"Babylon 5" High-definition Blu-ray Petition

Babylon 5: Lightyears Ahead of Anything Else on Television

Edit: 2023-12-31

It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth/Minbari war. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal, to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call - home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5.
Commander Sinclair

Document Revival (2017-10-31)

This web-page has been offline for a number of years because I ran out of disk space at my old website. In 2017, I moved to a new location with more disk space so I revived this page. I no longer believe that we will ever see Babylon-5 reissued in hi-definition so I leave you with this page as a tribute site for one of the greatest sci-fi stories ever shown on TV or movie screens. Better than the Star Wars (although I am fond of episodes 1-2-3 with Princess Amidala) and better than all Star Trek movies (including the series reboot called JJ-Trek) and you are hearing this from a serious Treker.

If you want to connect to other B5 fans then l suggest you start here: https://www.reddit.com/r/babylon5/


Mars Dome
I just (September-2009) finished watching all five seasons of the 2009 DVD release of Babylon 5: The Complete Seasons 1-5 (2009) (ASIN: B002DUJ9Q6) on a 61-inch JVC digital TV and discovered that these 2009 DVD discs seem not much better than the 2004 release.
(In fact, the 2009 optical media has the same part stamped numbers as the 2004 release so this really is just a repackaging operation; 2004 disks came in a card-board box while the 2009 disc holders are in a plastic flip box)

Probably due to the high level of MPEG-2 compression, these DVD discs looked slightly better when played on a standard-def Sony DVD player than a high-def up-converting Sony Blu-ray player or a high-def up-converting Toshiba HD-DVD player. I suspect this may be because 2004/2009 Babylon 5 DVD episodes were written to the DVDs in 480i (interlaced) format rather than 480p (progressive) format.

To be fair, the 480i disks are still quite beautiful when played on a PC connected to a 19" LCD monitor.


Babylon 5 - Descending to Mars Dome
Warner Bros. should publish Babylon-5 in high-definition on Blu-ray using 1080i or 1080p. Since all episodes were recorded on film (1.65:1) in anticipation of high-definition Television (1.78:1), this should not be a major problem.
p.s. CGI shots were not recorded on film because, at the time, producers thought it would be easier, and cheaper, to recreate special effects on future computer equipment. This assumption turned out to be wrong. Oops!

What You Can Do To Help

  1. Signal your intentions to the publisher (Warner Bros.) by signing the "Babylon 5 Hi-def (or higher-def DVD)" petition:
  2. Visit this Facebook page then click the LIKE icon:
  3. Tell internet retailer Amazon.com
    1. I just (2009-10-24) noticed that Amazon.com appears to be soliciting customer interest in a Babylon-5 Blu-ray release.
    2. If you haven't done so before, create an Amazon.com account (this is free)
    3. Next, click this link: http://www.amazon.com/Babylon-5-Blu-ray-Richard-Biggs/dp/B001CUFI7M/
    4. Now click the yellow "Sign Up" button in the right-hand-side "Alert Me" panel (this is free)

      Note that you are not committing to buy this product, and Amazon isn't committing to sell it. But a sufficient level of interest will allow Amazon to pressure Warner Bros. into doing a Babylon 5 release on Blu-ray. If you don't think this is possible then read the following excerpt from the "Babylon 5" at Wikipedia:
      According to producer J. Michael Straczynski, as of mid-2006 "The DVD sales have raised over $500 million in revenue". The financial success of the DVD box sets has led to a renewed interest in further Babylon-5 work.
      Think of it, a half billion dollars in net revenue.

"Babylon-5 DVD" compared to "Star Trek Remastered"

As an aside, the remastered release of Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS) uses eight DVDs per season or seven Blu-Ray disks per season. These Babylon-5 disks only use six DVDs per season -AND- also contain extra material including commentary. Now consider the fact that Star Trek was originally produced for 1960's TV in a 4x3 frame whilst Babylon-5 was produced for mid 1990's TV in a 16x9 frame then broadcast in a letterbox format. It should be much easier to release Babylon-5 in high-def on Blu-ray since there is more original material to work with.

Information about the Avatar releases

On April-22, 2010 Avatar (the first serious 3-d movie) was released to retail channels in multiple packages:
  1. two disc high definition package (Blu-ray + DVD)
    • only contains the 2-d movie with some basic search/bookmarking features and subtitles. There is no commentary, no trailers, no previews, no annoying advertisements that play before the movie starts. James Cameron did it this way so he could do a Blu-ray release using the least amount of digital compression (which maximizes resolution as well as motion rendering)
    •  aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  2. one disc standard definition package (DVD)
    • only contains the 2-d movie with some basic search/bookmarking features and subtitles. There is no commentary, no trailers, no previews, no annoying advertisements that play before the movie starts. James Cameron did it this way so he could do a DVD release using the least amount of digital compression.
    • aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  3. one 3d Blu-ray disc
    • Most non-technical people are surprised to learn that shuttered 3d goggles where first appeared in the mid-1980s for UNIX workstations. At that time this niche technology was only used by organizations with big budgets like NASA, the aviation industry, and Hollywood. Sun Microsystems was able to corner support for this technology by creating a 3d API for their Java language. For the past 5-years NASA people at JPL have used 3-d goggles every day to plan trajectory changes for the MARS rover missions.

      In case you haven't noticed, all new technology for the past 20-years has been first developed for the computer industry then migrated over to home entertainment systems when it reaches a critical mass. For example, progressive-scan CRTs first appeared on computers. This innovation was quickly followed by larger resolution displays then finally LCD hardware. Why should you care? Many people today use Sony's Playstation-3 game console (a special purpose computer) to play Blu-ray movies on their big-screen TVs. Well, Sony has just announced that their Septemeber-2010 firmware upgrade will contain 3-d support. http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20010230-1.html

Hacking / Exploring

If you are playing discs in a stand-alone player, poke around at some of the extra keys to see it anything special comes up. For example, when playing DVDs in a PS3 (PlayStation 3), press the small button under the red key of the PS3-remote to see encoding values as well as video bit rates. You will see the CODEC Type (eg. MPEG-2) but not other stuff like the frames-per-second (FPS) etc.

Just for comparison Purposes:
  1. MPEG-encoded standard-def TV will give you bit rates between 3 and 6 Mb/s depending on how much compression was introduced by your satellite or cable provider. Some talking-head stuff (the news) can get away with 1.5 Mb/s
  2. Standard-def 480i DVDs will give you rates bursting up to 7.x Mb/s
  3. Standard-def 480p DVDs will give you rates bursting up to 8.x Mb/s
  4. My Blu-ray copy of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles bursts up to 37.5 Mb/s

If you've got a Windows-based PC and are using video player software like Nero ShowTime or PowerDVD or VLC then you already have access to some non-expert tools for further poking and hacking. For example, under Nero ShowTime you can enable the OSD (On Screen Display) to view technical parameters like frame format (e.g. 720x480), frames per second (FPS), encoding methods (e.g. MPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MPEG/AVC, VC1, AVC), etc. Some programs will actually display the phrases "480i" or "480p" while others will display phrases like "video mode: interlaced" or "video mode: progressive".

Click here for 2018 updated stats

External B5 Video Links

Two Psi-Cops:  Alfred Bester (Walter Koenig)
and Unknown (Harlan Ellison)
Babylon5 - Two Psi Cops

Other B5 Stuff

JMS shuts out the lights

Beware illegal clone disks

2018 Update

Title Release Disks Aspect Ratio Comments
Babylon 5: The Complete Series (2014)
Title Disks Media Stamping
Season 1 6 Widescreen 22855
Season 2 6 Widescreen 24242
Season 3 6 Widescreen 24243
Season 4 6 Widescreen 27972
Season 5 6 Widescreen 24275
2014 30 1.78:1 (16/9) 61-inch hi-def TV: No problem viewing actor scenes in hi-def but space-based scenes are noticeably sub-standard (I now wonder if Warner Brothers has over-compressed these because the CGI here is noticeably worse than what we see in B5: Crusade or B5: The Lost Tales)
24-inch hi-def computer monitor: much more enjoyable

Most "additional material" is rendered in 1.33:1 (4/3)

comments: these media stampings are identical to the 2004 + 2009 discs
Babylon 5: The Movie Collection
  Title Media Stamping
1 The Gathering Standard 33437
2 In The Beginning Widescreen 33437
3 Thirdspace Widescreen 33437
4 The River of Souls Widescreen 33437
5 A Call to Arms Widescreen 33437

1.33:1 (4/3)
1.78:1 (16/9)
1.78:1 (16/9)
1.78:1 (16/9)
1.78:1 (16/9)
hi-def but space-based scenes are much better than "Babylon 5: The Complete Series"
24-inch hi-def computer monitor: enjoyable
Crusade - The Complete Series
Disks stamped: Standard 39720
2004 4 1.33:1 (4/3) 24-inch hi-def computer monitor: enjoyable
The Legend of the Rangers
Disk stamped: Widescreen 75725
2004 1 1.78:1 (16/9) 24-inch hi-def computer monitor: enjoyable
The Lost Tales
Disk stamped: Widescreen 112984
2007 1 1.78:1 (16/9) Enjoyable on any display

2019 update

2021 updates

I was recently poking around this ( https://www.reddit.com/r/babylon5/ ) very popular babylon5 discussion area when I stumbled onto an article with this link:

Babylon-5 iTunes Release: https://youtu.be/W7aMhVqvgwU comparing original B5 video quality to the new stuff posted on Apple's iTunes site. Rumor has it that Warner Brothers (W.B.) attempted to make a deal ($$$) with Apple to put B5 on iTunes; Apple rejected the deal just based upon the original video quality; WB went back to the original stock which was all filmed in high-def (in anticipation of the high-def TV market). Why did Warner Brothers listen to Apple once but not listen to B5 fans for the past 20-years?

Rumor has it that a new Blu-ray release will be available in Feb-2021.
2021 update 2: I think we can forget about this TV series ever being republished in Hi-def because J Michael Straczynski (JMS) just announced that Warner Bros has approved a series reboot with new actors and (possibly) new stories. Just google it.

p.s. If I was generating rumors then I would suggest that new streaming channels (like Apple+) told Warner Bros that they would buy something like this to fill out their lineup. All sci-fi people already know about Asimov's Foundation series.

2023 update

Please visit this very popular babylon5 discussion area: https://www.reddit.com/r/babylon5/

For the 30th anniversary of season-1 which begins in January, 2024, Warner Bros. has released Babylon-5 on Blu-ray

A Few Details:

JMS's info about this set:

A quick follow-up to my announcement Babylon 5: The Complete Series being released on Blu-Ray to address some of the questions that have come back. I wasn't directly involved with the release, so I don't know much more than you do or what's in the release/at the retail sites but I can add what little I do know: the release includes The Gathering (but not the movies or Crusade) because TG was our pilot (technically the first) episode, so it's a legit part of the series which fits the title mandate; the other movies were separate, and Crusade is a completely different series, so it doesn't belong in this box set.

This is essentially the same as the very nice 4:3 remaster done for HBO-Max, which matches the original broadcast, but putting it onto Blu-Ray increases the bitrate so it should look even better than it did there. WB wanted to include the commentaries but with everything else involved with this, it apparently wasn't feasible (that's the extent of what I was told, so I've no idea what that entails).

What matters is that after years of asking for a Blu-Ray release, which will make this show look more beautiful than it ever has before, fans can now own the full series in pristine form on physical media without being held hostage by the whims of streamers. I'm very excited by this release, as it further assures the legacy of Babylon 5. Onward!

PS...since I'm not directly involved with the release, as with all things related to B5's distribution plans, I do not have any inside information concerning foreign releases or other languages. That's all on the Warners side, so please direct any inquiries in that direction.

Finally, for folks asking where they can find *a* link to where this is available...like all major studio releases, this will be made available to all the usual online places where you normally buy Blu-Ray disks. It will be rolling out to those sites starting today.

Also, as to why all this is happening now: There was one person at the studio who hated all things B5 and stood in the way of anything being done with the show, ever, for close to 20 years. Once that person finally retired, the floodgates opened.

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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.