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"Best" home releases of the pre-SE original trilogy?

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Hi 😃

So I am in search of the “best” physical media to own with the unaltered original trilogy on it. I’m not a “collector” (for the sake of collecting or rarity), I want it to watch (and rip for more convenient watching), to show my kids and hopefully my grandkids a long time into the future. I’m only interested in widescreen (not pan and scan) versions.

I appreciate the Despecialized edition, and have high hopes for the 35mm restored versions, but I really want to score something original and 100% legal, with the most resolution and quality available.

I grew up in Eastern Europe. During the late 90s when I was in high school, the THX remastered version came out. We bought the VHS, but I have a vague memory of seeing a DVD version. Of course a DVD player at the time was out of reach. Still to this day I see fleeting mentions of a PAL Region2 only DVD release of the “THX digitally remastered” version.

Can anyone confirm or deny this? Also, if it existed, was it anamorphic, and was it mastered for PAL or converted from NTSC?

What about the “Definitive Edition” laserdiscs? What kind of resolution are we talking about there? Did LD even have anamorphic widescreen, or a rough third of the resolution is taken up by the black stripes?

I see Japanese LD versions going for a fortune on Ebay, are they interesting from a preservation standpoint, or just a curio? Was there a PAL version of the “Definitive Edition”, and if there was, did it actually have higher resolution, or once again, converted from NTSC?

Any other release worthy of attention? 😃

Thanks for your input!

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To simplify - your only option for high quality is the laserdisc. It’s better than videotape. The GOUT on DVD (sourced from those laserdiscs) is obviously the most conveniently available version. It was released for a limited time in 2006 as “bonus” discs with the 2004 special edition. You can find them on eBay and occasionally they pop up on Amazon and similar sites. The resolution on all those is noticeably not good on modern large screen tellies.

In all honesty, you’ll do your family a disservice showing them laserdiscs or DVDs when you’ve got the Despecialised Edition available. I do understand the need to have something “official” though!

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GOUT is literally what we would have gotten if DVDs existed in 1995, so in terms of offical releases, I’d go with that.

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Mark’s Down On Your Syntax said:

To simplify - your only option for high quality is the laserdisc. It’s better than videotape. The GOUT on DVD (sourced from those laserdiscs) is obviously the most conveniently available version. It was released for a limited time in 2006 as “bonus” discs with the 2004 special edition. You can find them on eBay and occasionally they pop up on Amazon and similar sites. The resolution on all those is noticeably not good on modern large screen tellies.

So ultimately the DVD release is inferior to the laserdisc, due to the generational losses from the conversion?

Can anyone give me a hint about the actual useful vertical resolution of a widescreen LD?

In all honesty, you’ll do your family a disservice showing them laserdiscs or DVDs when you’ve got the Despecialised Edition available. I do understand the need to have something “official” though!

Yea I kinda get that, even if there did exist a full resolution anamorphic PAL version, it still pales in comparison to HD footage… 😃 Still, fractal scaling algorithms are getting better and better, so while putting back lost detail is impossible, making SD look acceptable to good is within reach. 😉

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GOUT is technically “highest resolution” but that’s not saying much. You might prefer the pre-THX laserdiscs sourced from a different master than the GOUT because it has different (some argue better) colors and less digital noise reduction (which of course also means they are grainier). As far as I know there only ever were two home video transfers, so you’ll have to pick your poison from those. I personally prefer the pre-THX master simply because it’s the one I grew up with (albeit on full screen VHS) so the colors and everything looks “right” to me.

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Sigmoid said:

So ultimately the DVD release is inferior to the laserdisc, due to the generational losses from the conversion?

Can anyone give me a hint about the actual useful vertical resolution of a widescreen LD?

They transferred the Laserdisc master poorly, yes. IIRC, Laserdisc is SD, so 480i, minus the black bars of a 4:3 matted release…

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doubleofive said:

Sigmoid said:

So ultimately the DVD release is inferior to the laserdisc, due to the generational losses from the conversion?

Can anyone give me a hint about the actual useful vertical resolution of a widescreen LD?

They transferred the Laserdisc master poorly, yes. IIRC, Laserdisc is SD, so 480i, minus the black bars of a 4:3 matted release…

Laserdisc is actually less than 480i. Its actual (NTSC) resolution is 425 TVL. DVD resolution is roughly equivalent to 500 TVL.

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darklordoftech said:

GOUT is literally what we would have gotten if DVDs existed in 1995, so in terms of offical releases, I’d go with that.

It’s what we would have gotten in like 1998 had it been released, save for the Lego Star Wars demo.

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Wazzles said:

darklordoftech said:

GOUT is literally what we would have gotten if DVDs existed in 1995, so in terms of offical releases, I’d go with that.

It’s what we would have gotten in like 1998 had it been released, save for the Lego Star Wars demo.

It’s what we would’ve gotten had Lucas refused to spend even a single dime remastering the OOT, just as he refused in 2006.

There are/were plenty of official dvd releases from those first couple years that were not remastered from their laserdisc source and hence stuck at 4:3 letterbox.

Off the top of my head: Conan the Destroyer (since remastered in a hd and available on blu), True Lies and The Abyss (still stuck at that very same quality on home video, if you could believe it), Goodfellas (remastered in hd in 2004 and again recently in 4K), The Doors (remastered the very same week the GOUT hit shelves, ironically enough), Dune (remastered), Star Trek 5-7 (remastered).

The first dvd release of Titanic is a rather unique example of a new release non-catalogue title that, for whatever reason, wasn’t encoded for 16:9 displays. Maybe Paramount just hadn’t gotten the memo that anamorphic video was something this new dvd format could do. It didn’t stop it from being the first dvd to sell a million copies. Barely anyone had a 16:9 tv back in 1998. Heck, a lot of people still didn’t in 2006.

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Fang Zei said:
The first dvd release of Titanic is a rather unique example of a new release non-catalogue title that, for whatever reason, wasn’t encoded for 16:9 displays.

I was unfortunate enough to pick up that release at a garage sale. I don’t know why Cameron movies have a tendency to get shitty DVD releases. I suppose it’s not as bad as the Abyss, though. I’m not even going to bother with the DVDs, since my Laserdiscs are from the same master. I’ll just hold out until it makes its way to Blu Ray.

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True Lies and The Abyss both have HD transfers because you can see them on TV all the time. I really don’t get why they haven’t been released on Blu-Ray and the only way to own them is illegal downloading.

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Yes, but I’m just trying to explain why Laserdisc and DVD don’t have the same quality. As I said, DVD has about 500 “lines of horizontal resolution” and Laserdisc has 425. Both are technically 480 as are all standard NTSC sources, even VHS, but that only refers to visible scan lines. It’s not useful information when comparing image quality.

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Best overall: Fox special widescreen edition laserdisc releases. Dirt cheap, better transfers than the DE with relatively authentic audio. Ports of the far more expensive JSC releases and best of all is the Technidisc copy of SW.

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I think the audio mix is the best pro for me, as the 93 mix is my favorite for a variety of reasons.

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I’ve seen pictures of the various home video releases and in the UK, the 1994 vhs release stated on the covers “digitally remastered.” Now this is the originals so can anyone explain how the UK got a “digitally remastered” release while in the US, it was just THX digitally mastered for the best in picture quality.
Because I’m pretty sure the only time the films were truly remastered and restored was for 1997 but those of course are not the originals.

To the OP, the 2006 unaltered dvd is taken from the same NTSC master used for the 1993 NTSC laserdisc, 1995 NTSC laserdisc and 1995 widescreen NTSC vhs. Although similar, the master used for the equivalent PAL versions in those years was not the exact same and was not used for the 2006 PAL dvds.
DVD from a digital master looks better than laserdisc from the same source and surely better than vhs.
Some people prefer the Japanese Special Collection for not having the THX color correction or motion smearing. But the only way to get those transfers is on the laserdiscs themselves or find a dvd copied from them.

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Quality issues aside, there are also content differences between official releases.

The GOUT is the only official home video release with the original theatrical crawl and flyover for Star Wars. All other releases feature the revised 1981 crawl and flyover, the one where the musical cue for Tatooine’s arrival is about two seconds off.

Each home video release also uses the latest audio revision, which at least for Star Wars and Empire, includes content differences. A sound effect is missing on all Empire releases using the 1993 audio, and pre-1985 Star Wars releases are the only ones with theatrical audio.

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