I soon found the company and talked to the various people there. They volunteered to do a demonstration. That demonstration, which included about half a million dollars worth of equipment, took place here in Montana. Sony had the feed and record machines. Teranex had the magic up-conversion boxes. My vision is to have a system that would allow me to take my tape images, at least, the last 15 years of my career and all those titles, Blue Whales, Titanic, Galapagos, etc., and up-convert that square image to wide-screen HD. The Teranex guys said, “We can do it.” The Sony guys said, “You’re not going to be thrilled. The resulting conversion will not be brilliant, at least to your standards.” So, anyway, the Teranex guys felt confident and came here. I gave them a copy of In Celebration of Trees. They put it through the process on that now-famous Wednesday two years ago, and I was speechless. The Sony guys came into the room seconds later and slumped in their chairs in total disbelief. The Teranex system had come out of the U.S. Government surveillance world. The Teranex box not only does an up-conversion to HD but it will up-convert and down-convert from any format in the world. It doesn’t make any difference. Any tape will go in and out of that and make anything else. The box also deals with electronic noise reduction and refinements. I’m using five percent of its capability to do a magic process, and the machine is incredibly more capable. Anyway, that was the second innovative and ground-breaking moment, at least in my personal world. First was a camera re-management and all that I shared with Jeff Cree, a brilliant guy at Sony, and the second is happening right here right now.
I’m here in Pray, Montana, population 63 or whatever it is, with a system that is really space-age. I’m taking analog square images in today’s formats and up-converting to HD with seven times the pixel count resolution. The results are stunning. I have had people from NHK and the Discovery Channel to National Geographic here to see this process. I can’t tell you how pleased I was with their response. I am able to take all of these titles representing the whole history of my career along with a lot of the history of the undersea world and its animals and convert it all. It’s a thrill to go into the vault and take the 287 hours I shot for Blue Whales and convert it. Imagine the process. I went out, shot it, shipped it, viewed it briefly in the field to make sure all the parameters were technologically online and forgot about it. They cut it, sent the material back and we put it in a vault. I did that title after title after title. It’s so exciting to go through the material, up-convert, color-correct and reformat. I can’t tell you what a good thing it is, and in thousands of shots I’m saying, “I cannot believe this.” And so this year we will up-convert 20,000 to 30,000 scenes. They represent about a 6 to 1 ratio, so within the original material is another 200,000 beautiful scenes. At the end of the year we’ll have 110 or 120 categories for the library. Each one will be meticulously organized by subject matter. For instance; one tape will consist of nothing but White sharks, the next tape, all blue whales, the next, all sunsets or rattlesnakes (because I’ve also done a lot of topside stuff ). The library will include both underwater and topside shots. So to wrap it up, the second exciting, innovative, ground-breaking, pioneering effort goes on downstairs. We now have the only suite of its kind in the world (Editor’s note: as of late 2002), although other people are coming up to speed. We’re taking all of that analog video 4 x 3 and converting it to widescreen, and no information is lost because of the anamorphic process whereby the image is squeezed, top and bottom slightly, to create the wide-screen format. The pixel count, the information recorded, is there in total. The Teranex system is so refined that it extracts from the tape more information than probably any other processing super box on the planet. So these are exciting times. In the end, we will take all of the HD tapes, newly rendered with seven times the resolution and frame-grab maybe 75,000 stills from the best selects to add to our still library.