Hot on the heels of my weekend post about Harmy's Despecialized Editions of the original Star Wars Trilogy movies, Six Colors maven and all-around good guy (and my ex-boss) Jason Snell pointed me to something I'd previously only seen briefly referenced in a few spots: Project 4K77.
Project 4K77 is, as you might guess from the name, a 4K version of the 1977 Star Wars movie. The group has also completed Project 4K83 (Return of the Jedi), and is now working on Project 4K80 (The Empire Strikes Back).
What's really amazing about the 4K77 project is that it is not an upscale of lower-resolution footage. Instead, as explained on the 4K77 page…
…97% of project 4K77 is from a single, original 1977 35mm Technicolor release print, scanned at full 4K, cleaned at 4K, and rendered at 4K.
Because this is a scan of the original film, it's grainier than the Harmy releases—and there may be some actual film effects like scratches visible at times (I haven't yet watched the full movie, so I'm not sure).
But it is a full 4K, and it's a very different experience than is Harmy's version. As an example, here's the same still as I used in my prior post, but this one was taken from 4K77 (again, click to see the larger version):
Without looking back at the other blog post, it may not be obvious just how different these two versions are…but this composite photo makes it obvious:
There's a lot more detail in Chewie's fur, and the scene is much lighter than in Harmy's version. (It's a bit too white in the windows near the top of the photo; the details are getting blown out.) Due to the cut direction I used, you can't see it, but the red color on the background equipment is much richer on the 4K77 version. Keep in mind this is a 4K resolution image, though I scaled it down here—so it should look much better than would Harmy's version if you're watching on a big screen.
Unfortunately, there's not a nice "How to get 4K77" guide for you to follow, as their is with Harmy's Despecialized Editions. The 4K77 project page suggests that usenet is the best source for their versions, and they're probably available in torrent form if you're willing to go that route. (I can't share where I found my versions, but I will say that it wasn't on usenet.)
Again, as with Harmy's Despecialized Editions, these are fan-made creations that you should never buy or sell, and it is technically illegal to have them, even if you do (as you should) own the original movies on another medium.
I'm not sure which version I prefer—Harmy's seems closer to what my memory thinks the movies were like, but there's no denying the appeal of a 4K version to watch on our big screen TV.