Credit for the content of this thread goes to Trekker4747
What is "re-mastering?"
A "master" is the definitive version of a produced work; it is what is made by copying the original filmed/recorded material and splicing it together for a definitive "final" version. Once a "master" is created, copies are made for whatever the final destination is to be (be it out to theaters or for publication to DVD/Blu-Ray.) "Re-Mastering" is when a new "master" is made. "Re-Mastering" strictly speaking has nothing to do with effects or even making something digital but in this day-and-age it's come to mean that and more broadly means making a new master and using techniques to get as much information as possible for conversion to a high-resolution medium like DVD and even more so Blu-Ray.
Why make it for Blu-Ray?
Blu-Ray is the rising standard for home-video watching, or at the very least High-Definition viewing is the rising standard. The DVDs are based off the original edits of the episodes and while they may be of slightly higher quality than videotape it's still comparatively low quality in an HD world. In the 1980s and 1990s TV and videotape quality was in the neighborhood of 240 lines of horizontal resolution. (240 horizontal lines of pixels make up the picture.) DVD doubled that quality to 480 lines, giving one twice the picture infromation. Today in an HD world TVs have either 720 or 1080 lines of resolution depending on the source, this means in order for that 480-line DVD of TNG to fill a modern TV a player has to "upconvert" the picture by artificially filling in the missing information by making an educated guess on what color to make the "missing pixel" between two known pixels. But making that "guess" is a whole lot different than knowing what it's really supposed to be. This is where High Definition comes in, it goes back to the original film where the information on what the pixel should be can be known and then displayed. A blurry picture of something becomes a lot sharper as now there's more information to draw from. It's essentially the difference between building a structure with the large "Duplo" Lego blocks for toddlers and building the same structure with the smaller Lego blocks for older kids. Smaller blocks, more detail. The following video shows the difference between the Standard Definition picture from the DVD and what we can expect in the High Definition picture that is on the Blu-Ray. (Keep in mind there will be some compression artifacts due to the video being YouTube which will not do either version any favors, for best results change the video's quality settings for 720p (HD) )
Wasn't TNG recorded on videotape?
No. The Next Generation's live-action material, model work, and practical effect shots were all recorded using standard 35mm film. The final show, however, was edited to videotape; this means all of the film elements were put together to their final form on videotape. This means no "master" of the episodes exist on film.
Then how are the episodes being made into HD?
The TNG-HD staff has had to go back to all of the original film elements and re-edit the episode together entirely from scratch. 35mm film is very high resolution (even higher than HD currently is, in fact since it is an analog format) so there is plenty of information there to get all of details needed for an HD picture. Modern techniques are able to get the most information from the original film to produce a much better picture than could have been produced for television when the show originally ran, even if it had been edited to film. Making something digital (as opposed to analog, like film) is able to make crisper images, get sharper colors and can reveal details usually muddied by an analog medium.
Are the Special Effects going to be done with CGI?
Yes and No. For the most part TNG's effects were done "in camera" by filming models or other physical objects/materials to create an illusion; those separate elements were then combined together during editing to produce the final effect. The BD project is, mostly, going to use the original filmed elements but is also going to re-combine them using CGI backgrounds or for effects (like phaser beams, torpedo launches, etc.) Keep in mind this is no small task. Take this shot for example:
Though it may seem that it was simply done by filming the models of the Excelsior and the Enterprise and then combining them together with a starfield and a planet the actual process is much more complicated. It is really a combination of at least seven different elements.
When the ships were filmed, a motion-control camera made three different passes of the model in different states. One of the model itself in the lit SFX room, a second pass of the model now in a dark room with the cabin lights on, and then a third pass in a dark room with the engine/deflector lighting on. The three passes were then combined to create a seamless image. Therefore, this element has three camera shots for the Enterprise
, likely another three camera shots for the Excelsior
-class and the planet itself is also a physical element created to produce the look. (Though a variety of techniques were used to create planets.)
These several shots were then overlaid in post-production against a starfield. To recreate this shot for the Blu-Ray all camera passes were recovered, scanned into a digital format and then re-combined. The shot of the two ships lasts for only a few seconds on screen. With this one shot alone, it can be seen the level of work the team behind TNG-HD has in store for them.
Reports say the Sampler-Pack has used no CGI for its effects though some fan-debate persists on that issue. The team behind TNG-HD do, however, expect CGI to need to be called into play to replace shots that may not be recoverable and some minor CGI has been used to better blend shots.
For example, in the Enterprise's jump to warp during the opening credits there's an obvious difference between the lit "hero model" used for close ups and a smaller model with fewer lit cabin lights used for distance shots. The new effects has better blended the two models together and removed the missing interior lighting during the jump to warp, or has simply replaced the shot with an all CGI element.
Again, at this point there's been no official word that the SFX in TNG-HD has been replaced with CGI.
UPDATE 2 Feb 2012: Upon the release of the disc it's become clearer that some CGI has been used to replace model shots. According to Rick Sternbach the easiest way to tell if it's a model-shot or a CGI one is to look at the RCS thrusters (the yellow boxes on the saucer and engineering section rims) if there's two black capsules on them then it's a CGI model based around the re-work done on the 6-footer for Generations.
Which model is being used in the effects?
Production of TNG consisted of several different models; at the very least consisting of a 6-foot long hero model based off the original designs by Andrew Probert, a 4-foot model that was felt to be better suited for more dynamic filming and a 2-foot model used for distance shots. The effects shots of TNG-HD are using the original elements so all of the models used on the show will make their appearances in virtually the same places they were originally used; any replaced model shots using CGI will likely use an entirely scratch-built CGI model based on the original designs for the ship (which would closely match the 6-foot "hero model.") This may mean the same inconsistencies in the ship's details will still exist in the series. (The 4-foot model has more noticeable raised hull paneling, thickness around the edges, and a different window pattern around the saucer rim.)
Will we see anything new?
The effects work being done either with CGI or by remastering the original film elements is trying to be as faithful as possible to the original effect. It's unlikely at this point we will see anything greatly new but not impossible either. But keep in mind that TNG also featured some very early creative and unique effects work including, but not limited to, the shape-shifting aliens in "The Dauphin" were actually painted onto the film similar to how "animation interacting with live-action" work is done and the alien space-baby "Junior" in "Galaxy's Child" was a CGI element. At the very least we're likely to see a new version of "Junior" since the CGI in that episode won't hold-up to HD standards and it's possible the painted elements in "The Dauphin" may need to be re-created as well.
Will mistakes be corrected?
At this point it would seem so. Near the end of the episode "Encounter at Farpoint" an energy beam is used to "feed" an alien held captured on a planet. In the original episode, the beam originated from the saucer section around the Captain's Yacht, in the BD release the beam originates, a bit more accurately, from the saucer's ventral phaser strip. If this one shot is any indication, it would seem some mistakes are being corrected. (Darmok, we're all looking at you.)
Will it be in widescreen?
The BD is maintaining the Original Aspect Ratio (OAR) which at the time of the series was 4:3 TV format (commonly called "fullscreen.") Making the show into the present day standard of 16:9 would mean either cropping the image (removing elements from either the top or bottom of the picture) or possibly widening the shot from the original film, which would probably expose elements of production not intended to be seen. Either way making the show 16:9 could be viewed as distorting the original directors' intents for the episodes and shots. At this time the OAR is being maintained.
When is it going to be released?
A sampler-disc set containing the two-hour pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint;" the third-season episode dealing with Worf and Klingon politics called "Sins of the Father" and the Emmy Award nominated, Hugo Award winning fifth-season episode "The Inner Light" focusing on Picard living another lifetime on a long dead alien world will be/was released on Blu-Ray on January 31, 2012. Reports have said the entire series will be released in season sets over the course of the next two years.
UPDATE 2 Feb 2012: New, clearer, information has been released regarding the time-line for releasing the season sets. Ken Ross, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Home Entertainment says that the first season BD should be released in late summer/early fall of 2012 and then hopefully on a schedule of two seasons per year after that.
UPDATE 16 May 2012: The First Season of TNG on Blu-Ray will be available in July 2012.
Will it be released on DVD?
At this time only Blu-Ray sets are planned.
How much will the sets cost?
As of this typing the sampler-set is selling for $15 on Amazon (marked down from the MSRP of $23), no pricing details on the future season sets has been released.
Will TNG-HD be released on Netflix or be on TV?
The motivation for doing this seems to be along the same lines as the motivation for doing it for The Original Series, to ensure that the show will last into the next generation (pun intended) of TV viewers. It is very likely as HD and digital TV becomes more and more the standard TNG's HD version will be what is used for TV, Netflix and similar services as the original SD versions become less viable in an HD world.
Who is involved in this project?
The project has involved many experts working with CBS/Paramount, people who've worked with TNG in the past as well as consulting input from the Okudas. Much like the TOS project, CBS/Paramount seems dedicated to getting this as right as possible to make the show viable for modern viewing while staying faithful to the original.
I heard that some scenes could not be recovered.
Reports were heard that at least one, small, scene from "Sins of the Father" could not be found on film, instead the scene was cleaned up from the (high-quality) videotape master of the episode. In the final BD the difference, while it will likely be noticeable is a quick enough scene that it won't distract the viewer and the difference isn't reported to be too greatly stark. It remains possible that scene could be found as the project goes on and it's also possible more scenes could turn up missing requiring, again, to go to videotaped versions for the conversion.
UPDATE 16 May 2012: The missing footage for this scene has been recovered and will be included in the Blu-Ray set. However a two-second long scene in "We'll Always Have Paris" turned up missing and was inserted using a cleaned-up videotape print.
How long has Paramount been working on this, how long will it take to do the whole show?
It's been said that the show will be fully released on BD over the course of the next two years, this at very least suggests that work on this project has been going on for some time.
I thought fans had said doing TNG in HD would be impossible.
Some may have said that, but most simply said that while it was "possible" it would just involve a lot of work and dedication from CBS/Paramount's end. The show pretty much has to be re-assembled from scratch, which is different from what happened with TOS. That show was edited to film so it could simply be re-scanned (a traditional "re-mastering") and the effects sequences replaced with CGI as the originals wouldn't hold-up to modern resolution. TNG has to be put together again the same way as it would have been done after the original episode's elements were shot. It was thought that CBS/Paramount wouldn't invest that much time and money into the project. We were wrong. CBS/Paramount has shown tremendous dedication to TNG-HD.
Will the other series be done as well?
At this time it is not known, it's possible CBS/Paramount will make that decision based on how well TNG-HD does. The other series will likely face similar hurdles; for example while DS9 and Voyager both featured CGI effects they used CGI effects that are not of a quality that'd hold up to HD. Enterprise came out during the time when HD was coming to rise and may not need much, if any, changes. Again, the same motivations that caused CBS/Paramount to do the HD process for TOS and now TNG may come into play for the other series and prompt converting them as well.
This FAQ will be updated intermittently. Hope you found it helpful and long live The Next Generation in high definition.