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Original 35mm print of 'STAR WARS' restored by fans


Check out THIS ARTICLE by former Lucasfilm staffer Bonnie Burton.  It's about a group of fans called Team Negative One who acquired a 35mm print of the original theatrical release of STAR WARS (not A New Hope) and restored it to it's original glory.

Fans restore original 'Star Wars' for online release

A group of die-hards spent years cleaning a 35mm film print and published it online without George Lucas' later alterations -- or any permission.

If you saw the original 1977 "Star Wars" in theaters or grew up watching it on videotape or laserdisc, you may know every moment by heart.

When filmmaker George Lucas began revising scenes in 1997 in what became known as "Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope," some die-hard fans vowed to learn lightsaber skills to one day exact revenge.

Luckily, you don't need to go to the dark side to get back those precious original moments. A group of ambitious fans who call themselves Team Negative One decided to restore and release the original version online.

Fans can already legally buy Episodes IV, V and VI on DVD and Blu-ray, but those are actually the special editions that Lucas altered. If you don't mind scratches and poor sound quality, the unrestored versions of the films from laserdisc were made available as bonus material on a 2006 DVD release.

But in this new version made by fans calling themselves Team Negative One, each frame has been painstakingly restored from a 35mm theatrical print of "Star Wars." The high-def print was released on a movie message board in January, under the name "Silver Screen Theatrical Version," according to Movie Mezzanine blog.

This restored version shows scenes that die-hard fans care about deeply, like Han Solo shooting Greedo first. But what also is most impressive are Team Negative One's videos showing how they managed to transform the 35mm print into a version comparable to, and in some cases, better than the official Blu-ray release.

Unlike the fan-made "Star Wars Despecialized" edition which is made using multiple sources including the laserdisc, Blu-ray, 16mm print transfer and various audio dubs, this "Silver Screen Theatrical Version" from Team One Negative is from the 35mm theatrical print of "Star Wars."

"Why did it take over three years to complete?" YouTube user The Star Wars Trilogy wrote in its video description. "This is why. Manual cleanup alone took an average of one minute per frame. Star Wars has around 174,000 frames."

Clearly, this fan release of the film is not legal and will most likely be shut down by Disney and Lucasfilm lawyers soon. But it does make the point that if fans are willing to put in the time and effort to restore the version of "Star Wars" they want in their collections, why should it not be sold officially? Your move, Disney.

Check out the following links for a look at how some of the footage has been restored:

Team Negative One SW Reel 1 shot 2 cleanup example

Team Negative One's Star Wars Before / After Comparison 02

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.

--- Quote ---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.

[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.
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Mike Verta's Vimeo page. Some great comparisons here between his project and some of the other versions that are out there.


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