Originally Posted by Cinescott
I'm certainly not an expert, but I often think theatrical prints are sometimes multiple-generations removed from negatives, so through a process of steadily-reduced resolution, some of the flaws we see on Blu-ray may not have been noticeable in a theater.
That's exactly it. Often, how scenes with wires were planned out and shot were done so with this in mind. Nowadays, a filmmaker using wires on a new film will remove them digitally in post. Back then, having them disappear in the printing stage was their best tool to do so, and something that was kept in mind very consciously when doing a wire scene. Additionally, besides generational loss, different intermediate and release print stocks had different grain structures, and choices were made about which ones to use as part of the process of covering up the wire work and all sorts of other effects.
There are definitely instances where we see a wire on a Blu-ray that had never been visible in any theatrical print beforehand. Even new prints made today from old films, using today's finer-grained stocks, can reveal some of these imperfections. The example that comes to my mind is something from "2001: A Space Odyssey" - the scene where Floyd is flying to the space station, and we see his pen floating down the aisle before the stewardess grabs it and picks it up and puts it back in his pocket. On both the Blu-ray and the 70mm prints that were newly made for the year-2001 re-release, you can just see that the pen as she grabs it is stuck on a rotating piece of clear plastic or glass. In earlier prints, that had never been visible before. Does it ruin the movie? Of course not. Was it an effect that had been hidden by the way films were brought to release in 1968? Absolutely. Was Kubrick aware that while the effect might have been visible on the negative, that it would be invisible by the release print? Undoubtedly. Now, for the new 70mm prints that were made - they looked so gorgeous, I wouldn't have wanted them to scan the negative and digitally tweak that one little moment and print out to 70mm and splice that in there. But, when doing the Blu-ray, where the whole film is scanned as part of the process, it's an interesting dilemma to face as to what to do about it. On one hand, leaving it alone is a valid choice - the film is the film, and let it be. On the other hand, if today's newer technology is essentially "undoing" some of the effects work achieved by the filmmakers using older technology in their time, is that something that we want? I would say a compelling case could be made that by presenting a digital image that contains more information than the filmmakers ever intended, that erased the careful work that was done via the release methods of the time to make the effects seamless, is a different kind of revision. If, in the pursuit of making a great HD copy, some of the original effects are altered by taking away the layers of grain and generation loss that the filmmaker intentionally used to hide their tracks, that in my opinion is making a change to how the film is being presented. They used generation loss and release stocks to achieve wire removal - today, we use digital tools - but the intention and result is the same: the wires aren't visible. Afterall, there are plenty of things on a negative that aren't meant to seen by an audience.
In a perfect world, my take on this would be simple: if the wires (or other effects) were not visible in the original release prints (even if they're on the actual negative), I think it's acceptable to remove them from the Blu-ray. That's not, in my opinion, altering the film - that's retaining the original look of it. If, on the other hand, the wires have always been visible in the film, back to when it was in theaters, then I think they should be left alone for the Blu-ray. It's a really fine line to walk.
Originally Posted by AaronMan
So hopefully when E.T. is released on Blu-Ray, we'll get the original version, and not the cops-with-walkie-talkies edition?
I would guess we'd get both versions on one disc. Spielberg was pretty insistent that the original release, which was done shortly after the "special edition," also include the original version at no extra cost. I don't think he'd suppress the newer version any more than I think he'd suppress the older one - I'm guessing "Close Encounters"-style release for this.
Originally Posted by ahollis
Seems like he and George Lucas need to step outside for a discussion on this.
Now that could be the Pay-Per-View special of the century! (I can very easily imagine a show like Robot Chicken doing a skit with that.) That quote from Spielberg came from an AICN interview, and the interviewer did ask about Lucas and his revisions, and Spielberg laughed and essentially said "No one can make George do anything he doesn't want to" and that he "respected" Lucas' choices. Besides the whole frustration element in not getting certain Lucas films the way they first premiered, the absurdity of the whole thing really does make me laugh sometimes - all he'd have to do is put out the originals side-by-side (or even buried on the last disc of the set), and then there would be zero controversy about any and all changes, past or present, that he wanted to make. As it stands now, I hope for as few changes as possible with the upcoming Star Wars BDs because I know we're not getting the originals, so I want the versions on there to be as close as possible. If I had access to high quality versions of the originals, I'd be the first to say, "Go ahead George, use every bit of technology at your disposal and let's see what you come up with" - I would be interested to see that, just not at the expense of losing the original version.