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Info: In search of the correct colors for ANH...

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 (Edited)

(note - probably should have titled this best, not correct, but you get the idea)

I have decided that it is time to construct my own edit of the saga, but to do so for the OT, I must first have on hand copies of the original unaltered trilogy and blu-ray version with the same color palette. Since ANH is the most challenging, both in color correction and in the edits I want to make, I started working on bringing Harmy’s despecialized edition and the blu-ray together. I have found it is impossible (well, probably not completely, but it is more work than I care to put in). So I find I must gather all the source material, both video and researching the film making process, to assemble what I need.

I am going to confine this to ANH, though I intend to do much the same thing with TESB and ROTJ, though don’t think they have quite the same color issues.

Many people have looked to the Senator viewing for the correct colors. Even George himself turned to his technicolor print to retime the colors for the 97 SE. However, being a student of film history and a great appreciator of 1930-1960 Hollywood, I am acutely aware that the Senator print likely has colors that are more saturated than the standard film print would have been.

For ANH, what we are left with are the Technicolor prints, the transfers made from interpositives, and a faded negative. When printed using the original color timing, it turns out green. I think this, plus the nature of the color issues in the Lowry scan (along with the same issues I observed in one of the Bond films, also restored by Lowry) is a key to understanding how to fix the problem. The problem has been made more difficult by selective color correction of some scenes. Pretty much the same problem I have observed in me matching Harmy’s despecialized version back to the blu-ray.

My first step is to take the versions of ANH I have and assemble a master. I am going back to some older versions I have, before the GOUT on DVD. I have the GOUT (a phrase which makes me smile for what it would mean in other context), the Japanese Special Collection LD capture (24 fps, but cropped differently and with C-3PO coming out almost copper), the TR47 capture of the Definitive Edition LD (at least I think that is the version, it is 24 fps done by pulling the correct half frames out of the 60 fps LD and compiling them back to the original, which yields some odd artifacts), and Harmy’s despecialized edition. As all the audio tracks I have are timed perfectly to that version and it has a higher image quality, It may be one of the layers I use, but the color is going to come from the TR47 and the GOUT with the JSC fixing the DNR issues both of those have.

I have done this many times with photos and it usually comes out great. Trying it with video is going to be interesting, but hopefully it will yield the same quality of results.

That still leaves me with matching the blu-ray to what I come up with. While any additional color correcting they may have done may result in some scenes that I will have to address seperately, my initial focus is on the blown out reds, blues, the magenta explosions, the reddened skin tones, and the dark green walls. I think all of these stem from the same issue that results from how Lowry corrected for the faded negative. I will be experimenting on how best to fix that, but I suspect that the Red, Green, and Blue channels are not aligned correctly and that once I isolate what the issue is, it will be straight forward to fix. I’ve read of some other attempts, but we don’t all agree on what the correct colors should be.

One of the sources I will draw on is Gone With the Wind. The blu-ray of that film is taken from a technicolor print. I have a DVD that is from the previous, non-technicolor print and the older LD from the 50th anniversary restoration. I’m going to compare the saturation levels and the color correct the snapshots of the Senator viewing to arrive at what the standard film print colors should have been.

I’m also of the opinion that those garbage matts we all were so familiar with on home video are a product of incorrectly adjusting the interpositive image. I will be setting the blacks so the garbage matts are hard if not impossible to see. The images from the Senator viewing seem to bear this out.

In the end, I hope to have a nifty file to burn to disc that will have both opening crawls and 6 audio tracks. TESB and ROTJ should be much simpler and then it will be a matter of just editing the two cuts of the film together to arrive at my edits, but until then, I have some restoration work to do, but to the GOUT an to the blu-ray.

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Sounds like fun.

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...and a lot of work. Be careful, you will become addicted to this stuff... ;-)

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^ Oh sheet yeah.

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I just spent my lunch hour playing with color correcting the sole image I could find of the condition of the original negative. It proved my theory. Using the tools available in video editing, I managed to come somewhat close to a decent result.

One of the biggest problems is that we are dealing with film to video conversion. We have several sources for what the image should look like thanks to the technicolor prints and the prints used for the various video transfers. We also have the 97 SE on video before Lowry got their hands on it. So we know it was possible, either to use film techniques to get to the original colors or that they used the color separations to restore things that couldn't be fixed. Either way, the colors in 97 when I saw it in the theater were not noticeably off.

Then enter Lowry and their digital color restoration. Reds, magentas, and dark greens are everywhere. Explosions that were white originally are now magenta. The pinkish hues of blaster flashes are also magenta. The grays of the death star are greenish, and most of the faces have taken on a reddish hue. These issues stem from incompetent color correction. The other issues with the digital transfers are easy to fix, it is the colors that drive me crazy. And this all stems from the rigid adherence to the original negative being the holy grail of restoration work. I've followed the subject for nearly 30 years and one of the keys to a good restoration is knowing what elements you have to work with and knowing when the negative is too far gone to use. A great many classics of the 50's and 60's that were filmed with color film (rather than technicolor) would never be restorable if you only looked at the negative. You have to look at everything you have a many restorations have taken what they could from the negative and used other sources to supplement. In many cases it is taking the cyan and magenta from the negative and the yellow from the color separation. With modern technology, these can be digitally aligned in ways that were not possible even 20 years ago. The Ten Commandments is one of the recent restorations that was done this way.

The color separations exist for Star Wars(ANH) so a proper restoration of the original version is fully possible.

But to what we have are the digital scans of the master, not the master itself, so we are left with a flawed product. The CYM/RBG balance is off. The question is, what has been lost? Is the output just misaligned or is it irrevocably lost. I'm hoping that they are misaligned, but if they are lost, hopefully it was a product of the scanning process and not the condition of he negative.

And this is not just an issue with the OT. The Phantom Menace suffers the same issue. The blues are all off. I thought it was just me, but I found some images that align with my recollection of seeing TPM in the theater. R2 and the Chancellor's guards are supposed to be blue. Brilliant blue, not muted dark to blue-green hues. And as many of you know, the initial offering home video of TPM suffered from bad colors, not to mention heavy cropping. The Blu-Ray improved things, but the colors are still off. I think TESB and ROTJ have suffered less than ANH and TPM.

There is one nice thing about ATOC and ROTS being digital, the colors are accurate. The colors of R2 and C-3PO in ROTS are dead on with their colors in the GOUT. R2's blue pannels are an intense blue and C-3PO is a pale brassy gold. Watching Empire of Dreams showed that to be accurate for the 1976 filming of ANH. So Lucas was at least consistent in making the props and costumes. So they and the flesh tones (which should be peachy, not brown or red) will be my guide.

I've been watching several different version of the GOUT. This morning I watched the recent capture of the JSC LD of ANH. Truly excellent. Except for some flaws with color that are inherant to that release, they are far superior to anything made from the Lowry version. In fact, I think this capture may be better quality than the DVD sourced GOUT. But I've come to the conclusion that every single version needs work. Ether dust and other artifacts like the JSC, DNR artifacts like the Definitive Edition LD and the 2006 DVD's, or serious color issues like all the versions sourced from the Lowry scan.

So far, the hands down winner for best overall color is the TR47 capture of the DE LD box set. It is not without its flaws and the runner up is the JSC which is a very close second with the 2006 DVD GOUT in a more distant third. The challenge is to fix what Lowry did and get those colors from the blu-ray.

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The problem with all the home video releases is, that none are actually representative of the theatrical color grading. So, it's extrememely difficult to draw conclusions from any of them. The colors were pretty much regraded for every home video release, and the differences between them are sometimes very large. 

I recently matched the bluray to the colors of most home video releases, and to a scan from a Technicolor IB print for two frames on the Tantive IV, and the differences are huge.

Set 1:

Bluray/2004 DVD:

1997 SE:

GOUT/1993 LD:

JSC:

Tech IB:

Set 2:

Bluray/2004 DVD:

1997 SE:

GOUT/1993 LD:

JSC:

Tech IB:

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Let's not forget the bluray matched to Team Negative1's scan of a 35 mm print of the 1997 SE:

It's darker, but colorwise similar to the 1977 Technicolor IB print:

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And the Tech IB's I have seen look quite different to the scans on this page as well.

Oh, and a lot of explosions and flashes *are* magenta on the original prints.

Chasing the theatrical colours is tricky, different labs produced prints with quite different colour, even back in '77, and DrDre is right, the home releases have little relation to the theatrical releases as far as colour goes.

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Well, I'm assuming they are all off. I'm not trying to match the original theatrical colors. I'm trying to match the other Star Wars films. ANH is really messed up. Lowry's choices for how they balanced the colors (and possibly even the hardware they used to scan the film) produced magenta heavy coloring. Yes, the original has magenta toned flashes, but they aren't pure digital magenta, they have yellow undertones. The storm troopers seen through the flash should look yellowish and instead Lowry gave us magenta stormtroopers under the magenta flashes. Also, the burn through of the blockade runner should be brilliant white, not magenta. Remember, regardless of how close or off the pre DVD home video releases are, they are all done from original prints, color timed to the release. I believe the definative edition was from an interpositive, meaning first generation off the negative and used to make the internegatives the theatrical prints were struck from. I'm weighing my color choices based on that. I also don't trust technicolor prints for color saturation.

My goal is for C-3P0 to be the same golden color in episodes III, IV, V, VI, and beyond. Right now the best example of a gold that matches episodes III, V, and VI is the TR47 capture of the definitive edition. Also for R2-D2 to be the same brilliant blue in all 6 movies. That might be hard with how wacked the colors are in Ep I, but the rest should be doable.

And it is funny you posted that pic of the rebel trooper. I was just finishing my first draft of color correcting the ANH bluray today and what I ended up with looks a lot like the tech IB image. What I found works (in Sony Vegas) is something that I was leary to use, but none of my other tests came close. Channel Blend gave me the answer to change the colors in one step. It gave me a higher contrast image, brighter colors, muted the reds and magentas, gave nice peachy skin tones, and looks like the colors from TESB. I still need to manually color correct one scene (which requires retouching the color on every from from one camera angle of C-3PO on the sand) and I will be done. For me to even attempt to watch it I will also have to remove that damned rock, but that will be my viewing copy.

I'll post pictures if these color settings pass my viewing test.

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I've also noticed that some of the highlights are blown out on the bluray. The information is not recoverable unless you can overlay one of the other versions over it. I'm less concerned about crushed blacks because I think the blacks need a bit of crushing for the final product to come out properly.

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yotsuya said:

Lowry's choices for how they balanced the colors (and possibly even the hardware they used to scan the film) produced magenta heavy coloring.

 A small correction / nitpick - AFAIK the guys from Lowry claimed the colour "correction" was done by Lucasfilm, they had nothing to do with it

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pittrek said:

yotsuya said:

Lowry's choices for how they balanced the colors (and possibly even the hardware they used to scan the film) produced magenta heavy coloring.

 A small correction / nitpick - AFAIK the guys from Lowry claimed the colour "correction" was done by Lucasfilm, they had nothing to do with it

And yet that same magenta coloring is present in several of the James Bond films that they restored. I tend not to believe them. I do know that Lucasfilm did color correcting, but the core issues with ANH stem from the condition of the negative and how it was scanned, not what Lucasfilm did after that.

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yotsuya said:

the core issues with ANH stem from the condition of the negative and how it was scanned, not what Lucasfilm did after that.

 Could you go into more detail about how the scanning method is thought to be a major source of the problems for the 2004 transfer?

Also, the secrethistoryofstarwars article also suggests Lucas was indeed responsible for the color of the 2004+ editions. I had not read before that Lowry didn't actually do the color for Empire or Jedi. Though, I cannot seem to find Matt Hurwitz's article in Videography that is used as a source for all this.

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I cannot speak of TESB or ROTJ as to Lowry's involvement, but neither movie has a decaying negative. The boxed set of James bond films I have lists Lowry for the restoration on all of them, but only a few have any signs of a bad color balance.

Essentially what happens is that color negatives use different chemicals that are sensitive to the different wavelengths of light and that produce the appropriate color on the negative. These chemicals don't age at the same rate causing one color to fade faster than the rest. As a result, ANH looked green when they used the original color timing. Provided the color in question hasn't faded too much, the negative can be scannned and the colors adjusted during or after the scanning process (from my experience, you get better result when you adjust it during the scan). If the color has faded too much, the only option is to use a color separation or a print to retrieve that color. ANH is not that faded yet. Lucasfilm sent it to Lowry for the basic restoration. They did not get the colors aligned properly. Lucasfilm then went on to color correct the film, and TESB and ROTJ, and you can see the issues that they introduced in those as well, but the specific issues ANH has stem from the faded negative and Lowry's restoration. For for ANH, Lucasfilm's color correction is half the problem and Lowry's film restoration is the other. A few tweaks can fix Lucasfilm's bad judgement, but it is harder to dig out the fix to Lawry's bad work. I think I may have it, but I have just rendered my first draft color correction and haven't had a chance to look at it yet.

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yotsuya said:

Well, I'm assuming they are all off. I'm not trying to match the original theatrical colors. I'm trying to match the other Star Wars films. ANH is really messed up. Lowry's choices for how they balanced the colors (and possibly even the hardware they used to scan the film) produced magenta heavy coloring. Yes, the original has magenta toned flashes, but they aren't pure digital magenta, they have yellow undertones. The storm troopers seen through the flash should look yellowish and instead Lowry gave us magenta stormtroopers under the magenta flashes. Also, the burn through of the blockade runner should be brilliant white, not magenta. Remember, regardless of how close or off the pre DVD home video releases are, they are all done from original prints, color timed to the release. I believe the definative edition was from an interpositive, meaning first generation off the negative and used to make the internegatives the theatrical prints were struck from. I'm weighing my color choices based on that. I also don't trust technicolor prints for color saturation.

My goal is for C-3P0 to be the same golden color in episodes III, IV, V, VI, and beyond. Right now the best example of a gold that matches episodes III, V, and VI is the TR47 capture of the definitive edition. Also for R2-D2 to be the same brilliant blue in all 6 movies. That might be hard with how wacked the colors are in Ep I, but the rest should be doable.

And it is funny you posted that pic of the rebel trooper. I was just finishing my first draft of color correcting the ANH bluray today and what I ended up with looks a lot like the tech IB image. What I found works (in Sony Vegas) is something that I was leary to use, but none of my other tests came close. Channel Blend gave me the answer to change the colors in one step. It gave me a higher contrast image, brighter colors, muted the reds and magentas, gave nice peachy skin tones, and looks like the colors from TESB. I still need to manually color correct one scene (which requires retouching the color on every from from one camera angle of C-3PO on the sand) and I will be done. For me to even attempt to watch it I will also have to remove that damned rock, but that will be my viewing copy.

I'll post pictures if these color settings pass my viewing test.

 Actually, the fact that George Lucas apparently wanted R2D2 to be the same brilliant blue in all six both, introduced a ton of trouble. In Star Wars R2D2's paint job was such, that the blue panels could seem almost black under certain light conditions. For The Empire Strikes Back the panels were given a different blue color, which would remain pretty much the same for the other five movies. Trying to color match R2D2's paint job in Star Wars to the others, introduced all kinds of blue artifacts, to the degree that Luke's shirt has blue streaks, and the homestead of Owen and Beru has blue in it's white paint job. It looks completely awful. 

Here's how R2D2 looked in the first two original films:

Star Wars:

The Empire Strikes Back:

Trying to match these colors is going to be pretty much impossible, without introducing problems in other areas. This is why the best you can hope to achieve is to approach what was on the original negative, but in that case R2D2 is going to look somewhat different in Star Wars than in the others. 

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As for the Artoo problem, I've had success in little tests just in photoshop of simply going into hue and saturation and bringing down the saturation of the blues until you see the artifacts disappear.  This removes the artifacts, gets artoo looking correct, and overall makes the image look alot better.  This works because basically all they did to make artoo "consistent" is to to boost the blues in every shot that has artoo in it.

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Darth Lucas said:

As for the Artoo problem, I've had success in little tests just in photoshop of simply going into hue and saturation and bringing down the saturation of the blues until you see the artifacts disappear.  This removes the artifacts, gets artoo looking correct, and overall makes the image look alot better.  This works because basically all they did to make artoo "consistent" is to to boost the blues in every shot that has artoo in it.

 Great work. Not knocking your find at all, but it just goes to show how low effort the 2004 releases were.

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 Um.. well, that isn't quite accurate. There were many R2D2's for each movie and while many of them are virtually identical, there are differences. One reason R2 may have so many various appearances in ANH is that they may not have all be finished the same. Most appear to be blue anodized aluminum. However, for TPM, R2 is finished completely differently in the entire movie. Instead of the blue gleaming panels, they are dull and painted. Also, there is one publicity photo from Tunisia where R2's head is nearly black and his body is all white (no blue). Also, R5D4's legs are an even brighter blue than R2. Also, in all the original space shots R2 is black. Most, but not all, were fixed.

My goal is to get them as close as possible to matching overall. The blues in ANH are over blown, so are the reds. My goal is to mute  all of them. Not every shot was done the same, either in the camera, post production, or restoration, so it is a challenge. I'm just after the best overall color correction for each movie. C3PO seems a bit more consistent, but sometimes seems more orange and sometimes more green. I'm erring on the more green (actually more brassy) since that is the general color in all the special features and the other 3 movies.

My starting point has been the magenta tones and I think I have found a way to correct for that that also addresses most other issues. It fixes the flesh tones, the blow out reds, and most of the other color issues. Just not sure I've landed on the right balance yet, but when I watched the first draft, it was a big improvement in just about every scene.

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In checking my media, I've found that the subject is more complicated. We all know the condition of the DVD's and Blu-rays, but they are not the only sources (though they are the best sources for ATOC and ROTS). Then there is the GOUT, full of artifacts that blur the image. Then the LD sets with the definitive edition and the Japanese special collection being the best editions in separate ways. Then there is a source I was overlooking. TPM, ANH, TESB, and ROTJ all aired on HD channels in Europe before the Lowry transfers. Some copies of these broadcasts are better than others. One of them just proved to me just how unrecoverably messed up the Lowry transfers are. (note, I am not including the several film scanning projects currently underway)

This leads me to alter my goal of just a pure color correction of the Blu-ray to fixing that problems that have resulted form the scan. Among them are all the rebel ship explosions at the Death Star, the map of the approaching Death Star in the rebel briefing room, the screen on the Death Star showing the approach to Yavin, and a anything else I find. I'll also be looking at light sabers for color, but I have come to the conclusion that Luke's lightsaber was not properly colored to begin with in some shots. But my first step is going to be to color correct all these sources to match, at least in general. I really should post some screen caps of what I have done so far, but it was the first draft and I didn't correct the brightness of the image, just the colors. I have some work to do for my second draft and I'll post some images then. Right now most of what I'm doing is watching the different versions to pinpoint the differences.

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yotsuya said:

In checking my media, I've found that the subject is more complicated. We all know the condition of the DVD's and Blu-rays, but they are not the only sources (though they are the best sources for ATOC and ROTS). Then there is the GOUT, full of artifacts that blur the image. Then the LD sets with the definitive edition and the Japanese special collection being the best editions in separate ways. Then there is a source I was overlooking. TPM, ANH, TESB, and ROTJ all aired on HD channels in Europe before the Lowry transfers. Some copies of these broadcasts are better than others. One of them just proved to me just how unrecoverably messed up the Lowry transfers are. (note, I am not including the several film scanning projects currently underway)

This leads me to alter my goal of just a pure color correction of the Blu-ray to fixing that problems that have resulted form the scan. Among them are all the rebel ship explosions at the Death Star, the map of the approaching Death Star in the rebel briefing room, the screen on the Death Star showing the approach to Yavin, and a anything else I find. I'll also be looking at light sabers for color, but I have come to the conclusion that Luke's lightsaber was not properly colored to begin with in some shots. But my first step is going to be to color correct all these sources to match, at least in general. I really should post some screen caps of what I have done so far, but it was the first draft and I didn't correct the brightness of the image, just the colors. I have some work to do for my second draft and I'll post some images then. Right now most of what I'm doing is watching the different versions to pinpoint the differences.

 The goal of the project is still a bit ambiguous in my opinion. The main goal seems to be to make the colors consistent between films, but on the other hand, when you're discussing correcting for bad scans, this implies trying to retrieve the original color timing, which is not the same thing. 

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Original color timing? No, not what I'm after. I'm after an acceptable overall color correction that is better than what we have had. All the pre SE sources seem to be washed out (yet they managed to preserve the highlights) and all the SE sources seem to be dark with crushed blacks. I'm after a unified color grading that will span the saga but may be match (exactly) any sources. And as far as I know, other than the Legacy project, everyone trying to restore any of these films is working with the same handicap. I think these films have been treated horribly by Lucasfilm. Not one version of these film on home video has been of desent quality. The best seems the Definitive Edition LD set (and the faces edition and GOUT taken from it) but that version his hindered by what were then invisible flaws that jump out in the higher formats we are working with today. The JSC LD set avoided those flaws, but suffers from film artifacts and has a different color grading. The Lowry scan has great image resolution, but horrible color grading. My goal is to bring consistency to a messy situation. I'm not doing a scene by scene color correction (except where they already did something and messed it up - the BR has many instances of this). I have identified 4 distinct sources (and debating whether one is actually from a 5th source) for the OT. There is the JSC, Definitive Edition/GOUT, the SE EU broadcast (film artifacts and very different color grading from the BR), and Lowry's scan (used in broadcast, DVD and BR - but I'm only referencing the BR). I'm trying to bring Lowry's scan in line with the other three sources.

I'm hoping that TESB and ROTJ are less work than ANH. I've already identified several things to fix that I had assumed were SE glitches that have turned out to be Lowry glitches (or Lucasfilm... can't tell with some who f...ed it up). Just makes me really mad that they would release such crap on BR and call it good.

I don't know what I may end up sharing when I am done, but my first task is to archive my sources in 1280x720 mp4 files. I need to crop and resize the images and do a general color correction. I'm playing with the ANH 97 SE at the moment. That version is very important because so far, it has the best sky so I can use it to fix the blown out sky shots on Tatooine. My first pass I used the GOUT and got a pretty good result, but that version is even better so I'm hoping for even better results.

Right now I'm working with the following:

JSC - two versions of ANH

TR47 - Still not positive it is that edition, but it is the Definitive Edition LD set, complete with special features with the movies processed with the reverse 3:2 pull down so they are 24fps. My initial guide to the colors I'm after.

GOUT - I have the originals as well as several cleanup attempts.

EU SE broadcast - has a + and a blue square in the upper right corner and includes Ep1. Definitely a different transfer from the DVD/BR. Lots of film artifacts. Probably the same as the SE LD and Ep 1 LD. Shares the same type of DNR smearing as the DE and GOUT. Preserved highlights and less crushed blacks than the BR, but still very dark overall.

BR - my goal is to make these look good. Highest resolution. When you ignore the color issues, they are awesome scans for home video, but they are ruined by the bad colors. Not much I can do with AOTC or ROTS, but the other all need work.

What I really want to do is to make my own edit, but to do that I need the original and BR editions to match seamlessly. Color is the biggest issue in matching up material so if I can do that, creating my own edit will be simple. There are tricks for resolution, such as reducing my edit to 1280x720, that will work once the colors match.

I hope that clears up just what I am after in this.

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Correct is a very subjective term, isn't it. Like truth. I guess to summarize what I'm aiming for in fewer words, it is to find a color correction that most closely matches the props, available photos, behind the scenes special features, etc. What I'm not after is matching any particular theatrical presentation. Though what I've done so far brings the Bluray very close to the technicolor prints.

And to aid in getting the highest quality I have finally ordered the PAL dvds. While for most shots the Bluray is unbeatable in clarity, for the shots that have changed and the special features (mainly the Eps 1-3 deleted scenes), I'm hoping the Pal version holds some additional data. An extra 96 lines of data that will make my upscale to 720p less noticable. I understand that doesn't help with the GOUT, but just in case...

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Subjective indeed. You must do what you think is right. Though if your work has made the blu-ray look like the IB prints, it will probably be popular here. Can you produce an LUT or is it too shot specific?

As for basing it on props and set photos, I'm sure that will give you a nice realistic color that looks much better than the Blu. But doing this alone will of course ignore any original color grading. For instance, the R2 Jawa scene would end up being in daylight as some LD releases looked.

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what i noticed in some of the color corrections vader's black suit and helmet and cape look gray taking away a lot of black color