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opinions on film restoration/preservation and how it applies to Star Wars - what do you think should/should not be allowed?

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If we consider a hypothetical official release of the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars Trilogy on Blu Ray, what do you think should/should not be "permitted" in a faithful reconstruction/restoration?

In the case of Star Wars its pretty clear that George Lucas suffered minimal studio interference in the story he was trying to tell. It is true that he had many difficulties involving studio politics and financial restraints but I see little evidence that this ever greatly compromised his story, characterization and overall creative "vision". Did it make the shoot difficult? Definitely. Did he have to spend a lot of time in the editing bay getting the film to work? Absolutely. It took a team of three crack shot editors to mould the film into something coherent in time for the release date, but the results (8 oscar nominations including best picture to say nothing of the box office reception) speak for themselves. This builds a very strong case against the need for *any* changes to the actual final cut of the film. I would certainly extend this conclusion to the rest of the trilogy as well.

What about cosmetic changes?

Apart from the expected removal of film damage and artifacts that have nothing to do with any artistic choice, what else cosmetically should be permitted for the film to still be classed as a "original" release version? I would definitely say that effects re-compositing is allowed in extreme circumstances with the obvious proviso that the original elements still exist and are usable. There's nothing wrong to my mind with minimizing the uglier side-effects of photochemical effects work (especially those done under immense time and financial pressures as the effects shoot on the first film definitely did) so I'd day, if a shot looks dodgy and can be recomposited, go for it. I'd extend this to the cleaning up (but not complete removal) of matte lines on shots that don't warrant recomping. And of course opacity correction on elements is a must. I am also in favor of adjusting the grain on optical elements to match more closely the grain of the live action shoot so the change between a shot with an effect in it and one without is minimized and doesn't distract the audience.

On the subject of colour timing, I believe that the wishes of the cinematographer and director be respected and wherever possible should be done according to the original specifications where records of these still exist. Once that is all set properly then I think one can and should, refer to a selection of prints and other resources as a double-check that the color timing settings that have been applied actually make the film resemble an actual archival element. Color that changes from shot to shot in a single scene should be matched and corrected. I believe that consistency does have the edge over source faithfulness when it comes to correcting an old film, especially one laden with multi generation optical effects. Overall faithfulness to the source over the entire running time of the film is more important, I think, than faithfulness from shot to shot where said shots differed wildly from each other even in the original release.

On the audio side I think a 7.1 lossless setup is entirely acceptable in a restoration of a film that never originally had such a track so long as the overall feel and intentions of the audio are respected. The inclusion of a lossless stereo track to approximate the original 35mm release track would also be a worthwhile feature.

So to sum up, in a hypothetical official release of the theatrical versions I would be happy if they:

fixed matte lines

corrected opacity

painted out dirt and damage

stabilized and homogenized film grain

color timed the film for overall faithfulness

included both a faithful uncompressed stereo soundtrack as well as a souped up 7.1. option

 

 

 

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I agree with most of your points. Here is what I want:

 

No EE.

No DVNR.

No grain removal.

Real colar correction.

Fix damage where necessary.

Have Mono track, Stereo track, and whatever newest fancy sound mix.

 

This message is Erica approved.

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The mono and stereo mixes are important, since they are what most people would have heard back then, but the real prize would be the 70mm audio, which could be presented as a 4.1 mix with minimal remastering.  With its innovative use of surround sound and superb dynamic range, not to mention the first ever use of separate LFE channels for enhanced bass response, it is the best sounding mix the film has ever had, and is entirely worthy of preservation.  None of the other mixes can really compare to it, and it can be pretty much guaranteed that any subsequent remix would fail to capture its nuances and overall 'vibe'.  With the original sounding so good already, there would be absolutely no point in doing so unless it was done very carefully and used the existing 70mm mix as its basis.

Strictly speaking I would want to see the film represented exactly as it was visually back then, but I'd be okay with having certain effects shots recomposited to eliminate highly visible errors and so forth.

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Do not alter the film or its aesthetic. Just restore it.

Removing grain and fixing matte lines is altering the aesthetic of the film and fixing matte lines is altering both the aesthetic and content of the film. Dirt and scratches are instances of foreign objects attaching themselves to the film and damage to the film, and therefore should be removed.

The three original audio soundtracks of 1977 should be included, as they are all equally unique and as much a part of the film as it's original image is.

That's all I would want. No DNR, no updates of the special effects, no new mixes, no nothing. Just a classical restoration.

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"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."

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zombie84 said:

Removing grain and fixing matte lines is altering the aesthetic of the film and fixing matte lines is altering both the aesthetic and content of the film. Dirt and scratches are instances of foreign objects attaching themselves to the film and damage to the film, and therefore should be removed. 

This.  Of course I want the matte lines.  Of course I want the reduced opacity in the snow battle.  That's simply how they had to do things back then.  It's a perfect example of how special effects filmmaking worked then.  When I first became aware of the opacity thing as a kid (ironically, through the SE doc), I thought that was so fascinating the compromise they had to make.  Doing away with stuff like that, the effects of the compositing, would certainly not make it the original version in my book.

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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I've got mixed feelings on the subject. On one hand I'd like to see a cleaned up version with all the imperfections in the special effects and colouring fixed, and on the other I think a film should be upheld as an artifact of the time it was made in, which means keeping all of its qualities - warts and all - intact.

Of course, I've never been a fan of either/or mentality, so ...

I can no longer call myself a Star Wars fan. I’m sick of the same played-out aesthetics/tropes being remixed/regurgitated time-&-time again; I’m sick of the deteriorating characterization/worldbuilding which have been in play since 1983; I’m sick of the toxic fanboys from all ideological camps; I’m sick of the capitalist pigs who refuse to allow this IP into the public domain where it rightly belongs. So while I may still admire the first two films for their technical achievements and characters, I’m no longer capable of enjoying Star Wars in any capacity due to the reasons delineated above.

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I very strongly disagree that visual effects artifacts like matte lines or translucency need to be preserved. I might have thought so once but seeing how good the recomposited shots in the Blade Runner final cut looked made a convert out of me. A matte line is hardly an artistic choice - its an ugly side effect that effects artists had to live with. I'm a champion for the cause of an original Star Wars restoration, but I'm also realistic about it.

Blade Runner showed how you can revise and improve without harming the intentions of the source. 

Still, interesting to see the various opinions on the subject.

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I consider myself realistic about it too, and the reality of it is that, yes, the effects artists did have to live with imperfections in their work.  And they have to deal with different imperfections today.  As has been said countless times:  warts and all.  I don't care if it's an artistic choice at all.  It is what it is.  Those imperfections may not look great, may not be perfect, but they are a part of the film and need to be there.

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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I too am torn.  I think the original original version should be preserved.

But I would rather watch something while mostly original, has the benefits of some modern tech- like matte lines cleanup and the like.

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xhonzi said:

I too am torn.  I think the original original version should be preserved.

But I would rather watch something while mostly original, has the benefits of some modern tech- like matte lines cleanup and the like.

This.

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 (Edited)

@Gaffer Tape: I know what you're saying - and I know the Star wars Trilogy would still look very good even if nothing was touched but what about if a film's effects were compromised by an unrealistic schedule or studio politics? A prime example of this is Star trek: The Motion Picture. The theatrical version on blu ray was a god send to fans of that movie who were dissatisfied with the ham fisted and half-assed "restoration" and "director's cut" DVD release (sounds familiar, doesn't it?) but there are some seriously deficient effects shots in there that happened as a direct result of mismanagement and interference from the studio. Some of those shots and mistakes and production shortcuts are CRYING for a bit of spit and polish. Its a very fine line and a very good topic for debate - just seems all the more bizarre to be splitting hairs over hypothetical versions of a film that as of now only officially exists in a bastardized condition. I think maybe in the end I'd also err on the side of "restore but don't alter, even so much as a matte line" - we've been burned once, would be better in the future, if there's ever a proper restoration, to be extremely cautious.

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 (Edited)

S_Matt said:

but what about if a film's effects were compromised by an unrealistic schedule or studio politics?

To that I would say the same thing I would say to people who defend Star Trek V's problems in the same way:  I'm sorry, but these things happen.  They happen all the time.  It even happens to me with the stupid little YouTube videos I make, where the limited processing power of my computer causes little imperfections that I didn't make but are nonetheless on display for all to see.  And it drives me crazy.  But the same can be said for all people who express themselves creatively.  That's the reality of all artistic expression.  There's always going to be some problem, be it studio executives, be it budget constraints, be it technology constraints, be it time constraints that are going to cause the final product to appear not quite as good as its creator envisioned it.  And it will annoy those creators.  And eventually that choice will rear its ugly head:  do you just accept this as a consequence of the field, or do you go back and "fix" it?  And that's where the slippery slope begins...

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)

I don't really care what the intentions of the filmmakers are--the film is what it is. And that's what I want to see--not the film they wanted to make, but the film they did make.

Anything less and anything more isn't a preservation or a restoration in my book. It has it's own merit perhaps, but it's different. There's a name for it--Special Edition. There's already two of them for Star Wars. The kind described here is interesting in its own right but not the same as a restoration or preservation. In fact, the opposite in some ways.

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:

I don't really care what the intentions of the filmmakers are--the film is what it is. And that's what I want to see--not the film they wanted to make, but the film they did make.

THIS. I want to see the film I watched when I was a small boy, warts and all, in HD.

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I'm worn down enough that any of the possible variations I could live with, but I would prefer a regular, conservative restoration. I'm not even 100% convinced the digital recompositing always looks better or more "real" or whatever. At least sometimes I feel like the extra generations of film is more flattering to the miniatures.

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zombie84 said:

Do not alter the film or its aesthetic. Just restore it.

Removing grain and fixing matte lines is altering the aesthetic of the film and fixing matte lines is altering both the aesthetic and content of the film. Dirt and scratches are instances of foreign objects attaching themselves to the film and damage to the film, and therefore should be removed.

The three original audio soundtracks of 1977 should be included, as they are all equally unique and as much a part of the film as it's original image is.

That's all I would want. No DNR, no updates of the special effects, no new mixes, no nothing. Just a classical restoration.

Totally agree.  Examples would be what RAH did with Lawrence of Arabia and The Godfather.  The removal of foreign particles/damage attached to the film, and getting the colors to as close as the original projection.  That is what film restoration is about.

sig

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I would definitely err on the side of not recompositing anything, since as has been said, it guarantees the result to be the actual original without letting even any minute changes slip through.  And as Baronlando points out, there are times when the effects actually don't seem to hold up with the digital re-composites, because they are too clean and too shiny to seem real, and their inherent imperfections become even easier to see.  But then there are others where it is a definite improvement, so I'm pretty torn about it.  And given the success achieved with adywan's ESB reconstruction and Harmy's despecialized versions, it seems generally worthwhile to be able to use them while just eliminating the actual changes.  I read an interview with Gary Kurtz where he commented on being pleased with the digital compositing while deploring the CGI inserts at the same time, so clearly it's a hot topic among people who actually worked on the movies as well.

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Let me just repeat here, that I only keep the recomposited shots, because there is no higher quality version of the original available. If I could restore every single matte line, while keeping the high quality, I would do so without a second's hesitation.

I HATE digital recompositing, because it's sneaky, it creates an illusion of it being the original shot, while it's actually not what was achieved back then. The special FX are one of the most historically important parts of STAR WARS and with every matte line removed, the film loses some of it's historical value.

Nine-year-olds can do digital compositing on their computers today, there's nothing special about it but doing a good optical composite is a very difficult and time consuming process, so whenever a shot is recomposited digitally, it loses some of it's value and specialness and it is a disgrace to the people who spent hundreds of hours working on the original composites.

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The reason I'm in favour of a complete digital recompositing of the original elements where they still exist and are useable is thus: It would allow the original photography that effects are inserted into (background plates in most cases) to be better restored and cleaned without effects layers getting in the way. I don't see how taking the film apart into its original layers, restoring those, then putting it back together again minus all the damage and degradation photochemical compositing caused, actually undermines anyone's hard work or damages film history. It enhances it in my opinion. You get to see the effects artists hard work more clearly. Afterall if you restore an old car you have to take it apart - you can't recondition the engine for example without dismantling it first.

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 (Edited)

That would be like giving it modern internal parts so that the car goes faster than it could have been possible when it was manufactured. In the case of film, you are using technology that never existed back then to give it a clarity and a level of realism that it never had in the first place. The matte lines and film generations are an important artifact of its original production, because that's how the film was. It wasn't clear and seamless and you couldn't see the effects work as clearly as a modern digital composite--and that's an important facet of the film to remember. It had generation grain and matte lines and opacity issues and the composites wobbled around and never timed the same colour. It's an important distinction to its age. The movie comes from that period.

Removing this is removing part of the film's identity. Souping up a classic film or car to perform far better than it ever was possible when it was actually made is fine, but it's not a true restoration in the classic sense, it's an enhancement, and that's a distinction to recognize.

 

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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^That!

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I am totally with Gaff and zombie. I want to see those little flaws, they were a product of where special effects were at during the time the films were made. I want to see the film in its historic context as close to the way the original audience saw it as possible.

To me, if you are going to polish up the special effects with modern technology, why not add some CG explosions, or add in some extra ships via CG. While we are in the process of covering up old special effects, why not add other elements that were not part of the film before, things the film maker wanted to have but couldn't? Why not add windows to the walls of Bespin? What is the big deal with replacing the midgets in THX1138 with CG creatures? I really can't honestly say the white walls or the midgets were better than what they were replaced with, in fact, I'd have to agree the changes are a definite improvement in those instances... but they are out of place.

It is like adding power windows to your 1967 Ford Mustang. Power windows are a definite improvement over cranks any day, but you've just entirely missed the point of owning a vintage car.

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What are the benefits of the OT with recoposited elements (ie no matte-lines) but without any other upgrades? Could someone explain that?

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Although I'm not in favor of the proposal, I imagine proponents would reply: Han shooting first, no stupid Praxis rings around Alderaan/Death Star/Death Star II, no CG silliness or obstructive Ronto butts in Mos Eisely, no bathrobe emperor hologram in ESB, no Fraggle Rock characters in Jabba's Palace, no silly beak on the Sarlaac, etc. In addition to all that, the colars would presumably be fixed. Although I disagree with the position (as it can't really be considered a true restoration), I do understand the sentiment behind wanting to see the OOT in substance but without the warts.

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 (Edited)

I respect all the arguments for and against but you misunderstood my car analogy. If you're restoring a car, even if you put every single part back that was originally used, you still have to dismantle it first to repair and clean the components. 

I certainly don't advocate *any* changes to the content editorial of the film - I advocate disassembly, cleaning, and putting back together. There's a BIG difference. The fact that some matte lines would end up harder to see and in some cases vanish altogether would be a pleasant side effect. You can't limit the use of technology to clean and improve films just because some people used it badly before. One should also consider that there were no computers capable of frame by frame painting out of dirt and scratches and selective color correction not just of whole frames, but *parts* of the frame too, in 1977. Should they be restricted to photochemical repairs (which can only do so much)?

Using a computer on a classic film in any capacity represents doing something to it that could not be done when it was made. George Lucas's revisionism went way too far with changing the films but I argue it is also entirely possible to go way too far the other way. How do you propose things like scratches, specks and the like that appeared as a result of the effects process be handled? You wouldn't always even be able to tell what is a scratch that appeared during the handling of an optical layer and what appeared on the negative as a result of subsequent degradation of the final cut.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with any of these different points of view, I think the debate is a worthy one.