Disney Plus (opens in new tab) is here, loaded with Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars movies as promised. But Disney didn’t make any promises about the streaming quality of those films. As it turns out, it is pretty awesome — at least for Star Wars.
It appears that Disney Plus has been quietly remastering all the original Star Wars movies for 4K with Dolby Vision image and Dolby Atmos audio streaming. If you have the necessary AV gear and internet connection to enjoy these standards, you are in for a sensory treat.
Disney has not made public any details about this remastering. We don’t know if they rescanned the original film with any new technology to get more detail or if the audio was fully remixed.
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But Devindra Hardawar at Engadget tried A NewHope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and — according to him — they look great: “The image looks sharp and detailed, with no ugly edge enhancement and a healthy dose of film grain. The original trilogy certainly won't be a showcase for Dolby Vision HDR like The Last Jedi, but in the few scenes I glanced it, the technology allowed gave the image a bit more depth and nuance.”
Dolby Vision HDR is a Dolby’s implementation of 4K high dynamic range, a technology that uses more bits per color to define each pixel on screen, greatly boosting the number of colors, their levels of intensity, and the details in shadows and highlights. Since most modern TVs and projectors can display a much larger range of color, movies encoded with the Dolby Vision HDR standard can tell these devices how to display the material with much greater detail than ever before.
It appears that Disney has at least tweaked the material so it looks quite better, although it’s yet to be seen how far the quality jump goes and how it compares to the latest remastering of the trilogy for its Blu-ray re-release in 2011. Hadawar says that he hasn’t tried the Dolby Atmos soundtrack in a Dolby Atmos-compatible home theater yet, so we don’t know how good the audio remastering is.
We will have to try ourselves in yet another Star Wars binge — which I’m afraid will have to include the prequels, since those are also available in 4K with Dolby Vision and Atmos, just like the first two movies in the final trilogy. Just in time for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.