In Macs do Star Wars dirty work on the BBC’s news site, the work of Lowry Digital Images [a company that does not seem to have a web presence?] in scanning and cleaning the Star Wars films ready for use in digital form on the DVD set is described. Lowry took the original Star Wars film spools and scanned them all for the DVD set. So what? Well, old film, especially old film that has been handled a lot, is covered in dirt and scratches that scanners will see. Additionally, older sci-fi movies with complex special effects that were created using layers of film tend to be grainier and softer focus than we are used to with today’s CG effects.
Lowry Digital Images uses a bank of 600 dual CPU Mac G5 boxes to clean up the frames once the film has been scanned at very high resolution. Each frame occupies 70MB (and there are around 180,000 frames in each Star Wars movie). This calls for a lot of storage, but Lowry has 400TB online.
In addition to the story at the BBC, there is an article about John D. Lowry, and one specifically about the Star Wars work on the Apple website – both worth reading (the Star Wars one even has some before and after stills and a QuickTime 360 degree look inside the CPU room).