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The Star Wars Trilogy

A Digital Star Wars Scrapbook.

Project 4K77

Welcome to project 4K77.

"There will only be one. And it won't be what I would call the 'rought cut', it'll be the 'final cut.' The other one will be some sort of interesting artifact that people will look at and say, 'There was an earlier draft of this.'...What ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that's what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won't last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition]."


-- George Lucas, "An Expanded Universe", American Cinematographer magazine, February 1997

Sorry, George. We're not going to let that happen.

This is not how Star Wars is supposed to look (shot as it appears on the official Lucasfilm Bluray Edition of Star Wars):

Screenshot from the Official Star Wars Bluray

Same shot from Project 4K77:

35mm Technicolor film print version of the same shot

A rag tag, fugitive band of rebel scum just spent two years restoring the original, theatrical version of Star Wars... Again.

On May 16th 2018, both the 1080p and UHD versions without DNR were completed:

And on September 7th 2018, the DNR versions were also completed:

Earlier this year, a regraded NoDNR version was also released:

Sanjuro's regrade of 4K77


Is this an upscale?

No, 97% of project 4K77 is from a single, original 1977 35mm Technicolor release print, scanned at full 4K, cleaned at 4K, and rendered at 4K.

Who did this?

Team Negative 1 (TN1) - the same crew who brought you The Silver Screen Edition (SSE) three years ago. TN1 are not professional film restoration experts, they are just Star Wars fans, like you.

Why do this?

You mean apart from the fact that there hasn't been a new transfer of the original film since 1993 (the 2006 Bonus DVDs used the 1993 laserdisc master tapes) and George Lucas pretty much denies this version ever existed? This is the version I grew up watching, over an over again, and I'm afraid technology has moved on to the point where the old VHS, betamax, CED, laserdisc and 2006 Bonus DVD just don't look good enough to watch on modern HDTV and 4K UHD Televisions / Home theater projectors. I wanted to show the film to my kids, and I wanted them to see the original version that I enjoyed at their age - not the one with the already dated looking CGI, over saturated colors and a strong magenta tint.

How did you do this?

We scanned some prints and then used a bunch of off the shelf software to remove as much of the dirt, dust and scratches as we could without going insane.

Why, after spending three years on the SSE, would you do the same film again and not move on to Empire or Jedi?

About halfway through the Silver Screen Edition restoration, people started to hear about our project, and offers to lend us prints for scanning came flooding in. Somebody sent us a Technicolor print to scan, and somebody else who had already had one scanned sent us that to work on too. These were better sources than the LPP print, and at higher resolution. It was tempting to abandon the SSE and start over with the new sources, but ultimately we decided we should finish what we had started, not just to preserve the LPP, but also because of all the experience we would gain (and be able to apply) to the next project. 

Why does the quality seem to vary so much?

97% of project 4K77 is from a single, original 1977 35mm Technicolor release print so if it goes from blurry to sharp, grainy to not grainy, bright to dark, that's because it also did that in 1977. Color correction was a single correction per reel - the optical audio track was used to white balance the image, and the contrast adjusted to ensure that there was no clipping of the highlights or crushing of the blacks, so if the color changes from shot to shot, or it goes from very dark inside to very bright outside, that's how it is on the print. Film has a greater contrast range than home video, and of course was graded for viewing, reflected off of a giant silver screen.

Star Wars was shot on four different types of film stock, some grainier than others. (Kodak 5243, an intermediate, probably for composites, 5247, a fine grain 100 EI tungsten stock that the live action must have been shot on, and 5253, an intermediate used as a separation stock that all visual effects elements were shot on, plus the CRI stock [Magid, Ron. "Saving the Star Wars Sequels," American Cinematographer, February 1997.])

The Effects, the music, the editing all continued right up to the last possible moment. Some scenes were shot out in the deserts of tunisia, where the sand got into everything including the film stock. Some scenes were also filmed with nylons over the lens, others were not. Scenes filmed outside, particularly in the desert, that are supposed to be only moments apart in the narrative, may actually have been filmed hours or even days apart, with the sun and clouds in constant motion and the lighting conditions changing greatly. Color correction and film printing back then was a photo-chemical process, so not all of these shots match as perfectly as they might if shot today and corrected using Davinci Resolve, watching the scopes and turning the color wheels. This also meant that no two prints would be 100% identical, and that the alignment of the Cyan, Yellow and Magenta layers of the Technicolor prints was not always perfect - which is why you can often see green or red fringing on objects in project 4K77.

Many of the visual effects shots were created using a technique called "optical printing". Each element of the shot (starfield, X-wing, Y-wing, Tie fighter, laser blast) would be shot separately, with the ships against a blue screen. They would be combined by projecting all the images at once onto a new piece of film, a process that often allowed additional dirt, dust and hairs to be baked into the film, softened the image, and added additional layers of grain.

All of these factors mean that scenes filmed on set at Elstree, where Vader and Tarkin are just chatting in a room, are a heck of a lot cleaner, sharper and less grainy than those of R2D2 and C3P0 wandering about in the desert. It's easy to forget that this is how it was for twenty years - all of these flaws can still be seen on the Betamax, VHS, CED and laserdisc releases of the 1980s. 

In 1997, when the film was restored for the Special Edition, many of these issues were fixed - optical wipes were redone on very fine grain film, some of the original shots were recomposited digitally, resulting in no generational loss or added grain, and no need for any garbage mattes. Then in 2004, the entire SE negative was scanned (at HD resolution) into a computer, cleaned, sharpened and denoised at Lowry Digital in just three weeks, color "corrected" (and I use the term corrected very loosely) at Lucasfilm, and then released on DVD in time for Christmas.

If you've only seen the Special Editions - especially on DVD and bluray, it's easy to forget how the film used to look.  

Where did the other 3% of the movie come from?

Well, about 1200 frames came from another 4K scan of a different 1977 Technicolor print. About 2000 frames came from a red faded, Eastman print of Star Wars. Roughly 2000 frames came from the same LPP print as The Silver Screen Edition (rescanned at 4K), another 1000 frames or so came from 4K scans of two different 1997 35mm prints of the Star Wars Special Edition. Finally, about 400 frames that couldn't be sourced from anywhere else at the time they were needed, were upscaled from the official bluray. There are no frames from VHS, laserdisc or DVD. 

How does it compare to the Silver Screen Edition?

The Silver Screen Edition was grainier overall (making it more consistent) because the source for that restoration was a duplicate of another print, and because that original print wasn't technicolor, it already had an additional generation of film grain:

SSE = Original negative -> Interpositive -> internegative -> Positive print -> duplicate print -> HD print scanner.
4K77 = Original negative -> color separation matrices -> Positive print -> 4K print scanner
2004 HD master used for the official DVD & BD = Original negative -> HD print scanner.

The SSE was artificially sharpened, 4K77 was not. SSE Colors will be more consistent (for the most part) because it was graded shot by shot prior to release, and those colors look more familiar because it was graded to match the home video releases from the 1980s and 1990s. Plus the SSE was scanned and cleaned at HD, so 4K77 has 4x as much picture information. But to better answer your question:

Why is the bluray still sharper, despite only being scanned and presented in HD?

The Bluray was created from the same HD master as the 2004 DVD - which came from an HD scan of the 1997 Special Edition negative. In 1997, the 1977 negative was restored to better than new condition. Lucasfilm had the negative cleaned, removing dirt and grime that had accumulated in its many years of use, by running it through a 104-degree sulfur bath solution and then hand-wiping it. It then had the optical wipes redone by Pacific Title using the same original elements as they used in 1977, but on finer grain film stock and with newer equipment. Many of the shots were recomposited digitally resulting in none of the generational loss or added grain found in the original version, and no need for any garbage mattes. The picture was then cleaned, sharpened and further denoised at Lowry Digital.

4K77 on the other hand is a scan of theatrical release prints - all at least two generations away from the original negative. But if you think the film looked like the bluray in theaters in 1977, it did not. 

Also, because of it's higher resolution, 4K77 has some fine details that are not in the bluray. For example look at the horizontal lines in the door frame (click to enlarge):

close up of door frame: Bluray vs 4K77. $K77 clearly shows horizontal lines, missing from the bluray

So is watching the No DNR version of 4K77, just like watching the film in theaters in 1977?

Not 100% no, but pretty close. Projecting 4K77 looks different to watching 4K77 on a television or monitor, and different to actually projecting it on film. A project like this gets you a lot closer to seeing how the movie originally looked, before the home video releases - you can see the color and contrast variances and many of the flaws in the original way more clearly. It isn’t really how it looked if sitting in a cinema, but it certainly does give you an insight into the less-slick experience that seeing this (or any) film in the 1970s. Also, the Technicolor prints have somewhat different colors to the non-technicolor prints.

If you want to see how the film really looked back then, you will need to try to find or borrow a print, rent out a cinema that still has film projectors in it, fill it with your friends, and project the film. Short of that, feeding 4K77 to a home theater projector is about as close as you can get right now.

The official Bluray / Harmy's Despecialized / Adywan's Revisited / [Insert your favorite version here] is so much better than this...

This is the most authentic 1977 version since 1977, but I'm a big fan of Harmy's Despecialized myself. Other projects are certainly sharper, less grainy, have better colors, and are more watchable for sure, and we're not suggesting that you throw out or delete your copies of these other versions. Unlike certain other people, *cough* George Lucas *cough* we won't make you watch this version or insist that this is the only one you can ever watch again. We won't even claim that it is the best version. We just want to give you back the choice that Lucas denied us all.

In fact, it was always our hope that somebody else would use this project as the basis for an even better one - one in which the last of the dirt and scratches is removed and every shot is properly color graded. A few such projects are in fact underway, and Harmy himself has a copy of the original prores version, that he hopes to incorporate into a new 1080p, updated version of his Despecialized Edition.

You people suck / what a waste of time and money / this is garbage / the prequels rule / etc.

My mother always taught me "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". Also the expression "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt" often applies to these sorts of comments too. But, thanks for playing. Move along.

What is the best way to watch project 4K77?

If you project the film, rather than watch it on a TV or monitor, the grain will be less jarring. Projection has no ‘black lines’ around each pixel, so looks softer. It also has a lot more light scattering, so you tend to get a hard to describe luminous quality to the image, and this softens the perception of the grain. So if you can, we recommend using a projector to watch the "noDNR" version.

DNR vs No DNR?

Digital noise reduction (dnr) is a bit divisive. Many modern films are shot and processed digitally without any of the generational loss and multiple layers of film grain that you used to see in the days of chemical film processing. Official Blu-rays - even of older films, will often go back to the negatives and create very pristine looking images - much cleaner than we ever saw in Theaters, and that is how many people expect modern film transfers to look. On the other hand, those of us who remember real film, don't like this scrubbed look. I see people complaining on message boards all the time about excessive use of DNR on the latest blu-ray - applied too heavily, it can remove the texture from people's skin, making the actors look like waxwork models. The other major complaint about modern Blurays is the green or orange and teal color grades applied to update the "look" rather than trying to replicate the theatrical color timing.

So when it comes to 4K77, we're giving you the choice. There is a version with DNR and a version without. Those who loved the Silver Screen Edition because it was so grainy will want the no DNR version, while those who prefer Harmy's Despecialized Editions will want the other one.

For more comparisons visit the gallery on imgur.

If you want to know how it really looked in '77, it looked grainy as hell in many shots. I have access to three film prints, one of which I even saw screened in a theater, and those brown/orange and blue blobs you can see really are on all the prints, and they were visible on theater screens too. You can also see them on the early video and laserdisc transfers.

If you don't have a home theater projector, the DNR version will be better suited for viewing on your TV.

Is the DNR version available somewhere? I can't find it.

Yes, as of 9/8/18. If you can't find it, join the forums and they can point you in the right direction.

I still see a lot of dirt and scratches - are you sure you cleaned it?

Yes, pretty sure:

In case you are wondering - this is not the final version of this shot - most of the additional dirt and scratches revealed by the noise reduction have been removed and the colors are more neutral/balanced in the DNR version.

Will there be an HDR version?

We don't have any plans to do an HDR version at this time. I'm afraid it's not as easy as simply checking the HDR box in the encoding software - the whole film would need to be regraded specifically for HDR, and we currently have neither the equipment nor the expertise to do it justice. However, we will archive the 16-bit source files and maybe we can revisit the idea in the future.

Is the Audio also from the 35mm print?

No. Unfortunately not. The only (almost) complete print we have is the Spanish LPP, which has Spanish Audio. That track was included with the Silver Screen Edition. So most of the Audio tracks are Laserdisc sourced. Additional audio (and subtitle) tracks can also be found on Harmy's Despecialized Edition. If you have that or the official NTSC 2006 Bonus DVD, you can also MUX in any audio track from those and it will sync perfectly with 4K77. 

Where can I download this?!

Project 4K77 is available at 1080p or UHD 4K resolution, with and without grain. I'm afraid we can't give you any direct download links, however, the best place to find it is in the newsgroup alt.binaries.Starwars. Most ISPs no longer grant free access to the usenet, so you'll have to sign up with a provider. There are free providers, but download speeds and bandwidth are usually limited. However, UsenetServer, AstraWeb, GigaNews and others do grant unlimited access on a monthly basis. Sure it will cost you about $10 but that is far less than I would have paid the house of mouse for an official UHD release of this version of the film. Plus, for that you can download not just 4K77, but also Harmys Despecialized, Adywan's Revisited, GOUT upscales, laserdisc captures - and just about everything really. All you need is a free newsreader like SABnzbd+ or Grabit.

Before those from the prequel generation begin chiming in with "nobody uses newsgroups anymore - that's so 1990s! Torrenting is where it's at!" I should point out that the usenet has a few major advantages over torrenting:

- Anonymous downloading. And because it isn't peer to peer, you don't have to worry that there may be no peers online to seed the file. Files are available 24/7 for 1000 days or more.
- Downloads are blazing fast, not limited by the upload speed of your peers.
- No need to hunt for the file on those awful torrent sites with all their porn ads, pop ups, pop unders and misleading download buttons. Just go to and browse the a.b.starwars group or search for "4K77", download the .nzb file and open it with your newsreader. 

How to Get Started with Usenet in Three Simple Steps

If you are a member of MySpleen, you can grab it there too. If you're not, that site is currently closed to new members, so we can't help you with that.

Chances are, by the time you read this, the files will also be available on some public torrent trackers.

If you still can't find it anywhere, join the forum -somebody there can help you find it.

Why does the 4K UHD version play back all choppy/jerky / no picture in VLC?

Download and install MPV. Most people can play the file smoothly with MPV even if it doesn't seem to work in any other player. It also plays well in Potplayer.

Are you doing Empire next?

No, next up is Return of the Jedi. Yes. Since Project 4K83 is now also complete, Project 4K80 is up next.

Why didn't you do Empire Strikes Back right after Star Wars?

Because we already had 4K scans of a pristine Jedi print ready to go, while the latest (and best) print of The Empire Strikes Back STILL hasn't even been scanned yet. Also, somebody else is already working on a 4K restoration of Empire, and this guy is a professional film restoration expert. However, since there is no telling how long that version will take, we have scanned a Fuji print at 4K, and a 16mm print with good color for reference and repairs, so we'll just dive in and see what we can do.

Will you be doing any of the documentaries?

Yes. A 16mm print of From Star Wars to Jedi, and Classic Creatures of Return of the Jedi have both already been scanned and restored in HD, and are among the bonus features bundled with Project 4K83.

1080p still from restored version of From Star Wars to Jedi

16mm From Star Wars to Jedi in HD

16mm Classic Creatures of Return of the Jedi in HD

We have two scans of two different 16mm prints of The Making of Star Wars also, and work will begin on that soon. In addition, we also have scans of 16mm Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Great Movie Stunts, so keep an eye out for those too.

Can I donate to these projects? Why should I donate?

When a film is professionally scanned in 16-bit color as DPX image files, every single frame weighs in at 100 MB. With upwards of 175,000 frames in each film, a complete scan requires about 21 TB of storage (42 TB if you want a backup copy! And then you need at least another 21 TB of space to work on it - over $1,000 just in hard drives is therefore required for every film). Having the film cleaned prior to scanning costs another $870 (plus about $75 shipping each way) and then the scanning costs between $2,000 and $15,000, depending on where you send it. And this is all excluding the cost of buying the prints (the Star Wars LPP was $2,000, the latest Empire print was $5,000). So yes - please do consider donating. It all goes into an account used only for funding these projects.

The Star Wars Special Edition restoration cost 20th Century Fox an estimated $20 million, but it earned them $138 million at the box office in 1997. So far this restoration has cost TN1 a little over $10,000, but sadly there can be no box office receipts or DVD/Bluray sales to refill our bank accounts when it's all done.

Donate with PayPal - it

A big thank you to everyone who has donated so far.

Despite more than two years of working on this project, some people are still skeptical and post comments like "Yeah, I can use Instagram filters too," or "That's just the Bluray." So here is a very short clip from the uncropped source files in full 4K... So go ahead, skeptics, rip this scene from your official bluray disc and see if you can recreate it in instagram with some "filters". The tighter cropping and the CGI falcon in the bluray version shouldn't prove a problem for such powerful tools...

These are recreations of original TV Spots, and all the movie footage is exclusively from project 4K77. The audio tracks are from the original trailers.



Reel 4 during color correction:

Screenshot of Reel 4 being color corrected

No film prints were harmed in the making of this project.

Learn More

Join the discussion in the forums

Take a closer look at the lifecycle of a shot. 

Watch the extended preview

Learn more about the cleanup techniques.

Find out more about the 35mm sources being used.

Project 4K80

Project 4K83

Last Updated: 5/6/2019

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