Academy Online! First Impressions & Super Ship Roundup Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Peacock is live and that means the highly anticipated streaming debut of Wing Commander Academy is here! The good news is that the sound appears to be much better than in other iterations of the show, so it seems like this is probably the definitive edition to watch. On the other hand, the brief segment missing from "On Both Your Houses" is absent on Peacock. For the DVD release, VEI was able to replace the missing ten seconds from that episode with footage from LOAF's archive.

I also neglected to mention yesterday that there is also a fully free tier available to everyone. It's heavily supported by ads (compared with minimal ads on the Peacock "Premium" and zero ads present on "Premium Plus"), but that means anyone and everyone can watch Wing Commander now. Comcast customers' free package is equivalent to Premium. The platform is currently available on Apple devices (iPhone/iPad/Apple TV), Google devices (Android, Android TV & Chromecast), LG & Vizio TVs and Xbox One consoles. It's pretty awesome to be able to call up and stream Academy any time on your phone now!

Last, but not least, LOAF put together this awesome tweetstorm roundup of all the ships in the show to celebrate its release - enjoy!

Let's escape reality with a thread showing off all the series' often-familiar spaceships. Magnum launch, all fighters up... The series' concept started as basically 'Wing Commander III babies' and artists first adapted the ships from that game. In the end era appropriate ships were mostly used, but WC3 and 4 designs still make a few cameos (especially in the pilot). Here's the Hellcat V: The speedy Arrow interceptor also makes a brief appearance in the first episode: The good old CF-105 Scimitar medium fighter from Wing Commander I is the show's hero ship. It appears in every episode! (The accent colors typically indicate which character is flying.) The Kilrathi get the classic 'pancake' Dralthi design from the first game, too: Here's the first original ship that appears on the show: this Kilrathi capital ship is used as a blockade runner, transport, destroyer and carrier, scaled appropriately! It's clearly inspired by the large dreadnaught from Wing Commander III (fourth picture). Episode 2 brings in the famed Bengal-class TCS Tiger's Claw, adapted from the original design with a more nautical bow: It's also the only appearance of the Kilrathi Dorkir-class transport. The Dorkir was first designed as a tanker for Wing Commander I and then turned into a freighter to save memory (that's another story!): Here's the Kilrathi Sartha light fighter, first seen in Wing Commander II: Episode 2 introduces two human ships from Wing Commander II flown by renegades which re-appear later as supporting fighters aboard the Tiger's Claw. First is the... fan favorite... Epee! And the second is the F/A-57 Sabre heavy attack fighter. There's also a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo from Wing Commander IV's Avenger as a pirate transport! The third episode introduces both faction's recurring bombers. If there had been a toy line, these two would have been the more expensive ones! The Kilrathi get the Grikath from Wing Commander II... And the Confederation gets the venerable A-17 Broadsword! Episode 4 has the last Wing Commander III cameo: a couple frames where the Longbow bomber is used as a search and rescue ship! And here's the Kilrathi Jalkehi heavy fighter from Wing Commander II: Two original designs for Episode 6: a Confederation space ambulance and an armored Kilrathi jump buoy: Chain of Command shows us an entire Confederation fleet of new ship designs including the Achilles-class destroyer, Byrd-class recon ship and Manassas-class cruiser (only seen in part). The Byrd and Achilles designs are reused later as transports. ... and new shuttles for each side make their first apperances... We also get a first look at Prince Thrakhath's massive dreadnaught, the Agon Ras Sivar (an original design): Oh, and a familiar capital ship! The Kilrathi Kamekh corvette from Wing Commander II and Privateer: Expendable gives us a Fralthi cruiser (called a destroyer in the script) that's straight out of Claw Marks: The world's most insane crossover episode adds two ships in order to introduce Michael Dorn's Warrior King: a Kilrathi tug and a 25th century human sleeper ship! Walking Wounded has two new human support ships: the TCS Pleiku, a hospital ship, and the TCS Morgan, a fighter transport (which seems to be an Achilles-class transport attached to a large bay). Finally, Invisible Enemy introduces us to the Strakha stealth fighter (here a modified Sartha) and what the script calls a Ferret... though it's actually designed to match a prototype created by a toy company for the show (this was the last segment animated): I think that’s everything! I hope new folks enjoy Academy, it’s a very solid show as far as such things go. And if you ever want to learn more or stream an episode or two, feel free to join the CIC Discord! We’re very friendly.

Academy Launch Imminent, Last Day for Peacock Deal! Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The NBC streaming platform Peacock launches tomorrow, July 15, and with it comes Wing Commander Academy streaming for the first time. All thirteen episodes of our favorite television show will be available sandwiched between Will & Grace and World of Dance. It's normally $5 a month, but if you preorder it tonight it comes to just $30 for the first year, which is quite a markdown. An ad-free version is $80 for the year. Additionally, Comcast Xfinity customers get free access to Peacock via Flex or X1, so it's worth getting the right setup. We have no kind of advertising or affiliate sponsorship with anyone - we're just trying to find fellow Wingnuts the cheapest ways to experience Wing Commander! The series is still available on DVD for $8, but I'm excited to rewatch the show in a new way. Just seeing the thumbnail on a modern interface like that is cool! And there are likely to be slight differences in picture quality, sound or subtitles that will be interesting to analyze in the days ahead.

Barry Leitch Interview Covers History of Game Audio Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

70er Jahre Junge has conducted a super fun interview with veteran game developer and musician Barry Leitch. He's well known as a game music composer, but his claim to fame with the Wing Commander series came as the spaceflight dialogue editor for Wing Commander 3. There's some fun anecdotes of his time at Origin where he edited over 11,000 lines of speech for it. He also did music and sound effects for Privateer Righteous Fire and Wings of Glory, among other local contemporaries. Mr. Leitch has a wealth of knowledge about the industry and a good easy-going way of sharing it. You can find his personal site here or check out the conversation below! You can jump to the 30:10 point for the specific discussion on Wing Commander and Origin.
Barry Leitch is an absolute legend among computer game composers. The Scotsman has written the soundtracks of games such as Lotus Turbo Challenge, Gauntlet Legends, Gauntlet Dark Legacy, Top Gear or Rush, etc. In this interview he talks about how the industry worked in the past and today, his own role models and why numerous Brazilian guitarists cover the Top Gear soundtrack.

Machine Learning Advances Could Lead to Enhancement Pack 4.0 Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

We're leaning into a new week with a couple of amazing new test clips from ODVS. He's not intending to reinvent the wheel each month, but there have been even better AI techniques discovered that further improve the quality of his enhanced video. Due to the exciting potential of this upgrade, he's made another WC4 example to gather feedback and see if he should release a new iteration of his footage overhaul.
I wasn't planning on posting anything again so soon - but then I got my hands on a new AI model!

So in the vein of returning to remasters past, here's a new version of the Vagabond comparison video. The new AI model does a far better job of adding detail without creating the nasty over-defined edges (in previous WC4 remasters, I've always toned the detail recovery down a bit because it had a tendency to screw up curves and shapes such as shoulders, uniform elements etc.).

I'll keep experimenting with this, but there may be a WC4 HD Video Pack V4.0 on the horizon if I find it improves other scenes. Enjoy!

He also wanted to share the latest improvements with WC3 reencoding. WC3 is a very different animal since the source material is so much lower resolution/quality/framerate, but the potential is there nonetheless. You can see his initial take on the WC3 intro back in our May archives, and here is the update.
Since I am now using a few new methods, I thought it might be interesting to re-do one one of the sequences I've done before so you can get an idea of the minor improvements that are creeping in. I figured I might as well go big or go home, so here's the entire WC3 intro again. :D

Red is always an issue when dealing with video image compression. Due to various technical reasons to do with the way the colour space is handled, red objects generally get around half the resolution of other colours - which is why the credits and the glyphs on the emperor's throne still look blocky. They're so very pixelated in the original footage that they appear to be geometric shapes and the AI actually tries to maintain it.

I think the improvements on the Kilrathi and Human characters are quite evident, though. As always, YouTube's compression is incredibly aggressive and knocks out a degree of detail from the remastered footage, but whaddayagonnado?

Podcast Covers Wordtris, Chris Roberts and Wing Commander Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

SNEScapades is running through the entire North American Super Nintendo library, and their journey has arrived at Wing Commander. The WC focus gets going about 24 minutes in after some miscellaneous discussion and Wordtris review. There's a history of Chris Roberts before the actual WC SNES portion starts at about the 34:30 mark. They kind of struggled to get into the game due to its controls, but were into the shipboard sequences. With some practice it's really not that hard to fly on the console port, but there is a learning curve to getting the hang of the SNES controller. You can find the landing page for the podcast here or listen on Spotify here.

More Melek for Graphical Novel Project Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

It's been quite a while since we checked in on EmuMusicFan's efforts to digitize a graphical novel of Action Stations-related material, and he's been steadily growing his stable of characters in that time. We start off with some nice angles on Melek. This is a WC3-centric representation even though most of his stuff is from much earlier in the war. He's also got a stocky guard this time around. I'm anxious to see more Haha Kaliagara in the future. You can see a little teaser of his helmet and tail armor, which is pretty neat!

WC3 Bloopers Appear in Television Feature Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

If you have “Dick Clark” on your WCNews bingo card, today’s your lucky day! Ripplin spotted this gem in a Classic TV repost of Dick Clark’s The Return of TV Censored Bloopers. These are well known outtakes that show up in various compilations, but it’s pretty awesome to see they were broadcast to a huge audience here. In the mid 1990s, Wing Commander 3 and 4 were rare success stories to cross over to the television circuit like this. Long before tech stations like G4 and modern steaming, this was a rare mainstream glimpse into the digital world. It’s kind of a reverse time capsule: for some of our younger fans, this is what passed for prime Sunday evening TV!
Dick Clark presenting what he says "might be the world's first CD-ROM blooper" featuring Hamill in Wing Commander III.

New WC3 Test Adds New Detail to Cutscene Footage Update ID Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

ODVS has another exciting experimental clip to share. Wing Commander 3 hasn't been a huge focus lately as he has primarily worked to refine his enhanced WC4 & Prophecy video. There isn't yet a method to reinsert the WC3 cutscenes into the game, but that hasn't stopped Owen from testing out his latest techniques to drastically improve the quality.

It's funny what decades of nostalgia will do to memories. If someone were to jump to the middle of the clip and happen to start at a sharpened scene, it's easy to think that's just what the game used to look like. Then the much lower fidelity original portion scrolls in and it's a shock how blurry everything was. Modern AI/Machine Learning techniques have finally been able to insert the missing detail our brains accounted for all these years!

I took some of the methods I worked out during the creation of my Wing Commander IV HD Pack and applied them here with significant tweaks and changes. As well as upscaling the footage, I've also increased the frame rate from 15fps to 30fps, making for significantly smoother motion.

It's still not perfect, but it's definitely a step up. The original resolution is only 160p, so this is an upscale of around 600%! The "crazy eyes" phenomenon is far less apparent now and I applied some of the AVIsynth workflow from the WCP remasters to do some sharpness and motion cleanup before running it through the Machine Learning process. It also now picks out more fine detail in hair (and fur) and other such places.

Anyway, still in the experimental phase, but I thought you all might like to see it :^)

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