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Star Wars - The Sound

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I've been trying to dig up exactly what the different sound formats of the original theatrical releases were, and here's the latest rundown to the best of my knowledge. The first two digit number refers to the Dolby Format Codes. It appears that there were differences in the audio content on each format for all the movies, with perhaps the exception of "Return of the Jedi". At least I have not seen any documented differences for ROTJ.

"Star Wars" 1977

42-70mm 6-Track (Baby Boom - see note 1)
04-35mm Dolby Stereo
02-35mm Monaural (see note 2)

"The Empire Strikes Back" 1980

42-70mm 6-Track (Baby Boom)
04-35mm Dolby Stereo

"Return of the Jedi" 1983

42-70mm 6-Track (Baby Boom)
04-35mm Dolby Stereo

Note 1. The original 70mm 6 track consisted of tracks 1-5 being used in order from left to right behind the screen for full range reproduction, and track 6 being reproduced by multiple speakers around the rear of the theater for surround effects. Dolby Labs came up with an idea to use tracks 2 and 4 to extend bass response rather than using them for full range reproduction, leaving tracks 1, 3, and 5 as Left, Center, and Right respectively, and of course track 6 for surround. This is what is known as "Baby Boom". "Star Wars" was one of, if not the first movie, to use the "Baby Boom" system. The later "Stereo Surround" system where the upper frequencies of tracks 2 and 4 were combined with the bass from channel 6 to create "Split Surrounds" was never used for any of the Star Wars movies to the best of my knowledge.

Note 2. It appears that prints using the monaural soundtrack were not put in circulation until June 1977, which implies that the theaters showing "Star Wars" prior to this time that were not equipped for stereo reproduction were showing Dolby Stereo prints (which were mono compatible).

Dolby Sound System for Star Wars This period article gives some good details of the production of the soundtrack for "Star Wars". Most of the details pertinent to "Star Wars" itself are in the last section on Page 2.


Edit - Added Dolby Format Codes. Specified original theatrical releases.
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Here is some information taken from this thread that may help. I know this has been answered in detail somewhere.
Originally posted by: BadAsh71
What are the differences between the so-called '85 audio mix and the sound mix used for the Faces/DC set?

The DavisDVD site includes information about the changes to ANH but nothing about ESB or ROTJ. I know in the old "bootlegs" thread there was a big discussion about the audio differences, specifically about ANH. Someone mentioned that ESB had some different sound effects.

The '85 audio mix was first made available on a VHS remastered set and later came out on LaserDisc between '89 and '90 with an ANH reissue/correction in '92.

I know that the '85 ANH audio mix has significant changes that would warrant an inclusion on a fan-based DVD transfer but what about ESB and ROTJ. Is it worth it?

MeBeJedi, you had discussed some ESB sound effects only found on the '89 LaserDisc. What are your thoughts on this?

For those of you who think you might have the '85 mix, here are some links to help you out:

Blam Entertainment - '89 ANH Release

Blam Entertainment - '89 ESB Release

Blam Entertainment - '90 ROTJ Release

You can check out more information on all Star Wars releases in any format at the DavisDVD Site:

DavisDVD

And for everything LaserDisc specific, check out Blam Entertainment:

Blam Entertainment Group


I am fluent in over six million forms of procrastination.
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Here's another good thread from Preservation and Fan Edits.