When all six films in George Lucas’s Star Wars series come to blu-ray next month, there will be further tweaking done to the films according to a report at The Digital Bits, who got to spend some time late last week at Lucasfilm’s Letterman Digital Center compound at the Presidio in San Francisco where they previewed much of the material that will be on the discs.
Now granted, some of these changes are being made to correct errors in the transfers made for the 2004 DVD release of the films. For example, they report that a slight framing problem for Episode 1: The Phantom Menace has been corrected, restoring a bit more picture image on all sides of the frame. Note in the below example provided to Digital Bits from Lucasfilm you can see much more of Captain Panaka than in the DVD release. (Note: Digital Bits is quick to point out that pictures are not the full blu-ray high-def resolution but are to only illustrate the change in the transfer.)
Reportedly, the transfers for the prequel trilogy are freshly made from the original digital files, so the unnecessary edge-enhancement and color-timing issues that many complained about on the original DVD release should no longer be an issue. The color timing problems from the Original Trilogy DVDs has also been addressed and corrected. (See the example below from Return Of The Jedi.) The audio has been given an overhaul, with an ear to keeping the new 6.1 DTS-HD MA uncompressed audio mixes as true to the original as possible. To this end they even went back to some of sound designer Ben Burtt’s original analog tape recordings of sounds he collected to use as sound effects for the first film in order to get things right. The music problems that plagued the DVD release – the music being buried too far down in the mix at points and the music in the 5.1 mix being reversed in the rear channels – have also been fixed.
You may also be able to note, that in the blu-ray example directly above, that Lucasfim has fixed the rather sloppy attempt to hide the visible edge of Ian McDiarmid’s make up. And this leads us to the, to my feelings at least, the disappointing changes being made.
Lucas is continuing his trend of historical revisionism and has corrected a numb er of little errors that were part of the films’ original release. The amazingly brief glimpse of a puppeteer’s arm operating the wampa’s arm is now gone. Also gone are a number of garbage matte lines. While some may find these reveals of the film making process distracting, these are the way the films were first seen and the removal of such things is a disservice to film history.
The Digital Bits is also reporting that there have been a number of new additions made to the films.
Once again, George has apparently added a few new “surprises” into these films. I don’t know what they are and didn’t get to see any of them on Friday, but I was assured that there will be “new things to notice” when we watch the films. I think we can safely assume that one of them will be the new all-digital Yoda in Episode I. Way back when Episode III was released on DVD, ILM digital effects supervisor Pablo Helman confirmed to me that the puppet Yoda in Episode I was replaced with a digital version to better match his appearance in Episodes II and III. In fact, the Episode III DVD extras includes a clip of the Episode I digital Yoda. However, this Blu-ray set is really the first opportunity we’ll have to see it in full.
Sigh. Somedays I wonder if the Star Wars that I saw in theater as a kid was just a figment of my imagination.