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Special Edition Restoration

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I made this in response to a thread in the OOTvsSE forum, but I have a feeling a few people might be interested in it that would never see it there.

A lot of people wonder what was done for the restoration and revision that began in 1995, and then renewed in 2004, especially at this place, and people often throw around figures and factoids and often vague references, but it seems to me that most people only have this vague sense of what survives of the original Star Wars negative and what happened in the process of making the SE. Even I don't know the answers to much of that--maybe the negative is fine and they were working from a new restoration negative all along, such is never stated outright, we're all just making the reasonable assumption and general impression that they worked directly from the O-neg. But in any case, I decided to compile a detailed synthesis of all that we know about the matter. The most useful records are ILM:Into the Digital Realm, and American Cinematographer from Feb 1997, but there is a larger picture that must be taken into account, and you also need to have a bit of technical knowledge to understand what is being discussed and what is a reasonable conclusion.

For the article see: http://secrethistoryofstarwars.com/savingstarwars.html

If anyone has anything to add--preferrably with a source--or anything to correct, I am all ears. The crappy SE neg shots were taken from a Youtube video since I only have the SE specials on VHS so they suck, if anyone has any of that footage in better quality it would be helpful.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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Like I said in the other thread, it was a great read, and I really appreciate you putting this all together.  I learned about interpositives and internegatives in college, but, unfortunately, it's not part of my everyday vocabulary anymore, so the terms sometimes get muddied to me.  For that, I am thankful for the quick recap.  That said, there was one part that I found to be a little muddied: 

"This is called an Interpositive (IP), and is the second-highest-quality source of the film. Copying this will give us another negative image, however, so it cannot be used to make theatrical prints (the colors will be reversed). So it is copied, resulting in an Internegative (IN), which theatrical prints can then be made from (copies of a copy of a copy of the original negative)."

For some reason, I'm having a little bit of trouble deciphering that.  I think it has something to do with the uses of the word "copy."

There is no lingerie in space…

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don’t exist… then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks… and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming… Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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In photography, when you copy a negative you get a positive. When you copy a positive, you get a negative.

So you have an original negative. You make a copy, which is a positive; this is the IP. But you can't make prints off of this, because they will be negative. You copy it, making the IN, and then from this negative you can now make positive prints for projection. The result is that they are copies of a copy (IN) of a copy (IP) of the original.

Does this make sense? It is indeed a bit convoluted.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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 (Edited)

Very interesting. Do you have the Cinefex from 1996? (with the Falcon the cover, I think it was while the Special edition was still being worked on) If not, I can look through mine, see if it has anything else to offer.

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No, I don't. If there's anything there, please let me know.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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I only hope that if Lucas decides to tinker with Star Wars once again he looks at those Technicolor prints again.

A Goon in a Gaggle of 'em

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zombie84 said:

In photography, when you copy a negative you get a positive. When you copy a positive, you get a negative.

So you have an original negative. You make a copy, which is a positive; this is the IP. But you can't make prints off of this, because they will be negative. You copy it, making the IN, and then from this negative you can now make positive prints for projection. The result is that they are copies of a copy (IN) of a copy (IP) of the original.

Does this make sense? It is indeed a bit convoluted.

Yeah, that makes sense.  I knew that negatives go to positives and to negatives.  Haha, for some reason it all seems clearer now, and I'm having a harder time understanding what it was I didn't understand, especially since, as I said, I've learned all this before!  Perhaps my confusion was answered further on in the article where it states that you don't want to use the Oneg to make prints because you want to limit your interaction with it, hence the copies of copies.  But I think it was just the wording, the "you can't make a copy of the interpositive (to make prints)" immediately followed by, "make a copy of the interpositive (to get the internegative)."  The seeming paradox in the wording was what threw me, I think.  So, yes, thank you for explaining further.  I'm back in the loop.

There is no lingerie in space…

C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don’t exist… then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks… and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming… Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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 (Edited)

Oops, never mind. Flipping through the cinefex, I see that it's mostly a retropsective on ILM's original work in 76. The only material on the special edition is a brief blurb that it's happening and Lucas giving a very enthusiastic tease about how much better the new digital Jabba is. (interestingly, the topic of a potential resentment/backlash and this being at odds with Lucas being on the board for film preservation comes up and GL considers it totally different, just an artist finishing his painting etc.).

Anyway, very recently some guy in a post at Home Theater Forum claimed the black and white separations weren't done right. He gave no source or explanation, he just said it was "his understanding."  Has anyone heard this before?

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Hmm, you know I might have heard that thing about the seps mentioned by some guy on a A/V forum as well. But I wonder how many of these people are just quoting from each other in the first place. Ted Gagliano, who oversaw the restoration, says that they were using the seps, so unless he was speaking pre-maturely (which, I suppose, is entirely possible) it seems the seps were fine.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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 (Edited)


Baronlando said:

Anyway, very recently some guy in a post at Home Theater Forum claimed the black and white separations weren't done right. He gave no source or explanation, he just said it was "his understanding."  Has anyone heard this before?


I've never heard that one (I'm also a member of HTF). I know that according to Robert Harris, the B&W seps for Spartacus weren't done correctly so they couldn't use them for the restoration, but I've never heard anything like that about SW (maybe I missed it).

The only reference to a SW Technicolor source that I'm familiar with (as reported in some publication) is that George Lucas had a Tech print that he wanted used as color reference for the SE. I think that a lot of conjecture has sprung from that one reference, unfortunately.

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I remember it was in a HTF thread about Steve Sansweet's most recent non-info about Star Wars on blu-ray.

An interesting thing in zombie's article is the quote that the IP was scanned to replace certain damged parts of the original negative. Didn't Lucasfilm later (in 2006) claim that the IPs had been somehow physically "stripped for parts" or something for the SE, making them unusable for anything now? But if the IP was merely scanned and not cut, couldn't they just use them again and clean up whatever has accumulated since the last time they used them (1993 I guess)?

 

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Baronlando said:

Didn't Lucasfilm later (in 2006) claim that the IPs had been somehow physically "stripped for parts" or something for the SE, making them unusable for anything now?

 

Actually, they didn't even say that.

What they said in '06 was "existing prints are in poor condition," which tells us absolutely nothing. Plenty of other best-quality prints of the original versions of other films were in "poor condition" until they were RESTORED. If - after finishing the '97 project - Lucas had the IP's he used destroyed for no good reason, he's an asshole.

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 (Edited)

Yeah, the IP's were not in the best condition because they were themselves fading, and of course they have their own damage from use, as well as dupe grain and dirt. But some pieces of the O-neg were worse--some were damaged, and none of the CRI shots were useable. So a scan of the IP that is color-corrected is the best alternative. However, keep this in mind: whenever ILM did an IP scan it was only for the sections they were working on, in other words only for the enhanced scenes. Secondly, its not known if the IP was used to make a new O-neg for non-SE parts--ILM: Into the Digital Real says the IP "was used to restore" the film, but the only specifity they get into is when they say ILM sometimes used scans of the IP. Ted Gagliano says they were using the separation masters to make new O-neg pieces, so if they are doing this then there's no reason why they would have to use the IP. Hence, I believe that the IP was only used by ILM.

What's interesting is what I didn't include there, and maybe should, is that ILM used the IP's for pretty much all their work in ESB and ROTJ. It seems that in those films they didn't re-composite as much--the whole AT-AT sequence was re-comped, and part or all of the asteroid chase as well, but I think otherwise it was much less severe. This may have been because of the timeline (they were only decided as being restored in late 1995--originally it was SW-only), because their negatives were better, and because the composites were better themselves. However, when ILM was doing the Jabba sequence in SW they couldn't find the original negatives--the sequence had been copied to 16mm for the SW to Jedi documentary of 1983, and then lost. But they did find the IP of the sequence (I don't know what this means--a dupe print, or an IP from a rough cut?). ILM realised that they could deal with the extra grain digitally (which I guess means some kind of softening filter, or a primitive version of Lowry's technology), and it was so successful that they used the IPs for all their enhanced shots in ESB and ROTJ.

Probably because this was easier/cheaper than using the original elements and re-compositing them, as was done on many of the SW shots.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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 (Edited)

So is there a legit reason (other than complete incompetancy) why LFL scanned in the negative of Star Wars at 1080?  The idea of having it match the 1080 prequels seems absolutely ridiculous.

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Its because its good enough for him, which I guess is the problem. "Episode II and III were shot in 1080, you saying there's something wrong with that?" Whose going to argue otherwise?

I don't think they were done in that res to "match" the prequels, but there was no reason to scan them higher because the prequels were that res and Lucas thinks the prequels look great (also, because its digital, he probably thinks the movies will never be put on film again--and he may be right--so for a direct digital copy it works for him). To him, I think he doesn't want to spend the money when he doesn't think there's any reason.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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 (Edited)

It's interesting the way these things are characterized at different times. In 1993, the IPs were good enough to be the source of an elaborate 100 dollar laserdisc box called "DEFINITIVE", and 2 years later the whole thing is on the brink of death if not for the heroic measures of doing a re- release. (and now we're getting to the point where some dude on youtube with a beat up old trailer can get very nice results. look how cool this is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_OhgiNE0Dw

yet also strangely frustrating)

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Baronlando said:

It's interesting the way these things are characterized at different times. In 1993, the IPs were good enough to be the source of an elaborate 100 dollar laserdisc box called "DEFINITIVE", and 2 years later the whole thing is on the brink of death if not for the heroic measures of doing a re- release. (and now we're getting to the point where some dude on youtube with a beat up old trailer can get very nice results. look how cool this is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_OhgiNE0Dw

yet also strangely frustrating)

Wow, that's amazing. Strangely frustrating, indeed.

Anyway, the IP isn't what was suddenly falling apart a couple years later. It was the actual o-neg itself.

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Yeah, I know it was the same with every popular 70s movie. I was just thinking more of the contrast between the 1995 campaign ("buy this again, it now looks perfect and amazing!") and the 1997 one ("buy this again, it looked like dying shit until we did this!").

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 (Edited)

I think the 70mm film cels from willets designs came from the original internegative or at least a duplicate.

Jedi was the worst condition out of all three which is bizarre to say the least, while star wars may have looked a bit magenta sometimes, and empire had very good color.

What was the reason for the blow up to 70mm, only the vista vision effects would have been close to 70mm, while the rest was photographed on 35mm.

Was it because that way as a collectible you don't need a magnifying glass?

While printing the film to 70mm would increase and compound the grain issue prevalent on the several generations of optical effects used.  Would also enhance the garbage mattes.  Only the live action photography would benefit really.

“Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.” -Simon Pegg.

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Because 35mm can be blown up to 70mm and still look good. Anyone who saw Star Wars this way swears it's the only way to see it.

The film cells were probably chosen as 70mm because they were big enough to be displayed and seen without squinting.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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Probably because of the massive screen and six track magnetic audio for 70mm. Would love to see it that way.

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Skyjedi, a blowup to 70mm wouldn't increase grain, as 70mm negative has a very fine grain structure.  That's why the effects for Blade Runner and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were done with 70mm - so the grain wasn't excessive when compositing multiple layers of film.

I also doubt it would exacerbate the garbage matte issue, assuming the color timing was done correctly.

As long as the blowup was done from the original IP, a scan from the 70mm master negative would probably be the next best thing to scanning the original negative if that (somehow) wasn't an option (well, the original IP would be the next best thing, but, you know, barring that ... )

a trolling bantha

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 (Edited)

Ah, 70mm. At most bigger theaters the screen opened up a LOT wider (and taller) for 70mm. It was totally the tits.

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ChainsawAsh said:

Skyjedi, a blowup to 70mm wouldn't increase grain, as 70mm negative has a very fine grain structure.  That's why the effects for Blade Runner and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were done with 70mm - so the grain wasn't excessive when compositing multiple layers of film.

I also doubt it would exacerbate the garbage matte issue, assuming the color timing was done correctly.

As long as the blowup was done from the original IP, a scan from the 70mm master negative would probably be the next best thing to scanning the original negative if that (somehow) wasn't an option (well, the original IP would be the next best thing, but, you know, barring that ... )

 This isn't quite the same. Blade Runner had its effects shot in 65mm, so that the elements would be twice the resolution of the final composite. You want to start in the highest possible resolution because you know its going to get degraded.

Blowing up from 35mm to 70mm is a duplication itself, the reverse of the Blade Runner process. It does indeed add grain, because its a generation lost from the final negative; also, if the film is shot poorly, any flaw is magnified, and dirt and debris on the original negative is doubled in size. It's very different from shooting a film in 65mm.

However, Star Wars was photographed very cleanly, and most people don't realise that a well-shot 35mm film can be blown up to 70mm very easily without discernable quality degradation--in fact, I would say that this is the ideal format for many 35mm films (70mm also has six-track sound, making the experience all the better). This is very much like Imax films today--aside from The Dark Knight, there's never been a feature film shot in Imax size, they are all just regular 35mm negatives blown up to twice the size, and they look pretty good. I've never seen Star Wars in 70mm though, and I imagine a few of the optical shots would have looked pretty grainy since they already look rough in 35mm. But the general picture itself should be more than fine--70mm blow-ups were as common in the 70s as Imax is today.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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The last time I saw it in 70mm was in 1991, my recollection is that the death star battle had very black space with no garbage mattes (and I was really looking for them after gorging on the VHS throughout the late 80s). A lot of the space battle shots did look rough in the sense of grain or whatever but not in a way that seemed "wrong" or objectionable. It even seemed like a deliberate thing (though I suppose it wasn't), but it made the models look more real, if that makes sense. I remember ILM doing a space battle for Enemy Mine and my friends and I wondering why it looked much faker than Star Wars, like it looked too clean.