Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Star Wars - The CAV Widescreen Special Collection Edition

Laserdisc SF148-1196

 It' hard to believe - but it was 30 years this week when the 1st Widescreen version of "Star Wars" was released by CBS/Fox in Japan 
on a Standard Play CAV Laserdisc. 
It was known simply as 
the "Special Collection".
Almost three more years would come to pass before this film would finally get a widescreen release on Laserdisc in the U.S.

Using the same print master as the previous editions, as all the exact same print flaws are present,
 the 2.35:1 image is shifted up on the screen to make room for the subtitles below. 
    The film was spread over 5 sides on 3 disc. 
Front Cover Art / Design .

Widescreen CAV version from Japan VS The Pan & Scan US release.
The same print was used, however The Special Collection featured PCM Digital sound.
  It is identical to the previous Pan & Scan  CAV Standard Play US release issued a year earlier by CBS/ Fox in 1985 in that the scene breaks on each disc occur at exactly the same points in the film. 
Different end bumpers where utilized on these releases.
Many fans of George's Original Unaltered Trilogy -to this day consider this the best available consumer home video version of the film.  
This disc was bought in an attempt to verify if (?) this myth is indeed true.
Please keep in mind that there are many factors to consider.
1. Resolution:
    Keep in mind w/ the black bars in place
                       this release is limited to 240 lines resolution.
2. Color saturation: 
     Both color level's and tones are truer to the original film release
                       than the other widescreen release.
3. Contrast:
     This is the BRIGHTEST overall widescreen release available.
                    However - contrast is the lowest.
                    This works best for older - darker tube TV's.
                     ( also works well for small Plasma sets.) 
                    Keep in mind- modern releases of film on DVD & Blu-ray's
                     are designed to be displayed on modern LED monitors- 
                      which are much bright & lack the black level's of older tube sets.
                      More on this later. 
4. Sharpness & "noise" level:
    Since this release lacks the DNR used in The Definitive Collection / Faces Edition
    and the film was never transferred to Digital Video before being transferred to LVD,
    so therefore it lacks both the video noise ( from the digital tape) & smear introduced by the DNR     that was utilized in those release. That's not to say that this release lacks noise.  
 5. Overall image results: 
TRUTH be told - STRICTLY in terms of Image Quality - 
                         this may not be a fair comparison to other releases.
                         That's because my very used copy of this release 
                         was NOT  still in the best of shape.
                          Sides 1-4 showed signs of degradation and rot.
                          Only side 5 seemed NOT to have any issues.
                          Therefore going to reserve final judgement til  the opportunity to view
                          and unopened / perfectly stored pressing.
                          WARNING: Don't hold your breath.

Running Time
27min 10sec
22min 06sec
22min 21sec
25min 19sec
24min 49sec
121min 49sec

 Anyhow - here's the story the chart doesn't tell.
DISCLAIMER: All Images sourced from Laserdisc & DVD's
                                   are copyright © 1977, 1985, 1986, 1993, 2006  
                                   Lucasfilm Ltd. Fair Use Law applies for review purposes
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107
   Copyright Act 1976
  No copyright infringement intended.

Disc One:
As mentioned:
 The film image on this pressing has been shifted up
in order to make room for the subtitles.  
I wonder what could possible come next ? 

This copy of this release has many issues besides the many flaws
 that are present in the film itself - like dirt & scratches.
 The one major flaw  that really stands out
 is all the glue lines in the negative between scenes.
 There are many of them. Here is an example.

The is
also much
"noise" & additional
"artifacts" on disc

Here is the same frame from The Definitive Collection Disc.
for comparison:
Based upon this image - TDC looks better right?

Side 1:
Found NOT to be true in all cases.  Witness this frame.
Noticed green colored "noise"
From The Definitive Collection

The "noise" level was worse here on "The Definitive Collection" Disc !
As a matter of fact - notice how bad the upper left hand corner of the image looks.
Now- as everyone knows -
the scenes where the droids exit the excape pod &
 part ways is really bad shape ( the film - that is.)
 Not even going to review it here -
cause that scene could be an article by itself.
Therefore moving to the end of the side 1.

Disc 1. Side 1 ends here: 
just after the famous Binary Sunset scene - 
after R2 has run - I mean - has rolled away -
as the image fades to black. 

If ( ?)  you own this release - and your disc doesn't suffer from
rot and video noise - please contact me.  
I therefore decided to compare the image to the Pan & Scan version -

Guess what?  - The image was darker -
and the noise level ( and disc rot) 
were just as bad -
or even worse as
disc one ended.

Here is the 2006 Definitive Collection Edition Bonus DVD. 

From this
 You can see how the
 Special Collection
 Image above
 is brighter.  

For shit's and giggles -
The 2004 DVD SE release made from the "restored" negative / new print - 

Even darker still.
Was this done in order
 to hide
  the low image

For reference :
Here is a scan of a printed shot of that scene - 
taken further away  @ a slightly different angle

Looks like they utilized plenty of light.....
when they filmed it. 

So- even with it's low resolution -
poor film quality and poor disc condition -
this scene that ends disc one of 
The Special Collection may (?) yet still be  truer to the way
                               it was filmed than any other release. 
  DISC 1 / Side 1 Chapter titles:
1. Opening: Star Destroyer & Blockade Runner
2. The Planet Tatooine; C3PO & R2 
3. Luke Skywalker

Side 2:
Fade up from black to this image:
Like the closing image of side 1
 - there is much noise.


There seems to be a band of "green noise" right through the middle of the image.
Like previously stated - maybe this is just this used copy? -
  The image may be beginning to break down due to the disc's age?
 Who knows how / or under what type of storage conditions
the previous owner kept the disc? Then again -
 maybe all of the copy's look this bad?

The scene where R2 gets shot by the Jawas on The Special Collection
Contains the bright day I remember.
Unlike the changes in  "The Special Edition" - this scene
 "occurs" when both Suns are still high in the sky -
as it is daytime,  and not sun - er, suns set. 


Side 2 ends here:
  Han : "Those guys must really be desperate.
  This could really save my neck. 
  Getback to the ship and get her ready".


DISC 1 Side 2 Chapter Titles:
1. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight
2. Death Star: Grand Moff Tarkin &
                        Lord Darth Vader
3. The Bar of Cantina ; Han Solo

Disc 2 
Side 3 begins here:
Ben: "You'll have to sell your speeder."

in the

Compare the above image to The Definitive Collection Version.
The 2006 TDC Bonus DVD
Here there is less green video noise - and better color.

Side 3
 ENDS here:
The frames leading up to the end of disc
looked better than those images at the end
Makes you wonder? 

DISC 2 Side 3 Chapter Titles
1. The Bar of Cantina ; The Bounty Hunter
2. Millennium Falcan ; Jump to Hyperspace
3. Destroy of the Planet Alderaan
4. Monster Chess and Light Saber
5. Toward Death Star


Side 4
begins here:
Han: "This is not going to work."


and ends here:
This frame NOT taken from the Special Collection LD.
Scene was more meaning after viewing "Rogue One"

     DISC 2 Side 4: Chapter Titles
1. Rescue of Princess Leia
2. Obi-Wan Vs. Darth Vader
3. Escape : Battle against TIE Fighter

4. The Planet Yavin

Disc 3

Bet you the thought -
 " then the Laserdisc Player being used must just suck"
  has already crossed your mind by now - right?
 Why else would these results look so poor?
 Well, IF this was a CLV disc - ( One hour - extended play )
 you may well have a point. However -
 a modified Industrial Pioneer LD-V8000 is being used here- 
and while it's CLV performance w/ motion smear IS indeed lacking -
 it's picture quality w/ CAV Laserdisc is normally rock solid.
It certainly may not be THE Best LD player ever manufactured -
( heck - it's not even in the top five )
but if you bought this thing back in the early 90's -
 you could have done a lot worse - 
 as there were only a handful of players at that time that could top it.
More on this later.

 For now -  
  DISC 3.

DISC #3 - Side 5 Starts here:

almost w/ a "Flash" of light, as for some unknown reason
   the Death Star "glows" a little bit brighter on the 1st  couple of frames
   before it somewhat "settles" down a bit -
   ( again - THIS is the Brightest Release of all the Widescreen disc.)


The Image is somewhat darker on TDC disc.

Here is where things get interesting w/ DISC 3:
Starting @ about this point -
Still not perfect - but looking better.

The image just slowly continues to improve.

 Then IT happens !
 Before you know it - there it is:
 The Star Wars That I Used to Know.

 It doesn't even look like this image is from the same pressing.
 One could only image what it must have felt like to have this back in 1986.

       Further on into the disc - and all the green noise just about disappears
       Click on IMAGE to ENLARGE
        (Chapter Marker / Frame Index Display turned on for reference) 


This image pushed the blue color to look over bright -
               but you can still see the actor's eye through the lens in the mask.

Here is a frame from TDC.
 Again - it's a little darker w/ slightly different color tint.

Than a funny thing happens towards the. THIS:
I don't remember this scene ever containing that much green.
So again - for reference - I check the TDC.

Some Green - but mostly blue.

Then take a look at the regular SE "remastered " 2004 DVD

Even more blue tint.
Notice the matte painted soldiers of the far left & right have been replaced.

                            So - upon referencing the 1985 Pan & Scan Laserdisc -
        ( other than being cropped - this image should be absolutely identical )
The 1985 Pan & Scan Standard Play (CAV)  US release.
 But it's not identical. However - this is the way I remember it - 
which is the reason why the Widescreen version just stood out.
So it must be this disc itself - as the video itself it sourced from both
 the same print and same master tape.

   DISC 3 Side 5 Chapter Titles
1. Briefing about attack  Death Star
2. Dog Fight
3. Ending

 does the world's 1st Widescreen release of Star Wars on Home Video 
 really manage to still be the BEST version of Lucas's Original
 Unaltered Masterpiece after 30 years ? 

 Hard to judge. The 1st 4 sides of the copy used in this review have 
already starting to show signs of degrading and contained light rot -
 either due to age or  more likely than not- improper storage conditions.
So they get dismissed.

Disc 5 / Side three however makes a strong case.
Like the 1985 Pan & Scan release before it -
it's extremely bright - and contains many flaws in the print
(the way you remember it - before it was cleaned up and restored. )
IF (?)  you still happen to be using either a  CRT Projection TV and /or  
a standard or HD conventional tube set just to playback these old Laserdisc -
( like an old school Sony Trinitron Flat tube) then 
THIS may very well be THE disc for  you.
Mark Hamill & Carrie Fisher
Star Wars Image sourced  from 1985 Pan & Scan CAV Laserdisc

The brighter releases really work well with those darker monitors - 
( as they were designed to do back in their day )
and they may (?)  even do well when displayed on a small 42" Plasma. 
On a modern flat screen LED HD digital panel however - 
believe it or not - it was the somewhat hated
 2004 Bonus DVD copy of  the D-1 Mastertape
 that was previously used to produced both the "Faces" Laserdisc
 and "The Definitive Collection" Box set before that -
 which really yielded  the best overall picture performance.
 The difference in sound quality, on the other hand -
 is an altogether entirely different story.


About how these images were captured
(without getting technical.)
Unlike most DVD players today -
 a Laserdisc player itself can adversely effect image quality. 
While  the best way to transfer the Laserdisc to video -
is just to import the signal directly to a computer -
currently we lack both the capture card &
 the software needed in order to do so. 
Besides, that's a lot of space on the hard drive to use.
Therefore a Pioneer Elite DVD Recorder
 was utilized in order to capture the
 frames displayed on this page. 

Back to back results:
 Pioneer LVD Player video out via direct connect

plugged into an

Conditioner One
Power Supply
and Tripp Lite

A Special Thank You to Kevin Kobos
 @ The Good Squid in Japan for
    The Star Wars "Special Collection" Laserdisc reviewed here.