"Babylon 5" High-definition Blu-ray Petition

 

Edit: 2021-11-05

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 hosting my old site. 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/

Overview

Mars DomeI 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.
 

 Petition

Babylon 5 - Descending to Mars DomeWarner 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:

    http://www.petitiononline.com/B5HiDef/petition.html
  2. Visit this Facebook page then click the LIKE icon:
     
    https://www.facebook.com/Babylon5HDRemasterPetition
  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
  • Inspect the photo to the right. Yep, that's JMS shutting down station power
  • http://www.cafepress.com/B5books/6881137
    FREE DOWNLOAD: J Michael Straczynski (JMS) Babylon Podcast Interview on June-2009
    • http://www.babylon5scripts.com/JMS-Interview/JMS_Part1_Jun_2009_B5booksCom.mp3 60-minutes
      covers lots of stuff including:
      • Lensman
      • Producing a Babylon-5 treatment for Douglas Netter
      • Showing Paramount the treatment, pilot script, and art work for Babylon-5 pilot which Paramount hijacked for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (ST:DS9)
        comparing pilots of B5 to ST:DS9
        • male captain, female second in command, shape shifter in the pilot, space station full of aliens, gambling area, casinos with a bar, ambassadors, retail trading area (coincidence? I doubt it)
      • how Paramount is a better company than Warner Bros.
      • how PTEN supported then hurt B5.
      • how Michael was exchanged for Bruce and why this wasn't part of the original 5-year story arc.
      • how CGI was started at Foundation Imaging then moved into Netter Digital (when Foundation Imaging started working on Star Trek: DS9 then ignoring Babylon 5)
      • problems with TNT and B5-S5/Crusade and why JMS considered Crusade a financial failure (and how TNT blocked the release of Babylon-5 to www.syfy.com )
    • http://www.babylon5scripts.com/JMS-Interview/JMS_Part2_Jun_2009_B5booksCom.mp3 50-minutes
      covers lots of stuff including:
      • how people at Paramount have quietly inquired about JMS doing more B5 stuff
      • how JMS has enough stories "in the box" to "reboot the B5 series", "redo the B5 series", etc.
      • how his family moved 18 times while he was a kid
      • mentions of "Forbidden Planet" (a JMS related remake?)
  • http://www.babylonpodcast.com/
  • http://ftp.midwinter.com/lurk/making/thornton.html Ron Thornton

    Quote:
    The pilot "The Gathering" was rendered by eight interconnected Amiga 2000 computers with Video Toaster boards which were connected to an IBM computer that stored the images in five gigabytes of memory. Foundation Imaging's computational power has increased tremendously with each work station now being equivalent to the original eight Amigas and Ron's being the equivalent to sixteen Amigas.
  • http://web.archive.org/web/20130409073622/http://www.midwinter.com/b5/Releases/96pr_pioneering

    Quote:
    "We don't use expensive silicon graphics machines. We don't use high-end software. Initially all the 3-D computer animation was done on Amigas using the Video Toaster. Today, however, all the 3-D computer animation is done on PC clones and DEC Alpha platforms running on a readily available piece of software called LightWave 3-D. LightWave was originally part of the Video Toaster, but has been ported out as a software program available for many different computer platforms.
  • http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/making/effects.html

    Quote:
    All special effects for Babylon 5 are computer generated. Foundation Imaging, headed by Ron Thornton, produced the special effects for the pilot movie and seasons one through three. Starting in season four, the special effects were moved in-house to Netter Digital Imaging, another subsidiary of the parent of B5's production company. The B5 effects teams, both at Foundation and at NDI, use Lightwave 3D by NewTek and specialized software to design and render the visual effects. For the pilot, the effects were rendered on a network of Amiga computers; later, Foundation used 12 Pentium PCs and 5 DEC Alpha workstations for 3D rendering and design, and 3 Macintoshes for piecing together on-set computer displays. The NDI team uses a similar array of equipment; see George Johnsen's comments below. CGI space scenes are clearer and have more realistic movement than model shots. Some interior shots such as docking bays are "virtual sets" combining live action with computer imagery. Computer-generated aliens make regular appearances on the show as well.

Beware illegal clone disks

  • I have seen Babylon 5 DVD's which I was told were shipped from "China" (this was verbal information; I have no proof)
  • These disks appear to have been created on writable DVD-R disks which we all know have a capacity limit of 4.7 GB. This means that the original material was probably put through some sort of MPEG compression software to reduce the number of I-Frames (at the very minimum) and perhaps reduce over all picture resolution elsewhere. You might not notice this compression if watching on a small computer screen (or modern smart phone) but forget about viewing on a large 60-inch hi-def TV
  • As of this date (2018) the Babylon 5 media published by Warner Brothers are manufactured 2-layer DVD disks capable of probably 8 or more GB. Note that double-layer does not mean double sided. By changing the focusing mechanism, the laser can look through the first layer to read from the second layer. This limits the capacity of the second layer so that the total capacity is never equal to 4.7 x 2

2018 Update

  • Since 2013-11 (November 2013), I've been enjoying movies and PS4-gaming on a 61-inch Samsung LCD TV. Using the marketing vernacular of today, this appliance would be known as a 2k high-def TV.
  • I had been going through a sci-fi dry spell ever since the current season of The Expanse ended so I thought it would be kind of neat to watch one episodes of Babylon 5 every night until I've made it all the way through.
  • So I recently (Sep-2018) went shopping by visiting amazon.ca
  • I searched the phrase "babylon 5 the complete collection dvd" which returned a list with this item at the top of the page "Babylon 5: The Complete Series + The Movie / Crusade Collection 2014". Clicking on this link brought up this product page title "Babylon 5: The Complete Series + The Movie / Crusade Collection [DVD] [2004]". Now the product heading might not be 100% accurate because the Amazon product details contains the following information:
    Format: NTSC
    Language: English
    Region: Region 1 (US and Canada)
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    Studio: Warner Home
    Video Release Date: Dec 9 2014
    ASIN: B00COTLTUA
    which makes me wonder if "2014" might only represent the repackaging year.
  • So I took a chance and purchased the package for $100 bucks then was pleasantly surprised with the 39-disk set (5 x 6 + 5 + 4). The disk stamps contain the same numbers as 2009 and 2004. Note that Warner Brothers has not reformatted the first five disks but they have removed the letter-boxing (at least none is seen on a hi-def TV connected via an HDMI cable -or- when played on a PC)
  • I am really enjoying the "additional material" interspersed through the first five seasons
  • All my DVD viewing is from a PS4-Pro which doubles as my NetFlix interface
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 display: 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
5

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.


Back to Home
Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.