The 1981 Title/Crawl/Flyover is the version seen by everyone on broadcast and home video between 1983 and 1996. It exists out there in many forms, but not one of them is up to even the standards of the 2006 GOUT. Some come close, but the 2006 GOUT was transferred from the master video tape (with the 1981 crawl replaced with the original 1977 crawl) to DVD, making it much higher quality than the 400 lines of video stored on any of the LD versions. Since this is the version I watched so much at home (such as the SciFi Channel premier in 1992), it is the version I want if I am going to watch the original cut of Star Wars. To get it at an acceptable quality, it will have to be remastered. Now, if we were just making it from scratch, you couldn’t say that. The goal here is to take existing elements and recombine them back into an accurate version of the 1981 sequence. The other option is a scan of the print, but the only one currently available suffers from a variety of issues, not the least of which is a lack of a starfield to speak of.
First up, the starfield.
Here is the first place where TESB comes in. When the created the 1981 sequence, they used the starfield from TESB. But it isn’t the straight starfield. It is offset so you can’t just lift the TESB starfield. Add to that it is at a sligltly different angle and there is some lens distortion and it becomes very difficult to use the TESB sequence starfield. Darth Lucas has noted that they reuse the same starfield over and over and found that most of the missing left side can be found. I thought about that, but after examining what is at hand, I have taken the route of pulling what I can from the best sources. Team Negative 1’s bonus with the SSE release isn’t completely lacking in stars, but it has only the brightest and you have to manipulate the image and pick the right frames to get what few are there. I started with that as one layer. Then I turned to the LD sources. The Japanese Special Collection is eliminated right away because of how it is cropped. The Definitive Edition LD (or the Faces version which uses the same source video) is the next best source. I could have gone with one of the newer archived versions, but my goto version for the DE is my TR47 set. I aligned the two starfields and painted out the stars that were on the 35mm scan. A more accurate version could use that for the left side and the TESB to recover even more stars on the rest of the screen, but that would create an imbalance so I stuck with just that. I did find a way to create a diffuse background layer of stars. The result is this:
A careful examination reveals that the moons do not move in sync with the starfield, meaning they were composited in later. A remaster must take this into account, which is why I created the starfield and moons on different layers. The moons and planet are the same in all versions, but the placement was different in the 1981 crawl. They are easy to recover from whichever version of the sequence you thing they look the best in. I used a layering of the SSE and the blu-ray.
Then we come to the other reason the TESB crawl is important. If you watch the video I posted, you will notice that each of the ANH crawls has the title receed at different rates. However, if you compare the 1981 sequence to TESB (something I just noticed this morning), you will see it exactly matches until it fades out (it is a simple fade out while the TESB title continues to receed for a few more frames (until the crawl starts) before vanishing. That means isolating the title from the TESB stars will give an accurate element for the title. The 97 SE (and subsequent DVD and BR releases) reused the crawl from the 1981 sequence, so separating that from the stars will give a good element to remaster that. Not quite as simple as it sounds, but not impossible.
That takes us to the flyover. That is probably the hardest part of the entire sequence. The 77, 81, and 97 versions all seem similar, but the 77 sequence has a noticable black line around the Star Destroyer as it crosses over the moon. They recomped it in 1981 to eliminate that artifact and used the same elements in the 1997 SE (but with the 1977 starfield, moons, and planet behind them).
I have not decided how I want to proceed with the flyover. The BR version has issues with the lasers. The broadcast version of the SE isn’t very clear (similar DNR to the GOUT and LD’s) and the two SSE versions are grainy. Perhaps some combination, but I have not decided how I want to proceed.