We tried rewatching Babylon 5 on DVD and then on Amazon recently, only to discover that the computer-generated imagery (CGI) didn’t upscale correctly for the high-definition format. Every scene involving CGI has jaggies in it, discernable pixelation that draws you right out of the show.
They’ve also been talking about this problem on the Babylon 5 Facebook group recently, so I took the time to go looking for an explanation of the problem and ran across this article on Engadget.
Unfortunately, the CGI and composite elements only existed in 4:3, and so Warner Bros. decided to crop and stretch those sequences. That involved chopping the top and bottom off every frame in a scene, and then increasing its width to fit the aspect ratio. The issue was explored in detail by Henrik Herranen from Finland, who published How Babylon 5 Is Transferred to DVD in 2001. Herranen described himself as a “professional in signal processing and a video technique enthusiast.” Unfortunately, attempts to find and contact Herranen failed.engadget
In other words, Warner Brothers did another version of pan and scan.
…except they did it in reverse. And they did this because people like me insisted that widescreen was the way we wanted to see the show since it had been filmed in widescreen originally. Nevermind that they didn’t film the effects sequences that way, and they also screwed up the upscaling for the CGI sequences in other ways, as the article goes into. I really wanted to rewatch the show, but now it looks like it will have to remain a memory. Here’s hoping that the 35mm record copies of the show are one day released by Warner Brothers so that new digital transfers of the show are made possible, even if it is only in the 4:3 aspect ratio.