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Original Trilogy.com in the Press

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Chicago Tribune

`Star Wars' fans seek long, long ago edition

By Joshua Klein
Special to the Tribune

A little more than a year ago, millions of "Star Wars" fans finally got their wish granted with the release of the original "Star Wars" trilogy--"Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi"--on DVD. A vocal minority, however, merely grumbled, since what was sold was not the original trilogy at all but the so-called "special editions," released theatrically in 1997 with added scenes, new special effects and, some might argue, inferior results.

The real original trilogy--which is to say, the versions many fans grew up with--were nowhere to be found.

Short of a change of heart on creator George Lucas' part, the original "Star Wars" films are unlikely to ever appear on DVD, and needless to say, a few weeks before the DVD release of the final "Star Wars" installment "Revenge of the Sith," many fans remain frustrated.

"Look at the DVDs that are out now," says Garrett Gilchrist of Carlsbad, Calif., a 24-year-old film school grad responsible for "Deleted Magic," a remarkable compendium of seldom-seen deleted scenes, alternate takes and outtakes from the first "Star Wars." "They're not getting any respect anymore. These are classic movies that should be preserved, like `Bridge Over the River Kwai' or `Seven Samurai.' Not to get too pretentious about it, but these films should be given a bit of respect so that everyone can enjoy them, not force you to overlook how bad the release actually is."

To that end, some fans have repeatedly attempted to re-create and reconstruct--with home computers, professional software and various releases of Lucas' sci-fi epics, as well as plenty of time and money--their own versions of the director's sci-fi epics. Gilchrist's "Classic Edition" combines elements from the 2004 DVDs and the '93 laserdisc. His close approximation of 1977's "Star Wars" goes so far as to digitally paint out distracting special effects, correct real and perceived errors discovered on the official 2004 DVD versions and feature professional-looking DVD menus. Gilchrist even edited together his own commentary track. He calls his "Classic Edition" the "original" version of "Star Wars," "not the way it was, but the way you remember it." That's keeping in line with Lucas' stated views on film restoration.

"I am very concerned about our national heritage, and I am very concerned that the films I watched when I was young and the films that I watched throughout my life are preserved, so that my children can see them," said Lucas, referring to the colorization movement.

That quote is the first thing you see at www.originaltrilogy.com, where fans commiserate over changes Lucas made to their favorite films as well as discuss, attempt and trade remedies. There's also a petition addressed to Lucas.

"Obviously, all the chain-rattling one person on the Internet can do is about as effective as the world's smallest violin," says Justin Bielawa of Connecticut, a Web site regular and friend of Gilchrist. "The question is now what can we do to get him to change his mind."

These homemade "preservations" provide to the unsatisfied (and perhaps unsatisfiable) the next best thing. Yet the proliferation of so many different versions of the films, from Lucas' own to the dozens of bootlegs and ambitious re-creations, shows that a solution may now be impossible.

"I don't know if that'd be possible, due to the many sources of the original trilogy and how differently each person tackles their preservation project," says Rid Hughes of Gloucestershire, England, who has worked diligently on his own laserdisc to DVD transfers of a universally embraced DVD edition. "Everyone has their own idea on how it should look, and they're all different."

Hughes' version of the first "Star Wars" was made from three different laserdisc sources: the U.S. Definitive Collection, the French THX collection and the German THX collection. It's cost him more than 200 British pounds (about $350), "utilizing parts of all three versions to combine them into something I'm happy with."

Ben Payton of Great Falls, Mont., who has embarked with four friends on what he calls the "X0 Project," is a freelance Web designer whose "Star Wars" obsessions drew him to the pricey Pioneer HLD-X0 laserdisc player in hopes of preserving the best possible image.

"It is perhaps the best laserdisc player ever made, and still demands a hefty asking price on eBay--$2,800 last time I checked," he says. "We have centered our preservation around using this player, and the early results are about the best we've ever seen in an LD-to-computer transfer."

"I have had a lot of fun doing what I'm doing, and someday might even like to do something like this for a living," adds Payton, who is serving in the military. "I'd say even if by some miracle Lucas decides to release the original `Original Trilogy' right in the middle of our project, I think I'd still finish it, just to see how well it stacks up to the real thing."

Gilchrist, who recently completed a version of "The Empire Strikes Back" and is pondering attempting "Return of the Jedi", stresses that as angry as fans sometimes seem, this is largely a fun exercise. He also points our that until Lucas makes the original trilogy available again, in its original form, he sees no harm being done.

"The `Classic Edition' was about revisiting a movie that doesn't exist anymore," Gilchrist says. "The movie you're creating is the movie you grew up with, and the movie you want to see again. It gets harder and harder to watch ["Star Wars"] the way Lucas has it now . . . .He's interested in what he can do now, but we're not as interested. And if these films are being ruined, and [his versions are] all that's coming out, then that's no fun."

*EDIT* feel free to move this thread, but i figured most of the article focuses on the activities of this particular board.
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I didn't get quoted, but then again, I didn't release any personal information...

The big question he posed is this: will the fans eventually agree on a definitive "preserved" version? I'm not talking about what I would call restoration, i.e. fixing effects, jump cuts, etc., but a version exactly as the original (well, with options to select original or 1981 opening crawl, and mono, Dolby or a remastered sound mix).

I optimistically believe that since the quality is constantly improving, there will eventually become a time when the law of diminishing returns applies, and we have a version that represents the best possible transfer from the material that is available.

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Did anyone worry about the potential ramifications of a newspaper article pointing to the site?
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This site isn't exactly difficult to find. I guess that there are bigger fish for Lucas to fry than OT.com
But hopefully it doesn't attract any legal attention.
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It won't. Lucasfilm knows you guys are here, if they were gonna do something, they'd have done it by now. Which is probably why the guys gave their real names in that interview

Zion: Why were you surprised they didn't go after you? this tugs at the 'grassroots appeal' strings that newspapers prefer over geek ridicule. The two major hammering points in the media regarding Star Wars are dorks standing in line and Lucas "ruining his movies." that the geeks are now FIXING the movies is a story that naturally tilts the angle in the geeks favor

Although the article does bring up a pretty good point that the glut of transfers might be confusing people. Then again, it's hard to make the case that LESS people should be transferring, when so many of you guys are doing REALLY great jobs.
The Best Show You've Never Heard
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"Although the article does bring up a pretty good point that the glut of transfers might be confusing people."

Largely due to the fact that there's a variety of sources, each with their own individual strengths, weaknesses, and changes. It doesn't help that there was more than one "official" version of SW as well.
MeBeJedi: Sadly, I believe the prequels are beyond repair.
JediRandy: They're certainly beyond any repair you're capable of making.


MeBeJedi: You aren't one of us.
Go-Mer-Tonic: I can't say I find that very disappointing.


JediRandy: I won't suck as much as a fan edit.
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True. Like Moth3r said, I think the only real negative towards you guys is in the main question he posed: With so many transfers with their own quirks, foibles, and edits, is there even such a thing as a definitive version of Star Wars at this point? With all these different fan edits and transfers, are the kids with their computers and capture cards really all that different from Lucas and his ILM with their 4 or 5 different versions of the movies themselves?

I guess it's up to you whether that's percieved negatively or not, but I don't think it is.
The Best Show You've Never Heard
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This article does paint some of our sides of the issue. Unfortuantely with the right twist our actions can easily be portrayed in a negative light. LFL has in some sense come to grips with what we're up to (their absense speaks in a sense), but there are a lot more minds in a company like FOX who might have an axe to swing, and as the fan edits of RotS come out they might make an example of some of us. and you can bet the moisture farm that LFL will not speak on either behalf.

As for the fans agreeing on a version. it might happen but when you get into as the people around here do, isn't there alot of joy in seeing the variations and understanding why they happened? finding one definitive version isn't a concern i've ever had.
none
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Sooooooo...anyone live near Chicago, and can get us some copies?
MeBeJedi: Sadly, I believe the prequels are beyond repair.
JediRandy: They're certainly beyond any repair you're capable of making.


MeBeJedi: You aren't one of us.
Go-Mer-Tonic: I can't say I find that very disappointing.


JediRandy: I won't suck as much as a fan edit.
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Originally posted by: The Bizzle
Zion: Why were you surprised they didn't go after you? this tugs at the 'grassroots appeal' strings that newspapers prefer over geek ridicule. The two major hammering points in the media regarding Star Wars are dorks standing in line and Lucas "ruining his movies." that the geeks are now FIXING the movies is a story that naturally tilts the angle in the geeks favor

Can't say I ever thought of it that way. Good point.

My Projects:
[Holiday Special Hybrid DVD v2]
[X0 Project]
[Backstroke of the West DVD]
[ROTS Theatrical DVD]

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I'm glad that the people who got quoted got quoted .... I'm glad that one of them was my friend Justin Bielawa, who played "Boink" in The Phantom Movie.


I just wrote Joshua Klein, who wrote me back with a bit of inside info. The article started as just an interview about me and Classic Edition, but as Joshua just told me, they sort of felt that to focus on any one project like mine would be a complete invitation for me to be sued by Lucasfilm! So they expanded the scope of the article, which is nice, making it more interesting in the process but also making sure that no one project would be highlighted enough for Lucasfilm to just seize on the one and sue them!

A lawsuit is still possible, but it's kind of an interesting way of thinking about diffusing the problem.
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There is no definitve version of the trilogy, even in its initial run Star Wars appeared in different versions at different cinemas in different parts of the world, but I thinkt the archival projects can achieve a couple of things.

1) The trilogy gets archived for posterity complete with the problems that the budget and "state of the art" technology at the time had to deal with (i.e. matte lines, glitches, oversights etc.) Future generations can see how one of the most influential films ever looked way back in 1977.

2) Each various version gets archived, and when Bluray/HD-DVD becomes a reality, you could have one disc that contained the various releases PAL/NTSC/Faces/Original Crawl/Mono/Stero/Surround etc.

As for it being different to what Lucas is doing, it is quite different.

Most projects are of an archival nature, so just preserving what is now in existence, and making it more accessible.
Then there are the restoration projects that attempt to get as close to initial run film releases by adjusting the colour and pulling from various sources to try and recreate the original - akin to what art museums do when cleaning and restoring paintings - doing the best you can to bring it back to how it looked originally.

Then there are the personal projects to fix glitches and jarring shots - closer to what Lucas is doing, but still different. i.e. not changing the story or overall look of the film, just fixing technical problems that would not have occured if they had had better equipment/more time etc. That is, getting closer to what they tried to do in 1977.

Then finally there are the re-invention projects, I guess these are more on a par with Lucas - people changing the movies to suit their personal tastes, whether removing something they hate, or re-imagining it as a WW2 movie for their personal pleasure, fun, learning or whatever reason - but even here there is a subtle difference, none of these imagineers are trying to snuff the original work, whatever its flaws, out of existence.

As for legal proceedings, I think LFL is reasonably benign when it comes to fan stuff, as long as it occurs well after the movies in question have had their run, and they have made their money. I appreciate how much Lucas lets the fans do in this regard - almost no other company lets people play with their product in this way.
It is very different to releasing a product on the net that is *about* to be commercially released - that would invite anyone to come gunning for you and is just stoopid.

I'm always aware though that at anytime LFL or more likely FOX could come a gunning and try to make an example out of someone if they suddenly felt inclined that way...
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Yes, it's true that there is no one "true" release of any of the original Star Wars films (or the new ones for that matter) - there are so many changes mostly of an audio nature between the various versions that were released at the same time in theaters, in 77, 80 and 83.

For my Classic Editions, I picked what I thought might be the best and most memorable parts of both of the main sound mixes for the films. Kind of to merge them into one "true" version that never actually existed before. Hence "Not the way it was, but the way you remember it."


That said, if Lucas released any version of the original original trilogy on DVD, we would probably accept the DVD quite quickly as definitive regardless of which mix he used.

Unless he did what he would probably do, and change the mix once again, as well as leaving in minor touch-ups and changes.


Hm.
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You know what? I would have had no problem with the SEs whatsoever if they didn't either:

a) detract or distract from the plot
b) alter the plot
OR
c) contradict the original characterisations

The problem with George Lucas' 'vision' is that it is WRONG. End of story.
MTFBWY. Always.

http://www.myspace.com/red_ajax
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LOL. Vision isn't a true=false statement. You can not LIKE the vision, but it doesn't make a vision RIGHT or WRONG. That doesn't even enter into it, man.

He created it, he gets to run with the ball. I'm not happy with everything he's done either, but he's not WRONG in creating it. That's silly.
The Best Show You've Never Heard
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Originally posted by: THX
Did anyone worry about the potential ramifications of a newspaper article pointing to the site?



If I was Zion, I might be a little concerned. The rest of you all work with outdated material. Zion, however, is widely known for his version of *a certain telesync*, which is the bane of LFL's existence right now (pre-releases). You might want to keep a tighter grip on your anonymity in the future when considering projects that are within the popular realm of prosecution by legal bodies
sigs are for teh gheys
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Originally posted by: none
This article does paint some of our sides of the issue. Unfortuantely with the right twist our actions can easily be portrayed in a negative light. LFL has in some sense come to grips with what we're up to (their absense speaks in a sense), but there are a lot more minds in a company like FOX who might have an axe to swing, and as the fan edits of RotS come out they might make an example of some of us. and you can bet the moisture farm that LFL will not speak on either behalf.

As for the fans agreeing on a version. it might happen but when you get into as the people around here do, isn't there alot of joy in seeing the variations and understanding why they happened? finding one definitive version isn't a concern i've ever had.
none


HERE'S WHERE THE FUN BEGINS. IN THE COMIC BOK FIELD THERE WAS THE CREATION OF THE COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND WHICH PROTECTED THE INDEPENDENT COMIC BOOK CREATORS FROM BEING SUED BY ANGRY PARENTS WHO DIDN'T AGREE WITH SOME OF THE CONTENT IN THE BOOKS. I NOW FEEL THAT WE AS A COLLECTIVE NEED TO DO THE SAME. THIS WOULD BE A VERY SIMPLE TASK IN WHICH A PAY PAL DONATION AREA COULD BE CREATED ON THE MAIN PAGE EXPLAINING THE EXACT PURPOSE OF THE DONATIONS. THE PAY PAL ACCOUNT WOULD BE CONTROLLED BY JAY, OF COURSE, AND IF FOR SOME REASON ONE OF OUR GREAT FAN EDITCREATORS WERE TO BE PURSUED LEGALLY BY FOX OR LFL THIS FUND WOULD HELP THEM PAY FOR LEGAL DEFENSE.

"I'VE GROWN TIRED OF ASKING, SO THIS WILL BE THE LAST TIME..."
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It wouldn't be nearly enough.
MeBeJedi: Sadly, I believe the prequels are beyond repair.
JediRandy: They're certainly beyond any repair you're capable of making.


MeBeJedi: You aren't one of us.
Go-Mer-Tonic: I can't say I find that very disappointing.


JediRandy: I won't suck as much as a fan edit.
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Considering that preservation efforts and fan edits are not done for profit, and not sold on any sort of grand scale and do not replace any official DVDs, and the fact that probably everyone here owns and purchases official SW movies and merchandise, I don't see what reason Lucasfilm would have for making an issue out of any of it. Unless their lawyers get bored or something.
We don't have enough road to get up to 88.