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.: Watching Star Wars on Film

This section is intended to be a resource page for information on the celluloid-based incarnations of the trilogy, mainly 8mm and 16mm, although the illegal 35mm versions will be briefly addressed. I hope this also gives some insight into the history of film collecting. I spoke with two established members of the film collecting community, Osi Osgood and Adrian Winchester, for some added history and information. This is still under some construction.

Sections

1) Star Wars on 8mm

2) Star Wars on 16mm and 35mm

3) Video Transfers of 8mm and 16mm

 

Star Wars on 8mm

Most people's memories of 8mm, if you are old enough to have memories of 8mm, come from elementary school education films, home movies, or public library rentals. In all three cases, the prints were usually very dirty, scratched up, and grainy, because they were viewed again and again and not well maintained, and usually not from high quality source material either. There is a certain stigma with regards to 8mm.

However, 8mm also flourished as a collectible way to watch Hollywood movies. This wasn't done by copyright pirates but by legitimate companies who were legally licenced to sell films to the public in 8mm. Before the widespread adoption of videotape in the 1980s, many people recorded memories with their own 8mm cameras, which required an 8mm projector, so this became a format of choice since lots of people owned the proper equipment. This also made the films affordable since 8mm stock is relatively inexpensive. In the early 1980s, movies formerly released on 8mm started coming out on VHS and Beta (and Laserdisc), and so the commercial 8mm market dried up in most places, North America noteably. Airlines used to show the in-flight movie in 16mm or 8mm, but they all switched to videotape. However, a properly printed, high-quality 8mm print could still give videotape and Laserdisc a run for their money because of the finer detail and richer colours, and it lacked video artifacts like tape noise, colour bleeding and tracking. It could also offer widescreen, something seldom seen in the 1980s. This is why, into the 1990s, some companies did high-quality 8mm releases for the niche collecting market. DVD basically made it obsolete, but there are still a handful of companies that continue to offer films for collectors, usually trailers. Avatar's trailer is available in 8mm. Weird, huh? No, it doesn't come in 3D.

Super 8 is a special format of 8mm that uses more space on the film frame. The frame is still 8mm wide, but the sprocket holes are reduced so that the picture area is larger and therefore better quality. Super 8 was invented around 1965, and most commercially sold 8mm films are in the super 8 format, which could be played on regular 8mm projectors. As far as I know, all of the 8mm Star Wars films are in the super 8 format.

In late 1977, the first 8mm versions of Star Wars appeared for sale. The first things to come out were the Kenner hand cranked cassettes and viewer, which was a little plastic 8mm device where you could look through a hole and watch the movie in it while you hand-cranked the film through, and a 200ft reel. The Kenner Movie Viewer resembled those old Viewmaster still-image viewers, and a total of five cassettes  were released for it. At the same time, the 200ft reel of Star Wars was released by a company called Ken Films, containing the conversation with Luke about the Force and getting his lightsabre, then switching to the escape from the deathstar and the complete Millennium Falcon and Tie Fighter battle. It was a nice seven and a half minutes. What's ironic about that first release is that the 200ft digest hit England before the film was in theatres there, if only by a little bit. The British could actually watch that segment from the film before they could even see the full feature in their local venue. This seems mundane today--it is basically like watching two or three promotional clips like the way you can do so on Youtube--but at the time the idea of (re)watching any moving image from the film in your own home was a magical, exciting premise. The 200ft digest was available in black and white silent, colour silent, and colour with sound.


 


The two 400ft digests soon were issued when Ken Films, who had released the original 200ft single reel, saw that they had a blockbuster on their hands.  Part 1 was a nice almost-19-minute release with the repeat of the Millennium Falcon/Tie battle to end it. Part 2 included such favorite scenes as the cantina, destruction of alderann and a masterfully edited last battle sequence (running a full six minutes of the digest). This second reel was first released in the flat full screen format, as they had released the previous two versions, but Ken Films then released that second reel in anamorphic scope, which was deluxe treatment.  Now super 8 collectors (who already had earlier scope releases on Super 8) were actually able to enjoy this film, with that six minute last battle, in beautiful cinemascope. This was quite a feat as the average viewer would not be able to see Star Wars in widescreen until the late 80s with the letterboxed release on laserdisc (which cost hundreds of dollars) and then the special letterboxed VHS in the early 1990s (which was not easy to find in stores).  So, Super 8 collectors were watching Star Wars in their own homes ten years before anyone else.


 
In Germany, one 400ft and one 200ft reel were released. Super 8 collector Osi Osgood says, "The German version had many scenes that were not in the U.S. version, and many super 8 collectors built a full 50 minute version of Star Wars, combing all the bits and pieces from all 5 versions of Star Wars on Super 8, (re-recording the German version into english, of course)." There were other 8mm releases of Star Wars in Mexico and a scope version in France, which I must presume date to this time as well.

Film collector Adrian Winchester explains: "As far as I know, all of these were printed on film stocks that now show signs of fade, to one degree or another. However, low fade (predicted to not fade for around 75 years) Agfa and Kodak stocks were starting to be used when 'mass market' Super 8 suffered a major decline around 1981 and 1982." These stocks are often referred to as LPP, or low-fade positive print stock, and began to be produced around 1982, as it was discovered that film stock of the 1970s especially would begin fading after less than ten years. Winchester says that some of the prints of The Empire Strikes Back extracts (also on two 400' releases) "definitely were low fade."

When The Empire Strikes Back came out, Super 8 was still going strong, (as VHS hadn't really taken over yet), and Ken Films released a 2x400ft version of the film.  Curiously enough, Ken Film also released a 200ft version, but with no sound. "The film had the mag stripe, but they instead released the soundtrack on an audio cassette which you could synchronize with the film," Osgood says. Though only running a total time of 34 minutes, as with the previous Star Wars digest, this one was extremely well edited.


 
By the time Return of the Jedi came out, Super 8 had for all intents and purposes, died out.  "However," Osgood notes, "a company down in L.A. released a version of ROTJ as a 3X400ft release in scope, consisting of reel 1 of the feature and the last two reels of the feature.  This digest is extremely rare and hard to come by." The article from the official site examining Super 8 releases claims the film was never formally released on Super 8, indicating either it was never catalogued (unlikely) or that this is in fact a bootleg release (likely).
 
Some time later we come to the prize period of Star Wars super 8: the rare Derann years.
 
In 1989, Derann Films Services, of the U.K., were able to get the rights to release Star Wars on Super 8 not only in anamorphic widescreen, but for the entire full-length of the film. This release resulted from Derann having rights to release 20th Century Fox films (at least if Fox gave permission and had suitable master material) on Super 8. They later released Return of the Jedi as a full feature in scope  as well. Because low-fade (LPP) film stock had come about by then, these prints still show off bright colors and have a sharpness and grain that rivals existing 16mm prints. Later on in the 90's, another film company, Classic Home Cinema (also of the U.K.), released Empire Strikes Back in scope as well, and while the original negative had some slight surface wear issues, it was also an incredible image that was delivered.

As a collector, watching films in anamorphic cinemascope meant that you had to have an anamorphic lens for your projector. Many better Super 8 projectors have screw holes at the front/top that can be used to fit brackets to hold the lens. "Most people remember super 8 as being very grainy and hard to focus, but Derann used the best, sharpest negatives and released a super 8 print that was as good as a 16mm copy with gorgeous saturated color," Osgood states. "Even back then, this print cost over 300 English pounds brand new." They used a pristine negative from France, as denoted by the leader before the beginning of the film, although there are reports of a version without the French leader and with a rougher negative; possibly, this was a second negative used after the first one was too worn, as all prints were struck directly from the neg--as a review posted later in this page notes, customers were best to order the film early so that their copy would be from the negative in a better state. "On the day I bought it Dave Prowse was actually there to sign your copy," Osgood continues. "Every once in awhile, I'll take this print down to the local library to have a Star Wars showing, explaining to the children that they will see Star Wars in a way that no one has seen it for almost 30 or more years. No extra special effects, just as I saw it when I was 11 years old in 77!  The adults that come with their kids are constantly to be heard saying, 'hey, that's not a shot I've seen before.' " 

Below are thirteen rare photographs of a Derann print being projected. These were posted, at the request of Adrian Winchester on my behalf, by an owner on an 8mm message board. They are just low-quality photographs of a screen, but I think the sharpness and vibrancy still is apparent:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Originaltrilogy.com member Silverwook offered me a handful of shots he took of a Derann print as well; these aren't quite as nice in terms of colour and contrast because they were taken with a camcorder aimed at the screen, and are not perfectly in focus either, but you do get another sense of the print. These can be clicked for larger sizes. They have not been anamorphically squeezed.
 
   
 
Derann Film Services showed remarkable vision and perceived that although VHS had caused a decline, there was still a significant 'niche market' for selling high quality Super 8 prints to people who wanted far better better results than were possible from projecting VHS. Therefore, there was a Super 8 revival that lasted from about 1984 until the late 1990s, primarily due to Derann, although some smaller UK companies also contributed to this. A key factor was that if people were prepared to go to the considerable expense of buying films, and particularly features, on Super 8, they demanded high quality, and so this and improvements in film stocks meant that prints were usually far superior to all but the very best of the prints produced before this period. "Some of my best Super 8 prints certainly beat my more mediocre 16mm ones," Winchester claims.
 
Click here for a 1989 review of the Derann Star Wars from a film collecting magazine. Below is a scan from the Derann catalog circa 1989, showing the mono and stereo scope versions:
 
 
Remarkably, Derann's persistence caused them to gain exclusive deals with distributors that included 20th Century Fox (from 1989) and Walt Disney (from 1992). This contributed to the high standards as these distributors usually provided negatives of excellent quality. Most of the best Disney features (and numerous shorts) were released on Super 8 right up to 'Fantasia 2000', as well as large numbers of Fox releases. "One of my prized possessions is a full length stereo print of 'Aliens' that would still look just as good projected 5-6 foot wide as when I bought it," says Adrian Winchester. "By about 1986, every release was on low fade Kodak LPP, so these films have not declined since."
 
Incidentally, although by the end of the 1990s, the combination of DVDs and greatly improved digital projectors caused a major decline in Super 8, there are still new releases to this day, albeit in much smaller quantities and mainly shorts and trailers with the occasional feature. "One of my more recent buys was the trailer to 'Avatar'. If by any chance you know anyone that might be interested in a scope trailer to 'The Revenge of the Sith', I have one I'm willing to sell!" 
 
The Derann release was only available in scope, but customers had a choice of mono or stereo versions. It was on 4 x 600' spools. "I emailed one of Derann's directors that I know, who was involved at the time, and he estimated that a minimum of 250 copies were sold, but said it could have been a lot more," Winchester told me. "He couldn't be more precise because Fox (unlike Disney) didn't ask them to keep precise records." Reviews of the film from 1989 that have been passed on to me praise the colour. The prints would have been made in several different batches, keep in mind, and with Super 8 as with any film format it's not unusual for one batch to look a bit different from another. "I've noticed that despite the fact that a lot (by Super 8 standards) were sold, used copies hardly ever appear on lists or on eBay, so it looks like the owners are hanging on to them." Winchester further notes, "I recall that it was only available for a relatively short period--maybe 3 or 4 years--and it was probably withdrawn due to negative wear or damage."
 
Star Wars on 16mm and 35mm
 
So, we have covered 8mm Star Wars, but of course the big question is what about the larger formats. Wouldn't someone who wanted to really enjoy the films pursue 16mm and 35mm? Well, the elephant in the room is that we are discussing sort-of-illegal activities.
 
Although there have been many 16mm features commercially sold over the years, 35mm in particular is a format of almost exclusive piracy; even though their owner's intentions are for pure personal collection, the prints are almost always originally secured by some method that is technically illegal. There have never been any versions of Star Wars sold on 16mm, and 35mm prints of Hollywood films are not sold, period. There is a very big black market where collectors can obtain films in these formats, of course. The term "black market" seems like an archaic and negative term, as it is essentially a network of collectors pursuing it as a hobby for their own interests and I refer to it as the collector's market, but in eras past was considered illegal by authorities. In the 1970s, film afficianados who were rich (because the prints were highly expensive) could buy black market 35mm so that they could watch movies in their home. This included the famous actor Roddy McDowell, who had his home raided by the FBI on piracy charges and had all his prints confiscated. This was seen as a threat to business because it was the only way people could avoid having to pay theatre admissions--there was no home video. Some could strike up deals with the studios, for instance Francis Coppola obtained a number of 35mm prints from studios for his home legitimately, and I believe George Lucas had a modest collection as well.
 
Because of their high materials cost (tens of thousands of dollars), and the cost of the equipment to copy and then project them, 35mm prints are relatively rare. Some were "stolen" from theatres, while others were probably "borrowed" from the projection room where they were then brought to a local film lab and copied (these are called dupes: copies from a print, rather than a negative source). I remember reading an article about how someone broke in to a projection room to steal Episode I in 1999, only to realise that you can't simply drag out the hundreds-pounds six reels (or more) that movies come in inconspicuously. Buying or selling these are also difficult, but we'll come to the bigger issue of piracy later.
 
The video explosion no doubt made 35mm piracy less common; why spend thousands of dollars and a big operation getting a full print when you can just bring your video camera to the theatre and record it that way? Since most people watched movies on VHS anyway, it made sense. Even in the case of the Episode I story, the print was almost certainly bound for a video telecine machine to make high-quality street VHS copies. Today, you would never have an incident like when the FBI raided Roddy McDowell's home because the FBI doesn't care about film prints very much, they are only for hobbyist now, and instead target mass-produced DVD operations and online file-sharing. The video explosion also killed off film piracy in another way in that one of the main reasons people sought black market prints was because it was the only way to watch the films. Home video didn't appear until the late 1970s, and most titles weren't available until the early 1980s. 35mm prints will obviously give you much better quality than 1980s home video, but the convenience of a little VCR and tape you could fast forward and rewind made bulky, noisy, expensive 35mm undesirable. It became a collectors market for the small crowd of people that did care about that extra quality, as well as the added pleasure of collecting genuine film. DVD probably dented the market further still, but with the advent of Blu Ray and high definition, there is increasingly little need for a 35mm film print of a Hollywood movie except for the collectibility and pleasure of watching a real film. Even theatres are phasing out 35mm.
 
The 16mm market is not as cumbersome or expensive as 35mm, and also historically considered "more legal" if that makes sense, and so that is why this format is easier to come across today. I say "more legal" because authorities have generally shown less concern over it; it's a format that people have (or had) in their home sometimes, there were commercial releases for purchase and prints that people could borrow from the local library, and the quality of a pirate copy is not going to be much better than a modern commercial video, unlike 35mm. Years ago 16mm was taken more seriously as a threat to copyright. "When I started collecting 16mm in the early 1980s," Adrian Winchester says, "ownership of prints could be such a sensitive issue that many collectors were careful in mentioning what they had, particularly if they had Disney films, as Disney were notorious with regard to confiscating films and taking legal action. Certainly the legality of collecting 16mm features was something of a grey area and even one or two quite famous people ran into problems and had films confiscated. I think one was Bob Monkhouse, who was a well known comedian in the UK. Since then, things have changed and broadly speaking it's legal to own 16mm features, hence their open sale on eBay and elsewhere."
 
Winchester says that the gradual acceptance of 16mm is mainly due to the general availability of prints. 16mm prints are cheaper and easier to make, more people have the equipment to watch them, and there are a lot of prints in circulation formerly from TV stations, public libraries, airlines, military bases, prisons, and other sources. "It's true that the cracking down has almost ended although I'd guess that the reason is less related to piracy issues and more because the quantity of prints in circulation--perhaps largely because of US TV stations selling their features--was so great that it became increasingly absurd and difficult to view collectors as offenders." You can find many 16mm films on eBay, in fact, even though many of them might technically be considered illegal since they were never commercially sold in the first place. Because 16mm is no longer relevant, the laws are still in place but in practice they aren't enforced. Today, the 16mm collector's market is thriving and tolerated as a legitimate practice.
 
16mm prints have in the past been sold in the same way as Super 8 films, albeit on a smaller scale and you could, for example, buy prints of some Star Trek episodes produced specifically for sale. However, 16mm features legitimately produced for sale tend to be vintage black-and-white films, and no new prints of Star Wars were licensed and advertised for sale. There were 16mm negatives produced by Fox, of course, for probably both libraries and television, perhaps as well as for other avenues. "I wouldn't rule out the possibility that there are some 'extra' prints in circulation that lab employees made specifically to sell to collectors," Winchester says, "although it's almost impossible to know, as anyone who produced or bought them is obviously unlikely to make it known. Someone mentioned on the 16mm Forum having a dupe--a print copied from another print instead of a negative--of '2001', so I can't completely rule out the possibility that there could be a few dupes of Star Wars although I think it's unlikely." Even though LPP prints generally preserve the colour, collectors try to search for Technicolor I.B. dye-transfer prints where possible, as LPP prints can still turn vinegar (a decomposition process which produces an odor like vinegar), although no I.B. 16mm prints were made for Star Wars.
 
The quantity of prints in circulation usually reflects the popularity of the film, which is why the number of Star Wars 16mm prints seems above average. Unfortunately, it's also likely that a lot of Star Wars prints have been destroyed, as some libraries would give retired prints, even if in perfectly good condition, the 'bandsaw treatment'. This probably reflected contractual obligations rooted in an archaic desire to prevent piracy or unauthorized screenings. "Despite the fact that 16mm prints have probably not been connected with piracy for many years, I've heard of prints being destroyed right up to 2006, which was the last year that new material was added to a US library," says Winchester. "But despite this, prints certainly have 'escaped' from libraries in significant numbers, either because libraries lost track of rentals, or they managed to openly sell prints, or because people given the responsibility to destroy/junk prints sold them instead. Prints with serious flaws like missing sections are likely to fall into the last category."
 
Libraries probably offered both flat and scope prints. "However, I presume Star Wars was also screened on US TV in the 1980s, and 16mm would probably have been used up to around 1986-7, so the numbers of flat prints is probably boosted by the ones that were previously held by TV stations," Winchester says. "I get the impression that TV stations were less likely to destroy films than libraries. TV prints can often be identified by splices/cue marks/silver tape where commercials were, but I don't suppose Star Wars had any censor cuts." There are foreign 16mm prints as well, such as one with Swedish subtitles.
 
The fact that some 16mm prints of the Star Wars trilogy are faded and some have good colour is probably because they were printed on both sides of the introduction of Kodak LPP in 1982. Earlier Kodak prints are likely to be faded although any on Agfa or Fuji could be OK. Just a few weeks ago there was a 16mm LPP print of Star Wars on eBay. Unfortunately there's no screen shots but most LPP prints have very a good colour balance and often have an authentic theatrical look. It has currently reached $900, but a scope print in good condition would go for much more.
 
Finally, as for Star Wars on 35mm, these are not nearly as easy to come by, although I have certainly heard of many prints existing. The problem, however, is that because of their age, many of them are so worn out they are more useful as a novelty than anything, like a lot of items in the collecting community. Star Wars was a very popular film, and as these likely came from theatres originally, they got played a lot. Many of them have completely faded to red, to the point where it might not even be possible to restore them properly using digital tools. There are a few 70mm prints in private hands as well, but they have the same problems. Probably there are LPP versions of all three films in better condition, as there were re-releases in 1983, 1984 in the UK, and 1985 in the U.S., although I can't say if these exist for sure, as they might have re-circulated existing prints since these re-releases were limited. Of course, at least one Technicolor I.B. dye-transfer print is owned privately, as it was screened in 2010 (see the article here).
 
The discussion here is a bit of a legal tightrope, because of the unique situation of the Star Wars films. Film collectors, especially 16mm ones, are largely ignored by their copyright owners (the studios), because the films aren't a threat to their business. And in the case of 35mm, these days it matters very little. No one should care if you have a 35mm of Blade Runner, because you can just watch it on DVD or Blu-Ray, the latter of which will look much better than a 35mm print, and they should know you aren't going to pirate it because it's ridiculously expensive to do so with a print when there is a superior version in HD that costs a mere $30 dollars. If you really want to pirate Blade Runner, you will mass-produce copies of the Blu Ray or upload a torrent, and that's where studios concentrate their anti-piracy measures. They won't approve that you have a 35mm print, of course, because they know the only way you have it is because someone originally stole it from them, but in practice they will generally leave you alone as long as you don't flaunt it too much, hence the continued online existance of these private communities. And if you are a theatre owner and want to screen the film, they will gladly provide you with a nice-looking 35mm print for a reasonable rental cost. The collectors market is not a real threat to them.
 
Of course, Star Wars is a bit different. You can't request a print of the original film from Fox. You can't even request a print of the Special Edition, because Lucasfilm doesn't let the film be screened unless it is a special event endorsed by them. And if you want to see the original version in any sort of high quality way....you can't. This makes the collector's market a very dangerous thing for Lucasfilm. If George Lucas is serious about his openly stated desire to erase the originals from total existence, these are the few things that might seriously prevent him from doing so. And he must be serious, because there has been at least a couple instances where Lucasfilm reps have confiscated prints or shut down screenings.
 
This is one reason why Lucasfilm needs to get their act in gear and release new, high-definition versions of the originals. If they don't, eventually someone else will probably do it themselves. This was already done once in the 1980s, but the maker kept it for himself--the films weren't available in widescreen on video, so he took a really beautiful 16mm print and did a professional telecine to VHS for himself (this bootleg, called "Catnap", did not spread very far though). How long will it be until someone who owns a decent 35mm print--like maybe that beautiful Technicolor print--will discover someone is willing to do a high-def scan for them and finally end the cultural destruction Lucasfilm has been engaging in? On a long enough time scale this seems almost inevitable. Wake up, Lucasfilm, and release the films yourself first.
 
More than that, however, there are already 8mm and 16mm transfers on DVD, in addition to the "Catnap" VHS transfer. This brings us to the final part of this article, and the most fun: watching Star Wars in 8mm and 16mm...on video!
 
Video Transfers of 8mm and 16mm
 
Now, of course one of the joys and pleasures of watching a film print is to actually see a film print, with your bare eyeballs. Film has different texture and characteristics than video, and video transfers do not fully replicate this experience. Even though Blu Ray does a remarkable job at giving you a "film-like" experience when done right, it is still only "film-like" and not 100% the same as watching a bona fide celluloid projection. Nonetheless, loyal fans have tried to capture a little bit of the novelty and experience of Star Wars on film.
 
The earliest version is a bootleg that has since been dubbed "Catnap", mentioned earlier. This looks like it dates to the late 1980s, and based on my own appraisal is a 16mm print. It appears to be in very good condition and shows very little fading. This bootleg is extremely rare, and has only recently come to light online. It is clearly a professional telecine, is extremely low in generation (i.e. has not been copied very much) and also in widescreen. Since it looks as though it very obviously post-dates Star Wars on video (which hit shelves in 1982), the reason one would do a professional telecine of a 16mm print is because of the novelty of widescreen. Probably what happened is a guy owned a nice scope print of Star Wars, but didn't want to have to thread up a 16mm projector every time, and wanted to be able to fast forward or bring it to his friend's house. But he didn't want to watch the film on official home video, because it was fullscreen. So he did his own 16mm transfer to be able to enjoy the film in widescreen with the convenience of VHS. The bootleg is very good quality and is very close to the original master. Probably he copied his own master for some of his friends, which is how this eventually got put online. This is my reconstruction of its origins, anyway, and I could be mistaken.
 
But of course, this is an older telecine, on an older VHS tape, and doesn't quite compete with the later, official tapes in terms of detail, although it is an interesting and fairly impressive artifact. The main feature of this section will be taking a look at two relatively new film-to-video transfers: the Puggo editions.
 
A guy by the alias of Puggo, a long-standing member of originaltrilogy.com, built himself his very own telecine machine. A lot of hobbyist have done this over the years. It is, however, a lot of work to do, and consumed a lot of money and time. This basically involves syncing a projector with a camera hooked up to a computer to do frame-by-frame capture. The camera, of course, is just a regular consumer standard-def camera. Poor dynamic range, not very good resolution. Using a better camera with HD capabilities would have made a difference with the 16mm version, but at least the 8mm telecine has most of its quality accounted for. Nonetheless, for amateur, literally home-made captures of the films, "Puggo Edition" and "Puggo Grande" are terrific treats.
 
For the 8mm "Puggo Edition", his source for the prints, provided by "Bobafeta", I believe is the Ken Films versions. Of course, any sort of home telecine like this has problems, and the black levels and colours tend to be a bit washed out than they would be in real life, and detail level and especially contrast is not quite the same as if you were seeing the films projected. However, the basic essence of the print is faithfully ported over; the print is faded a little but Puggo was able to do some correction to salvage it. Empire Strikes Back is by Ken Films as far as I know as well, but it looks like it might have been LPP, as the colours are much better. The release came out in late 2006/early 2007 and he lists the technical specs as follows:

Source material: Super-8 film (4 reels), 24fps with mono sound.
Reels 1/2 - Star Wars
Reels 3/4 - Empire Strikes Back

Video capture:
- Workprinter-XP frame-by-frame telecine
- Sony TRV-900 video camera, NTSC
- Sony Vegas video capture
- each reel assembled from four captures at various light settings
- edit/trimming in Sony Vegas - all frames retained as-is
- no additional video post-processing

Audio capture:
- GAF Super-8 sound projector, mono capture
- DAT passthrough SPDIF into Cool-Edit (Windows)
- reel #1 required 5 captures at different levels.
- reels #2-4 required only 1 capture each.
- assembly in Cool-Edit

Audio processing:
- light hum and noise removal in Cool-Edit
- deClick in Cool-Edit to ameliorate distortion

Sound sync:
- temporary video pulldown done using CineCap, for sync purposes only
- assembly in Sony Vegas, audio with temporary video.
- minor audio stretch with pitch preservation, sync done by hand.
- rendered only resulting .wav file - video pulldown discarded.

Video encoding:
- TMPGE to .m2v, 2-pass encoding
- bitrate = min:3000 avg:6000 max:8000
- highest motion quality, 10 bits
- 3:2 pulldown settings
- progressive input, interlace output

Audio encoding: Sonic Foundry SoftEncode (AC3)

DVD Authoring and menu: DVD-Lab

Burning: Nero
----
Clips:
SW - Han Solo gunfight. (right click and choose "Save Target as...") 20Mb. Raw frames, no sound, pulldown not yet done.
ESB - Imperial walker battle. (right click and choose "Save Target as...") 28Mb. Raw frames, no sound, pulldown not yet done.
ESB - Dogfight between cruisers. (right click and choose "Save Target as...") 20Mb. Raw frames, no sound, pulldown not yet done.
 
Some select screens (visit his website, linked at the bottom, for a full list):
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Puggo also transferred the Kenner Movie Viewer 8mm. He accomplished this by basically breaking open the plastic viewing device and running the film through a real 8mm projector. The result doesn't look very good, or have sound, but it's a fun experiment to show what you would have seen. This is documented in a very humourous video, Rescuing Star Wars. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSXsvC4ZUHk
 
Of course, Puggo is not the only one to have done 8mm transfers. On Youtube is a telecine of the French 8mm, which looks to be better quality than Puggo's in some ways, although there is a lot of DVR applied (which gives faces that waxy look). See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Giv08gRlB2Q&feature=related
 
If you search 8mm Star Wars on Youtube, you will find other examples, but none are really worth watching (although this preview looks decent). This version shows what a projection of a completely faded copy of the Ken Films version looks like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzMXecd2i_U&feature=fvwrel
 
Sadly, there is no telecine of the Derann 8mm versions, which would have been sharper, in better condition and without fading. As noted, they are difficult to obtain because collectors tend to hold on to them. Another problem for Puggo is that the 600' reel sizes are too large for the workprinter to carry.
 
Next up, Puggo tackled the 16mm version of the films. This project, called "Puggo Grande", was culled from two sources. The main print is in 3 reels and in decent condition, particularly the first reel. Second and third reels have more extensive colour fading, especially reel two. Reel three had major sprocket damage for ten seconds, which was repaired by using the secondary print, which had severe fading and Swedish subtitles. The sound was synced from the secondary Swedish print, as it had the original mono mix. Puggo Grande is probably the best way to watch a "film version" of the original Star Wars, although the colours could use more punch and there is the expected dirt and scratches in modest amounts. However, the detail level is very high. There is a terrific feeling of "Star Wars Grindhouse", as the film is both rough around the edges but also very watchable. I found a condenced preview of it on Youtube, although it suffers some compression.
 
Puggo lists his specs as follows:
 
For the video capture, I used a 16mm Workprinter manufactured by Roger Evans of Moviestuff. The Workpriter was further modified to capture more of the frame, to more effectively capture the scope print. It also needed additional adjustment of the positioning of the lens to avoid chopping the corners. For the optical audio tracks, I used an EIKI Slimline 16mm projector. I used CoolEdit to clean the audio, and Vegas Video to sync the tracks.

For additional post-processing, I used the following:

  • Virtualdub - CMYK filter (RocketJet4 Tools) for color correction,
  • Vegas Video - various masking and corrections to reduce edge effects,
  • PhotoStudio - to build a curved border
  • Vegas Video - chroma keying the border, resize, and very light sharpening,
  • TMPGEnc for encoding, and
  • DVD Lab for authoring.
  •  
    Puggo posted a snapshot on his website of a raw, uncorrected frame to give you some idea of the quality.
     
     
    Below are a few frames after resizing and post-processing. They can be clicked for a larger size.
     
     
    For completism, Puggo also released the capture of the Swedish print. The release is named after the Swedish translation of the film: Stjärnornas Krig. As stated, this version has Swedish subtitles and heavy fading. Example below:
     
    He is currently in the process of capturing a LPP 16mm print of Empire Strikes Back. For more information on the 8mm and 16mm digital transfers see:
     
    The Puggo Edition website and thread

    The Puggo Grande website and thread
     
    Stj√§rnornas Krig website and thread
     
    For a look at the original Super 8 Ken Films and Kenner Movie Viewer in the Lucasfilm Archives, see:
     
    Finally, a huge, huge thanks to both Adrian Winchester and Osi Osgood for their wealth of information on this subject, as well as to Puggo for taking the time to make his terrific telecines.