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Star Wars Colortiming & Cinematography (was What changes was done to STAR WARS in '93?)

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Can someone please explain to me what was done to the -93 laserdisc version of STAR WARS besides the THX-mastering and the new audio mix. Because I have read somewhere that they tweaked the colors and brightness in various scenes, I have not seen the pre-93 versions in a very long time but if I remember correctly the scene with R2-D2 and the Jawas in the canyon was much brighter in the old version and in -93 it looked like it was dusk, another scene I remember looked different was "Binary Sunset" that had more of an pink-orange tint to it in the old version instead of the purple color in-93. (If you own the new fantastic! Making of STAR WARS book you can see a beautiful picture of this classic scene, just like I remember it looking before -93) Maybe I'm completely wrong about this and my memory have come out of photos I've seen over the years or the movie was just colortimed correctly for the first time on home video in -93. So can someone please prove me right or wrong on this, because I've found NOTHING on the web about those visual changes done before  97, it would be great with a visual comparison.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Yeah, the book you're referring to. Isn't that the picture that's missing one of the sun's. It otherwise looks just like the Special Collection screenshot.

It has been discussed that the scene is definitely darker in those areas you mentioned than on pre THX releases. But it was supposed to be shot day for night. I have a good screenshot comparison on another computer but ever since the new software, I haven't been able to properly embed any screenshots into the forum.  

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Knightmessenger said:

Yeah, the book you're referring to. Isn't that the picture that's missing one of the sun's. It otherwise looks just like the Special Collection screenshot.

It has been discussed that the scene is definitely darker in those areas you mentioned than on pre THX releases. But it was supposed to be shot day for night. I have a good screenshot comparison on another computer but ever since the new software, I haven't been able to properly embed any screenshots into the forum.  

A very late reply, I must have missed your post and completely forgot about this ;) Anyway, this was the picture I was talking about:

And you're right, now when I've seen the Japanese Special Collection transfer recently it is more close to it in color than the "GOUT." But I don't know if this picture is any true representation of it's original cinematography and colortiming, I just got very nostalgic when I saw this photo and thought to myself, this is how it's supposed to look. But I guess we'll never know... 

also the Canyon scene with Artoo being captured is very bright compared to the "GOUT" release.       

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Yeah it's hard to think of SW pre-1993. When I read that book I just thought that was a still from the set to match the film scene-may be wrong. (It's beautiful anyway!) The Japanese Special Collection from what I have seen looks like a completely different color scheme. Is this closer to the actual film or are they both completely off the mark?

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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I would be a little cautious regarding the stills in the Making of book--they look like they are from a low-res video source. My guess is that they are simply taken from a Laserdisk, and that is certainly what it appears to be, which is why the screenshots are always small on the page, the few big ones have clear video noise, muddy detail and soft edges that give it away as an old analog video transfer. The binary sunset scene screen they have looks very similar to the cap above strangely, but maybe they just used the oldest video source they could get because they knew colors had been tweaked for the GOUT.

Also, older editions were slightly brighter because of home video practices of the time. Any transfer of any film from the 80s was artificially brightened a little so that it was more visible when viewing it during the day, whereas by the 1990s this was less pronounced (which is why the garbage mattes are so apparent on early home video and broadcast transfers, but less obvious on later releases).

My opinion is that the film has become dimmer with each transfer through the 1990s, at least in select scenes, but it's a bit difficult to know exactly by how much. The 1993 GOUT seems pretty faithful from all the stills, 70mm frames, and other photo material not from home video, even if some of those sources are faded.

Also, the binary sunset shot, aside from the second sun, is not trick photography. It's a real sunset, taken at the end of the day, so there's not severe exposure manipulation going on, aside from perhaps a bit of compensation to get the sky to photograph. It looks like they were using either an amber or a violet gradient filter, IMO, because some of the grad in the top left corner looks weird, it goes dark like it is something in front of the lens, almost like a vignette, and not the natural sky grad.

That photo doesn't exhibit that though. In fact, it looks almost black and white, and it's too sharp to be from a video transfer from 1993. In fact, it almost looks like it is one of the black and white set photos that has been tinted to approximate the look of the scene. This makes sense when one considers that they were photographing a real sunset in the desert--there should be pretty pronounced color. Especially if they were enhancing it with a filter, which is sort of what it looks like. That the photo does not have the grad artifact on the top left, IMO makes me suspicious that it is not from the actual film negative.

The only solution is this: the photo is actually from the negative, from a camera negative, while the final print was graded in post with a filter to give it more color. This would explain why the 2004 version doesn't have the grad--it wasn't in-camera, as they went back to the negative. This would also explain how the book photo is so sharp, how it adheres to the framing of the film but actually reveals more vertical area (that would normally be masked in projection or video transfer), and why it has less color. It would still be very strange that there was so little color from an actual sunset. And of course all these reasons could also explain why it is a set photography.

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a bit sumped stumped. But IMO, it's not accurate to the final answer print of the film. The GOUT looks like it has had the saturation bumped up, but I don't think I've ever come across material that makes the scene look almost black and white. There was always a hint of some strong color there, even if it was way less pronounced. That's my impression, anyway.

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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Colortiming comparison:

Bootleg telecine (updated and corrected with the original source)

Japanese Special Collection LD

THX LD/"GOUT"

Special Edition '97

From the documentary The Magic & the Mystery - 1997

Perhaps an unfinished Special Edition sunset or maybe this is how it really looked like in the cinema '97?

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Thanks for the reply, zombie84.

I think you're right about that photo and I also believe the colortiming is pretty accurate on the GOUT maybe a little saturated in some scenes.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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There is a VHS bootleg from the theatre from 1977. The generational degradation makes anything too specific impossible to pin down, but it might be possible to tell if the shot is more desaturated like the photo, more middle ground like the Japanese release, or more saturated like the 1993 DE and subsequent releases. I wish I had it, I got rid of it years ago because I didn't think it would be useful.

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 photo makes things really confusing. I read the book in a library so I can't go back and see where the picture is sourced from. I thought it was an on set photo. The GOUT seems accurate and is what I'm used to since I grew up on SW 1993 and onward. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen pre-1993 master Star Wars save for some clips from the JSC.

Is the 1977 theatrical bootleg worth tracking down?

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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I don't know wich bootleg you mean zombie84? but I have Moth3r's widescreen bootleg (I don't know what the source for it is) and from what I can see it's somewhere in between those last pictures I posted, the sky is a little more pink than purple in it.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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There was a telecine (I think) made in 1977 from a theatrical print that was recorded onto VHS as a street bootleg. I saw it on Demonoid years ago. There was a widescreen and a fullscreen version, I'm not sure if they are two different recordings or not. I think it was made in the projection room. The color and exposure is all wonky because it has been duped on VHS a million times. But it might give indication if the actual release version was close to the photo--and what is shown in the Making of book as well--or if the Japanes or the GOUT (read: more vibrant color) is how the scene looked, if there is any color left on the VHS for that shot.

I would say that the SE from 1997 might make for a good comparison since it was color-timed to match the 1977 technicolor print, but certain scenes were tweaked to look a bit different, so it's impossible to say if that wasn't another instance. The R2 canyon scene, for example, is colored differently in the SE, and may have been a development based on tweaking from 1993, if in fact it was tweaked in 1993.

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 tracked down this comparison from the The XØ Project thread, there really is a huge difference.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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You can see there that the Japanese version is perhaps a tad too bright, but that the levels are more accurate. You can tell because of the luminance. In the second R2 shot on the DE, the image has been dialed down electronically, you can tell because the sun-exposed rocks are really dim and dull, whereas the Japanese version has them at (more or less) what they would have exposed as. The Japanese version is also normal color, whereas the DE has been tinted (you can tell because R2 is red, whereas he looks as he would under normal sun in the Japanese version). Same with the other shots, the DE's hot-spots are dulled down, whereas in the Japanese they are as they would photograph, even if the image is perhaps a bit overbrightened. Again, the Japanese version is neutral in color, whereas the DE has been tweaked, perhaps to better match the shots (the last Luke shot has lighting mis-match in the Japanese version).

Now, the argument here could be made that the Japanese version was based off a foreign print that didn't have the correct coloring in the first place, or that the telecine was done by a foreign company that didn't have access to how it ought to have looked, which the DE corrects. But I'm not sure how much merit that has. I have a 1984 VHS sitting on my shelf beside me, but no VHS player. Since this version pre-dates the 1985 IP that was used for every home video release since, it might be very useful, if only I could run it.

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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To the naked eye the JSC captures look more accurate and the DC seems way too manipulated. However, some of the things Zombie pointed out could be possible. Who knows exactly? I wonder if anybody at Lucasfilm does or even cares. I always liked the color on the 97SE better than what's on the 93 sourced releases of ANH.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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zombie84 said:

There was a telecine (I think) made in 1977 from a theatrical print that was recorded onto VHS as a street bootleg. I saw it on Demonoid years ago. There was a widescreen and a fullscreen version, I'm not sure if they are two different recordings or not. I think it was made in the projection room. The color and exposure is all wonky because it has been duped on VHS a million times. But it might give indication if the actual release version was close to the photo--and what is shown in the Making of book as well--or if the Japanes or the GOUT (read: more vibrant color) is how the scene looked, if there is any color left on the VHS for that shot.

Ah very interesting, have to check the info about the version I got. It was the widescreen telecine;)

zombie84 said:

I would say that the SE from 1997 might make for a good comparison since it was color-timed to match the 1977 technicolor print, but certain scenes were tweaked to look a bit different, so it's impossible to say if that wasn't another instance. The R2 canyon scene, for example, is colored differently in the SE, and may have been a development based on tweaking from 1993, if in fact it was tweaked in 1993.

Yes, I remember the colors was very good in the cinema in -97 but sadly when released on home video The Special Edition looked so bad especially in this binary sunset scene, it looked like someone had put a sock in front of the lens!:( But memories is just that, memories. I don't know, maybe it looked like that in the cinema as well.

zombie84 said:

Now, the argument here could be made that the Japanese version was based off a foreign print that didn't have the correct coloring in the first place, or that the telecine was done by a foreign company that didn't have access to how it ought to have looked, which the DE corrects. But I'm not sure how much merit that has. I have a 1984 VHS sitting on my shelf beside me, but no VHS player. Since this version pre-dates the 1985 IP that was used for every home video release since, it might be very useful, if only I could run it.

It could very much be the case as many movies on early home video in the eighties looked very bright in similar scenes (shot day for night etc.) as you said. It would be interesting to see how the -84 vhs tape compare, too bad you don't have a player:( Anyway, the scene with artoo in the canyon was shown at the 1978 academy awards when they showed clips from the movie, is there any chance to get a hold of this show in good quality somehow?

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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I've heard people say they were disappointed in the 1997 theatrical prints because when they saw Star Wars the color was so vivid and the SE prints looked comparitively subtle. Maybe it's just memory, or maybe they just saw poor SE prints, or maybe they are correct. My impression was that Gil Taylor's pallete was rather pastelle in tone, but there are some moments of vividness (mainly in small details, like lazer blasts, pilot uniforms, background decor). I always thought the SE was a bit oversaturated because of the new color timings in some scenes. I don't know. I have a collection of high res 70mm scans, the color is a bit shifted, but in general it looks like it is between the DE and Japanese version. Which makes sense if the DE is over-saturated a bit, and if the Japanese version is overly bright (brightening brings down saturation, aside from the fact that saturation in older home video releases was generally poorer), which is what I suspect.

Also, I have concluded that the 1993 photo is a scan from the film. Its too perfect a replica of the exact framing of the screen. That its a hair's width open in visual information tells me it is a scan as well, an open matte scan of the film itself. Which is interesting. I don't know how much I should read into the coloring, but it conflicts with all the other material I have seen. I mean, if the Japanese LD is overlit by my estimation, that means the true print should have more saturation, and the photo has half the saturation, not more.

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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zombie84 said:

Also, I have concluded that the 1993 photo is a scan from the film. Its too perfect a replica of the exact framing of the screen. That its a hair's width open in visual information tells me it is a scan as well, an open matte scan of the film itself. Which is interesting. I don't know how much I should read into the coloring, but it conflicts with all the other material I have seen. I mean, if the Japanese LD is overlit by my estimation, that means the true print should have more saturation, and the photo has half the saturation, not more.

Sorry, I don't think I fully understand you here, when you're saying "the 1993 photo" do you mean that the photo in the book is a scan from the film, made in -93? Anyway, I don't have your technical knowledge but I find this very interesting if it's an actual scan of the film itself.

I have checked various Binary Sunset footage I'm aware of for colortiming like an obsessed geek (wich I am;) that I have in my possession, and came across this one from the Fox TV documentary, Star Wars: The Magic & the Mystery from -97 and almost all of the footage in that documentary seems to be taken from the new print made for the SE as the program is about that anniversary, but if I remember correctly, this footage looks very different on the -97 SE video release. As I don't own the SE, can someone confirm this?

EDIT: picture moved to the top of the page.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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for what it's worth, here it is on my 1997 laserdisc:

and my 1989 laserdisc:

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 if I remember correctly, this footage looks very different on the -97 SE video release. As I don't own the SE, can someone confirm this?

Wow. That is the first time I have seen anything that reminds me of seeing the SE in theaters. As the LD captures show it is completely different from the home video transfer. Is there any way that we can ever get the colors fixed like this? Adywan's color corrected AVCHDs come close but a true restoration should be made working from 35 and 70mm prints of the OOT and 35mm masters of the 97SE. Wasn't the SE based off Lucas's Technicolor three-strip print?

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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The SE video looks different because the telecine screwed up the coloring. Everything got pink shifted. You can see this even in the new CG shots. The clips from the 1997 doc were a seperate telecine made for promotional purposes, I would guess, before the actual video master for mass production was made later that year. Thus, it would match the theatrical version better.

And yes, I am suggesting the still in the book posted at the beginning of the thread was made from a film print of some kind. It 100% not video. And I really doubt it could be an on-set photograph. It looks like it is direct from a film source.

The pre-ANH bootleg pic posted conforms pretty close to the Japanese and 1989 LD cap posted above. Brighter, with some noticeable saturation in the sky, but nothing too extreme, and not much blue/purple like in the later releases. IMO this is the best indicator of the original shot. If it is, it would also confirm that the the still photo from the book has been massively de-saturated, and also mono-toned.

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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Thank you guy's for the response, just as I thought the -97 LD looks nothing like it, maybe it looked like that in the cinema -97, but it could also be an untampered with restored original scene from the film as some footage in the doc is not yet altered but very crisp and clear in it's appearence vs the original footage we have (original explosion of the death star from ROTJ is still there etc.)

I agree, the photo from the book is very much desaturated, it looks almost sepia like in tone but I fell in love with the beautiful detail in the picture and started dreaming of how a fully restored original STAR WARS could look if it was treated with respect.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Here's what it looked like on a 1983 rental video, GOUT on the right:

 

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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Looking at a 20 year old laserdisc for the first time in a long while, (the only version I have without the special ed. changes or that weird smearing the GOUT has), it's amazing how the movie can look so much shittier and so much better at the same time. It's like a Doc Brown Paradox.

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The -83 rental tape! that is an old one:) Thanks for the trouble. It actually comes very close to the bootleg telecine in color from what I can see, it is pretty much the same on the vintage doc The Making of STAR WARS also. Then I strongly believe what zombie84 already said, that it's probably more accurate or closer in color pallette of the original -77 print in just that scene than the THX/GOUT version is.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Baronlando said:

it's amazing how the movie can look so much shittier and so much better at the same time. It's like a Doc Brown Paradox.

 :) I know what you mean, It's really frustrating but the Doc Brown Paradox is apparent whatever version you watch, every release has some sort of flaw the other doesn't, you have to pick your favorite video-flaw;)

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com