The mighty, and awesome, and mighty awesome Bill Hunt recently got a preview of the forthcoming STAR WARS Blu-Rays which are coming our way in a few weeks.
He wrote an extensive piece about it over at The Digital Bits, which you can find HERE. It's quite interesting and I strongly suggest checking it out. Sounds like many issues folks had with the overall quality of the 2004 DVDs are being pointedly addressed in the new Blu-Ray sets - Bill's article has some before & after comparisons of video fixes, for example (fixing wonky/unevenly realized Lightsaber blades, better hiding a glimpse of a Wampa puppeteer's previously exposed arm, tweaking the sloppy digital touch-up that was supposed to obscure the edge of Palpatine's make-up in RETURN OF THE JEDI, etc.)
Here are a few choice snippets from Bill's piece for your consideration:
Regarding the Original Trilogy films, I don't think it's quite accurate to say that these are simply the 2004 DVD masters recycled for Blu-ray. These films are NOT the 2004 versions. It would be more accurate to say that these are new 2011 Blu-ray versions.
significant additional dirt removal has been done, more garbage matte lines have been cleaned up and other little "fixes" have been applied as well.
The original theatrical versions of the Original Trilogy are not included on these discs.
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.
A few additional audio details were apparently "added" into the mix as well. I put added in quotes, because in many cases these elements - mostly very subtle background sound effects and voices - were recorded back in 1976-77 for the original film and were even used in the original audio mix, but because of the poor state of the art for movie soundtracks at the time, nobody's ever really heard these things before.
Some of you may recall that on the 2004 DVD, when the X-Wings begin their dive down to the Death Star, the familiar John Williams trumpet fanfare was buried in the mix so you could barely hear it. No longer! The trumpets ring true in the Blu-ray mix loud and clear.
This last point, to me at least, is tremendously good news. That music...and that moment...when the trumpets sound and the little bitty X-Wings peel away to bravely dive on the great big Death Star...is fantastically stirring and roundly goosebump inducing even after all these years. It is, perhaps, my favorite moment in any of the STAR WARS films. It was completely hamstrung by the 2004 DVD's atrocious downmix, so I'm glad as hell that it's been re-applied to its former glory. Well done!
Again, if you've any interest in the upcoming Blu-Ray sets, or even if you're just curious to see how Lucas & Co. are approaching the films this time around, check out the article. There are photo samplings (that framing comparison is subtle but fascinating) and many other details to chew on.
Episodes I, II, and III (aka "The Prequels") can be pre-ordered HERE, Episodes IV, V, and VI (i.e. "The Original Trilogy") are pre-orderable HERE, or all six films (the only iteration which includes all the nifty extras if I'm understanding correctly) can be found HERE.
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