Cam Man Reviews The Empire Strikes Back 4K UHD/HDR BD - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 28 Old 04-18-2020, 08:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Cam Man Reviews The Empire Strikes Back 4K UHD/HDR BD

I’ve never been particularly compelled to write reviews on movies, especially ones that I did not shoot, but this is a special case. In 1980 I saw ESB on opening day in a huge, packed 70mm house in Dallas. It was a visceral event for the senses, but also a cultural event. The visual and aural experience blew me and everyone there away. Unlike almost all movies of the time, and certainly unlike anything any of us had ever seen, the 70mm presentation was vivid, sharp, richly colorful, and an amazing aural experience. The audience was vocal and responsive in ways I had never seen. So impressed was I that I dedicated myself to studying the cinematography and production of this movie in preparation for beginning my career in that industry. Back then the only way to study a movie first hand was to go to it repeatedly. I saw the 70mm print at least a dozen times in the finest 70mm houses from Honolulu (the long gone Cinerama theater in Waikiki) to Orlando. My point is that the 70mm prints were the reference standard for this movie, and I knew just about every frame in it.

To continue my pursuit of this movie, I devoured everything in print on it. I began subscribing to American Cinematographer magazine in 1979. The June 1980 issue is dedicated to the making of ESB. I had the paperback journal of the making of ESB. Both are dog eared and tattered from my study of them. I knew just about everything there was to know about the making of this movie that one can without working on it or knowing well someone who did.

Perhaps most importantly, having seen the 70mm prints so many times, I knew exactly how that movie was supposed to look.

It came to Laser Disc. Not a bad grade/transfer for SD. Then in 2011 we had the Star Wars BDs we know well. The 2011 grade of ESB is far from faithful to the 70mm print. I cannot explain why saturation and contrast are jacked up. I can’t explain why skin tones are shifted to pinkish, sunburned hues. I can’t explain why the bright side of actors’ faces are sometimes near clipping despite being well within the latitude of the negative as shot. All of this was a bit disappointing to me, given my vivid memory of the reference standard.

Here we have a new product; a version re-mastered for UHD, but more importantly it has a new grade. I have now screened this new version in its entirety (10’ wide Seymour AV scope screen, calibrated RS640). I’m here to tell you that it is magnificent, a virtual clone of the 70mm prints in terms of cinematic picture qualities. I’m also here to tell you that there are reviews out there that are flat out wrong in their downgrading of the PQ of this version. I will tell you why and how this movie is faithful to the reference standard 70mm prints. I can only provide theories as to why some are finding faults with the movie PQ, but I will also dispute them and describe why and how they are wrong where I can.

So, I will begin this, but add to it as I walk you through the various details. As fellow enthusiasts, I hope that the insight that I bring as a cinematographer applied to this movie will expand your understanding and appreciation of the movie and the medium in general.

The new grade misses the mark slightly, but I’m also going to point those out and how they are easily overcome so that you see and enjoy the reference experience of this movie.

I’ll be back with images and links that I think you will find informative and entertaining. If you are interested, perhaps you will tag it to watch for updates.

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post #2 of 28 Old 04-18-2020, 09:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Reserved for Images

Let me hang on to this post for images, etc..

Just for fun, here are images of the two print sources, and a photo showing a VistaVision camera at work. The VistaVision camera was used for the portion of the scene on this set when Vader turns to the display screen behind him. A Panaflex 35mm camera was used for the rest of the scene on that set. Notice the large white showcards place on the floor being banged with lights. This provides the reflections seen on the glossy black surfaces of the set and Vader's helmet throughout this movie (unlike in A New Hope). It's basically car commercial lighting which has to play the reflectance.
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post #3 of 28 Old 04-18-2020, 02:15 PM - Thread Starter
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The Shoot and the Blow-up to 70mm

The process of my "review" has to include a bit of school house on motion picture tech from the photo-chemical era. I hope you will not only endure it, but enjoy it.

The first thing I have to do with you is explain why the 70mm print is the reference. Of course we have to start with the fact that the movie is shot in 35mm anamorphic, with which lenses, which negative stock, their properties, how the director of photography shot the movie, how the 35mm version gets blown up to 70mm, and that most 70mm theaters were flagships of the day. I’ll try to condense these facts as much as possible.

In 1979 (when ESB was shot) there were really only two format alternatives that were appropriate for the scale of the story: 35mm anamorphic or 65mm Super Panavision (spherical). Although desirable on many levels (even today), 65mm was too expensive to shoot on the ESB budget (that ballooned to $18M). Well-shot 35mm anamorphic still provided a large, bright frame that was a solid foundation for 35mm release, but also a great product for 70mm blow-up/print-up. Here is an excellent article on the “print-up” process of Panavision 35 to 70mm. You will see that it was a collaborative effort between Panavision, Eastman Kodak, and the film labs, as each plays an important role. http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/35-70mm.htm

ESB was shot with the Panavision C-Series lenses. A number of the feature films on which I worked were anamorphic, and the smaller C-Series along the larger E-Series were the workhorses on all of them...and they are used extensively to this day. Here is a rundown of movies shot with them. It’s a boat load. https://shotonwhat.com/lenses/panavi...ies-anamorphic

The ESB negative (camera) stock was Eastman 5247, the state of the art stock for many years. 5247 (ASA 100 tungsten balanced) was very fine-grained with wide exposure latitude and great color and contrast. The director of photography, Peter Suschitzky, lit and exposed ESB so as to deliver a balanced image, despite elements of some scenes pushing the extremes of the latitude of the 5247. The scenes on the carbon freeze set are good examples of very high contrast that still are comfortably within the latitude of the stock.

The C-Series 30mm to 100mm lenses were on ESB. Not all of them are razor sharp, but all render good resolution in the centroid ellipse almost edge to edge, and have very good contrast. The C-Series lenses are reasonably fast, but…very unforgiving below about T2.5. Therefore it is highly likely that ESB interiors were shot around T4 for 24 FPS non-effects shots. Imagine how much power and lighting hardware was necessary to render a T4 exposure at 100 ASA! That means that there was over four times as much light on those sets as is necessary for the contemporary Kodak stocks of today at ASA 500 tungsten. To deliver high resolutions shots, the focus puller needed to be on his game. He was most of the time, but there is the occasional miss in the movie.

Next up is interpreting film images, based on the “gamma” that is “baked into” the chemical emulsion, and why that is important to the interpretation/review of BD/video images. Cheers.
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post #4 of 28 Old 04-18-2020, 08:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Dead-Wrong Reviews

I often can attest to the quality of reviews on Blu-ray.com, but Martin Liebman is clearly on another planet with this review. I can't explain why he is so far off the mark on this. I cannot tell if he is watching for things that are inconsequential, or his display settings accentuate what they should not. He is dead wrong on the downgrades. He calls out "frozen grain" at the 1:27:55 point (Cloud City interior) on the BD (which has the same grade minus the HDR expanded color palette). This is entirely invisible unless you go looking very hard for it. Further, it is inconsequential and not a distraction. He cites as "resplendent clarity and texturing" the interiors of the speeders in the Hoth battle. Those shots were shot with VistaVision and had to be at ridiculous stops (T12 or greater...at 100 ASA!!) to be sure to render sharpness at all depths since they would be composited with background plates. The deep depth of field compared to other shots in the movie has skewed his perception that these are "resplendently" superior. They are not. The depth of field is just deep due to requirements of the blue screen compositing. A rather busch-league perspective by a reviewer. https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Star-...257141/#Review

With all due respect, this nice fellow is just not adequately experienced with regards to evaluating such media. He actually calls out the silhouette of Vader in the carbon freeze set confrontation with Luke for having less detail than the same shot in the 2011 BD grade...as if the latter were superior. He may wish that the cinematographer and grading colorist showed him what he subjectively wanted to see, but that is not the case. No significant detail is desired in such a shot; it's primarily a silhouette.

EDIT: Cleaned up my ranting a bit.

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post #5 of 28 Old 04-18-2020, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Cam Man View Post
I often can attest to the quality of review on Blu-ray.com, but Martin Liebman is clearly on another planet with this review. I can't explain why he is so far off the mark on this. I cannot tell if he is watching for things that are inconsequential, or his display settings accentuate what they should not. He is dead wrong on the downgrades. He calls out "frozen grain" at the 1:27:55 point (Cloud City interior) on the BD (which has the same grade minus the HDR expanded color palette). This is entirely invisible unless you go looking very hard for it. Further, it is inconsequential and not a distraction. What the hell is he watching?! He cites as "resplendent clarity and texturing" the interiors of the speeders in the Hoth battle. Those shots were shot with VistaVision and had to be at ridiculous stops (T12 or greater...at 100 ASA!!) to be sure to render sharpness at all depths since they would be composited with background plates. The deep depth of field compared to other shots in the movie has skewed his perception that these are "resplendently" superior. They are not. The depth of field is just deep due to requirements of the blue screen compositing. Another busch league perspective by a reviwer. https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Star-...257141/#Review

With all due respect, this nice fellow is just a "green horn" with regards to evaluating such media. He actually calls out the silhouette of Vader in the carbon freeze set confrontation with Luke for having less detail than the same shot in the 2011 BD grade...as if the latter were superior. Good Lord! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBiF3uxw1m8&t=1s
Some people have become divorced from cinema and film, they don't work with it, they don't know it, they have no idea how film can/should actually look. Your observations have some technical back ups and you sound like you know what you are talking about.

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post #6 of 28 Old 04-19-2020, 03:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Some people have become divorced from cinema and film, they don't work with it, they don't know it, they have no idea how film can/should actually look. Your observations have some technical back ups and you sound like you know what you are talking about.
Thank you for the comment. True. In defense of the two reviewers, I know that some display technologies (OLED in particular) seem to exacerbate artifacts such as grain/noise. A friend (who has an LG OLED) and I have discussed this with his display and some titles. This is not to say that they righteously reveal artifacts in the program. I'm saying the opposite; that idiosyncrasies of the panel technology and possibly the software driving them are at play and may call to attention or exacerbate something that is mild/inconsequential in the program.

I have also noticed that some display utilities that enhance detail can create their own artifacts as they interact with grain/noise. I experimented with the MPC settings on the RS640 while viewing ESB, and found that even a mid-level setting can cause a subtle undesirable texture to faces that at first appears to be inherent to the source material. This is a kind of five-o'clock shadow look; entirely unflattering to Carrie Fisher. I run Darby enhancement with 1080 content, and have noticed the same thing on faces if set too high. It is easy to overlook such as the cause of what one may be seeing. It's worth taking a look at settings when experiencing such, just in case. As with adjusting "sharpness" settings in the past with test patterns, backing it out completely may soften the perception too much whereas a step just above the lowest is a good compromise resulting in experiencing the image faithful to the original source material. We all like to do such with test patterns, but I recommend verifying this while viewing female faces. We can overlook a scruffy look on a man's face. Not so much with an actress.

Directors and producers are always wrapped up in viewers becoming immersed in the movie story telling. Camera guys certainly subscribe to that, but we are also trying to enhance that experience even more with our craft. I think AV enthusiasts are most like camera guys, but sometimes I'm not sure some reviewers align their priorities the same. That's being kind.

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post #7 of 28 Old 04-19-2020, 04:24 AM - Thread Starter
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PQ Tweaks and Final Comments

Since some of you may be going to check your 4K UHD BD of ESB, I thought I better mention the shortcomings I did find...and the tweaks I made to accommodate them.

The overall brightness (picture tone) is a little dark. I raised the HDR picture tone two or three steps. This did not affect adversely peaks or blacks. This resulted in luminance and gamma/transform that is faithful to the film.

Saturation is slightly low. One step increase in saturation was all that was needed.

As mentioned previously, I made sure that MPC was not set too high by studying a close up of Miss Fisher.

Don't chase resolution on the rare shot where focus is missed. I noticed a couple of shots of Yoda where the focus is just a little behind the face, creating an unintentional slightly soft face. These are very few in ESB.

Otherwise the RS640 carries the load beautifully.

Don't expect a new product to be created with HDR on ESB. HDR is used on ESB only to faithfully render the inherent latitude of the film stocks. You may be pleasantly surprised here and there by the flash of light sabers or the flicker of Yoda's fireplace, but otherwise HDR is not intended to make a "new" statement of any kind on ESB. It just contributes to give us the most faithful reproduction of the original.

If it sounds as though much of my commentary is subjective, I suppose that is fair, but it is relative. My "subjective eye" is highly experienced. The cinematographer in the photo-chemical era was often considered something of a magician. He/she knew film's secrets, and could accurately predict what was going to be seen by everybody else when dailies were projected the next day. The camera crew working with the cinematographer/DP learn these skills as well. One is wise to use good protocol with lighting so that there is consistency, but one definitely develops the skill to "see" what is going to be rendered. A trained eye can study the shot on the set, often looking through the lens/camera, and tell where more or less light is needed and where. That is because they have learned how film reacts to light. There is a strong familiarization with the transform curve that is baked into the film stock's chemistry. At each end of that curve, the DP knows how that stock is going to perform with highlights, shadow, and everything in between. He crafts the lighting with that knowledge. Much of the same eye is needed by the colorist in post.

For what it's worth, what I describe above is now also applicable to digital shooting. One understands the log profile processing in capture (usually emulating film's transform) and lights accordingly. The show will likely have a digital imaging tech with a calibrated monitor with a LUT that gives the DP and everyone a pretty good idea of the quality of the image in real time on the set. It's a nice benefit of technology.

The DP may also utilize other tools such as camera filters to soften and image he feels it needs. This was very popular around the time ESB was shot. Little to none of it is used on ESB. Smoke or steam is another tool that the DP has. Steam plays a major role in the look on the carbon freeze set. It can conceal, reveal, or become a light source itself. Notice what happens in that carbon freeze scene when a bit of steam briefly passes between an actor's face and the camera. You can suddenly see deeper into the shadows due to the steam. It's a cool and effective visual element in that scene.

I guess this kind of wraps up my comments on ESB. The PQ is gloriously faithful to the 70mm print of 1980 in a fine cinema of the day. I use a 7.1 configuration, but the Atmos scaled to that very well. There has always been discussion that the audio mix has been altered from the original. This may be true, but is hard to define. In researching for this I came across audio files that were created by a couple of fellows who brought two cassette recorders into a 70mm theater in 1980. They synced the two best they could to create a stereo composite. The best thing about these is hearing how involved the audience was; big laughs and cheers at various points. I also came across a review of ESB from the Washington Post. The recordings and the review capture the cultural impact ESB had on pop culture and cinema. If anyone has any interest in those, I can post links to them.

Enough from me. Go enjoy this great movie! Cheers.
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post #8 of 28 Old 04-19-2020, 12:53 PM
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This is all well and good, but the movie is still the bastardized Special Edition version with the crappy 1997 CGI and other changes, which makes any claims of faithfulness entirely moot.

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post #9 of 28 Old 04-19-2020, 01:19 PM
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Some people look more at colors and contrast while others only look at sharpness and detail. There has very obviously been some heavy DNR applied but the colors are more accurate than the last transfer. Overall it's still the best looking version to date.

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post #10 of 28 Old 04-19-2020, 04:52 PM - Thread Starter
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This is all well and good, but the movie is still the bastardized Special Edition version with the crappy 1997 CGI and other changes, which makes any claims of faithfulness entirely moot.
"How rude!" For you, yes. That is your burden to bear...since it cannot be changed.

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Some people look more at colors and contrast while others only look at sharpness and detail. There has very obviously been some heavy DNR applied but the colors are more accurate than the last transfer. Overall it's still the best looking version to date.
Some consumers, yes. No feature cinematographer alive or dead. It's a matter of photographic priorities and how much weight the original pristine reference is given.

Can you specify some detectable examples of heavy DNR for us to look at? What comparison source do you have to put it against? Can you see it/is it detrimental at cinema scale (for instance at the SMPTE subtended viewing angle of 43+ degrees for a scope screen)? That's what I will be looking for when you identify a place in the movie for us to look. See if the two shot of Han and Leia in the Falcon at the 1:18:46 point has it. I have some of a 70mm print of that scene. Let's freeze frame that spot on the UHD BD, then compare it to a 70mm frame of that shot under a lupe. Should be interesting experiment.
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I have no desire to get into another endless debate on the topic. I'll leave that for others. Especially when no one even believes screenshots on this forum. If you don't see it you don't see it and that's fine.


There are a variety of sources to compare to ranging from VHS to 35mm scans. This movie has some of the best (or worst) examples of DNR because of all the snow. In the shot of Han's tauntaun falling down in the 35mm print there is heavy snow in the entire frame. And in both recent official scans it is almost completely scrubbed out of the sky and only visible in the bottom portion of the frame.


In two of the establishing shots of the Wampa cave there should be snow blowing off the banks but it almost looks like they switched to a still frame here because there is no movement at all.

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post #12 of 28 Old 04-20-2020, 06:53 AM
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"How rude!" For you, yes. That is your burden to bear...since it cannot be changed.
Well, it certainly could be changed if Lucasfilm would make the effort to properly restore the movie. Unfortunately, they currently have zero interest in doing that.

Seriously, it seems absurd to me to claim that this disc looks just like the 1980 theatrical prints when significant portions of the movie have been painted over with cartoonish CGI that was absolutely not part of the movie in 1980. And further, the resolution and quality of the footage noticeably drops down to the quality of the old 1080p digital intermediates during all of the SE changes, sometimes with glaring edge enhancement halos in the image.

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He calls out "frozen grain" at the 1:27:55 point (Cloud City interior) on the BD (which has the same grade minus the HDR expanded color palette). This is entirely invisible unless you go looking very hard for it. Further, it is inconsequential and not a distraction.
I also have to take issue with this statement. The frozen grain issues on both the original Blu-ray and the Disney+ stream are definitely neither invisible nor inconsequential on my screen. While I haven't watched the UHD Blu-ray yet, the complaints I've read about it sound identical to what I saw on Disney+.

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I prefer a lot of the improvements in Empire. I hate the Greedo scene and Jabba scenes in A New Hope, I cringe every time I hear Bruce Lee orgasm when Obi Wan comes to save Luke from the Sand People and I hate that they needlessly enlarged the front entry way to Jabba's Palace in Jedi. However, I'm not an idiot to the point where I have to boycott them all. There's several hours of classic entertainment there and the original feels are still perfectly intact. Over all, I appreciate the updates to the original trilogy and I find Empire to have the best improvements of the bunch with no issues. People that have a vendetta against these films because they have been modernized can stick it in their arse. I'm thrilled they are cleaned up in 4K with Atmos audio. People need to put their OCD aside and support these on physical media since they are likely the last editions we may ever get on disc.
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post #14 of 28 Old 04-20-2020, 08:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Well, it certainly could be changed if Lucasfilm would make the effort to properly restore the movie. Unfortunately, they currently have zero interest in doing that.

Seriously, it seems absurd to me to claim that this disc looks just like the 1980 theatrical prints when significant portions of the movie have been painted over with cartoonish CGI that was absolutely not part of the movie in 1980. And further, the resolution and quality of the footage noticeably drops down to the quality of the old 1080p digital intermediates during all of the SE changes, sometimes with glaring edge enhancement halos in the image.

I also have to take issue with this statement. The frozen grain issues on both the original Blu-ray and the Disney+ stream are definitely neither invisible nor inconsequential on my screen. While I haven't watched the UHD Blu-ray yet, the complaints I've read about it sound identical to what I saw on Disney+.
Sure it is technically possible. At the bottom of the post is a review that covers this a bit. It is said that everything is now preserved in 16-bit 4K. Perhaps they will someday release a fully original version.

My background enables me to look at the movie as a whole, despite identifying shortcomings. It is a matter of the quantity and consequence of any shortcomings/compromises. To condemn the entire movie for the 2% of it with crummy SE CGI when the remaining 98% of the movie is now wonderfully faithful to the 70mm print is absurd from my perspective. Every day on a movie set we start with "perfection" as our goal, but it can also be the enemy of success. If you futz around too long perfecting your lighting and don't make the day's schedule, you'll be unemployed very soon. Reality requires one to prioritize compromises, choosing what will be inconsequential to the delivered quality. When 98% of the original photography is now gorgeous and faithful to the original (unlike the 2011 BD), that is a win. I know that you are not alone in the dogma on the subject of the SE CGI changes. I have a close friend who suffers with the same, unable to enjoy the rest for the short imperfections (at least short in ESB).

Regarding frozen grain, I have looked closely for it, including what was cited in one review. That scene is in the Cloud City hallways that are down-resed due to the CGI. I think it's entirely possible that the lower res and futzing is a problem. But again, those scenes are very short. The rest is too gorgeous to allow those short shots to have any significant consequence. The review I've linked at the bottom of the post also cites that the SE CGI was worked on to improve for this new 16-bit 4K DI.

For all readers, let me give you some insider perspective on grain and DNR. Yes, some amount of grain was/is inherent to the chemical process of film. But it was always our enemy! It was always a very high priority to have as little as possible. Eastman Kodak busts their chops to create stocks with the finest grain possible. The wise DP exposed so as to minimize grain. Once exposed, the film had to be protected from heat and processed at the lab immediately because once exposed to light, film continues to change until it is developed in the lab. That change is additional grain and other problems. Before the ability to digitally scan the negative, we camera guys all dreamed of somehow getting rid of grain. And now many enthusiasts insist on keeping it, regardless of how bad, unintentional, and undesirable it was to the filmmakers. Once again, there is a balancing act that must be performed to find what it enough DNR to minimize distracting grain yet not be detrimental to important detail in the shot. I find it fascinating that some folks hate some digital artifacts, but will totally embrace the most distracting artifact of all, heavy inherent grain. If grain is the only consequential casualty to some modest DNR, I'm all for it.

Here is a link to a review that addresses the differences between the Disney+ UHD and the BD UHD. It's also an excellent review that goes deeper into the technical issues of this version.

http://thedigitalbits.com/item/star-...rikes-back-uhd
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Excellent and Informative Review

This is the most comprehensive and objective review of the 4K UHD BD I've seen. It also cites well the differences between the Disney+ streamed version and the BD.

http://thedigitalbits.com/item/star-...rikes-back-uhd
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Over all, I appreciate the updates to the original trilogy and I find Empire to have the best improvements of the bunch with no issues. People that have a vendetta against these films because they have been modernized can stick it in their arse. I'm thrilled they are cleaned up in 4K with Atmos audio. People need to put their OCD aside and support these on physical media since they are likely the last editions we may ever get on disc.
If you prefer the Special Edition, that's your prerogative and nobody has suggested taking that version away from you.

You talk about people having a vendetta against these films. In my experience, the people who want to see the original version restored support having both versions exist in optimal quality. Yet those who like the SEs seem hell-bent on burying the original version and preventing anyone from ever seeing it again.

How is telling people to "stick it in their arse" useful to anyone?
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post #17 of 28 Old 04-20-2020, 09:35 AM
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My background enables me to look at the movie as a whole, despite identifying shortcomings. It is a matter of the quantity and consequence of any shortcomings/compromises. To condemn the entire movie for the 2% of it with crummy SE CGI when the remaining 98% of the movie is now wonderfully faithful to the 70mm print is absurd from my perspective. Every day on a movie set we start with "perfection" as our goal, but it can also be the enemy of success. If you futz around too long perfecting your lighting and don't make the day's schedule, you'll be unemployed very soon. Reality requires one to prioritize compromises, choosing what will be inconsequential to the delivered quality. When 98% of the original photography is now gorgeous and faithful to the original (unlike the 2011 BD), that is a win. I know that you are not alone in the dogma on the subject of the SE CGI changes. I have a close friend who suffers with the same, unable to enjoy the rest for the short imperfections (at least short in ESB).
In my view, what is pressed onto these discs are not the movies Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi. The Special Editions are substantively different movies.

As you well know, making a movie is a collaborative effort that requires a lot of hard work among a huge number of artists. All three of these films won Oscars for their visual effects. Removing those visual effects and replacing them with XBox quality CGI is an insult to everyone who built the original models or painted the original matte paintings, lit them, photographed them, composited the shots, and edited the footage. Not to mention the countless fans who fell in love with the movies as they were released.

Additionally, Empire Strikes Back was nominated for an Art Direction/Set Direction Oscar. Yet digitally painting over the sets was the very first thing George Lucas felt he needed to change.

If all of that work is going to be permanently deleted, then those awards and nominations should also be rescinded.

I'm curious if you'd have quite so zen an attitude if some movie you'd photographed had all of your original work chucked in the trash 20 years later, never to be seen again.

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post #18 of 28 Old 04-20-2020, 09:40 AM
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I've read countless posts online from people refusing to buy or watch the original trilogy till it's released unaltered. Surely you are aware that it's happening.
I'm not stopping anyone else from buying the Special Editions, but I sure as hell will not pay any additional money for them.

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Who's taking what away from who anyways? I never said anything like that.
Barely two hours ago you told people who want the original versions to "stick it in their arse."

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post #19 of 28 Old 04-20-2020, 10:26 AM - Thread Starter
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I have no desire to get into another endless debate on the topic. I'll leave that for others. Especially when no one even believes screenshots on this forum. If you don't see it you don't see it and that's fine.


There are a variety of sources to compare to ranging from VHS to 35mm scans. This movie has some of the best (or worst) examples of DNR because of all the snow. In the shot of Han's tauntaun falling down in the 35mm print there is heavy snow in the entire frame. And in both recent official scans it is almost completely scrubbed out of the sky and only visible in the bottom portion of the frame.


In two of the establishing shots of the Wampa cave there should be snow blowing off the banks but it almost looks like they switched to a still frame here because there is no movement at all.
Sorry, I missed your post until this morning. I agree that screen shot quality is all over the place. I suspect that what you describe would be tough to see in a photo unless a tight close up on specific artifact in a frame. So, I may provide something from a 70mm frame, and you can take a look on your system to compare. I'll have to take your word on your conclusion.

Thank you for those specific shots! I'll definitely go check for those. I wonder if the lack of or greatly reduced snow in the sky has something to do with the grade...caused by jacking up the brightness of the sky for HDR. Have you tried any temporary adjustment to your white level to see if that reveals more snow?
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In my view, what is pressed onto these discs are not the movies Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi. The Special Editions are substantively different movies.

As you well know, making a movie is a collaborative effort that requires a lot of hard work among a huge number of artists. All three of these films won Oscars for their visual effects. Removing those visual effects and replacing them with XBox quality CGI is an insult to everyone who built the original models or painted the original matte paintings, lit them, photographed them, composited the shots, and edited the footage. Not to mention the countless fans who fell in love with the movies as they were released.

Additionally, Empire Strikes Back was nominated for an Art Direction/Set Direction Oscar. Yet digitally painting over the sets was the very first thing George Lucas felt he needed to change.

If all of that work is going to be permanently deleted, then those awards and nominations should also be rescinded.

I'm curious if you'd have quite so zen an attitude if some movie you'd photographed had all of your original work chucked in the trash 20 years later, never to be seen again.
I admire your perspective of appreciation and protection of the mentioned personnel.

Regarding your last sentence...that disappointment often comes as soon as the movie is released and we see it. Often much of our work ends up "on the cutting room floor" which can be very disappointing. What you describe could certainly happen. A good number of "my" movies are big action/effects-laden movies of the 90s. Some of those are frequently on TV, and I always cringe a bit when they are not in the original AR. But I know all these things are out of my control. I am happy with or proud of the work I did, so I am happy to enjoy the movie with a bit of a zen perspective. Funny you would use that term. Early in my career in the late 80s I was the operator on a TV movie with the late veteran TV director E.W. Swackhamer. Swack referred to my work as "Zen operating." He was a lot of fun. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._W._Swackhamer
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post #21 of 28 Old 04-20-2020, 10:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Really productive conversation, this is.
Yeah...let's try to have fun with this discussion/thread.

Did you see the shots called out by @bryantc in post 11? Perhaps you can take a look at those, too. I'm going to do so. I'm curious to see if it looks like a consequence of grading rather than scrubbing with DNR.

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@bryantc , I took a look at those two references regarding snow on the "new" BD. I can do this on my desktop with a calibrated pro grading monitor, but I don't have a UHD BD in the PC. So, I'll have to check the UHD with projection later.

I see both of what you cite. I can't say I ever noticed snow in the falling tauntaun shot...even in 70mm. I may remember seeing snow over the drifts outside the wampa cave. Do you think that these indicate that there is something going on that will negatively affect more important subjects in the movie? If so, I want to find those. I don't find not being able to see the snow in those shots very significant. I once called out a somewhat small part of a shot that we were lining up to the director of photography. His response was a grin and "If they notice that (little detail), we're in big trouble."

Can you remember any shots where actors' faces were degraded? That would be very significant.
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Regarding your last sentence...that disappointment often comes as soon as the movie is released and we see it. Often much of our work ends up "on the cutting room floor" which can be very disappointing. What you describe could certainly happen.
I get that. But there's a difference between the director cutting something before the movie is finished, versus changing it years after the fact. Imagine that your movie is released, everyone commends you on your work, and you even win an Oscar for it. Then 20 years later the director says, "All that stuff Cam Man did totally sucks. I'm going to get rid of it and bring in a couple kids from our video game division to whip up something better over the weekend." Then he proceeds to tell everyone that the CGI version is what he always wanted, and that your Oscar winning work was garbage that he always hated and never wants anyone to see again. Eventually, the version you worked on is forgotten and the director actively pretends that it never existed.

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Did you see the shots called out by bryantc in post 11? Perhaps you can take a look at those, too. I'm going to do so. I'm curious to see if it looks like a consequence of grading rather than scrubbing with DNR.
I don't have the new UHD disc, just the original Blu-rays and Disney+. I'm technically supposed to be "working" right now so it's going to be a while before I can fire up the home theater.

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I get that. But there's a difference between the director cutting something before the movie is finished, versus changing it years after the fact. Imagine that your movie is released, everyone commends you on your work, and you even win an Oscar for it. Then 20 years later the director says, "All that stuff Cam Man did totally sucks. I'm going to get rid of it and bring in a couple kids from our video game division to whip up something better over the weekend." Then he proceeds to tell everyone that the CGI version is what he always wanted, and that your Oscar winning work was garbage that he always hated and never wants anyone to see again. Eventually, the version you worked on is forgotten and the director actively pretends that it never existed.



I don't have the new UHD disc, just the original Blu-rays and Disney+. I'm technically supposed to be "working" right now so it's going to be a while before I can fire up the home theater.
No worries. Don't get in trouble on my account.

I haven't see the Disney+ version...although I can. I look forward to how you will compare PQ between that and the UHD disc version.
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It seems that some, now decades old, debates will never die.



I'm very curious to see direct comparisons of a well preserved original 70mm release print to the UHD Blu-ray


I have only gotten to see one movie (Hateful Eight) shot and projected on what I guess is the film stock used when 70mm blow-ups and releases were more common, and was very impressed.
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Here are some examples of the overly aggressive grain reduction on Empire, resulting in an unnaturally smooth and mushy image:

https://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&...141387&i=6&l=0
https://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&...141355&i=9&l=0
https://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&...41362&i=10&l=0
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It seems that some, now decades old, debates will never die.



I'm very curious to see direct comparisons of a well preserved original 70mm release print to the UHD Blu-ray


I have only gotten to see one movie (Hateful Eight) shot and projected on what I guess is the film stock used when 70mm blow-ups and releases were more common, and was very impressed.
The Hateful Eight was pretty darned special technical treat. It's great you got to see a 70mm print of it. It was shot with modern 65mm camera stocks and 70mm projection stock. Another you might compare to via UHD is 2017's Murder On the Orient Express. Most of that is shot in spherical 65mm (Super Panavision), and it is gorgeous!

I don't know if a serviceable 70mm print of ESB exists. There are certainly 70mm movie prints making it around the country to the very few 70mm capable theaters in existence. I wonder what it would take for Disney/Lucsfilm to re-release ESB in 70mm.
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post #28 of 28 Old 04-20-2020, 07:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Here are some examples of the overly aggressive grain reduction on Empire, resulting in an unnaturally smooth and mushy image:

https://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&...141387&i=6&l=0
https://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&...141355&i=9&l=0
https://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&...41362&i=10&l=0
I don't see how these are useful unless we have corresponding 70mm frames to compare. Otherwise, we have no idea if the original shot in the movie is also less than stellar. Without a frame (or someone who saw the 70 prints as often as I did) it's purely a subjective exercise. Comparing to the 1080p version is another subject. You are not suggesting comparing it to the 1080 version are you?

I will add that most of the artifacts fall well below the threshold of our visual acuity for a nominal viewing distance for a scope movie (SMPTE at 43.5 degress subtended angle). The closer you sit, the more you will challenge even the original in a cinema. Sit close enough in the 70mm theater to the screen, and all manner of film artifacts become visible; look just as bad. Sit in nominal location, it looks fabulous.

The close-up of Carrie Fisher in the Hoth command post is definitely doctored. I would bet, though, that this is not due to DNR to remove grain. This is courtesy/glamour softening for Miss Fisher. It's their creative call, not ours. And this frame has to be zoomed way in to detect this.

I have no problem with grain removal if there is no other casualty to the PQ due solely to that. Removing grain is good. Trashing too much detail with it is not okay.

Can you pull a frame in the scene at 1:18:46? It's a two shot of Leia and Han in the Falcon approaching Cloud City. I have a 70mm frame of that scene we could use to compare grain, etc..

It is noticeable in these that the overall brightness/picture tone is low, as I have pointed out. The 1080p is overly bright and constrasty, but since many whites are clipped or very near to it, adjusting your display will not accommodate that. The low picture tone of the UHD HDR is easily temporarily correctable (at least in the RS640) without compromise since all the show falls within the latitude window of the original film and the video. Seems like the overall low luminance is a strange choice (or mistake).

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