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Question about 4K77 vs TN1 SSE

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From what I understand, TN1 SSE is from the 35mm LPP Film print, 4K77 is the same thing except it uses Technicolor and other prints, which means 4K77 is like the superior version compared to SSE

My question is, is SSE more accurate to what an older copy of the film looked like, and then 4k77 is what it likely looked like, brand new in a 1977 theater? Just wondering the difference between the two and why they have different color grading. Hope one can clarify. Thanks.

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It’s hard to overstate how much color is lost over a few decades on film from that era. Even Technicolor, which was relatively low-fade, still fades (and was a little screwed up to begin with, as Technicolor was well past its prime at that point). The colors you see in these preservations are reconstructed. Yes, with lots of effort, care, and knowledge about how the films ought to look, but still reconstructed to some degree.

There was color variation on opening day. Technicolor prints (which, as I mentioned earlier were a little screwed up at that time) had a yellowish cast to them that you wouldn’t have seen on an LPP print, and so on.

So basically the color grade of a preservation is in the eyes of the grader. 4K77 has has a lot more people, and a lot more iterations on its color grade, so IMO it looks better. SSE has sort of receded into the background as far as fan attention goes, and its color grade hasn’t been revisited, so IMO it looks worse. Which of them looks more like an opening-day print? Almost certainly one of the more recent 4K77 iterations, but I’d say there’s still quite a lot of room for improvement there, too.

It’s an inexact science, starting out from a point very, very far from where the color really ought to be. It’s a miracle we even get something close.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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Thank you, this explains a lot but it also complicates a lot. I seem to like 4K77 more as a middle ground for me. I like the bright colors and the green tint, it feels unfiltered but at the same time very cartoony, like the film itself. But SSE, I like how faded and more pale it looks.

I guess my final question is, how come the visual quality of SSE seemingly has more grain? I looked at 4k77, then SSE, and 4K77 (despite being scanned at a higher resolution and all) has much more detail and SSE feels more raw. I read somewhere online (don’t butcher me if I’m wrong here), that SSE was based on a third generation print, while 4K77 was based on second generation? Would that be correct, or am I mistaken here?

(I admire the ambition behind this community and TN1 but man all of this is hard to digest sometimes lol)

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Well, Tech prints don’t go through as many optical dupe processes, so they’d get less generational “stacked” grain and also less detail loss from duplication. Optical duplication is sort of a weird concept in this digital day and age, but every iteration of the process added grain and reduced fine image detail… and they did it a lot. That’s why commercial releases tend to go back to the original negatives. In the digital world, duplication is a lossless process.

As for the fading, with this sort of film, all colors fade to pink. If you look at a raw scan of a reel from that period, pink is typically the only color left visible. So it’s actually pretty hard to extract multiple colors from an essentially one-color source (there IS other color present, but boy is it not much), and the result can either appear washed out or like those colorized films, depending on whether you don’t go far enough or go too far, or what your expectations are as a viewer.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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CatBus said:

It’s an inexact science, starting out from a point very, very far from where the color really ought to be. It’s a miracle we even get something close.

I’m sorry CatBus but I don’t have the time, energy, or willpower to explain everything wrong with what you’ve just said. Send me a PM if you like.

What I will say about film is that I think it’s fair to say that now we can fully reproduce it digitally with all detail in the film. It took time, but the technology is advanced enough now. In fact the best Bayer equipment now rivals RGB for quality, and I mean that it gets very very close, something that no one thought was possible a few years ago.

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It’s okay, I was being diplomatic in my own way, explaining how there can be so many wildly different color corrections for the same film, without outright saying most of them are wrong. Yes, basically there’s DrDre’s color corrections and then there’s subjectively messing around with color, but that’s not really fair to the non-Dre corrections, some of which are pleasant enough to watch in spite of their wrongness.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

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CatBus said:

It’s okay, I was being diplomatic in my own way, explaining how there can be so many wildly different color corrections for the same film, without outright saying most of them are wrong. Yes, basically there’s DrDre’s color corrections and then there’s subjectively messing around with color, but that’s not really fair to the non-Dre corrections, some of which are pleasant enough to watch in spite of their wrongness.

DrDre’s colormatch tool isn’t how to do “colour correction correctly” at all - what it’s useful for is precisely matching one source to another for editing purposes.

The way that the proper colour corrections are done is the colouring room is set up to the specifications of the Director’s projection room, a reference print is supplied (they usually have one) and then the colour correction is done scene-by-scene and compared directly against projection. Getting it right is an artform in its own right because how a film looks in a darkened cinema is different to how the same film would look if projected in a brightly-lit living room. They even used to make prints specific to those kind of conditions - they’re called “Drive-in prints” and they’re designed to be projected while there’s still some amount of daylight so that drive-in venues could maximise their showtime hours. Then there’s also the fact that the audience is more forgiving in the cinema than they are at home with inconsistent colour grading - and again that largely comes down to having the lights on or off.

Empire Strikes Back which I’ve seen projected not that long ago is wildly inconsistent in the colour grading, even in the cinema it does not look the way a modern audience would expect a blockbuster to look - so of course you have to make some gentile enhancements to the grading to give it a more consistent look.

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Sure, where such things are possible, nothing beats a color separation master or a reference print, and that certainly works best. But these things simply aren’t possible with our Star Wars preservations, so I didn’t think that was particularly worth getting into. The best we have is low-fade prints, in the form of low-fade poly, late seventies dye transfer, and in the case of ROTJ, the simply better filmstock of the era (and some lucky showprint finds). Because they’re not perfect color references, they can serve only as starting points, so the question is how do you know where to take the color from there? After all, if you have several prints on the same fadey media all struck from the same master, thirty years later, they will all look different due to differences in storage conditions if nothing else. How do you know how they looked thirty years ago?

DrDre actually has multiple tools at his disposal. One is his famous color matching tool, which as you correctly point out doesn’t have a lot of value here on its own. But another is his color correction tool, which is where the value is (discussion thread about both tools – I see the confusion now, he’s renamed the tools multiple times so it’s hard to keep them straight). Using color theory, the correction tool (or whatever he calls it these days) estimates the original colors of a single faded image (selected for how well it represents color primaries). Then, using the CLUT created from that single frame, you can use the color matching tool to restore the rest of the shot. You then have something very close to where that print actually started before fading.

And yes, it’s not 100% objective science, there is a little art to this as well. Dre does apply small tweaks to his corrections after the fact. Sometimes there might not be a frame within a shot suitable for his color correction tool, so you’d have to estimate. I suspect he also likely adjusts contrast and black levels to match modern audience expectations, for example, or changes things for consistency. But this tool is key to why his colors are generally closer to objectively correct, in my opinion, than most.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)