Sign In

Letter to LFL about DVD Defects (No OT vs SE discussion)

Author
Time
Here is a letter I have sent to LFL regarding the mastering defects in the trilogy DVD set. Feel free to customize it to your own tastes and send a letter of your own. Individual mail makes the biggest impact in getting something fixed. Of course, many of you will hate that this letter doesn't address the OT vs SE debate, but that is a different argument for LFL. The point of this letter is simply to get them to acknowledge their mixing/mastering errors and doing something about it.

--
[your return address here]

To:
Lucasfilm, Ltd.
P.O. Box 10228
San Rafael, CA 94912


Dear Lucasfilm:

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.

Respectfully,
[your signature here]

Cc: The Better Business Bureau serving the Bay Area (info@goldengate.bbb.org)
Fox Home Video disc exchange program (foxdrop@4icc.com)



I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
Very well-crafted appeal. Though given LucasFilm's fan-hostile attitude of the last decade and the fact that the route of denial already seems to have largely worked in the case of these defective DVDs, I'd guess this letter will end up in the trash compacter.
Author
Time
But the good thing is that the BBB is copied on it. They are required to start a paper trail and, once it gets long enough, they will investigate and they don't usually listen to cop outs that businesses throw their way. I'd be interested in seeing what happens.

Very well written letter, ADM. Professional, and to the point.
"You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia'."
--Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), The Princess Bride
-------------------------
Kevin A
Webmaster/Primary Cynic
kapgar.typepad.com
kapgar.com
Author
Time
That's very nicely crafted. I'm going to add one more comment to it about the music mix during the battle of Yavin sequence (particularly the horn fanfare being dialed WAAAY the hell under the effects audio), and send a copy of my own, with the brilliant BBB CC!
Author
Time
Quote

Originally posted by: INv8r_ZIM
That's very nicely crafted. I'm going to add one more comment to it about the music mix during the battle of Yavin sequence (particularly the horn fanfare being dialed WAAAY the hell under the effects audio), and send a copy of my own, with the brilliant BBB CC!


Go for it! That change does bother me too, though I chose to leave it out thinking they'd take the "creative decision" copout, but we'll see.

The BBB has already been responsive (beyond the auto-responder acknowledgement, even) so I think that is a solid way to go. They will keep the complaint on file for three years at a minimum, no matter what the outcome is.

Any idea from you all on how to drive other boards' attention to this letter-writing campaign? I'm not a contributor on other boards (yet) and, after 12 years online, I still don't know if it's good nettiquette to post the same thing on numerous boards.
I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
I think LFL is treating this release as a "holdover" until the 2007 box set, which I imagine will have more tweaks and fixes. It's pretty obvious the set was a rush job and so of course errors crept in as a result. LFL claims these problems are intentional only to cover their own asses. I still would rather watch LD rips than this POS set anyday...
Author
Time
Great letter! However you forgot to mention that all 3 films are way too dark! Who turned out the lights? Also, in ESB, right after Needa dies, and Vader turns and walks, notice the light dims? What's up with that?
Author
Time
And don't forget all the hallway lights in the Falcon - they used to be blue, and now they're green, but just in ANH... WTF???
Author
Time
It's Han's early moodlighting. He changed the bulbs after the assault on the Death Star.
"You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia'."
--Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), The Princess Bride
-------------------------
Kevin A
Webmaster/Primary Cynic
kapgar.typepad.com
kapgar.com
Author
Time
They must be in The Matrix during that scene now. ;-) I suppose the whole color correction of that scene is wrong. The lights weren't noticeable to me the way the saber was. They could have put in the Ric Ollie red mood light and I probably wouldn't have noticed w/o a side by side comparison. But change the color of a lightsaber, and that's gonna get noticed (Just ask MagnoliaFan. ) by a helluva lot more people -- including 95% of the world who worships Star Wars less than me.

I've been scouring a particular thread on the official site dedicated to the DVD glitches, after LFL AND Fox wrote me back today. They do have a replacement program in effect. However, it seems to be related to skipping issues which I haven't experienced, and not the items I listed. I keep getting a runaround, as I'm clearly dealing with entry-level customer service. One email response quoted none of my original message, so I inquired what the nature of their response was. They responded by saying "This was about your DVD having some skipping issues. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance."

Funny, no skipping issues were listed in my email. Do these jackwads even bother to read the actual letters that come in?
I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
Quote

Originally posted by: ADigitalMan
Do these jackwads even bother to read the actual letters that come in?


NO.
Author
Time
Regarding the music score being buried in the mix, as has probably been mentioned before, it ONLY occurs in the english mix, so it's a TOTAL bullshit excuse to claim it was a creative desicion.
Author
Time
I'm cross-posting this from the official site's forum because, frankly, I think I have a damn fine point here to raise and hope you all will take it to heart.

One person on the official site's forum received a replacement disc which fixed the skipping errors, and confirmed that none of the other defects I noted were corrected. He said something to the effect of "For now, we'll just have to live with it. We shouldn't have to, but we will."

I reply: Why should we have to live with it? You paid good, hard-earned money for a product that should be correct. If they were willing to fix the pressing errors, why not the mastering errors? If you bought a brand-new car and the rear speakers were wired in reverse, would you not take it back in to be fixed? Or if the fabric on one of your seats didn't quite match the rest of the interior? Or if the timing were just a little off at startup? All three of these are analogous to the defects in the Star Wars disc. Now, if every car rolled off the assembly line with these problems, there would be a massive recall announced to correct the problems. If consumers do not stand up for themselves, businesses will only take advantage of them. Why should you just accept a defective product?

I emplore you all to start a letter writing campaign to correct the defects we're pointing out in this thread. The BBB will pay attention and will definitely take strong action, even if just a few dozen letters come in on the same subject. Even Rome was built brick by brick. Take action against Lucasfilm and they will be forced to correct their errors.

Updated
On a positive note, I DID speak with somebody at Fox's disc exchange program this afternoon for almost half an hour. She is going to personally try to get better answers on the issue. I still think that Lucasfilm was in such a defensive posture over the OT/SE debate, that their knee-jerk response on the audio problem was to defend it as another creative change. But I digress ... Having a person take the time to actually hear out my issue thoroughly, be sure she understood the issue, clearly get the fact that these changes were different from the "bad production run" that they are fixing, and then take my name and number and promise to get back to me after really tracking down the issue, well, this is promising. Now more than ever, the volume of complaints will underscore the widespread nature of the problem.

Update 2
On a second postive note, I just got called BACK from Fox, apparently by the boss of the person with whom I spoke earlier. He spoke to me for another 10-15 minutes wanting to be sure that he understood all of the issues (and I'm confident he did). He seems to want to get to the bottom of this. While its ultimately a Lucasfilm issue (and he seemed to indicate that Lucasfilm is going to ultimately do whatever they are going to do) he did seem poised to discuss the issue with LFL intelligently. Having an insider talk with Lucasfilm has more potential than just having an angry fan bitching, but that said, I think a hundred angry fans bitching all at once in the right direction will also have an effect.
I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
That's encouraging news in that at least someone with a bit of authority will be asking questions as to your points - and will hopefully get some expansive answers and information.

Well in, ADM
originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here?
And say something righteous and hopeful for a change?

Author
Time
Thing is, it's not just ANH. Empire and Jedi have problems with sabers (especially Jedi) and contrast issues. It's Lowry's digital clean-up work that's at fault. It has to be. You can actually fix a lot of the scenes if you take a capture and manually adjust the brightness and contrast etc. Computers are good at some things, that's for sure, but they're not as good as a real person manually checking/correcting things. Just look at the Star Wars Legacy site for proof of that. If only they had put as much effort into it as Mike has.

I can't see Lucasfilm/Fox releasing a corrected set (not that I'd one anyway cause I live in the UK and bought the R1 release). It would cost them too much money and they'd lose face. It's much easier to deny the problems and piss off a relatively small number of people who have issues with the defects than it is to actually take a positive step towards fixing them. The whole thing makes a mockery of THX though, doesn't it? Quality assurance my arse!

I might write to Fox UK just to see if anyone there has the brain capacity to actually comprehend my grievences. I bet I just get a standard reply about 'no known issues', even though I have posted three lengthy articles that clearly show some of the defects. If things go well some of these things will soon be appearing in a well-known UK magazine - let's see them deny it then!
"Whatever! I digitally put Jabba the Hutt back into the original Star Wars movie! I'll do what I want!"
Author
Time
Update:
I received a call from Fox Home Entertainment's head of ops today. He says that since the problems are with LFL's master, it doesn't fall in the realm of Fox to fix, and LFL has total control over this issue. That said, he had some interesting things to say.

  • He was unaware that any replacement program was already in place for the Ep IV discs. I had to correctly inform him that such a program was already in progress due to skipping issues. He attributed such issues to older-model DVD players (he's probably right) being incompatible.[/li]

  • He said this is the first that he had heard on the issue. Admittedly, he doesn't hang out on the internet, but if anybody is complaining about these issues, they're either doing it directly to Lucasfilm or not at all.[/li]

  • Once he realized that I wasn't trying to be belligerent or an ass (he seemed to think I was arguing to argue at one pont) he did say that he would communicate the issue to LFL. Largely this would just be re-sending my letter to them and asking if they've seen or paid attention to it. BUT, coming from an exec at Fox, this may get more attention than my letter alone would.[/li]

I can't stress enough that if you want these production defects fixed, you need to each speak up on the issue. I've become an irritant to them, little more than a mosquito bite. If LFL (or Fox, for that matter) get swarmed, then they'll have to respond. Therefore each of you needs to address LFL (and CC Fox and the BBB) individually. Encourage every Star Wars fan you know to get involved with a letter of their own. Most of all, confine your complaints to legitimate production missteps, because those are tangible wrongings whose fixes can be mandated.

May the Force be with us all!
I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
I heard from the BBB today. They forwarded a letter from LFL to me, which was dated December 7th. Here's the bulk of LFL's response:

Quote

We are always impressed by how closely fans watch for the digital enhancements and listen to the many different sound mixes we have made for the STAR WARS movies over the years. However, the changes seen or heard on mix of the of the all-new STAR WARS Trilogy DVD set are the result of deliberate creative decisions, and therefore not technical glitches as [ADigitalMan] claims.

We trust that this addresses [ADigitalMan's] concerns, and we thank him for his interest in STAR WARS.

Sincerely,
Sharron Drake
Business Affairs


Sound familiar? Anyway, the BBB asked if this statisfies my claim or not. Here's my response (some of it posted earlier):

Quote

Thank you very much for forwarding Lucasfilm Limited's reply to my concerns about the Star Wars DVD. I am very concerned, however, that LFL is trying to hide clear production mistakes behind the guise of "deliberate creative decisions." These are quality control problems, pure and simple. In the original Star Wars (Episode IV as it has come to be known), Luke Skywalker always had a blue lightsaber. It was blue in The Empire Strikes Back. Only in Return of the Jedi was his lightsaber green. This is important to the plot. However, the color correction in the new DVD release for Episode IV clearly shows Luke with a green lightsaber. This is clearly a color-correction mistake. It should be fixed.

Likewise, the receding title card at the beginning of Episode IV recedes at a faster pace than before. This neither matches the pace of the other four films in the saga, nor the pace of this film in every other release before now. This is clearly a color-correction mistake. It should be fixed.

Finally, the music in the rear channels were accidentally reversed. This sets up a wholly unnatural sound field, as instruments coming from the front right channel will also be heard in the rear left channel, and vice versa. This is clearly a mixing error. It should be fixed.

I am not arguing ANY of the truly creative decisions that accompanied this release. Far greater changes were made based on deliberate creative decisions, and these have been well documented in the press. The issues I am raising have been discussed on DVD and Star Wars web sites, including the official site, StarWars.com, where a special thread has been established on their message boards for discussing troubleshooting problems on the DVD.

Lucasfilm is attempting to shirk its responsibility to release a quality product by hiding behind this term of "deliberate creative decision." These three points I have brought up are defects in workmanship and quality control. Any company who believes in their products and their consumers would do right and release a corrected product.

To give an analogy: If you bought a brand-new car and the rear speakers were wired in reverse, you would take it back in to be fixed. Or if the fabric on one of your seats didn't quite match the rest of the interior, you would take it back in to be replaced. Or if the timing of the car were just a little off at startup, you would take it in to be repaired. These are all analogous to the defects in the Star Wars disc. Now, if every car rolled off the assembly line with these problems, there would be a massive recall announced to correct the problems. Unfortunately, sometimes car manufacturers must be forced by the government or consumer advocacy groups to enact such a recall. This is where you, the Better Business Bureau, come in.

Please continue to pursue this matter on my behalf, and on behalf of the millions who spent their hard-earned money on this DVD set.

Thank you,
--[ADigitalMan]



Have you complained lately?
I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
Nice job, ADM. Please continue to keep us posted.

Oh, and I didn't complain because I never bought the set. Pretty weak footing from which to complain.
"You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia'."
--Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), The Princess Bride
-------------------------
Kevin A
Webmaster/Primary Cynic
kapgar.typepad.com
kapgar.com
Author
Time
Am I making this up or did I hear the other language DVDs had the sound in working order. Is that correct? That could be a valid point in the argument. "US versions are reversed, but the others aren't? Where's the creative decision?"
Author
Time
I realized something critical last night. I (and many others who have argued the same point) have been wrong in assuming the other language tracks are "correct" when compared to the surround mix. Don't get me wrong, they are, but they also aren't mixed in 5.1. The English 2.0 sounds as good as the French or Spanish when run through pro-logic. The music isn't reversed in any of these mixes because the entire mix on these tracks are all just left-right mixes. Unless my understanding is all wrong, the Pro-logic creates its own surround field and naturally isn't going to throw the left channel sounds into the right rear. The 5.1 mix is logically the only audio track that could be screwed up in the rear channels.

Thus, there has been a hole in my argument up to this point so I'll stop arguing the notion that the foreign language tracks were mixed correctly vs the english track. Though I did say when the discs came out that listening to the 2.0 mix was a much more pleasant experience and should be done by all who don't have a 5.1 mix at home. There is a MASSIVE user problem of people trying to listen to 5.1 through their stereo connections. Chalk this up to poor menu design. As aging webmaster, I've come to rely heavily on user-centered design, and I'm finding very few DVD menus that put the user's mentality into their design. The mixes should simply say "For surround systems" or "for stereo systems" because those without surround systems won't know the difference between Dolby Enhanced Mix and Dolby Stereo or whatever crazy verbiage is used.
I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
Actually the german soundtrack is 5.1 and it suffers from the same problems as the english language track (flipped musical score on rear speakers and buried musical score during assault on the deathstar in anh). In fact there are even more problems, since the entire german voicetrack was not restored and cleaned up the slightest bit in the process. So german fans kinda got the worst of both worlds (soundmix-wise). And don't get me started on the redubbing of the new dialogue that was cast so awfully, you might think it's an april fool's karaoke-version.
Author
Time
So does that mean in the 2.0 track that the music isn't drown out in some areas by SFX(like the beginning of the Death Star battle in ANH)?
"I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like them myself. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings."
Author
Time
Sessler, sorry I missed your post way-back-when. I believe the music mixing issues are still present in the 2.0 track. However, these do fall under the creative decision category and would be tough to legally force a change.

My real reason for posting in this thread today is to go off on a tangent ... I'm a huge fan of the band Rush and subscribe to their newsletter. The following arrived in my inbox today. It's relevance: It is refreshing when an artist takes enough pride in their work that they'd go the extra mile to do right by a fan when a bad printing is circulated. If only Lucasfilm would be so bold and yet so humble at the same time:

Quote

A MESSAGE FROM NEIL PEART REGARDING THE MASKED RIDER

To anyone who bought a copy of The Masked Rider in Milwaukee on the 30th Anniversary Tour.

"A new trade paperback edition of my first book, The Masked Rider, was put on sale for the first time at the Marcus Amphitheatre in Milwaukee on June 7th, 2004. After the show, when I had a chance to look over the book carefully, I realized it had been produced with serious flaws (no photos, wrong maps, various typographical and design errors, missing portions of text). I immediately stopped its sale and had the rest of the printing destroyed, but I feel bad for the unfortunate few who bought copies that night. A corrected second edition has now been produced and put on sale, and I would like to replace those first defective paperbacks with an autographed hardcover copy of the proper new second edition.
Please send your defective copy to the address below, and we will make it right."

With apologies,
Neil Peart

I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
Author
Time
I always knew Peart was a decent guy.

Princess Leia: I happen to like nice men.
Han Solo: I'm a nice man.