[your return address here]
P.O. Box 10228
San Rafael, CA 94912
After many years of waiting for the classic Star Wars Trilogy to arrive on DVD, I was pleased to make this purchase on opening day. I was aware of the narrative changes that had been made in this edition in advance, but was willing to accept them for the great experience of getting the trilogy on DVD in any form. This letter is not designed to discuss the creative decisions in this update of the film. Nor is it to debate the merits of releasing the theatrical versions of the films (non-special edition) to DVD.
My concern is primarily the technical problems present on the Episode IV: A New Hope disc. Upon viewing the disc on its release day, I noticed several problems in both the video and audio. I noted these, and over the past month, I have studied what others are saying in print and online. Many customers agree that there are significant problems with this disc, and that Lucasfilm refuses to acknowledge these problems. Because these problems only exist in the English angles/sound mixes, it is clear that they were NOT intentional.
These problems seem to be limited to the Episode IV disc, and not Episode V or VI. I should point out that I used the on-disc THX setup utility to ensure that my TV and amplifier were properly calibrated for this disc. Some problems were fixed by this setup, but the problems enumerated below remain:
1) The "Star Wars" logo fades into the background much too quickly. As I understand it, this sequence had to be re-created on computer after the digital-capture/cleanup process erased the starfield. Apparently the re-creation was not timed to match either the original film or the rest of the Star Wars saga.
2) Luke's lightsaber shots now show the saber with a green hue. Whereas the saber was always washed-out in previous versions of the film, re-rotoscoping the saber should have certainly provided the same corrected detail to Luke's saber shots as was provided in the updated Kenobi/Vader duel. Instead, now the blade color is completely wrong.
3) The most grievous of errors is in the audio mix, where the right and left rear channels of the musical score were accidentally reversed. For musicians and audiofiles, this can be quite unnerving to listen to, as it creates a wholly unnatural sound balance. Because the music is correct in the French language track, it seems obvious that the channel swap was accidental, and not intentional as Lucasfilm so quickly asserted in its press release on the subject. Because this "change" was not applied consistently to all audio streams, it is shafting either English-speaking people or French-speaking people. To any audiophile, it is clear that an unintentional mixing error is present in the English-language track. This simple mistake in the mixing process can be corrected fairly easy.
4) Audio levels are inconsistent throughout the film, rendering certain dialogue spots almost inaudible. The two biggest offending spots are in Tarkin's dialogue about Alderaan, and in Luke's line "What good is it if he gets himself killed?" Dialogue spikes notably out of the mix in a way that sound accidental, and in a way that never existed on previous sound mixes.
I am concerned that certain quality control measures were not met with this disc's release. Given that this was one of the most sought-after films on DVD, errors such as this should have never made it into production. That said, mistakes do happen, and it is incumbent upon the manufacturer to admit mistakes and to rectify them promptly. I do not expect to be forced to buy a later version of the release to correct manufacturing defects in this version. These errors should be addressed now.
Lucasfilm should make available a corrected version of the Episode IV disc to all who request it, and publicly announce the program to raise consumer awareness. Lucasfilm engaged in a similar program a decade ago due to mastering errors in The Empire Strikes Back laserdisc. Furthermore, DVD releases from other companies such Universal's Back to the Future trilogy have been replaced for far less offensive trespasses. Lucasfilm's refusal to acknowledge these problems is increasing the ire of its fanbase and of digital media reviewers around the globe. In the interest of maintaining good public relations, not to mention simply doing the right thing by your customers, it is imperative that you release corrected replacement discs for Episode IV and make them available through a mail-in exchange program.
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Cc: The Better Business Bureau serving the Bay Area (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fox Home Video disc exchange program (email@example.com)