Den of Geek ran a story about a possible 4K release of the pre-special edition Star Wars (1977) in time for the 40th anniversary next year. Could it happen? Lets take a look...
So the story goes something like this: Gareth Edwards, whilst preparing for Rogue One was invited by John Knoll to sit down and review a "brand new 4K print of Star Wars".
Day one, as Gareth calls it will be a couple of years ago now, meaning Lucasfilm have had 4K version of the movie(s) for a long time, but they could be sitting on them until a big event like the 40th anniversary for sure. They could also be waiting for the at home 4K tech to get to a point where enough people have access to the equipment to make the release worth while. So there could be something to this.
What about the idea of these being unaltered original cuts? Well, Uncle George famously said that the special editions were now the definitive edits of Star Wars. He also did this with American Graffiti and THX1138, movies that he felt weren't quite the way he had imagined them when he started work on them. So re-cutting Star Wars would be hugely insulting to the man behind the film. It was his vision, what right do we have to change that now. We have also heard over the years that every negative of Star Wars is now the special edition, that is the archived print of the film. George's vision. So, even though its unlikely that the original Star Wars (1977) negative has been destroyed, it is the special edition that will have been released to Reliance Media Works for scanning and restoration. The publicly endorsed negative.
A note on remastering. When a movie is remastered by a company like Reliance Media Works, a master (35mm) print will be struck that is then wet gate scanned to make a new digital intermediate. The idea of wet gate scanning is that each frame is photographed whilst immersed in an emulsion that is designed to "fill in" any scratches and reduce the amount of digital repair work. These scans are often done at 8K resolution (Wizard of Oz, Godfather) and those ultra high resolution digital negatives are then archived and used to produce new digital versions of the movie for release (DCPs) or home video (BluRay DVD). So the chances are, Lucasfilm has a 4K down-res of Star Wars for reference, because 8K isn't viable for domestic viewing.
Now, just because I say the print is for reference doesn't mean it won't be released in 4K, in fact I think its highly likely that this will happen. When there is a market for it. Whether its the 40th, 45th or 50th anniversary. Who knows.
What we need to remember is that Lucasfilm, certainly at the start of a major project like Rogue One, that has such close ties to Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope, will depend on all available reference material and have it presented in the highest possible quality. So my prediction is, that this is what Gareth is referring to here; a 4K digital print used in "spotting" sessions for the creators of the new films.
It's a nice dream though, that we might be getting the original cut, or a new improved special edition with updated effects, maybe even with George as a creative director, but it is simply that I think. A nice dream...
Thank you for reading,