Taken in the literal (and original) definiton, "remastering" is a process where the original video or audio (analog) source material is edited to (in theory) look newer, brighter, cleaner, etc. and put on the new commercial release, likely of the digital kind in the post-'90s world. It initially started with music in the move to Compact Disc Digital Audio, abbreviated CDDA (the CDDA standard is known as the Red Book standard), and lately is more associated with aged movies.
Literal definition aside, though, Remastering is associated with the process of making an old product look more "better", or at least like it's in mint condition. The usual process of a remastering includes suchs things as;
- Making the product look more colorful (Messing this up may lead to more brown, or oversaturated colors)
- Making the audio sound more clear (although some just make stuff louder)
- In the era of hi-definition, increasing the resolution of the masters.
- And of course, some companies may think "Remaster" is a metaphor for "any kind of rerelease we feel like doing", and do changes to the product outright.
This normally does not happen to videogames because they're already digital (and thus, every copy identical to the original) by nature - they would be more prone to get an Updated Re-release or a Video Game Remake instead. Since the process tends to imply making an old product look like it's new, it can be seen as the opposite of a Retraux.
The quality of a remastered product tends to vary a lot. Generally, though, people appreciate Remasters the best when they're able to increase the visual and audio quality of their product/make them enjoyable to watch on their new Hi-Def monitors with as little modifications to the source material or their memories of the product as possible. Digital Destruction and Loudness War are when the Remaster actually makes the product worse than before; unfortunately, the common consumer is typically unaware of this happening.
One of the advantages of remastering a project shot on film is that images shot on film have no fixed resolution, being captured as tiny crystals on a filmstrip. Thus, the quality of the transfer depends largely on the quality of the digital scan and not the film negative itself. With a good scan a competently-made film from fifty years ago can look like it was made a week ago. A disadvantage of moving to digital cinematography is that projects are recorded with a finite number of pixels from which no new resolution can be created, which is why digital cinematography didn't take off until the image quality was more comparable to film in theatrical projection.
The Other Wiki has some more general information. Also look up Master Recording for information on what Masters are when referring to this - so as not to confuse it with all the other kinds of masters there are or are not.
- The Dragon Box Sets. Not to be confused with FUNimation's previous remastered box sets from 2007, known as the "Orange Brick" set.
- Funimation also started doing their own "Level Set" Blu-ray remaster in 2012 from the 16mm elements they had on-hand, and the results were arguably even better than the Dragon Boxes. Unfortunately, they canceled their release after two volumes because of how expensive it was and are instead releasing cheaper Blu-rays with a remaster that can best be described as a cleaner-looking Orange Brick job, featuring decent picture quality and clarity but cropped to 16:9 (albeit more competently than the Orange Bricks) and with noticeably bleached color grading.
- Renewal of Evangelion, known overseas as the "Platinum Edition." Painstaking efforts to eliminate as much grain as possible while keeping in as many details as possible were made, as well as fixing the infamous "shaking-camera" effect that the original footage suffered from. It's almost impossible to see any grain in the new footage at times.
- There is a caveat, however: the original 16 mm master negative for episode 16 was lost somehow, so Gainax had to make do with an internegative. As a result, that episode has a blurrier and more washed-out look compared to all of the others.
- Typically, anime from the 80's and early 90's get a clean-up job, with visuals made more contrasting in color and audio made crisper, when DVD/Blu-Ray releases come around. In most cases, the fans like them.
- Lately anime from the 1960's and 70's has been getting this treatment as well, although most of it so far is a case of No Export for You or such.
- Every Studio Ghibli film has been remastered, with Disney, Sentai Filmworks (in the case of Grave of the Fireflies), and GKIDS (in the cases of Only Yesterday and Ocean Waves, and likely in the case of My Neighbors the Yamadas) carrying over these same versions for their North American releases.
- AKIRA underwent a major restoration in the US in 2001 to become THX certified. It was also redubbed because the original dub recorded in 1989 couldn't possibly live up to these standards on a technical level.
- Ghost in the Shell was originally issued in a George Lucas Altered Version known as Ghost in the Shell 2.0 in 2008 with added CGI effects. The original 1995 film finally got a proper remaster a few years later, with Anchor Bay carrying over this version to their 2014 North American/UK Blu-ray. Although, despite much of the film being animated digitally, the remaster was struck from a 35mm film master complete with noticeable telecine wobble. It was still a huge improvement from the version presented as a bonus on the 2.0 Blu-ray though, which was struck from a horrible LaserDisc master.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena has a rather notable remaster in that the grain reduction wasn't the biggest goal for them. In order to keep the fine lines and details in animation the show was famous for, they focused on color correction and redoing most of the sound effects. This has resulted in one of the best remasters of 90s anime, according for some reviewers, stating that it is on the same level as the Neon Genesis Evangelion 10th anniversary collection mentioned above.
- The 1986 Fist of the North Star movie is a unique case in the fact that while most of the footage was remastered for the DVD and Blu-ray releases, the censored footage was taken from what looks like a VHS copy of the movie, presumably due to said censorship being done on videotape. The difference is quite jarring, and is a contributing factor to the belief that the uncensored film print is missing.
- Pokémon got the first episode remastered on Pokémon Smash on the 15th anniversary of the anime. The episode Holiday Hi-Jynx was also remastered in Japan, with Jynx recolored purple. Despite this edit, the episode remains banned in the U.S. The first thirteen movies were also remastered in high definition for a limited edition Blu-ray set. Of these, the first four and the eighth and ninth films have seen similar remasters outside Japan. The remasters for the first four movies each streamed for a brief period on Pokemon.com (and before that, the remaster for the first movie aired on Cartoon Network), and the first three of them were re-released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 9, 2016, while the fourth, eighth and ninth movies were released on iTunes. The trilogy was released on Blu-ray in Australia in December 2015.
- Remastering many anime TV shows from the 2000s onward is difficult because they were animated digitally and more often than not are locked in their original aspect ratios, unlike their cel-animated predecessors. They would require an upscale, and the results often vary. Nonetheless, it has been done for early digi-paint shows like Fullmetal Alchemist, Blue Submarine No. 6, Shakugan no Shana, and Last Exile with mixed results. Funimation also did their own upscales for later SD digi-paint shows like Ouran High School Host Club and Slayers Revolution, and Viz did one for Death Note.
- Cowboy Bebop was mostly cel-animated, and benefited greatly from an HD remaster, though a few later episodes were entirely digitally animated and had to be upscaled. On the Blu-ray, they were noticeably of lower quality than the rest of the series. Ditto for Serial Experiments Lain from the same era. It's mostly cel-animated, but some shots were animated digitally and stuck out in the remaster. One Piece was animated in standard definition until around episode 200, when it switched to HD. HD upscales of original episodes don't look as good.
- InuYasha has not been remastered because half of the show was cel-animated onto film (with some CGI effects), but it switched to digital with episode 98. Only the first half of the show would benefit from a remaster. However, Rumiko Takahashi's older shows (Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, and Ranma ½) all have excellent HD remasters.
- After the success of their Kickstarter-funded Blu-ray release for Bubblegum Crisis, using the gorgeous Japanese HD remaster, AnimEigo recently announced that they will be doing new telecines themselves for some overlooked anime that haven't received HD remasters. A.D. Police Files (a spinoff of Crisis) will be the first such title. AnimEigo has the original 35mm film, and will be funding a new in-house transfer through Kickstarter.
- In contrast to the Sailor Moon anime series (see Digital Destruction for more information on that debacle), Viz Media released a full native HD remaster of Sailor Moon R: The Movie to theaters in a limited engagement in early 2017, with a DVD and Blu-ray release following a few months later. Despite grain removal, the remaster retains sharp linework and solid visual detail, averting many of the issues seen in the aforementioned TV series releases.
- Youngblood's first five issues were completely redone for a hardcover release, with prolific writer Joe Casey redoing the story almost from scratch, changing every single piece of dialog and even re-organizing pages for coherence's sake. On top of that, the colors were redone entirely, fixing some of original colorist Brian Murray's less thought out color schemes.
- Home video distributors like The Criterion Collection and Shout! Factory are known for their high quality film restorations.
- Star Wars has had multiple remasters, starting with THX enhanced remasters on VHS in the early 90's. The Special Editions was another round before the onset of DVD's, with the added George Lucas Altered Version.
- To Kill a Mockingbird uses many zooms in the film by zooming in the negative, increasing grain size. Instead of removing the grain for Blu-Ray, the restoration team matched it with the other grain to make the effect more seamless, while keeping the original picture.
- Monochrome/Black and White movies. Sometimes companies try to color them, too, but that tends to upset some people.
- Some DVD bonus features of films directed by The Coen Brothers parody this with Forever Young Film Preservation, whose "accomplishments" include restoring The Big Lebowski using an Italian film reel and redubbed audio, and making Blood Simple. More "worthy of preservation" by cutting out "the boring parts".
- The first 20 James Bond movies had digitally restored "Ultimate Edition" DVDs released during the same year as the premiere of Casino Royale (2006).
- Halloween (1978) has multiple remasters. Cinematographer Dean Cundey oversaw one in 1998 that was issued on a THX DVD, and another occurred in 2003 for the film's 25th anniversary. The latter has it's fans, but it's color timing was criticized by some (including Cundey) for being inaccurate (it attempted to make the daytime scenes look more like Fall; the original remaster made it obvious that the film was shot in Spring), and it's DVD fell out-of-print in favor of the 1998 THX DVD. The 2003 remaster was issued on Blu-ray in 2006, but another remaster (again supervised by Cundey) was issued in 2013 for the film's 35th anniversary Blu-ray. It was more well-received, but some fans still preferred the 2003 remaster. Anchor Bay realized this and included both Blu-rays in their 2014 franchise Blu-ray boxset. Unfortunately it still didn't stop the fans from arguing.
- Prom Night (1980) has an excellent remaster that improved tremendously from prior DVD releases. Since the 90s, all releases of the film were struck from a PAL VHS that was slightly sped up, extremely dark (the nighttime scenes were incomprehensible), open-matte with boom mics visible in some shots, and with very muffled audio. When Synapse released the film on Blu-ray (and reissued it on DVD), they did a brand new 2k scan from the original film elements and the results were night and day compared to previous releases.
- Universal's Dracula (1931) had an extensive remaster, along with the Spanish-language adaptation released the same year. This included removing surface noise, scratches, and tears, undoing the fading that the master negative's dye suffered over the years, and stabilizing the image. Surprisingly, the Spanish version was in better condition, with the exception of one reel, which had to be filled in with a poor-quality projection print from Cuba (it was thought lost for decades). For the English version, the audio for the "Black Swan" song from the Swan Lake ballet that plays during the opening credits for both films had to be cut/paste from the Spanish film because the English sound print was in such poor quality.
- The two editions for the Super Sentai V-Cinema & Movie Blu-Ray Box sets marked the Blu-Ray debut for every Sentai film from Chouriki Sentai Ohranger Ohre Vs Kakuranger to Samurai Sentai Shinkenger Vs Go Onger Ginmaku Bang, as well as Goseiger Returns and Go-Busters Returns. The special thing about these two sets are the films from Ohranger vs. Kakuranger to Go Go V vs. Gingaman/Go Go V the Movie: Clash! The New Super Warrior: During the time they were made, both Super Sentai movies and TV episodes were mostly finished on film but completed after being transferred to videotape. Due to the early tapes used, the movies and shows were blurry and didn't look real good. Come the V-Cinema & Movie sets and the films in question look excellent, with good color reproduction and great details. While it's debated whether it's a decent 1080p scan from The New '10s or an upscale of a 480p transfer done during the Turnofthe Millennium, the consensus is that the master copies on the Blu-Ray sets ARE NOT the same masters that were a blend-field riddled mess on the original DVDs. This only applies to the aforementioned films: the direct to video films from Timeranger vs. Go Go V to Boukenger vs. Super Sentai were definitely upscaled from their original masters and, while fairly decent, are not as eye-opening as the older films. Good news: the THEATRICAL films got HD transfers and also look fine, as do all the films after Boukenger vs. Super Sentai..
- The Blu-Ray sets also fix some Digital Destruction wrought by the DVD of Dekaranger the Movie: Full Blast Action: during the music video playing under the end credits, the color correction desaturated the blue, turning Hoji's/Deka Blue's uniform and Deka suit gray (it also affected Deka Break). The Blu-Ray fixes this. (Pictures from the TV-Nihon wiki: ◊, ◊, ◊).
- The Godfather and The Godfather Part II underwent a restoration from 2006-2008,note after director Francis Ford Coppola used the Paramount/Dreamworks merger as an opportunity to alert his friend and DW co-founder Steven Spielberg how worn out the original elements had become.
- Television shows shot and edited on film can be easily remastered in high definition by simply rescanning the episodes at a higher resolution. As most shows prior to the 2000s were also broadcast with 2-channel stereo audio, many remasters also remix the audio to 5.1 surround sound.
- ABC advertised a remaster of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, with CG edits, increased color saturation, higher contrast, and a bit less print damage than some recent airings.
- Again, black and white television.
- The team that remaster the classic Doctor Who episodes care so much about the series that they practically (and sometimes literally) invented several methods of remastering (such as RSC, VIDFIRE, and the colour recovery techniques).
- On the topic of Doctor Who, the 1970 serial Spearhead from Space was able to benefit greatly from a remaster, being one of only two serials shot entirely on film rather than videotape. The other film-only story... not so much, being nothing more than an HD upscale from a 480p broadcast copy (as the film was originally edited on videotape).
- When it came to remastering Star Trek: The Next Generation in high definition, there was no film master to restore, as the series was shot on film but edited on videotape. Instead, CBS Digital took the original camera film negatives and re-edited each episode shot-by-shot. They also revised the visual effects.
- Friends was released on Blu-ray in 2011 as a complete series set. The quality varied, but many fans were unhappy that the episodes didn't contain the extra scenes present on the DVD releases, since no HD materials existed for them (that, or Warner Bros. just didn't bother looking).
- Freaks and Geeks received an HD remaster similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation, with the original 35mm film reels from the camera re-scanned and re-edited to match the original SD-video tape edits from the 1990s. Since the show was only 18 episodes long, it wasn't as big of an undertaking. The company doing the restoration also used a software program to perfectly match the edits automatically. Shout! Factory even released two versions: one in 16:9 and one in 4:3, as originally broadcast. The show was filmed with a "safety" aspect ratio, which means it can easily be shown with either aspect ratio. The exception was the pilot, which was filmed only with 4:3 in mind, and the 16:9 version has noticeably poor composition.
- The 2014 high definition remaster of The X-Files restored many episodes to their intended widescreen aspect ratio. The show was shot in 16:9 beginning with the fifth season at the insistence of Chris Carter as widescreen televisions were evidently on the horizon, and to give the series a more cinematic feel, though Fox broadcast the episodes cropped to 4:3, while the original versions were only available on DVD. Most broadcast and streaming platforms used the cropped version of the series prior to the remaster. The first four seasons were converted to 16:9 as well with minimal cropping as Carter had the foresight to shoot episodes wider than intended.
- Pretty much anything transferred from pre-CD tapes to, well, Compact Discs or some other Digital media.
- Many, many acts have remastered (and even remixed) part or all of their back catalogue long after the original mixes were released on CD. This isn't always a good thing.
- This is often the result of Executive Meddling, especially if bands are no longer with the label. If the band has signed a bad contract, reissues might come out on budget labels and this leads to the band not getting as much in profits as they should be entitled to.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers have a couple of remasters for Music/Californication, thanks to the egregious Loudness War on the CD and digital versions of the album. Some even include alternate, demo versions of the songs on the album and the b-sides of the singles.
- Strangely, Don Bluth Studios made remasters of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace - although game data is digital, the LaserDisc video is analog as the format is analog — for high-definition gameplay. This makes these a notable case of video games being remastered.
- Kinda questionable if it counts (yet), but with the way Satellaview games were released as ROMs - with huge chunks of data missing and all - many of the games require extensive hacking to make a project out of which requires restoration of various missing contents. Just check out the BS Zelda hacks, and compare them to the "original" ROM dumps. The difference is almost as drastic as the difference between a prototype and a final game. This trope applies more to the Satellaview's Soundlink audio, but so far the scale isn't quite that high - only a select few songs have been attempted so far, nothing amounting to the amount required for a full game.
- Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror got a "Remastered" version shortly after the first game got a "Director's Cut" version. The game has several cartoon cutscenes so they're remastered justifying the title.
- Many HD ports of video games are re-releases of the older titles that are usually redone to be in widescreen and have better quality character models and textures.
- Alfabusa, the creator of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, made a remake of series' first episode, adding second season's "bending" animation, additional scenes in the beginning and speaking lines for the Dreadknight.
- The Golden Age of Animation tends to have various cases of remasters with large amounts of controversy and drama, typically due to the abundance of DVNR in these remasters that leads to Digital Destruction.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became the first movie restored with digital computer software, in 1993.
- Warner Home Video has been teasing a Blu-ray release of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, possibly the oldest animated TV show in their library to receive an HD remaster.
- South Park is a pretty interesting case. Although the show's made digitally, the production team still had the master renders for all of its older seasons (1-10), allowing them to simply re-render these episodes in HD widescreen for their Hulu streams, future reruns on Comedy Central, and Paramount's 2017 Blu-ray releases. The sole exception is the first episode, which has been remastered (or at least scanned through an HD camera), but unlike the rest of the series it was made with cutout animation and shot only in 4:3; for reasons that should be obvious, remaking the entire episode in 16:9 from scratch would be too impractical. There was one scene in episode 5 of Season 1 which was taken from the original pilot that was re-animated digitally for the HD version to be consistent with the rest of the episode.