The Empire Strikes Back Special Edition – What has Changed?

The Empire Strikes Back Special Edition – What has Changed?

This is a page about the original Empire to the 1997 special edition in the final days of our ‘Empire’ celebration.New shots added, old shots fine-tuned, and twenty-year-old footage combined with state-of-the-art computer graphics make the Empire Strikes Back Special Edition a new look at a familiar universe.

Lucas Discusses Changes

George Lucas discusses changes made for the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition

The Print

“The most obvious thing that’s happened is we’ve gone back to the original negative, cleaned it up considerably, redone a lot of the optical effects, the wipes, the dissolves and improved the quality of the film, because it was deteriorating. One of the things I wanted to do was preserve the film so that it could still be a viable piece of entertainment in the twenty-first century. Films do deteriorate, and they disappear. This one had deteriorated a lot more than anybody expected in twenty years. So that was the primary concern. The audience will get a brand new print that’s very clean and actually better than the original release in terms of technical quality. It’s less grainy, it’s less dirty, and it’s just a better print.Then on top of that, I’ve taken a lot of the special effects shots that weren’t really as good as I’d hoped they would be and improved them. ILM has added that little difference, which for me is what makes a shot special. I’ve done it with a lot of the end battle shots and I’ve done it with various special-effect shots, especially the entry into Mos Eisley. Unfortunately, in the original I couldn’t make it into the bustling spaceport that it was supposed to be — it looked like a little tiny town because I only had a half a street to shoot on and no real special effects or matte paintings to work with. Now we’re able to travel through the town, see how big it is, see that it’s a spaceport, and make it a more interesting experience. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also added the Jabba the Hutt scene with Han Solo, which was a scene that had been cut out due to time and money constraints. When I finished the third film, I really wanted to go back and put that scene back in because it was relevant to what happens to Han Solo at the end of the movie. And I really wanted to be able to connect the first with the third film the way it was meant to be.”

Audio and Soundtrack

“With the audio and the soundtrack, we’ve gone back to some of the original tracks and obtained the cleanest copy. Now we’re re-mastering it digitally, so this will be the first time the film has been released in digital sound. Before, we were always constrained by the limitations of the optical track. The seventy-millimeter prints had magnetic tracks, and you could hear it in its full glory, but most of the venues where the film was shown had optical tracks, and they just didn’t have the same sound quality that the seventy-millimeter prints had. Now we’re able to deliver even better than the seventy-millimeter quality with the new digital release in a range of sound that was not possible before.”

New for the Special Edition — a daylight view of Cloud City comprised of computer-generated buildings and digital matte paintings.

A computer-generated cloud car leads the camera on a banking ride through the towers of Cloud City.

As Lando announces the takeover of Cloud City by Imperial forces, action in a central plaza comes to a halt. Live action extras are combined here with a matte painting of Cloud City at dusk.

Wampa Scene

Rick McCallum describes the re-shoot of the Wampa scene:”In the original Empire Strikes Back, only a few shots of the Wampa were made. George Lucas wanted to make the scene more suspenseful, and the scene was reshot with more cave shots. This allowed us to show what a vile, horrid, terrible vicious beast the Wampa really is.”

A complete Wampa suit was built and an actor in the suit performed the primary action. Additional cheek, brow, and eye movement was puppeteered via remote cable mechanisms.

An ice cave was constructed at less than full scale so that the Wampa would appear larger than 1 to 1. The ice cave was of foam-over-foil construction. Cast plastic icicles added to the look.

One scene – shot low from behind the Wampa’s knee – was a blue screen shot composited over an original plate of Luke hanging from the ceiling of the Wampa’s cave.

Falcon Arrives

In a new shot, a computer-generated Millennium Falcon is escorted by two computer graphics cloud cars through a CG Cloud City at dusk. Previously, this sequence was covered with a far view of Cloud City which wiped to the landing of the Millennium Falcon.

In an entirely computer-generated shot, the Millennium Falcon and cloud car escorts traverse the city and approach the tower landing pad which will be revealed in the foreground by a camera move.

In the Special Edition, ILM replaced the original hand-painted flames with newly-photographed pyro elements and supplemented the original skyline painting with additional computer-generated Cloud City towers.

Vader’s Shuttle

In the original evacuation from Cloud City, Darth Vader is last seen in an interior scene striding towards the doorway leading to a landing platform on Bespin. He is next seen on his Star Destroyer. For the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition, George Lucas wanted to depict Darth’s travel from Cloud City to his Star Destroyer.

A computer generated version of Darth’s Imperial Shuttle flies toward the camera from Bespin. The Bespin element is a matte painting from the original release.

The new CG shuttle can be seen in this image. The planet was added later to complete the shot.

Another CG image of the shuttle is used for Darth Vader’s approach to the Star Destroyer. In this case, the Imperial Cruiser is added later to complete the shot. The CG shuttle flies toward the Star Destroyer which is an original element from the first trilogy.

Cloud City Gas Mine

In the original daylight establishing shot of Cloud City, a matte painting of the city was combined with cloud elements. (This shot originally preceded the shot of Leia in the window of a Cloud City building waiting for Han Solo.)

When George Lucas requested that a Ralph McQuarrie-designed gas mine be added, ILM visual effects supervisor Dave Carson had a computer graphics version modelled so that a subtle rotation could be included.

In the final composite the computer graphics model was lit to match the cloud plate and a slight push-in was added.

Vader Awaits

In this original interior scene, Lando, Han, Chewie, and Leia approach the dining room where Darth Vader awaits.

In the enhanced scene, an exterior view of Cloud City and a computer graphics elevator have been added to the original 4-perf plate.

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