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Babylon 5 - Broadcast NTSC (4:3)?

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Hi!

I remember back in the days before the DVDs I had lots and lots of Babylon 5 SVCDs off Usenet. These were partly captured in the TNT version (16/9, non-anamorphic) and partly in the original full screen versions. When the DVDs came out I got rid of these discs and bought the DVDs. What a mistake!

The DVDs, especially Seasons 1 and 2, are full of film-defects and poorly framed and format-converted CGI. Camera movement in CGI scenes results in jerkiness (all throughout Season 1), they seem to have gotten the field order wrong.  I've been looking for ways to find proper 29,98 fps NTSC captures of these episodes, but to no avail. Now, I was wondering, with all the preservation efforts going on here, maybe there is someone out with unaltered captures, or maybe there are still broadcasts going on certain cable channels in the US or something ...

Since I live in PAL-land, and most of the TV stations have adopted the widescreen versions anyway, I can't even wait for a broadcast.

Any ideas?

 

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I feel your pain!  There are some 4:3 laserdiscs of Babylon 5, so you might try tracking down those.  I'd like to see this series in 1.65:1 actually, but 4:3 would defintely be preferable to 16:9.

A blu-ray release is probably out of the question because of the way the effects were done, but I'd pay for the series again if they released an improved set on DVD.  The existing NTSC DVDs are a bit better in terms of quality than the PAL, as I'm sure you know, but they're 16:9 too.   This site is informative if anyone is interested in this.

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Yeah, thanks for the link, I had already checked it out earlier, but then again, it was pretty much self-evident from the transfer that the CGI transfer had massive problems.

The thing is, a "pristine" NTSC transfer of the original 4:3 masters, properly deinterlaced and upscaled, would look sooooo much better than any of the DVDs, it's a shame.

And you're right, a 1,66:1 tranfer might be the sweet spot for a conversion.

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Was the original version of the pilot movie ever released on DVD? I know there was a Japanese Laserdisc of it.


Where were you in '77?

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I think the DVD of The Gathering was just the special edition.

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I picked this up from zellers awhile back:

It was a dollar. Havent watched it in awhile but the back says Standard format, ntsc dolby digital. I remember the video quality being comprable to the season 1 box set.

Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green day!

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So what version is it then?

And I don't recall Capt. Sheridan being around in the pilot. ;)


Where were you in '77?

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I belive its the original, if i go by what imdb says http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106336/

Runtime:

89 min  | 94 min (special edition)

My cover says 89 minutes on it. I don't remember the other captain in it either, inacurate cover i think.

Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green day!

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Lol, nope. A case of false advertising or inproper packaging :(

Just popped it in and the first title says "TNT(or whatever) presents a special edition of Babylon 5 The Gathering" again, despite what the packaging says it appears to be 16/9 or at least letterboxed, im watching it on my fullscreen tv. Shucks :(

Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green day!

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The first DVD (R1, The Gathering SE / In the Beginning Flipper DVD) had Gathering in 4:3.
I'd really need NTSC TV captures...

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Btw, The Gathering SE is both a quasi Director's Cut as well as JMS preferred version because it restores the act structure. The first version was cut down by the network. at least that's what I recall.

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I thought the original pilot aired in syndication?

IIRC, one actor's voice was dubbed in the original aired version, and there were several shots of background aliens deleted in the second version. The music might have been different as well.

It would be nice to have the original if only to compare the differences, much like Star Trek fans have the unaired "The Cage" pilot, and the version incorporated into "The Menagerie" two part episode.


Where were you in '77?

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SilverWook said:  It would be nice to have the original if only to compare the differences, much like Star Trek fans have the unaired "The Cage" pilot, and the version incorporated into "The Menagerie" two part episode.

That's how I see it too.  I'll have to track down the flipper DVD with The Gathering in 4:3.  It's been a while since I watched it, but I think my version is 16:9.

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Would NTSC episodes recorded on VHS be of any help? I have a lot of old B5 stuff laying around on tape, even the original version of The Gathering. They're probably recoded in EP (6 hour mode) though.

You know of the rebellion against the Empire?

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If it isn't on DVD, would there be interest in preserving the original aired pilot from the Japanese Laserdisc? Of course, there would be pesky burned in subtitles...


Where were you in '77?

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Thanks for the VHS offering, though I doubt you could get anything out of it that's any more watchable than the DVDs, especially since the EP mode has even less lines than the SP (~200-230) as well as the typical headaches with VHS, chroma bleeding, ghosting and things like that. I can't see that holding up on a 32" HDTV, you know what I mean?

Now SVHSes, I'd take them in a second. ;)

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Babylon 5 Laserdisc Episodes Available

Season 1 (22) episodes. On laserdisc.....22
Season 2 (22) episodes. On laserdisc.....12
Season 3 (22) episodes. On laserdisc.......0
Season 4 (22) episodes. On laserdsic.......6
Season 5 (22) episodes. On laserdisc.....22
In the Beginning 1 TV Movie........................1
The Gathering 1 TV Movie...........................1
Thirdspace 1 TV Movie................................0
The River of Souls 1 TV Movie....................0
A Call to Arms 1 TV Movie...........................0

Even if one could track down all of these, there'd still be about half of the show left. Man...

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That's a weird release pattern. All the other cult SF shows on LD were at least released in chronological/production order, even if they didn't get to the final seasons before DVD took over.


Where were you in '77?

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I ordered a set of NTSC DVDs off Ebay (for basically 90 Euros, thank you weak US$), as well as a Season 1 Laserdisc. I'm gonna try out a few things. A lot of the cropped CGI can probably be fixed right off the DVDs anyway, by using some Avisynth and After Effects filter magic.
This seems promising: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?p=1423489
I need something to do while I'm at work and waiting for the phone to ring anyway, if you know what I mean. ;)

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resonator said:

Camera movement in CGI scenes results in jerkiness (all throughout Season 1), they seem to have gotten the field order wrong.  

You should be able to fix this with Womble and Virtualdub.

Working on: Superman: Son of Jorel

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Some ruminations from a fellow fan. B5 on DVD is really quite heartbreaking. The cropped CGI, mastering errors and flecktastic prints are well known issues, but the biggest problem for me is that when it came time to create the widescreen versions, they simply cheated.

The original episodes were finished for broadcast in 4:3 ratio. To create proper widescreen versions they would have to go back in and re-edit the shows to rebuild them from scratch. But if you watch the DVDs long enough you'll realise that they simply took the 4:3 versions, blew them up and cropped them, and then dropped in widescreen footage where ever possible. 

Here's an example. Grab the Season 2 box set and fire up the episode The Coming of Shadows. Skip forward to the start of the third act (I think). It's the scene with G'Kar in his quarters with Dr. Franklin. The act opens with a CGI flyby of the station, and then cross fades to the live action, which should be in widescreen but isn't because the cross-fade means there's no way for the editor to splice the widescreen footage in. It's not until the next hard cut two minutes later when actual widescreen footage appears. The blown up and cropped 4:3 footage looks atrocious, and this problem happens in virtually every episode.

There's another spot where the effect is quite obvious. Find the scene in the same episode where the Emperor comes on board, and the scene cuts from him to the B5 crew standing in line. Freeze frame through the cut and you can see where the widescreen footage is spliced in a few frames too late. 

The S2 box set is easily the worst. S3-5 improve a little bit, but on the whole the entire thing is a disaster. Most TV shows are stuck in standard definition where BR discs will never exist, but B5 is forever trapped in sub-DVD quality. And all of this so we can now see a pot plant in the corner of Sheridan's office.

 

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Oh yeah, your're right. I noticed that too. Each time there's crossfade into a "regular" shot, the footage is still the 4:3 master cropped to 16:9. And the way the show is framed makes 16:9 pointless most of the time. All the action is in the center. And in two-shots, the actors are way too close to each other, there's a lot of dead space on the sides.

The best way to watch this show would be a DVD mastered from a clean 4:3 NTSC master. And that probably will never happen.

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It's my understanding that B5 was actually shot in 16:9 for future broadcast in mind, yet when they went to make the DVD's all the special effect shots had to be taken from 4:3 NTSC masters?  Isn't this right?

 

I would love to see whomever owns the rights go through a rigorous remastering process like Paramount did with the original Star Trek series.  Here would be a good reason to go back and re-make the CGI.

My Complete Fanedit List @ IFDB

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Yeah, the special effects shots were designed for the top and bottom to be cut off.  I doubt that anything like what happened for TOS will ever happen for B5, so I'd settle for decent 4:3 versions.

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