"If Lucasfilm won't do it, I guess we'll have to do it ourselves, as usual." That's the line from the folks at The Star Wars Trilogy, who are the driving force behind a new push to recreate the original Star Wars trilogy — starting with the original, Star Wars — in 4K.
Pulling from a variety of high quality 35mm film sources, 4K77 — the film was released in 1977, get it? — will be the most detailed digital release of Star Wars' original theatrical cut since the November 2006. Even that release, though, was panned by film nerds and Star Wars aficionados for sourcing non-anamorphic footage from a 1993 laserdisc release rather than having the same quality as the 2004 remastered editions, so there's been a long history of the original cut not getting the love that many fans think it deserves.
But not any more. "Simply put, we are restoring the original, theatrical version of Star Wars in 4K. Using multiple 35mm prints, scanned at 4K, cleaned at 4K, and rendered at full 4K UHD 4096x1716 resolution." That's the mission statement from TSWT, whose rationale is that most people now have Full HD (1080p) TVs and are almost certain to upgrade to a Ultra HD (2160p) screen with their next purchase. With that in mind, only having a DVD (480p) source to view on a new, high-res TV is a pretty poor second best — and that's why Project 4K77 exists.
Towards the end of the short video, you can see a comparison of various consumer releases' quality, from VHS to the Silver Screen Edition. There's a steady progression in quality, but the jump even from the best option to Project 4K77's 4K output is massive. Watch the YouTube link in 4K — even if you've got a 1080p screen, you'll benefit from the higher bitrate of the 4K stream — and see the difference for yourself. That's what you could have, one day, when 4K77 finishes its mission.
We have only one small piece of criticism for the guys behind 4K77 so far. On the demonstration shot, we think the blacks are a little too crushed and the contrast and saturation are a little too high. Dial those back to filmic standards and let people muck around with their TVs or projectors or Blu-ray players to get the results they desire. But we're not going to get in the way of this awesome creative effort.
Until Project 4K77 becomes a reality, you've always got Petr Harmy's Despecialized Editions of the original trilogy to fall back on, itself built from a variety of sources including some 35mm reels. The other fanmade Silver Screen Edition is, by some accounts, even better. And they're excellent. [YouTube]