For the 2011 master of TPM they were at least able to go back to the digital filmout tapes so that they could transfer the movie (well, almost all of it) straight from the digital source.
Even if they’re not going to re-render the ‘97 cg shots from scratch, I wonder if at the very least the finished frames still exist in a readable format like they did for TPM. We’re only talking two and a half years earlier. For the ‘04 master it looks like those shots were simply scanned back in off the negative since you can still see filmic anomalies like weave even after Lowry finished their (rushed) cleanup.
By the way, this is exactly why I’d want the ‘97 versions preserved. The o-neg is already conformed to that exact edit of the movie anyway.
The best approach would be the same as they did for TNG, with re-composited effects.
For TNG they improved the light passes a bit, and I guess they corrected small model defects.
But it looks seamless and much better than 2000’s CGI.
For Star Wars it would look great and still have the 1977 feel.
They already did exactly that for the ‘97 SE. They scanned in the original individual elements (which I guess would’ve all been 8-perf horizontal VistaVision negatives?) and recomposited them digitally at 2k res, filming back out to a new piece of 4-perf cinemascope neg and intercut with the rest of the movie just like the cg shots.
As with the cg shots, if the finished 2k files are still readable like they were with TPM then they should at the very least be transferred if they’re not going to spend the money to re-re-comp the elements with, say, an 8k scan / 4k finish.
I don’t even know what the state of those individual film elements would be after an additional two decades of storage, but I still remember that post from several years ago where someone in-the-know said that Lucasfilm was archiving everything, so maybe they’ve been scanned yet again.
But yeah, as LordZerome pointed out, this is still SE talk. If we really wanted an unaltered OT that was 110% unaltered then we shouldn’t be talking about re-comps at all.
Speaking of which, if I remember Zombie’s article on the matter correctly, certain stretches of the conformed 35mm negative had faded badly by the time it was dug up in the mid-90’s to be restored for the SE. Zombie mentioned that there were four different film stocks that made up the conformed o-neg and that one of these stocks just wasn’t designed to last. I want to say it was the stock used for composites, which means even if they saved those shots in storage there’s no guarantee they’d be salvageable even with modern digital restoration tools. So, a secondary source like an IP or the separation masters might be necessary to get those shots for an official OOT restoration.