The Star Wars released in 1977 no longer exists. The same is true for the sequel, Empire Strikes Back. Fans should know that there’s a way to view the original trilogy as it was initially released, and some say it looks even better than what’s on the shelf at Best Buy. Trouble is, you aren’t allowed to pay for it. It’s called Harmy’s Despecialized Edition, and an update is on the way soon.
We’ve gone into great detail about the gray-market nature of The Despecialized Edition before, but suffice it to say that if you’ve paid for the original trilogy in some form or another, you’re probably okay to download the Despecialized Edition. Based off rare, privately held, physical versions of Empire, the Despecialized Edition has been stuck at version 2 for a few years now. But in the last 24 hours, Harmy and company have released some work-in-progress samples of version 2.5. And let me tell you, the battle of Hoth has never looked so good.
Here’s the first comparison shot that Harmy has released, of the rebels taking off from Echo Base to attack the invading Imperial walkers.
You can begin to see how more contrast has been pulled out of the image. It’s darker than you might be used to, but there’s a touch more detail in the miniatures as the robotic cameras go whizzing by.
Where things get really interesting is in the footage of the troops lying low in their fortified trench line.
Another goal of these early, work-in-progress shots is to show how the blown out explosions are being enhanced. Shooting bright lights on a white background was a challenge for the miniatures team while making Empire. Using new digital tools, Harmy and company are trying to bring out some detail that might never have been visible in the theater.
The speeder and the sky is a little dark for my taste, but look at that debris cloud.
There’s also clearly a lot of attention being paid to the overall white balance of the entire scene.
That kind of color grading must be a nightmare, but with luck we’ll have a new, complete 2.5 version in 2017. You can see some of these same images in motion in the video above. But for now, the best place to keep tabs on Harmy’s work is on his Facebook page. You can see even more screenshots on Facebook.