Can anyone comment on whether the quality of the original broadcasts / DVDs of season 2 was noticeably better than season 1?
Looking at the HD vs SD comparisons of S2, there's clearly a great improvement but somehow missing a wow factor that was there for season 1.
I guess this is for one of three possible reasons (although I'm not saying any of these are necessarily true):
1. S2 HD remaster isn't up to the standard of CBS-D's job on S1.
2. "HD fatigue", after looking at probably hundreds of S1 screenshots, and watching the whole series on Bluray, I've become used to seeing TNG in HD.
3. Season 2 DVD's looked better than Season 1 (did they?), so the difference in SD vs HD isn't as astounding.
Aside: the season two aspect ratio seems to be a tiny bit wider than S1? The screenshots are 1460x1080 vs S1's 1440x1080 (which are the usual dimensions for 4:3 content on Bluray)
S2, like S1, was telecined to 1-inch analog Type-C videotape (so was S3, by the way -- they didn't switch to digital D1 until S4) and so the quality of the video masters were essentially the same. I think perhaps the color was more consistent in S2... S1 had some pretty wonky color (magenta hued flesh tones and an overall green push, for instance) so that may make S2 appear a bit better on DVD.
The new 2K remastering on S2 looks just as good to my eyes as S1 -- the live-action parts, anyway. And yes, you may be getting used to seeing the show at this new quality level and so the wow factor is lessening. When we get to S3, we'll get that back a bit since they switched DPs and the overall look will be different.
As for the aspect ratio, I think when the Blu-rays come out they should be cropped back slightly to 1440x1080... but even if they don't do that it won't be that big of a deal since we're only talking about the difference between 1.33:1 and 1.35:1.
Speaking of aspect ratio and other technical minutia, you should listen to this Trek Companion podcast where they interview camera operator and backup DP Kriss Krosskove (TNG seasons 6 & 7, DS9 seasons 3-7) where he confirms they shot with dual aspect ratio ground glasses during the run of DS9 -- though they always compromised the 16:9 framing in favor of 4:3 when push came to shove.
It's podcast show #49: