.6 TB/hour
Future-proofing HDR content will not only require blazing-fast storage, but storage with the smarts to properly organize millions of large files in a way that allows them to be played-back sequentially from multiple workstations simultaneously. While the ability to do so may seem like something out of science fiction itself, it’s something Quantum StorNext has been doing for nearly twenty years. StorNext also helps in the preservation of content as well, as it is integrated with StorNext Storage Manager, a policy-based data mover that can seamlessly move content from production storage environment to more affordable nearline and archive storage tiers, where future-proofed content can be safely stored for years.
At Quantum’s booth tomorrow at the IBC in Amsterdam we’ll be showing 4K UHD HDR color grading with Black Magic’s DaVinci Resolve on a screaming-fast Xcellis workflow storage system. We’ll also be demonstrating some of the new visual effects capabilities of Autodesk’s Flame 2017.
It was three years ago this week that Quantum announced StorNext 5, a multi-year rearchitecting project that enabled StorNext to take full advantage of and multi-threaded processors, large memory architectures and solid state drives… exactly the kind of underpinning required for 4K UHD HDR workflows.
I guess we were thinking future-proofing too.
Follow us on Twitter where we’ll be posting clips from the demonstration.