Happy (I)B-Day, Star Wars!

Star Wars, wow.  You’re how old now?  Oh yeah – the older you are, the older I am.  Nevermind.

A few people knew I had to write something today.  Especially since I did make reference to it on the “unofficial” Star Wars Day, as I deemed it.

Some wondered what amazing thing I could bring to the table which would blow the minds of fans, geeks, G-to-the-L haters, and even film or tech aficionados.  I know the last thing(s) to blow me away were the “home movies” inside an Academy Award-winning commune the dirty couches, poor lighting, and plethrora of facial hair which went on to become the ILM we all know and love [or as I would say, they put the ILM in film™].  For those who never saw this footage, here’s some love.

Star Wars has a lot of names, abbreviations, and in-the-know jargon.  Today I’m talking about SW:ANH, I mean A New Hope – er, episode IV, um… 4 four.  Old school 1977 Star Wars (which I shall further call “Star Wars” to ease confusion).

I’m not going to call myself a hater, a purist, a convert.  I loved Star Wars as a whole and I still do.  I choose what I like and often my opinion can change.  Let’s set out to have an open mind – possibly unlearning, and rethinking spoon(s).

People have been complaining about Star Wars being changed and different.  Sure you have a laserdisc copy which is this and that, or you have this or that remix and you know what the original was.  Do you?  What if I was too tell you there there is another.  One which actually gets hunted down by the real-life version of Emo Anakin Vader’s posse of Force-user extinguishers?  It’s out there.  And its initials are IB.  Still curious?  Keep reading…

The article I’m pulling most of my info from is amazing and I shall link it at the end.  I knew that Technicolor had many ways to process motion picture film, but the “best” one in the long term was something I was never aware of: the Technicolor Imbibing (IB) process.

Most versions of film prints we know of are ran through photosensitive chemicals – kind of like when you see those “dark room” red light scenes in shows when some secret photos are being developed.  The IB process differs since it basically dyes the film rather than leaving it up to a photochemical reaction.

What’s the big whoop?  Remember all of those movies in school that would have all of its color fade out and get all pink or look like mud and sand were the only two colors of the movie?  The same happens to a lot of older tv shows (or old family films) transferred over to DVD.  It’s plain yucky.  The same thing happened to around 99% of the surviving prints of Star Wars.  What about the rest?  They used the IB process.

So once again, why does it matter for a “hardcore” fan, curious onlooker, or parents concerned with what order to introduce their children to the movies?

From a certain point of view,” you never saw Star Wars.  You have all the versions.  You have the laserdisc “blue lettered” copy?  BluRay?  The “CBS FOX” laserdisc?  It’s possible you didn’t.  Why?  The fan-concerted version is called GOUT: or rather, George’s Original Unaltered Trilogy.  Catchy, eh?  The last version to come out was the 2006 DVD release with the “bonus” of being able to watch the pre-nineties trilogy.  There are still arguments about who said what, but the 2006 DVD was actually a transfer from 1993, rather a transfer for laserdisc – which is a fantastic medium, but something which has been improved upon in the Twenty Century Fox tewnty-first century.  And let’s not even get into the discussion of the aspect ratio(s)

What does it all mean?  Let’s take another look at this picture from the top: compared to an IB print.

Here is a passage from the reference article:

“The R2 canyon scene with the Jawas is supposed to be dusk. There was some debate about this since earlier home videos had the scene in bright day, as it was filmed. In 1993, it was re-timed to be dim and sunset-tinted, which was then greatly embellished in the Special Edition. It was reported that the earlier video versions were mis-timed. While the 1993 telecine might seem to exaggerate the sunset hue a bit, the scene in 1977 is definitely as dark as it is in current versions. There is a tiny green shift in the I.B. print, indicating it is actually slightly warmer.”

That image comparison certainly intrigues me.  Remember, the image isn’t a new version on DVD or BluRay.  That image isn’t the product of Photoshop or a Digital Intermediate correction.  That is a frame of film from 1977.  As Jackie Brown likes to say when putting a cherry on top, “Booh-yah!”

For those who wonder why the bottom version mentions a theater, here’s a quick version (of which the article expounds):

“Baltimore’s historic Senator Theatre was getting ready to close down after financial troubles, to be transfered to new managers, and owner Tom Kiefaber wanted to send it off in style. His family had owned the theatre for 71 years, and in that time had made a few connections. On the last day of operations, July 21, 2010, amid some moderate media coverage (including ABC news), Kiefaber decided to hold free screenings of Star Wars to a packed house–and not just the original version. He knew of a privately owned Technicolor print.”

So what does this mean?  Is this just to make fun of the 99%+ people who never heard or saw an IB print?  Not quite.  There is a person who may help: Harmy.  Who?  He wasn’t a member of Lucasfilm or ILM.  Rather, a guy living in the Czech Republic who merely wanted to de-speckle Star Wars and then it kept on turning into a bigger and bigger project; turning into the “Despecialized Edition” – meaning taking the Special Edition movies and returning them the way they originally were.  Here’s an example:

Images from the IB print can help bring the most perfect representation of Star Wars.  Especially since, strange as it sounds, the Library of Congress still doesn’t have a copy of Star Wars for the archives – since Lucas has been trying to sneak in the Special Edition version instead.  Don’t believe me?  Read this.  For a great “despecialized” article, read this one: Behind the Scenes of Harmy’s Star Wars “Despecialized Edition” by Wesley Fenlon: packed with other great photos and examples.

The reason I chose Star Wars to talk about was not only because of the day, but because the IB process ended before Empire Strikes Back as I recall – meaning none of the other original trilogy got such an astonishing and amazing treatment.

Strangely enough, I just learned today that the IB process has been brought back by Technicolor – used on movies such as Toy Story 2 and Any Given Sunday.

Here’s the article I pulled most of the information from originally: Technicolor I.B. Screening on SaveStarWars.com – which has a TON of large images to show the differences.  If you feel lazy or on the fence, watch this video below – showing not only the theater’s last night but also some footage of the movie itself.  Take a peek and see – less than five minutes.

You made it all the way down here?  You want a reward?  Sure!  A copy of the Despecialized Edition?  Here’s the best I can do.


2 comments on “Happy (I)B-Day, Star Wars!

  1. Wow. So many thoughts going through my head, and as much as I like Star Wars, I think number one is, fans can be silly.

    • Mesnard says:

      I was pretty blown away when I first read about an IB print, so I had to pass the info on. What made me most curious was if that print was the one which passed muster in the eyes of Gilbert Taylor: the original director of photography for A New Hope.

      For me, a director’s life is in the hands of the DP. They are the people responsible for making a director’s vision look the best way possible on the screen. As a person who did film (on actual film), I needed a DP I could implicitly trust – and knew how image, focus, and style worked WAY better than myself.

      Seeing a film the way a DP envisioned the frame is a tremendous honor – which oft seems forgotten these days when DVDs pass through the DI or transfer process. A perfect modern example that comes to mind is Se7en and its high-contrast print…. But perhaps that’s a tale for another post?

      To support your claim, Starling: I think all fandom has extremes. I try to keep mine in the moderate range; only approaching manic at its worst. Then again, I consider most of what I love with a grain of salt. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

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