Well its long overdue, but here are some excerpts from a group discussion with Dennis Muren from ILM and a few questions with Chris Armbrust, Technical Program Director at THX Ltd First an update about the Holiday Special. You can find the Boba Fett portion of the 1978 Holiday Special. Its not labeled, but its not that hard to find either. The clip lasts approximately 9 minutes Holiday Special Excerpt Location Bonus Disc 2, Episode V, Pursued by the Imperial Fleet, The Collection, Boba Fett Prototype Costume, then First Look. Q&A With Dennis Muren from ILM: Q: What were the changes that George made from the last time we saw the film [that will be on the Blu-ray]? A: I don’t know, it’s going to be news to me, too! Others can answer that better than I. Q: (Bill Hunt) What’s been the most interesting thing for you from the perspective of visual effects in the time you’ve been working in this industry? What is the most beneficial change in that process, and is there anything that you think has been lost in the technology development? A: I think the thing that is really healthy to our industry is that George has kept the company together and people have wanted to come here, so we’ve built on ourselves for 35 years, which has led to a flight to the stars. The benefit of that is that the work gets more realistic and you can do things you couldn’t do before and then writers & directors get ideas and the actual stories go beyond what was going on in the 50s, 60s and early 70s. That’s something that I don’t think anyone really anticipated, that the Boomers are very interested in graphics, in seeing things, more than other generations that are more literary…. I never thought I could make a living doing this, but then Star Wars came along and suddenly thousands of people wanted to go to school and learn how to do it, so it’s been a major change for all of us. And the computers helped with the second stage, I think the first stage was really motion control and focus of attention to the process of making the work look more realistic than it did before. Having a separate department for design, camera people, compositors, etc. and then we hit a wall in the late 80s, we just couldn’t do any more. Then when CG showed up, it was an opportunity of doing something, it really hit it off like in T2 or Jurassic Park, no one had seen anything like it. If the work is done right, then you totally believe what you are seeing and you are experiencing characters and things that you could never really experience before --- if the audience feels like you are more in the story, then you have a better chance of liking the story. I really love 3D if it’s done right, but I don’t think many are doing it right, they are much too cautious. I also like a high frame rate [120hz]. If you look at Gone with the Wind or Charlie Chaplain with it, and it’s like you are really looking at HIM, I’m not looking at a movie. And once you get over the fact that it’s not pure, there’s a relationship that’s incredibly strong. So I think that with Hobbit being done, Avatar at high speed, and in 3D, the audience is going to be drawn into the movie and if the story holds up the bond is going to be even stronger, a connection with the audience. And I think the box office shows that --- movies are making so much more money than they were 20-30 years ago and it’s amazing. Q: Thinking of production flaws, how far should you go after the fact to supplement your work for Blu-ray? A: I don’t have an answer for that. It kind of bothers me kind of when I see the plastic plants in Wizard of Oz and when it comes to our shows, I don’t mind if stuff like that shows up. I was all in favor of doing some re-does on the original Star Wars because we ran out of time on that. I wanted to redo about 30 or 40 shots and George wanted to do some other shots. At some point I think it’s OK. Trying to continue updating it based on the newest technologies, I don’t know what I think, it’s hard. Garbage mats definitely, that really messed up the original VHS copies of Star Wars. Everyone thought that they were that way in the theaters and they weren’t it was that the transfer wasn’t done quite right. I’m all for getting it to the way you saw it in the theater, maybe that’s the best way to put it and anything beyond that is questionable. Q: What did you think when you saw CGI Yoda for the first time? A: I thought that it was going to be sacrilege until I saw it, and then I thought it kinda worked! They were very careful making him still look like it was limited …I think if younger kids look at Yoda now they will be laughing a lot more than my generation and I think that’s okay. Q: In Star Wars, what was the most satisfying shots or effects that you created, what were some of your favorites or is there one favorite? A: The one sort of “ah-ha” moment for me is in the beginning of Empire Strikes Back when you are flying over the ice field and you look down and you see Luke on his Ton-Ton running along down there, because that was shot that was impossible to do and George showed me the plate that he’d shot in Norway and said “put a Ton-Ton down there”. It was shot from a helicopter and there were 6 axis of movement going on with the helicopter and the tilt and [before CG] we’re supposed to put some character on the ground, impossible! And George said “just think about it” and walked away, and within 15 minutes I’d figured out how to do it. So I learned at that point just to never stop thinking about something, don’t give up. In another 10 seconds you may be able to figure out something! Q&A Chris Armbrust, Technical Program Director at THX Ltd: Q: Speaking of the Star Wars releases, I am assuming they are going to be THX approved, is that true? A: Yes, it’s both certified and it’s the first Media Director enabled Blu-ray disk out there. NOTE: We talked further with Mr. Armbrust about Media Director and even video taped a demo at CEDIA. We will discuss Media Director in-depth in a later post. Q: What are some of the things that THX did along the development from a quality-control standpoint for the disks to earn that certification? A: Good question. As part of certification, as the content moves through the production chain and to the mastering for Blu-ray, it goes through transitions and some of those transitions can be things like: The master was on HD cam SR and now we’re loading it onto the encoder. We actually go through each of those transitions and make sure that there isn’t a color shift, that each step does not introduce any artifacts. So that the content as it starts and goes through the transformations is as technically accurate, as pristine as it can be, we are not introducing anything in each one of the steps. And that means we had people sitting with scopes looking at each one of those transfers to make sure they were right, even frame-by-frame. Both looking over the shoulder as well as working with the people who are doing those transfers and that production chain. THX is looked at as a valuable partner to both the studio as well as the production people. Q: There’s been some criticism in the past from enthusiasts about THX certification not necessarily being the gold-standard, e.g. The Abyss – when it came out on DVD it was a great transfer but it was not anamorphic and a lot of people felt that missed the boat, to certify a non-anamorphic transfer. Or on the original Star Wars DVDs, Lucas Films acknowledged that there were some color timing issues that they‘ve now fixed for the Blu-Ray. Have there been changes made to the THX certification process over the years to take those things into consideration? A: Yes, our goal at THX is to preserve the artistic intent. And so we are more Facilitators than Gatekeepers, facilitating the best possible transfer capability at a point in time. So to answer your question, has the certification gotten tougher over time--- YES, definitely, it gets better, so that something we certify today, in 2-3 years the bar will be higher.