I feel like Professor Jones in The Last Crusade. I have all (most of) the information in my diary, just don’t where to start. I am attempting to make my own De-Special Edition of Star Wars (Episode 4 to most). I know it’s been done by many folks here, and most of my info came from either here or savestarwars.com, so it may seem like old news and I’m regurgitating information, but please read on. This may help other newbies interested in a custom edit. I consider this a Preservation Effort vs. Fan Edit, as the original '77 stereo two-track version has never been officially released on dvd, but technically I guess this is considered a Custom Edit. I’m a video editor at heart, so this stuff is fun to me. But the idea originally started out with transferring either the ’93 DC or ’95 Faces laserdiscs to blu-ray. I know the end product wouldn’t be in HD, but there would be less compression outputting to BD-25 vs. dvd-5 or dvd-9.
I did a half-assed De-S.E. of A New Hope years ago using the ’04 dvd as the master source, with Pinnacle Studio as my NLE video editing program. I say half-assed because I really only cut out Greedo shoots first, Jabba the Hutt, Ben’s krayt dragon scream, and the opening Lucasfilm logo. One neat thing I discovered then was when I cut out the Jabba scene, in the scene just before when Luke and Ben are heading towards the docking bay, I noticed Ben’s line, “if the ship’s as fast as he’s boasting” was a different (audio) take from the ‘04 dvd to the Faces LD. Also to add to the half assed-ness, I imported the movie from my set-top dvd player to my computer through the PCI video card using the s-video jack in real-time. Pinnacle wouldn’t accept the ripped .vob file I think…it’s been awhile.
Knowing the 93/95 LD’s were widescreen, and, what I thought to be the best source of the non-Special editions, I did some researching to see which set would make the better transfer, and did a comparison of the two. I thought the Faces looked a little better than the Definitive Collection (but I have the misfortune of owning the first edition of the DC set w/the missing few seconds of the Leia welding-scene in Empire, but the newer Japanese-made discs of Faces). But thanks to this forum, and the awesome editorials in Saving Star Wars, a whole new world has opened! I knew about some of the changes to Episode 4, but I didn’t know some went as far back as ’81, and how many! I knew there were three different audio mixes, but I didn’t know that the different mixes omitted/added certain dialog (i.e. close the blast doors, tractor beam etc).
Then I read fans were using the ‘06 dvd’s to make their own Fan Edit, or just to view “the best source available to watch the original trilogy”. I haven’t viewed those dvd’s since ’06. I already had the ’04 set, but I was suckered by the advertising “includes digitally remastered and original theatrical movies!” (meaning non-Special Editions to me) so I bought this set also. I loved how the ‘04’s looked (at the time, later on that), so with the original theatrical release not remastered, I put them away and kind-of forgot about them. Then I learned the ‘06 releases were sourced from the same master video tape that was used for the 93/95 laserdiscs, and people were saying they looked better than the THX laserdiscs. So I dug them out, popped Episode 4 in and wow! Sure enough it did look better. Plus the original pre “A New Hope” title scrawl was there, which makes it really weird if these dvd’s were sourced from the same D2 tape used to make the THX versions.
Ok, the ‘06 set is letter boxed for 4x3 tv’s, but at least they are not Pan and Scanned. So this made me think; should I scrap the laserdisc project and just re-size the image on the ‘06 dvd to fit back to the anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio, maybe add some saturation then put it to BD?
On to the audio; Even though I have the best sources of the original trilogy, the DC/Faces/’06/(THX) audio mixes were not original to ’77. Cutting out the new/altered visual stuff is easy, we have the pre ’97 LD/‘06 dvd for reference, but the audio has been altered. Folks say the mono mix has never been released. But I found there is a rare ‘89 Derann Films Services in the UK that put out a Super 8mm version of the complete widescreen film, in mono and stereo. But I’m not sure if the mono version is just a stereo fold-down? I have the Ken Films Selected Scenes version, only 18 minutes though. There also is a LP called The Story of Star Wars, but it’s of course not the complete mono soundtrack. The 70mm 6-track has never been released. I know there is a boot dvd of the mono mix, and the audio-only is floating around of the 70mm mix, but that is just an open-air recording of what would really be called a two-track mix-down since all of the channels were recorded simultaneously (one viewing Left side one viewing Right side). Now on to the two-track stereo mix. Since the THX mixes were released in ‘93, I figured I would just find a pre ‘93 LD to use as the master audio track. Then I found out Burtt remixed the audio in ’85, but that mix didn’t appear on LD until ‘89. Early laserdiscs were time-compressed to fit on a single disc. But then I discovered a stereo Pan and Scan LD released in ’85 which is not time compressed (cat.# 1130-84), although the jacket still says 118 minute run time. The problem with this edition is it’s on five sides vs. three, so that means the tracks are broken up more. It’s easy enough to combine during editing, but I think since the tracks are broken up more frequently, there are a few missing seconds of audio just before the end/beginning of each side.
Enter my decision to use the ’11 blu ray as the master source; I now have Sony Vegas as my video editing program, which allows for the .vob/.m2ts files from the ‘04 dvd and ‘11 blu ray to be dragged in the video timeline. But then I read about how the black levels were crushed for 04/11 master. I’ve seen this method done before on footage for The Doors called Doors Are Open. Clips of this old documentary were used in the newer documentary called When You’re Strange. The footage is old, a little dark and pretty grainy so I figured they just adjusted the contrast to for the HD transfer. Maybe the darker overall image makes the footage looks better? or it helps to hide the grain? The laserdisc of this footage isn’t as dark. So until it I read these editorials, I didn’t really notice the poor color timing with the 04/11. And just having freshly transferring the ‘85 LD I noticed how bright the footage is.
So this time around I want to make a much more comprehensive edit, as faithful as possible to the ’77 stereo two-track version, with all the materials being officially released. I’ve noted all of the known changes. Again thanks to you guys, and gals.
Couple of questions;
1) Is it a nightmare to sync the LD audio to the GOUT? I plan on working/building from the audio. Meaning dropping the audio in the timeline, then editing the video to that.
2) Is Burtt's ’85 mix just a remix, with no new sound effects? So I could use the 89/92 LD instead?
3) does the '92 LD edition have a PCM track where the '89 doesn't?
4) I thought the ’97 S.E. added the “bump” sound when the Stormtrooper accidently wacked his head? My ’85 LD has it in there.
Any advice, help, criticism would be much appreciated.
Thank you, Jason