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JMS on Sci-Fi's widescreen broadcasts

JMS had the following to say about problems with the widescreen broadcasts on the Sci-Fi Channel:

Today I went to a meeting at Warner Bros. technical support, where we went over the problems detected in the SFC widescreen airings.

I now have some answers and some information on this.

I have to say up front that the WB folks have been nothing but helpful and determined to fix the problems. In "Midnight on the Firing Line," wherein a teapot is shown instead of a starship when the audio indicates the latter...the editor explained that it resulted from a pause/freeze frame during assembly, and when he restarted the equipment, it jumped shots.

This will be fixed. In "Convictions," wherein a comp shot of several monitors doesn't show the surveillance footage, but rather shows just the original babcom logo...they had missed this on their list of comp shots, and will go back and insert the proper footage now that they know the problem is there.

(They QC everything, but often with the audio down, so they had no way of knowing that they were talking about camera footage, and figured that it was okay since there was something -- the babcom logo -- in the monitors rather than totally blank screens.) In "Inquisitor," wherein the west end/east end audio correction wasn't made...they were going off the original PAL audio transfers, which in this case didn't work because we made that audio correction *after* broadcast and replaced the audio for that shot afterward.

They're going to go back to the revised 24 track audio and insert the proper audio. Here's what's going to happen beyond this. 1) WB is going to go back to using *only* the original 24 track audio stems for the dubs. 2) Seasons 4 and 5 as it turns out are already in proper wide versions, as is season 1, so the only ones that need to be addressed are seasons 2 and 3. 3) WB is going to run cassettes of the whole series in the new version and I'm going to personally go over every damn episode personally looking for any potential problem areas (such as comps that may not have been recognized as such by the WB editors).

It's possible that I may miss something here and there, because 110 hours is a LOT of TV to watch...but it'll certainly help. They were *extremely* helpful and apologetic at WB, and are determined to do everything they can to fix the situation as fast as possible. As for the audio...the audio transfers are being done directly off the original clones (either the original PAL, digibeta or 24 track stems), and QC'd.

So what they suspect *may* be the problem is if the SFC is running the digital tracks through a Dolby decoder. If you try to decode Dolby that isn't there, on a digital track (which doesn't need Dolby because it's digital) it can make the audio crunchy or lead to drop-outs, pops and other problems.

I've sent word to SFC to have them check that at their end of things. So the situation is well in hand.

jms (jmsatb5@aol.com)

Some fans have suggested that if JMS is going to rewatch the entire series anyway, there wouldn't be any harm in having a microphone handy to record commentary for an eventual DVD release. That may or may not be practical (a good in-depth commentary track may require more up-front preparation than JMS has time for right now) but it sure sounds like a good idea from here.

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Last update: December 15, 2000