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OBITUARY - Star Wars Fullscreen/Pan and Scan versions. R.I.P.

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May 1982 to September 2011

After only a very short life, the version of the original Star Wars film that most people grew up with outside of theatres and cinemas - is no more. This is a brief breakdown of the rise and fall of this very important format from a US/UK point of view.

With the release of the Blu Ray version of Star Wars, the DVD versions have been gradually leaving the shelves and we are told that they are no longer being made. One of those DVD versions that was available in the US is the Fullscreen/Pan and Scan - but sadly no more....

From the original release in May 1977 to the first version that we could actually play in our own homes in 1982 was a very long 5 years. All of these releases were Fullscreen/Pan and Scan and no other version was available. The US NTSC LaserDisc and CED discs were time compressed to under two hours to meet the constraints of the formats, the UK VHS releases ran 4% faster so were a few minutes shorter so the US NTSC VHS/Betamax tapes were the nearest way to get the theatrical Star Wars experience. This was supposed to be a rental only release but $120 bought you your own copy!!

Other VHS/Betamax releases followed as did a re-release of the original LaserDisc but nothing really changed until the second brand new LaserDisc was released in 1985 which was not time compressed. Later that year, a brand new audio mix was released with "Digitally Mastered" Sound was made available on the 1985 VHS release as well as subsequent US and US VHS releases.

This new audio mix came out at a turning point for the Fullscreen/Pan and Scan format. In 1986 and 1989, Japan and then the US got their Widescreen releases and put the first nail in the Fullscreen/Pan and Scan coffin. In 1989 there was one final LaserDisc release with the new audio but this was back to the time compressed format of the first release.

1993 saw yet another (THX) re-master of video and sound released on Widescreen LaserDisc but we had to wait a year in the UK and another year in the US for a Fullscreen/Pan and Scan VHS only release. This was the famous "One last time......." release. We all thought that was the last time we would ever see Star Wars and we were proven to be half right as this was the last time we could buy and own the film in its "original" form.

In 1997, the 20th Anniversary year of Star Wars, the films were treated to a clean up, another re-mastering, the inclusion of deleted scenes and lots of CGI graphics. These were released in Fullscreen/Pan and Scan as VHS only, later that year and re-released in 2000 for one final time for the VHS format.

For the UK, Fullscreen/Pan and Scan died with that release but when the rest of the world finally got Widescreen DVD's in 2004 - albeit even more modified - the US also got Fullscreen/Pan and Scan versions. The 2006 release with a "Bonus" 1993 widescreen version disc was the final Fullscreen/Pan and Scan released and it is this version that has recently stopped production.

As we all know, Star Wars has never stayed the same and has been changing from Day One. Three different audio mixes were available in 1977 and Episode IV - A New Hope was added in 1981. Consequently, the home releases were no different and there are differences in the numerous avalable releases. Even as far back as 1982 with the first LaserDisc and VHS/Betamax releases there were different FOX logo's as well as versions of the same scenes. A few differences are shown below...



1982 LaserDisc FOX logo


1982 US VHS FOX logo


1982 LaserDisc crawl


1982 UK VHS crawl

 

1982 US VHS first scene


1982 UK VHS first scene


1995 US Faces VHS first scene


1982 LaserDisc Bantha-macrobinocular scene


1982 US VHS Bantha-macrobinocular scene


1982 LaserDisc missing stormtrooper


1995 US Faces VHS with stormtrooper


1982 LaserDisc entering the Death Star

 

1982 US VHS entering the Death Star


1995 US Faces VHS entering the Death Star


1982 UK VHS final scene 


1995 US Faces VHS final scene 


1995 UK THX VHS final scene (yes this is from the Fullscreen tape!!)

 

My suggestion is make sure that your LaserDisc and VHS players still work OK. Also, get the DVD's while you can before they start demanding silly prices on certain auction sites. My (2006) copy is on the way so my collection of this one film is complete.

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P&S has been dead here for a long time, I don't know any DVDs that were released here in P&S. Also most if not all VHS cassettes were widescreen in the 2000s, last P&S video that I owned was actually TPM.

And in the time of greatest despair, there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as the Son of the Suns.

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An official fullscreen DVD of the star wars trilogy? Seriously???

I am honestly amazed that this was produced (and that some people actually bought it).

Damn, now I have to buy and import these DVDs.

 

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They were in a US gold box set in 2004 and released as individual films with the GOUT in 2006. I have been looking on ebay for all 3 2006 versions but only have ANH so far. Most sellers will not mail outside the US so getting them is a struggle.....

 

EDIT. The same problem exists with some Amazon.com sellers too!!

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Pan and Scan refused to die in the U.S. thanks to consumer confusion/ignorance/indifference, and the studios' lack of any real effort to educate people about those black bars. There were some widescreen VHS tapes in the 90's as well, but if you were really into seeing movies the best way possible, you bought an LD player.

When DVD first hit the market, one of the features touted was the ability to pan and scan a widescreen movie on the fly. I've never encountered a disc that actually offered this though.

It was probably sales of widscreen tv's taking off that finally nailed the coffin shut.

Although now there are digital tv sub channels like "This TV" that are broadcast 4:3, and show a lot of movies, so Pan and Scan will never totally be gone either.

Thanks for posting all the comparisons, russs15. I was doing a lot of that figuring out the lineage of the "HBO" version. I tend to prefer the pan and scan that favors Chewie. ;)

It's interesting that there wasn't a fullscreen version of the GOUT on DVD.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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It was the discussion in the "HBO" thread that got me thinking about doing a comparison piece. I might even have done some of the differences you highlighted. In doing more research, I realised that the 2006 Fullscreen DVD was the last ever.

I agree it is a shame that the GOUT was never available as Fullscreen but as the comments above show, even the 2004 Fullscreen seems to have slipped under the radar....

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SilverWook said:

When DVD first hit the market, one of the features touted was the ability to pan and scan a widescreen movie on the fly. I've never encountered a disc that actually offered this though.

One of my friends had a DVD player that would automatically zoom and crop the picture to fill the whole 4:3 screen.

Unfortunately, we couldn't figure out how to turn it off =|

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russs15 said:


I agree it is a shame that the GOUT was never available as Fullscreen
Why?

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I'm amazed that anyone is sad about this.  Good riddance to pan & scan!

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TV's Frink said:

russs15 said:


I agree it is a shame that the GOUT was never available as Fullscreen
Why?

A smaller portion of the picture in the same area might mean better resolution, potentially useful for restoration efforts.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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I still need to make my P&S version of Revisited. Then figure out how to put it on VHS and "preserve" it back into the computer. Just for fun.

I started a few times, but framerate issues abounded for some reason. Also, cutting each shot so they can be framed separately is REALLY time consuming.

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I'm not sad to see P/S die.  It may have been a necessary evil in the VHS era, but it has no business in the digital age...

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I do agree with all the negative sentiments regarding the P&S format but this is the format I grew up with.

I saw Star Wars in the local cinema in 77 or 78 but it never came to town again. I next saw the film on it's ITV premier in 82/83 and recorded that broadcast which was of course in Fullscreen. That tape eventually got chewed up and spat out by the recorder so various other broadcasts - all Fullscreen - were all recorded. In 1991 I bought the first widescreen release but on a 14" portable TV that looked horrible so I bought a Fullscreen version to watch instead. That was my most watched version till I bought a 42" plasma in 2005.

If the GOUT was in Fullscreen, I would have the best copy available but as it is, I only have transfers of lesser quality which is annoying.

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SilverWook said:

Pan and Scan refused to die in the U.S. thanks to consumer confusion/ignorance/indifference, and the studios' lack of any real effort to educate people about those black bars. There were some widescreen VHS tapes in the 90's as well, but if you were really into seeing movies the best way possible, you bought an LD player.

It was probably sales of widscreen tv's taking off that finally nailed the coffin shut.

IMO, HDTV/Blu-ray was the final death blow for 4:3 P&S consumer media. Before HD, pan and scan yielded the maximum vertical resolution for a 2.35:1 film. Even on an anamorphic PAL DVD, a letterboxed 2.35:1 image only had 435 lines of resolution, less than the 480 lines of SD NTSC. It's a miracle that we've been able to extract any kind of passable anamorphic or HD image from the ~272 lines of actual picture resolution in the GOUT.

It wasn't until 1080i that the picture area of a 2.35:1 letterboxed image exceeded the 576 lines of SD PAL. With 1080 HD, a 2.35:1 image uses about 817 lines of resolution. Widescreen TVs beat P&S down, and HD and Blu-ray dealt the mortal blow.

Not only did a letterboxed 2.35:1 image on a 4:3 TV look annoying to many, but you did lose almost half of the vertical resolution. I loathe pan and scan, but a P&S LD in either format still has more lines of vertical resolution than the GOUT.

Of course, the telecine quality, color timing, etc. of the old fullscreen transfers of the OT is inferior to the widescreen transfers. Sure, they're too bright, too desaturated, the contrast is too low, faces look flat with diminished highlights in the flesh tones, and garbage mattes are *PAINFULLY* visible, but every time I watch a P&S version, I seethe inside, wishing that we had the OUT in their original aspect ratios with that much vertical detail. There is no widescreen transfer of the OUT that preserves as much of the detail of the starfields as the P&S versions.

P&S sucks, but I still think the old fullscreen releases need to be preserved. I don't think there are any preservations of the UK fullscreen LDs, are there? And I don't think any of the fullscreen preservations done a few years ago have been IVTC'ed, they're just raw interlaced rips.

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There was a UK PAL LD transfer years ago, I think by Grinder and only as an AVI file. I used a shot from the file here.  

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/russdawson/gtf/swfull.html

I read on another part of OT.com that a script fot the best P&S LD is being worked on as well as syncing to GOUT. Personally I cannot wait.....

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Yeah, as I said before, I hate hate *HATE* P&S, but for these films, the P&S versions are still interesting to look at because of all the detail that is lost in the 4x3 letterbox versions, and the lack of any official high-res release. It's a crying shame that you have to give up almost half of the image to see the starfields at anything coming close to the original level of detail.

How many preservations are there of the fullscreen PAL versions? And not just of the original film, but of Empire and Jedi as well? The 1995 PAL VHS versions would be interesting, they're probably the highest-quality cropped transfers. (And here's a question - is the DVNR different on the P&S versions? Since this is before HD, I'm guessing they had to transfer it two times, because they couldn't derive the P&S version from a higher-resolution source.)

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If only the OT had been among the "squeeze" Laserdisc releases in Japan, or even MUSE, it would be a whole different ballgame on the preservation front now. *sigh*

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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I have the UK fullscreen laserdiscs of the OT, but all the discs suffer from laser rot. 

Star Wars as the oldest disc is the worst case, there are a lot of artifacts and video dropouts (the small black spikes all over the image). In addition Star Wars has some weird interlacing issues, like it was badly converted from an interlaced NTSC source.

Empire strike back has a severe case of chroma noise..

Return of the jedi seems not as bad as the other two, but also has video dropouts.

 

Unfortunately my CLD-S315 player can't play analog audio on PAL discs. This plus the other problems is the reason why I never bothered to capture these discs.

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russs15 said:

They were in a US gold box set in 2004 and released as individual films with the GOUT in 2006. I have been looking on ebay for all 3 2006 versions but only have ANH so far. Most sellers will not mail outside the US so getting them is a struggle.....

 

EDIT. The same problem exists with some Amazon.com sellers too!!

Are you willing to settle for used copies of these? I'm hunting down the prequels in full frame, and I might be able to get Empire and Jedi from the same seller dirt cheap.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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SilverWook said:

russs15 said:

They were in a US gold box set in 2004 and released as individual films with the GOUT in 2006. I have been looking on ebay for all 3 2006 versions but only have ANH so far. Most sellers will not mail outside the US so getting them is a struggle.....

 

EDIT. The same problem exists with some Amazon.com sellers too!!

Are you willing to settle for used copies of these? I'm hunting down the prequels in full frame, and I might be able to get Empire and Jedi from the same seller dirt cheap.

Too right I am. I have never had a problem with used DVD's yet and any help is appreciated.

For those non-US citizens amongst us not familiar with the Fullscreen DVD's, all six Fullscreen Star Wars films on US NTSC DVD have the blue band at the top and bottom of the box in place of the usual gold.

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Looking at those comparisons, it looks like the ITV broadcast used the '77 flyover. Look at the Y-shaped cluster of stars at frame center near the horizon of Tatooine, the density of the shadow on the foreground moon, the thinner halo on the horizon that actually looks like a glow and less like it's painted in (something which the '81 composite made much more obvious).

However, I remember reading years ago that the ITV broadcast had the ANH crawl (squeezed?). I also read that it doesn't have the Tantive burn marks.

Russ, can you confirm what crawl is on the ITV broadcast, and whether or not the Tantive marks are there? I've never heard of a version with the ANH crawl and the '77 flyover, and I've also never seen a source with the '77 flyover but no burn marks and no original alien subtitles...

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My source of the ITV broadcast is out on loan so I cannot confirm anything at this time exept the single screenshot on my flyover comparison page. I do however know that that broadcast had a third, different, bantha macribinocular shot as the right and part of the screen was shown.

Once I get it back, I can answer your questions in full and post any shots you want.

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From memory, I'm certain that the ITV broadcast had the ANH crawl, and I'm fairly confident it was squeezed.

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TServo2049 said:

How many preservations are there of the fullscreen PAL versions? And not just of the original film, but of Empire and Jedi as well? The 1995 PAL VHS versions would be interesting, they're probably the highest-quality cropped transfers. (And here's a question - is the DVNR different on the P&S versions? Since this is before HD, I'm guessing they had to transfer it two times, because they couldn't derive the P&S version from a higher-resolution source.)

I believe that the answer is zero. In fact VHS/Beta has rarely been preserved and I am only aware of the 82 ANH by Starkiller and the Faces and SE by Dark Jedi. There was the 1994 Widescreen ANH VHS on the newsgroups about a year ago but I have never seen that release or heard anything about it.

I did a total "hack-job" of my VHS collection just to get them into a digital format so that I could do comparisons such as this thread. Trust me, the quality sucks!!

Read about that here    http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/PAL-VHS-Archive-Collection/topic/3829/

and here   (another "hack-job")   http://homepage.ntlworld.com/russdawson/laservhsvcd/vhs/palvhs.html

The biggest things I found out at that time was as follows

 

Firstly, it is well known that the PAL movies are shorter than the NTSC movies by 4% due to the different framerate.

For some bizarre reason, the 1991 Trilogy Special Widescreen Edition films are approx 4% longer than the other releases I have.


Star Wars 118 mins and 122 mins

Empire 119 mins and 125 mins

Jedi 126 mins and 132 mins

It is almost as if there is some type of framerate compensation to make the films play for the same length of time as the same as the theatrical and NTSC versions.

Has anyone got any ideas on this one??

Secondly, on the 1995 Trilogy - One Last Time - Fullscreen and Widescreen release, Empire and Jedi only, there is no Fox logo and fanfare. Instead there is the crappy blue CBS FOX logo. This is very wrong!!!

 

Another reminder NOT to take anything for granted when dealing with all things Star Wars......

We now have proof that the "squeezed" macrobinocular shot was in fact used on the early HBO broadcasts as well as on the 1982 NTSC LaserDisc. That same shot also appears on the UK PAL 1982 to 1989 Fullscreen releases. Therefore, you would assume (I did) that the 1982 NTSC LaserDisc and the UK PAL 1982 to 1989 Fullscreen releases are exactly the same. You would in fact be wrong as the two crawl shots from my original post show!!!

1982 LaserDisc crawl


 

1982 UK VHS crawl

 

 

 

 

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