Regardless of my issues with the show, I really, really dislike the mentality that you have to revamp the special effects on something like this. It's George Lucas thinking. The work is part of the past, the special effects are part of history (and obviously Babylon 5's effects are significant from a historical perspective), you should let them stand. Going back to keep it "cutting edge" smacks of the whole idea of never outgrowing your adolescent obsessions. Would you go back and insert CGI into Ray Harryhausen's work?
There might be some misunderstanding, here -- it's not that the effects are bad, it's that the original digital computer effects-files were dumped and lost years ago, and 480p is going to be the maximum resolution of these shots forever, unless new, replacement ones are commissioned in high-definition. Which is something that will have to be done completely from scratch (and at no small expense, admittedly).
Similarly, I have no real problems with most of the VFX work as it currently exists (apart from some of the stuff very early on in Season 1), and I'd never suggest doing away with them. Rather, JMS himself has basically gone on record as saying that none of the original, 1990s-era effects-work is usable or viable for any future HD release of the series, including Blu-Ray, upconversions for HD broadcast, online streaming, etc. If Warner Bros. were to attempt to up-rez those files tomorrow for BD, they'd look like junk.
In other words...there's no way Babylon 5 will ever look good on Blu-Ray without completely new visual effects.
What Hammerhead brings up is the other big issue -- the live-action footage (with the actors) was shot on Super 35mm, in a native 1.65:1 aspect ratio (the 16:9 telecine-conversion being done at 1.78:1); Babylon 5 was one of only two television series actually shooting in widescreen during the early/mid-'90s (the other was Lois & Clark). Straczynski being a very forward-looking guy, the intention was to "future-proof" the show against the day when widescreen televisions would become the norm (as they now are), and every episode except the two-hour pilot was shot in the widescreen format.
However, as we all remember, the syndicated broadcast affiliates (i.e., the PTEN Network) only showed their content in "full-frame" (1.33:1 aspect ratio) format -- meaning that the widescreen live-action masters had to be cropped in post-production to 1.33:1, with all the visual effects work being composed for this ratio, not for 1.78:1.
Meaning that when the Sci-Fi Channel commissioned new widescreen broadcast masters in mid-2000 (subsequently used on the DVDs), they were able to take the original, on-set widescreen cinematographic compositions...but again, remember the file-dumping several years earlier? All that remained of Foundation Imaging's now-lost visual effects work were second-gen (or, in some cases, third-gen) files, composed for 1.33:1, all in very low-resolution NTSC form.
Which means, whenever you watch Babylon 5 on DVD now, you're seeing the 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio for all of the live-action footage, but every single outer space shot is now masked with black bars to create an artificial 1.78:1 "frame." Basically, you're losing something like nearly a third of the image that you saw in the 4:3 ratio PTEN broadcasts (or thereabouts).
This would be another situation that brand-new VFX work would solve -- for the first time ever, shots composed specifically for the widescreen framing, uniform throughout, without masking or cropping of the image, and in full HD resolution, to boot.
While I would greatly regret the loss of the pioneering work done by Ron Thornton's team (arguably B5 is the series that led to shows like Star Trek finally making the plunge to full-CGI work), it's truly a necessary evil in this instance if we ever want a proper, viable Blu-Ray release, though the benefits of new high-definition imagery would certainly lengthen the show's appeal and lifespan for many years to come.
Edited by Leto II - 6/17/12 at 1:47pm