Babylon 5 – Is HD Out of the Question?


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Babylon 5 is considered by many one of the best Science Fiction television series ever made. It was considered ahead of its time in the in the mid 1990’s and has maintained a substantial fan base ever sense. So, why are we likely never to see the series on Blu-ray? If you do a quick Google search for “Babylon 5 HD” or “Babylon 5 Blu-ray” you will find more detailed explanations than you probably want or need.

The very short answer is:

The show was shot on Super 35 film and framed in a way that would make presentation in a widescreen format easy when HDTV became mainstream. Back in the 90′s however, CGI was in its infancy and processing power was very expensive. In order to save cost, all special effects (CGI) shots were rendered at standard TV resolution for broadcast. The thought was that once HD caught on, it would be easy and less expensive to go back and re-render the original shots at a higher resolution. The problem is, there was some kind of data loss (specifics are not important), and the original scene files and models were lost. The original scene files were likely erased for space (also expensive at the time) or are at the bottom of a landfill on an old Commodore Amiga hard drive.

So, the chance of a Blu-ray release without extensive work is not possible. Plus, the current DVD release isn’t very good by today’s standards. There is an extensive write-up about some of the issues with the current DVD release of Babylon 5 by Henrik Herranen here if you are interested.

The best we have right now

So, here we are. What to do?

     Babylon 5 Enhanced is the name I chose for a would-be fan-led project designed to culminate in what many of us dream of….. Babylon 5 in High Definition. The idea is for fans to band together, and as a community recreate the CGI for a single episode in order to prove to the studio that it is cost effective with fan support to make a HD version of Babylon 5.

We must assume that the original 35mm filmed portions still exist and could be mastered to
High Definition. Since the fans do not have access to this footage at this time, we would have to work with the best we have for the live action portions of the show. This means the DVDs and Laserdiscs.

     The basic idea is nothing new. There is already precedence for this type of project done by paramount: Star Trek Remastered

The Babylon 5 Enhanced project is different in several ways.

1. This would be a fan-led project (with the hope that the studio would get involved and take the lead)

2. We would not be replacing traditional effects with CGI since they are already CGI to begin with. This could be thought of as more of a restoration since it was the original intent to be HD.

If this idea seems far-fetched do a search and you will find that there are fans out there that have already created some amazing Babylon 5 projects. In fact, many of the best 3D animators and modelers today got their initial inspiration from Babylon 5. It has already been demonstrated that a single person with ambition and drive can create an “Enhanced Vision” of an old classic. If you are not familiar with Adywan’s Star Wars: Revisited project, you should really check it out. You will be blown away!

     The ultimate goal would be to show the studio that it is not only possible, but profitable to invest in the idea. At the very least, we can have fun and hopefully we can get some nice recreations of some of the effects shots in the show.

Apologies if there are typos or if this doesn’t make sense……you know Beer….