Widgets The Star Wars Trilogy | Project 4K77

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. 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:


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 an additional layer 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 - that and the green or orange and teal color grades applied to update the "look".

So when it comes to 4K77, we're going to give you the choice. There will be 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. Most of these audio 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 should 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, join the forum.

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

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: 12/7/2018

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The Star Wars Trilogy | How is this for a catch 22?

The Star Wars Trilogy

A Digital Star Wars Scrapbook.

26. February 2016 12:20
by jedi1

How is this for a catch 22?

26. February 2016 12:20 by jedi1 | 0 Comments

I think most people are aware that the recent Silver Screen Edition of Star Wars created by Team Negative One is technically a breech of copyright. Nobody is disputing that 20th Century Fox holds the legal copyright to the original film. But consider this. That same copyright law which prohibits the public from preserving the original version of the film is designed to last not only beyond the lifetime of people who were around when the work was published,  our lifetimes, but also beyond the life expectancy of the film stock it was created on. In other words, by the time the copyright finally expires and the film enters the public domain, there may be no film stock left with which a preservation like this one can be done.

Almost exactly 28 years ago, George Lucas gave this impassioned speech to congress:

My name is George Lucas. I am a writer, director, and producer of motion pictures and Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm Ltd., a multi-faceted entertainment corporation.

I am not here today as a writer-director, or as a producer, or as the chairman of a corporation. I’ve come as a citizen of what I believe to be a great society that is in need of a moral anchor to help define and protect its intellectual and cultural heritage. It is not being protected.

The destruction of our film heritage, which is the focus of concern today, is only the tip of the iceberg. American law does not protect our painters, sculptors, recording artists, authors, or filmmakers from having their lifework distorted, and their reputation ruined. If something is not done now to clearly state the moral rights of artists, current and future technologies will alter, mutilate, and destroy for future generations the subtle human truths and highest human feeling that talented individuals within our society have created.

A copyright is held in trust by its owner until it ultimately reverts to public domain. American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history.

People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as “when life begins” or “when it should be appropriately terminated,” but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavor. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.

These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces,” or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new “original” negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.

In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.

There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or egotistical gangsters and having them change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste.

I accuse the companies and groups, who say that American law is sufficient, of misleading the Congress and the People for their own economic self-interest.

I accuse the corporations, who oppose the moral rights of the artist, of being dishonest and insensitive to American cultural heritage and of being interested only in their quarterly bottom line, and not in the long-term interest of the Nation.

The public’s interest is ultimately dominant over all other interests. And the proof of that is that even a copyright law only permits the creators and their estate a limited amount of time to enjoy the economic fruits of that work.

There are those who say American law is sufficient. That’s an outrage! It’s not sufficient! If it were sufficient, why would I be here? Why would John Houston have been so studiously ignored when he protested the colorization of “The Maltese Falcon?” Why are films cut up and butchered?

Attention should be paid to this question of our soul, and not simply to accounting procedures. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.

I hope you have the courage to lead America in acknowledging the importance of American art to the human race, and accord the proper protection for the creators of that art–as it is accorded them in much of the rest of the world communities.

-- George Lucas March 3, 1988

Now, as I understand it, Lucas's real point here was about the rights of the creator to be able to claim their own work and have the final say in how it is presented to the world. What he was really saying was that if Fox was to decide to update the effects in Star Wars for the 20th Anniversary Edition without his knowledge or consent just because they hold the copyright, that would be wrong. However it could be argued that the opposite is also true - in this case the copyright holders allowed the creator to destroy the original version of the work. Personally, I agree that Lucas certainly had every right to tinker with his films as much as he wanted, and that some of the changes for the Special Editions were actually improvements, but by denying the world access to the original versions which fans had already enjoyed for 20 years, he is guilty of the same "destruction of our film heritage" that he so eloquently spoke out against.

It is my sincere hope Disney can finally make an official release of the Original Trilogy a reality. An official release is better than any fan based restoration, not only because the picture and sound quality will be unmatched, but also because it can actually give Star Wars back to the people in a way that an illegal, underground release simply cannot. Every day I see requests from people wanting to know how to download the Silver Screen Edition - you know normal people like your Dad who just want to watch it, not geeks who already know how to use torrents and the usenet. They don’t know how to get it, and nobody can give them a simple “click here” to get it solution. There are an awful lot of hoops to jump through before you can find what you are looking for and actually watch it.

Putting the original version of The Star Wars Trilogy back on store shelves preserves the film for everyone. Future generations need to see this, not because it’s better then the Special Editions (even though it is) but because it is a piece of film history that Lucas himself has so short-sightedly tried to re-write. The people who worked so hard on the film, who won Academy awards for truly groundbreaking Visual Effects should be recognized for their achievements in the original versions of the films - not for a poorly rendered CGI version of Jabba that they had absolutely nothing to do with. Future generations of film students should be studying the original version of the film, and they should have something better than laserdisc era media to watch it on.

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