Back in February, I took a semi-informed, speculative guess at the contents of the forthcoming Star Wars Saga Blu-ray. With an additional press release sent to media last week (despite LucasFilm's promise that "all will be revealed"), there are still quite a few gaps in our collective knowledge. So I thought it would be best to update you all on what we will definitely see and are likely to see in the Star Wars saga boxset, when it goes to market on September 12th in the UK, the 14th in Australia and the 16th in the US.
With previous comments by Lucas, I find it extremely unlikely that we will see the original release versions of the film committed to Blu-ray. Instead we will likely see minor additions to the versions of the film that were released to DVD in 2004, which in turn were minor additions to the 1997 'Special Edition' versions.
It has been confirmed that the Yoda puppet from all scenes in The Phantom Menace has been replaced with the CG model that was produced for Attack of the Clones. Whilst not previously released in full, a snippet can be seen on 'The Chosen One' documentary from the Revenge of the Sith DVD (or find it on YouTube).
It is highly unlikely that any further deleted scenes will be inserted into the films proper, but it is expected that many scenes from all six films will be further tweaked. Think back to the enhancements created for the 'Special Edition' as an example. I expect that some of the computer graphics from The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones which have aged poorly, will be corrected or enhanced. This will likely extend to the special edition CG additions to the original trilogy too. As the first time that all six films have been released together, Lucas will want all the films to look more cohesive than ever.
I feel that at the age of what is now approaching 70 years old, Lucas will not make many changes to the films in coming years and I fully expect that these Blu-rays will become the definitive version of all the films. What's more, it has been confirmed that these versions will be the basis of the upcoming 3D theatrical releases starting in February 2012, further suggesting a sense of finality to the saga.
Film restoration firm Lowry Digital who restored the trilogy for the 2004 DVD release (also the basis for the 1080i transfers broadcast on HD TV channels in recent years), have allegedly performed more work for this set. Lowry worked at a bristling pace of just one month per film to restore each of the original trilogy films in 2004, which studio head John Lowry commented featured some of the worst film degradation that he had seen.
A New Hope, for example, which was the worst of all, had maybe a million pieces of dirt in the first couple of reels of that movie. Unbelievable.
Due to the speed that Lowry had to work at to strike the 2004 transfers, a few errors were introduced in the process, such as inaccurate colours and errors in colour timing. However, I strongly suspect that Lowry has gone back and rescanned the film in higher resolution, as the corrections to the films for the 2004 DVD's were performed only at 1080p; hardly suitable for future use. This is lent further support by the confirmation that these versions will be the basis for the forthcoming theatrical 3D re-releases. These need to be produced at a resolution greater than 1080p.
It is an absolute certainty that a new transfer will be used for The Phantom Menace. The current DVD and HD TV broadcast transfers are an absolute mess which were originally created at sub-par quality, allegedly so as to not look out of place with the original trilogy, which at that point had not been treated by Lowry Digital. Filled with film artifacts, noise and excessive grain, along a horrendous amount of haloing edge enhancement, there is no way that transfer will be used.
Thus far, it's been confirmed that each of the films six discs will feature just the movie along with two audio commentaries, with the press releases promising a bitrate approaching the formats maximum capacity of 40 Mbps.
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