In the course of syncing audio for 4K83, schorman and I found that the audio sync issue is more extensive than previously imagined. While the NTSC GOUT is missing two frames in the middle of reel 3, its audio actually turns out to be missing four frames worth of material at this exact spot. Given that the GOUT audio and the print audio run at the same speed nearly all of the time, this means that the sync on the GOUT audio has been incorrect all along. It is not correctly matched to the picture, and was apparently kludged together in a way that just barely works.
I am increasingly suspicious that this is also true for the other two movies as well. I am recalling in particular a spot about halfway through Empire: before the scene where Vader speaks with the Emperor, there is a shot where an asteroid crashes into one of the Star Destroyers. In the GOUT there is a clunky and awkward-sounding edit in the soundtrack in this spot, where it is plainly obvious the soundtrack has been looped to extend it in length. No other version has this awkward edit here, so I can only surmise that it was done in order to re-establish sync that would otherwise have become visibly wrong at this point. To be clear, the 1993 laserdisc source does not have this kludgy edit; only the GOUT itself has it.
I haven’t noticed any obvious edits of this nature in the SW GOUT (its sync may be better than the others, perhaps), but I can also tell you that all three movies seem to have their main title music start too late relative to the picture. If you look closely, you can see that the ‘STAR WARS’ title has appeared several frames before the music is heard to start, for all three. But watching other releases, the music and title card are aligned more closely. My guess is that the GOUT soundtracks were deliberately shifted a few frames late in order to cover up any obvious sync errors that might have occurred later, due to the audio perhaps not being the right length to fill the whole thing. The laserdisc source had side breaks that would have disguised this, since sync could be re-established on the next side, but the DVD’s do not have this and apparently needed additional edits.
GOUT-sync has been an established standard around here for some years, and for good reason. It is a convenient point of reference; it is (nearly) complete in terms of frame count, and the audio sync is good enough that there are no obvious issues with it. But in comparing it to the 4K83 print, which is entirely complete, inaccuracies in timing become more apparent. Because of this, I think it would be a good idea going forward to instead use a “frame-complete” version of all three films as the ideal timing reference, and match all audio tracks to that. The main thing to start with is exactly what frame the main title music should begin on, and I have not figured this out yet. The precise timing of everything else can be established once this is known.