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Yeah-- it was a super bad idea to show the PT in 4K. Given digital cinema at the time, I don't know if the resolution on the CG was up to 4k. The live stuff was shot on film with TPM, but it may have been down-rezzed to match the effects out put, not sure. AOTC looks even worse as it was first gen digital cinema.

Crazy fact one-- these movies still feel like they aren't that old because I was an adult when they came out-- but more time has passed since the PT debuted and now then between the PT and OT.

 

Crazy fact two-- as trash as it looks, AOTC set a bar, and today, literally, only Nolan, Tarrantino, and Speilberg are shooting on film. The rest of the world has gone 4k. Lucas knew where things were going, but 15-20 years has made a huge difference.

 

Crazy fact 3-- good ol' 35mm film, which has existed for over a hundred years, still has a resolution equal to 4K.

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Disney+?

 

Of the three ROTS definitely looks the best. I only glanced through a few scenes of TPM. I have the 4k discs for TLJ and TROS and they look marginally better than the stream. Though we did boost our internet speed.

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I haven't seen the PT on 4K yet, no rush to do so TBH, but I can only imagine how bad the CGI looks.

 

I have the PT on blu ray, and even on that the CGI looks bad for TPM and AOTC. ROTS looks better, but even that movie isn't aging well. I can say the same about how jarring the CGI is for the OT SE editions, too, with ANH being the worst. I know there are fan edits that are out there, but I really wish Disney would get off their asses and release the original cuts of the OT. I really don't know why if fans can do it, why the corporation that actually owns the IP can't do the same!

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Even if it is something Disney can afford, if their cost vs benefit analysis isn't a big enough margin they won't do it. The subset of fans who want, and even know the difference, is probably not a number that makes it worth it.

 

Keep in mind, that since Lucas made the old versions harder to find, the SE cut has now existed longer in the world than the original.

 

But a butthurt fan goes into it with all the time in the world and are not motivated to do it for a profit.

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Even if it is something Disney can afford, if their cost vs benefit analysis isn't a big enough margin they won't do it. The subset of fans who want, and even know the difference, is probably not a number that makes it worth it.

 

Keep in mind, that since Lucas made the old versions harder to find, the SE cut has now existed longer in the world than the original.

 

But a butthurt fan goes into it with all the time in the world and are not motivated to do it for a profit.

OK, maybe you can answer this serious question for me, Tank, since you have first hand knowledge. WHY would it be that expensive? Let's take ANH for example. First, why not BUY a cut from a fan that is already done, and do whatever clean up they need and release that? The work is already largely done. But let's assume there is a legal reason they can't, and Disney must do it from scratch. I am sure they could get some of those butt hurt fans to do the work for pennies on the dollar. And let me walk back something, here. When I say original version in ANH, I am talking the Mos Eisley CGI crap, the Han Solo scene with Jabba, and the Han shot second scene. I am totally OK with the final Xwing scenes, because I personally like those better. They already have the 4k version in existence. Some of the SE stuff can just be cut out. Other scenes minus the CGI (EG entering Mos Eisley) still exist. You can't tell me the original print is not in archive. All they would need to do is remaster the needed scenes, and cut them into the already existing 4K SE.

 

It just boggles my mind. I mean, I understand why say Deep Space 9 will never see a blu ray or 4k upgrade, because it just is too expensive. But Star Wars? I just don't get it. Could you kindly explain what I am not getting? Thank you!

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OK, maybe you can answer this serious question for me, Tank, since you have first hand knowledge. WHY would it be that expensive?

 

 

I shall do my best! First, let's talk about the technical aspects of what we're actually working on.

 

I'm going get SUPER technical TL;DR now... ANH was shot like any other movie in the 70s, on 35mm negative film. For all the special effects shots, they had to composite. There are countless methods of FX in ANH, but they boil down to two categories. Overlays, like blaster fire, lightsabers, anything done on top of live action footage. And two, model/miniature work. Again-- countless individual type of effects, there was in camera stuff, stop-motion, etc. But however those were done, for the final shots, the final effects had to be layered over exiting footage, or the footage had to be shot from scratch.

 

As a part of the natural editing process, negative film would be printed to positive film. This was literally done by sandwiching the neg film against unexposed positive film, and running it through a machine for exposure. This is called an inter-positive and it is what would be used do edit. That positive film would literally be cut and pasted together, to make an assembly cut. This what Marcia Lucas did, this is how old school editors worked. Every scene of the film came in a series of film strips. The assembly cut is going to look rough-- there's been no color correction, often times markers are left in, the sound is super raw (sound was generally recorded separately onto tape recorders that would sync with film cameras.) During the edit, those tapes would be copied and struck on to the positive film-- but it would be very raw, what was recorded exactly on set with now sweetening.

 

The surviving footage of Luke going to Tosche station and meeting with Biggs-- what we have seen comes from the work print. That's why it looks like garbage. At this stage, every time film was struck from the neg it was a process and it had a cost attached. The work print is intentionally made dirty and cheap because it's just for edit. SO in this case, Lucas ditched Tosche station and that footage only existed in the dirty work print.

 

It is crazy complicated compared to now, but once the cut of the film is settled on, editors would look at the work print, and note all the frame time code. Then the original negative film would be cut to match. When you see slates (clappers), all that info on the slate is for the editors. Once they know what scenes are being used, then the original film is cut into an edit, and a new positive is struck. This time it is done with precision and care, and as part of the process, color correction and exposure can be adjusted.

Meanwhile, while that was happening, ILM was doing the effects shot. For overlaid effects, they would work with decent positives and literally paint on blaster fire or lightsabers, or place separately shot work (like the Falcon alien chess game) into place. They would then remove the live action positive and strike just the effects onto film, which would then be masked over the fancy positive print, and they'd be exposed together onto a new positive through a process that is complicated AF, essentially baking in the effects to the film. These segments are then cut in with the edit of the fancy positive. For miniature stuff, they were shooting new footage, and we've all seen the making of videos. They do single passes, have to mask ships out, print them to film, then layer them with other shots to make a composite. That's why such a huge deal was made about the ROTJ battle. Every single ship in a given shot, started on it's own piece of film.

In the edit of the final positive, these effects shots come as a single strip of film-- all the compositing has been done. Once that final piece of film is cut, and all of the sound mixing and sound effects have been completed in a completely separate process, the sound and final cut and married together to make the master. From the master, all copies of the movie for distribution are struck.

 

So at this stage, you have the camera negative cut, the inter-positive, the assembly cut, the work print, the final cut, and the master, and tons of strips of film with single elements that were likely destroyed

 

It has never been made clear exactly what Lucas saved, what Fox owned, and what survived of individual film elements or unused footage. The fact that the eventual release of the Tosche stuff came from the work or assembly cut says that the original film likely no longer existed. Lucas was a master archivist, but stuff in edits get trashed, and sometimes the studio owns everything, and Lucas has also proven himself to be a revisionist.

 

Anyway, I bring all this up for a reason, take notes!

 

From HERE, you have three more key versions of the movie. First is the home video version. Keep in mind, up until this last decade give or take, TVs were a completely different resolution and aspect ratio to film. TVs up until the early 2000s were much more square. So in the 80s, for home video and broadcast, a scan was made of the final cut of the film to video tape. As the first trailer for the SE pointed out, this cropped the film. You all remember pan and scan, right? The process was only slightly better than pointing a video camera at a movie screen. The resolution dip from film to video was insane. So cropped image, less res, and a color space designed for TV makes for some inferior footage.

This scan from the master is what all VHS copies, and the edited for TV broadcast versions, were derived from. For most of us, this was the definitive Star Wars.

 

In 1995, there was a new home video release billed as the "THX remaster." This was the first time it was presented in widescreen on home video. Back then people still didn't get that "those dumb black bars" on the screen were showing them MORE of the image, and not less just because it didn't fill the screen. It was mainly for VHS, but there was also a Laserdisc release. This ends up being important.

 

For this, a new scan was made-- and by then, film to video scanning had come a very long way. The final cut was scanned at a resolution that, while still not full film resolution, was close enough that if it were to be struck back to film, it would hold up projected on a big screen. Obviously, it was smashed way down for VHS, but the laserdisc ended up being very high res.

 

Laserdisc was a weird format that never succeeded at the consumer level, but still had a strong following. It was technically of similar resolution to what DVDs would be, but twice as expensive (and literally the discs were twice as big).

 

We didn't know it at the time, but this remaster was actually part of the Special Editions restoration process.

 

Here's where the story gets a little fuzzy. Lucas was very generic in describing the process of the SE. Obviously, restoration work was done, and he said he went back to the "original" film. It's never been made super clear if he means the original negative film or the final master cut. Either way, when it comes to effects, none of them existed in their element/layered form. A new film print was made, along with a new sound mix (because the sound reels all still existed), and that was the THX release.

THAT new fancy all in one print was the basis of the SE work. Keep in mind, at this stage it is ONE piece of film. They are no longer working with elements. Meaning, they didn't have a sandwich to take apart of they wanted to replace the lettuce between the bread and meat. They had a picture of a sandwich they had to paint on top of to remove the lettuce.

 

At this stage, CG was obviously a thing-- for both effects, and touch up / clean up work. BUT, it was still limited by the CPU power of the time. It still wasn't possible to have an entire movie in a completely digital form. Most of the clean up work (which was sweetening the image with modern color correction tools) was still done at the film transfer level. Any existing scene with new effects was scanned in, the cg was done on top, and at that point, it was possible to go from digital files directly to film. I worked at a place doing this with just still photography around this time. It was a very slow process, with a lot of hit and miss when it came to exposure and color, and it took a machine that was super expensive. I was doing this at a digital service bureau, and this was just for single images. I did this a lot in art school-- take a photo, scan it in, do some photoshop stuff, then print it back to film to go to the dark room and get an actual photoprint. At this time printers were inkjet and limited.

Point being, they could only do chunks at a time, not an entire movie like today. All new CG stuff-- like the Death Star battle, was done like effects at the time-- it was made completely digitally, then struck to film, and that film was then edited into the master.

 

I swear this is important.

 

So this process resulted in the SE master film. This is what went out to theaters, and it was what was scanned to video for home video release. That release went to VHS only (in both a pan and scan, and wide-screen form). When they do this transfer, the video is scanned not digitally, but to a high end video format. Given the time, likely 3/4, BetacamSD, HDcam, or SEAcam. These are the video formats used by TV at the time. Much higher res than VHS, but not not available to consumers.

 

From this point forward, Lucas never went back to the original elements. All future releases were based on the SE. And I don't just mean in terms of content, I mean the actual basis of any future work. Within 6-7 years, by the end of the PT, technology had taken some leaps and it was then possible to have an entire movie digitized at a resolution that could be sent back to film and hold up projected big.

 

The version of ANH that was digitized was the SE master. You can tell because with each release, DVD, HDDVD, Blue, Ray, digital, and now 4k, there have been more tweaks. We all know how maddening it is that some problems are still there, and other random things are tweaked with. But if you think of my sandwich metaphor, if you go to watch the 4k version on Disney plus right now, you're going to again see two different things. Anything that was completely remade digitally in the 90s, has been updated. The Jabba scene is the most obvious. Mos Eisley has been mostly untouched, I'm not sure about the DS battle, but I don't think it has been touched. Jabba, definitely has changed. They could do that because they had all the elements digitally separated. But if you look at the lightsaber effects in the current release, they look awful. Why? Because they didn't have the original footage of the stunt sticks with no effects to paint over-- they instead had to paint over the existing old effects.

 

This is a big reason as to why future changes or restorations are a pain in the ass. They are not working with the original stock film anymore.

 

WHY would it be that expensive?

 

 

At this point, anything that was struck to film between the 70s master and the 90s master, is baked in forever. You can clean it up digitally, but you'd be rebuilding things frame by frame. It's certainly possible-- effects are so insane these days that we don't notice 50% of enhancements made. But to go in to the granular level and remove old effects and then rebuild them is a lot of time and money in terms of labor.

 

We simply don't know between Lucas' deal with Fox (they still had some control over ANH), what he felt was worth saving versus removing from existence, to what he gave over to Disney, and to what Disney can now do owning Fox, which versions of the old film still exists.

 

You have to assume any work done going forward is still going to be based on a digital master made from the SE.

 

If say the original master from the 70s was in Disney hands, could they digitize that, clean it up, and release it? Yes, easily. Would it be cost effective? Maybe? Disney remasters and releases their old movies all the time. But I suspect that isn't an option.

 

Some people think that Lucas still has it, but isn't sharing it, and as part of the Disney deal they are not allowed to make any further changes to the OT. Other people say it wasn't being done because Fox would have to be involved, and now that Disney owns Fox, maybe we will get it.

 

I just think if they had it, and if it was an easy task, they would. Something is making it a not cost-effective venture. Again, for most of the world, the ANH that is out there is what they've always known, and only people who grew up with the original care. We may not be a big enough audience to play to.

 

Lucas did try to appease those voices once-- when the OT first went to DVD, there was an unaltered, original theatrical release... but it turned out to be the lower quality broadcast version from before the THX remaster, and people were pissed, and it didn't sell.

 

Let's take ANH for example. First, why not BUY a cut from a fan that is already done, and do whatever clean up they need and release that? The work is already largely done. But let's assume there is a legal reason they can't, and Disney must do it from scratch. I am sure they could get some of those butt hurt fans to do the work for pennies on the dollar.

Buying a cut from a fan edit is a major legal issue. First, those guys are all technically bootlegging. They haven't been shut down because none of them are trying to make a profit, but Disney can't just say they condone anything these guys are doing.

 

There's also the fact that while these edits are trying to be as high quality as possible so people can burn them to BluRay and watch on TVs-- they are still much lower quality than true 4k. Remember that laserdisc version? Both Adywan and the despecialized edition are being made from the officially released BluRay of ANH, save for the scenes lost to time and replaced by bad cg, which they resurrect from the laserdisc. These releases work great to burn and play, but they do not have the fidelity required for broadcast, streaming, or movie-screen projection. They may present back as 4k, but they use compression encoding, which limits things.

 

So legally and technically, it just can't happen. The best they could do, is hire one of these guys to oversee an official restoration-- which brings us back to where we are above in terms of cost and time. But also...

 

And let me walk back something, here. When I say original version in ANH, I am talking the Mos Eisley CGI crap, the Han Solo scene with Jabba, and the Han shot second scene. I am totally OK with the final Xwing scenes, because I personally like those better. They already have the 4k version in existence. Some of the SE stuff can just be cut out.

...here's the other big dilemma-- who gets to say what goes and what stays? What gets reverted, and what gets enhanced? Everyone has a different opinion. I'd put everything back, cut Jabba completely, do a better version of Mos Eisley, reshoot the Obi-Wan / Vader duel, and redo the DS battle by recreating the exact cut of the OT, but with modern effects.

 

No one is going to agree on what direction it should take-- as such, the directives on this came from George because it was his movie. For Disney to make any sort of real changes, it would need a creative lead to direct. Who is that going to be? Who would the fans accept? There's no one to spearhead that endeavor that isn't just a fan that wants to play SW... even if it were JJ Abrams. And when you do that, you piss off at least half of fandom.

 

Other scenes minus the CGI (EG entering Mos Eisley) still exist. You can't tell me the original print is not in archive. All they would need to do is remaster the needed scenes, and cut them into the already existing 4K SE.

I think I answered this above, but that footage may NOT exist at the needed resolution. So I guess i AM telling you that!

 

And a final thought on 4k, that ties this to the thread. The current releases are at a 4k resolution in terms of the presentation files streaming to you-- but the movies themselves were up-rezzed to be 4k. It's still coming off that last SE master. It's high quality, enough that it can be blown up without too much loss... where the fidelity is there. The stuff shot on film, it's there, and that's why the up-rez mostly works and they look great. In the prop community we've been able to spot some details we've never seen before-- but that's because the film resolution was always there. It was just lost in the natural bump down in res to presentation formats. So it now looks great-- but the 90s era cg, or even the 2005 era cg, is locked at the resolution it was capable of when it was made. It's not getting re-rendered, it's getting blown up-- which is why it looks so bad now compared to the rest of the film.

 

 

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