The complete Stargate SG-1 series is now available on Blu-ray, for the first time in the show’s 23-year history.
The new release comes from Visual Entertainment Incorporated (VEI), a company that releases budget collections of class television shows. The company also has been selling standard definition DVD editions of SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis since last spring, and recently added Stargate Universe.
According to VEI this new Blu-ray release includes all 10 seasons and 214 episodes, plus 127 hours of bonus features including “Special Features Including Extended Episodes, Behind-scenes Extras, And Commentaries With The Cast And Crew.” That likely covers the bonus material originally included with each season’s original release on DVD. The 10-season set sells for $129.99 (U.S.) on VEI’s Web site.
Prior to now only Stargate Atlantis and the first season of Stargate Universe were released on Blu-ray. SG-1 aired from 1997 to 2007, mostly before the dawn of Blu-ray technology and high-definition video sold to consumers. In the years since, Stargate franchise owner MGM has opted not to go back and remaster the series for a proper HD home media release.
VEI has also followed up the SG-1 news with an announcement this month that it will release a new budget Blu-ray edition of Stargate Atlantis. All 100 episodes and more than 50 hours of bonus features are available for pre-order at $64.99 (U.S.), with a shipping date of December 28.
Both boxed sets include Region 1 (North America) discs.
Atlantis does have a previous Blu-ray release, published by 20th Century Fox in 2011. That one originally came with a $199.99 price tag, and today typically sells for at least $80 on sale.
IS THIS ACTUALLY HIGH-DEF?
So what’s on these discs? So far VEI has not been forthcoming with technical details. So we’ll need to understand a bit about the history of the two shows’ production to make a reliable guess at the quality that customers are paying for.
SG-1 shot on film during its first seven seasons, switching to HD digital cameras with Season Eight. So while the final three seasons are readily available to the studio in high definition, the older seasons were limited to standard-def. For many years the 480p DVD releases were the best quality visuals available.
MGM confirmed to GateWorld earlier this year that these early seasons of SG-1 have been digitally upscaled to improve the picture quality. These new “HD” episodes are available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video (at least for a few more days), and have appeared on HD broadcast television in Europe.
This might be the version that VEI is selling on Blu-ray discs. GateWorld is still working to confirm this with VEI or MGM. But it would seem to be the only version of these episodes in existence that are remotely suitable for Blu-ray media, which can accommodate 720p or 1080p (or 1080i) pictures.
Note that VEI also sells budget DVD sets for the three Stargate series. So far the only difference in VEI’s listing of Stargate SG-1 on Blu-ray is the label “Super clean picture.” However that descriptor also appears on the Amazon listing for the DVD edition, as well as on the Atlantis DVD listing.
“Upscaling” uses digital technology to improve existing video, essentially adding interpolated pixels and smoothing rough edges to create a crisper image. This process is very different than “remastering,” however. The latter entails going back to the original film negatives, and even creating new CG visual effects, in order to reproduce all 44 minutes of every episode from scratch. That would amount to many hundreds of hours of labor, to which is added other steps in the editing process: color correction, recovering and remastering the audio and score, etc.
Upscaling is more cost-effective, and the technology is better now than it has ever been. (GateWorld recently looked at one fan-made upscaling project.) But this process isn’t likely to produce true 1080 picture clarity.
Efforts to reach a VEI representative for clarification on its Stargate Blu-ray releases so far have been unsuccessful.
BETTER THAN DVD?
If it is the case that the VEI Blu-ray release of Stargate SG-1 includes the HD-upscaled episodes newly commissioned by MGM, customers will likely find this an improvement over the show’s original 480p DVD releases (at least for these earlier seasons). It is very unlikely, though, that the studio also has applied the same upscaling treatment to the bonus material released on the original DVD sets. Those would be in 480p.
But isn’t this just the same improved, “super clean picture” that VEI has been selling on DVD since the spring? Until we can get some answers from the company, or do a side-by-side comparison, we can only speculate.
It’s possible that a Blu-ray release of the same upscaled episodes would look better. Videos rendered for DVDs would doubtless suffer some degree of compression due to disc space (leaving the final visual fidelity largely in the hands of the compression algorithm). But Blu-ray discs are large enough to accommodate the upscaled copies without additional compression.
In short: We expect that the Blu-ray release of Stargate SG-1 will probably match what is streaming on Amazon. For Seasons One through Seven these are likely to be around 720p HD, rather than 1080p (or 1080i) full HD. However Seasons Eight through Ten should be 1080p/1080i, if VEI has not cut corners.
A user named “cdittmer” at Blu-ray.com’s forum has posted screen captures from the VEI release. They do indeed show what looks like a clean, upscaled picture, which makes an improvement over the show’s previous release on standard definition media. But it is not the quality of image we would see from a true remastering from the original film source. Here’s an example:
Stargate Atlantis, on the other hand, was filmed entirely in HD and has already seen a 1080p Blu-ray release. Presumably the VEI release is also at this resolution. Curiously VEI lists this also as having a “New Super Enhanced picture” — but it isn’t clear if this is any sort of new rendering of the episodes, or only an improvement over VEI’s own standard-def DVD release.
Given the price point and the fact that VEI is a budget publisher, the latter seems more likely.
We’ll continue to dig and see if we can find out anything further on these discs. Meanwhile, if you have received them, drop us a line and let us know how they look!
On Twitter: @VEI_Studios
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