The incredible task of warping Deep Space Nine and Voyager into HD

For years, many of us have enjoyed Star Trek in high-defintion. This includes The Original Series, The Next Generation, The Animated Series, and Enterprise, which all are presented on blu-ray and available to fans world wide. All Trek films are available in HD, as well as Discovery and Short Treks. But what about fan favorites Deep Space Nine and Voyager?

Alas, we may never see these two fan-favorite series in HD, like the rest of Trek. The simple reason is due to the cost. In 2017, our friends at TrekNews.net interviewed Robert Meyer Burnett, who was heavily involved in the production of the blu-ray releases for both TNG and Enterprise.

“A complicated question with a simple answer; It takes way too much time and money to remaster DS9 and Voyager into HD,” said Burnett.

In the article, Burnett detailed the time and effort that CBS put into remastering TOS and TNG in order to present them in high def, and how it cost more than $12 million to accomplish. Basically, TNG, DS9, and Voyager were filmed in a combination of 35mm film and NTSC videotape. In order to bring TNG to HD, CBS invested that $12 million to nearly rebuild the show from the ground up.

Burnett said that this was to save TNG, which CBS considered their Trek crown jewel. TOS and TAS were easier, because they were both created with 35mm film, and Enterprise was filmed in HD.

But all is not lost…

It turns out that while CBS or Paramount is not interested in spending the time, energy, or cash required to bring DS9 and Voyager into the HD world, some independent creators are on the job. We caught up with Joel Hruska, the Senior Editor of ExtremeTech, who has both been covering these attempts and working on his own.

Hruska first noted the attempts of “CaptRobau” last year, who used the off-the-shelf Gigapixel AI software to upscale DS9 to HD. Gigapixel AI uses machine learning to increase the resolution of both film and video.

As Hruska wrote about the various attempts by others, he decided to try to upconvert DS9 himself, as he too is a longtime Trek fan (starting in 1987 when TNG debuted). Using Topaz Video Enhance AI, Hruska was able to create HD versions of the show which stand up well. But he admits, that if CBS wanted to create an official version of DS9 and Voyager, that version would be far superior.

Hruska noted that the version of the DS9 battle scene created for What We Left Behind (made by visual effects firm Mojo), blows his conversions “out of the water.”

Though the process of upconverting a DS9 episode in Topaz Video Enhance AI takes his computer about 10.5 hours to accomplish, the effect is worth it. Seeing DS9 in HD would be something that Hruska feels that many fans would get behind.

“I’d love nothing more than to help start a fan movement that convinced Paramount it was worth it to invest in DS9 the way they invested in TNG,” said Hruska. “I think DS9 did incredible things for Star Trek special effects and deserves to be seen in something other than PotatoVision.”

And while Hruska is working on the conversion of DS9, he learned that others are working on the problem as well, including some who are working on upconverting Voyager.

We spoke with Billy Reichard, who created the upconverted Voyager footage, seen above.

“I started working on this project about a month ago,” said Reichard. “I have heard from many fans that want to collaborate. I did tell them that I personally won’t be a part of a community project of any kind.

“We have seen CBS / Paramount sue over Star Trek material before and I personally don’t need that. I’m happy doing it for my own collection only.”

Reichard said that he’s gotten great feedback on what he’s done thus far. Fans have given him some advice on various issues he was having. This is very similar to the response that Hruska is getting from Trek fans as well.

“One thing I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that a lot of people are having this same idea,” said Hruska. “Multiple people have contacted me to say they were working on projects of their own. Ultimately, I’m hoping to create a series of articles that will point people towards a best-practices way to upscale this content and further the overall effort.”

Hruska said that he has received positive feedback from almost all Trek fan, but no word from CBS / Paramount. While Burnett was basically right about the costs required in converting TNG to HD, thanks to machine learning and AI, perhaps the dream of making DS9 and Voyager HD isn’t so far off.

“I think the reason this is happening now is because AI has turned a stupid joke we all used to laugh at into reality,” said Hruska. “For decades, everyone mocked ‘enhance’ functions in TV shows and movies because everybody knew you couldn’t just create more information in the video frame than was in it to start with. For decades, that was true.

“But thanks to advances in AI processing, we’re seeing computer algorithms that can dramatically improve detail even when handed low-quality source” said Hruska. “As AI tools and processors continue to improve, we should see the processing time fall commensurately, and more people will get interested in the process — I hope.”

UPDATE

We added the interview responses from Billy Reichard on April 5, 2020.