Here's the original article which Burton's story was based on: The Fans Who Saved Star Wars
. It was published a few days before, and goes way more in-depth, not only into the Team Negative1 project, but also into other fan restorations out there, including Mike Verta's Legacy Edition.
Another restoration based on the IB Technicolor print, and a few other sources, has apparently already been completed. Known as the Legacy Edition, the work was done by film composer and visual effects technician Mike Verta. He claims the restoration was finished in 2015, though because of his proximity to the film industry, he has no plans of releasing it. While LucasFilm has never gotten litigious over fan-edits or fan restoration projects, standing orders to destroy theatrical prints and the realities of anti-piracy law make sharing a restoration online a legal grey area at best. It’s too bad, though. If the video demonstrations he’s put on his Vimeo page are to be believed, the quality of his restoration surpasses anything else currently available, official or otherwise.Mike Verta's Vimeo page
[Update: Mike Verta got in contact with me after this article was published. He clarifies, “I’ve been told explicitly by The Powers That Be that the hammer will fall if I put it online.” Don’t let that sound like a setback, though. Verta is preparing a presentation for executives at Disney and Fox. “I’ve heard many conflicting reports from inside the walls over the years, and ultimately decided the only thing to do is invite the executives to a screening and make the pitch,” he says. “So those plans are in the works.” The plan is to make the presentation later this year.
Asked what he hopes to come of his Legacy Edition restoration, Verta says, “I would be happy with having the restoration released, or using it as a proof-of-concept to supervise a new restoration from whatever’s left of the original materials.” Being allowed to supervise a restoration from the original Star Wars negatives would be “a dream job.” Verta says individuals at both Disney and Fox are aware of his restoration. “They tend to be the ones championing it internally,” he says. Everything Verta has heard indicates that the biggest hurdles to overcome for Disney and Fox making a deal for his restoration are legal issues. “There is labyrinth of legality to navigate, and not everybody is sure it’s worth the headache.”
“I want everyone to be able to see it,” Verta says. His effort has been a long, arduous, expensive labour of love. “My process combines the data from multiple input sources already – that’s why it has fidelity and detail that can’t be found in any one source or print,” he says. “Developing this process and these software tools which is where all the money (some $400k+) has gone over the last 15 years.” To let people enjoy the fruits of all that work is Verta’s ultimate goal.
It all comes down to convincing the executives at Disney and Fox. “There have been some online petitions for the original version over the years, but they represent what budgeteers consider unimpressive numbers,” Verta explains. “I think the more vocal people are about supporting these projects, the better.” Verta remains steadfast and hopeful. “Have faith; more to come,” he promises.]
Mr. Black doesn’t consider the IB Technicolor prints inherently better than the Silver Screen Edition they’ve already put out. “I love the Technicolor versions. I think they’re awesome. I think they look a little bit sharper, there’s less grain in them, the colours are all bright and pop, but that, to me, is not definitive,” he says. “That’s not Star Wars to me. If you were in England in 1977 for a couple of weeks and you went to the theatre on the first day, or week, and you just happened to see that IB Technicolor print, okay fine, it might’ve looked like that.”
For Team Negative1, the Silver Screen Edition and upcoming Technicolor restoration are only the beginning. The group has also been hard at work restoring both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and are expecting to have both out by the end of the year. They’re looking into the possibility of scanning 70mm blow-ups of the films for future releases.
. Some great comparisons here between his project and some of the other versions that are out there.