Star Wars: The Clone Wars™—The Complete Season One is the series that has wowed TV audiences on the Cartoon Network. This four-disc special edition is uniquely packaged with an exclusive 68-page production journal. All 22 episodes, including seven extended Director's Cuts and companion featurettes for each episode, are presented. During a press junket in September to Lucasfilm Animation (see On Screen article) the creators of the show shared some of their production tricks, and opened themselves to unprecedented access, to see how the series developed from concept to finished animation. Created and executive produced by George Lucas, this is the first-ever television production from Lucasfilm Animation. Season One explores the tumultuous time between Episodes II and III of the live-action saga, expanding the scope of Star Wars beyond anything seen in the feature films. With the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance, the heroes of the Republic—incluing the valiant Jedi Knights and their loyal clone troopers—fight bravely to repel the attacks of the evil Separatists and their droid army. "The live-action saga was just the beginning, the universe is vast, and there are so many more stories to explore beyond Anakin's fall and redemption," said Lucas. "The scope of the war gives us the perfect vehicle for a weekly series, allowing us to look at how the conflict has affected the farthest reaches of the galaxy, including characters, creatures, and races we only glimpsed in the feature films. Animation has allowed us to visualize the worlds and characters of Star Wars in all new ways." In the first season, as the Clone Wars sweep through the galaxy, the heroic Jedi Knights—including Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Lanter), Obi-Wa Kenobi (voiced by Taylor), Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Kane), and padawan Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Eckstein)—struggle to maintain order and restore peace. But despite the best efforts of these brave protectors, more and more planets are falling prey to the sinister forces of the dark side. (Gary Reber)
The three-disc special edition contains 502 minutes of episodes and 146 minutes of featurettes. The superb packaging includes a 68-page production journal containing original early sketches of the characters and the scene settings, as well as artist notes and concept art from each episode. Special features include 22 behind-the-scenes featurettes (HD 1:46:00) with commentary by Supervising Director Dave Filoni and crew interviews about the making of each episode; and The Jedi Temple Archives, an extensive Holocron database exploring test footage, early concept art and renderings, 3-D character designs and object turnarounds, models, and early animation. The Archives is a rare look at the assets in various stages of creation, with never-before-seen exclusives. Also included is a sneak peek at Season Two (HD 02:25) and the Republic Heroes Game Trailer.
The computer-generated animation is delivered in the 2.35:1 1080p VC-1 format. The dark and elaborate animation captures the style of the feature films and presents an incredible visual experience. The color palette is warm, with bold and vibrant hues. Contrast is excellent, with deep and solid blacks and shadow delineation that impressively reveals detail. The animation is enhanced with impressive dimensionality. Resolution is superb and reveals the extremely fine textures. The imagery is sharp and pristine throughout. The animators have managed to visually create a dramatic and engaging eye-popping experience that is fascinating to experience. This is an extremely well-crafted picture that is visually stunning. I had the opportunity to preview a few episodes of Season Two: Rise Of The Bounty Hunters, and the visuals I experienced were even more spectacular. To be continued...(Gary Reber)
I had the opportunity to return to Skywalker Sound to personalize myself using the Smyth Realiser headphone system—a revolutionary virtual surround technology—in the very King Vidor dubbing stage used to record and mix the soundtrack for the series. (See Issue 143 for a comprehensive description of this revolutionary virtual surround headphone technology.) The Smyth Realiser package includes a pair of ultra small microphones that are inserted like ear buds into the user's ear. The personalization process begins with a remote-controlled calibration setup in which the microphones not only gather information about the system/room character but also much more specific information about head movement and how your head and ear structure affects the incoming test signals sweeping through the loudspeaker system. The last stage of the process has the user don headphones (in my case I brought a pair of STAX SR-404 Signature electrostatic open-back earspeakers with SRM-727II solid-state driver) over the earbud microphones, and measurements are made that analyze the relationship of the headphone's interior "soundstage" and the user's outer ear or pinna. Two memory files are created—one for the room/system and another specific to the headphone/user interface. The final results are completely personalized for that listener. Thus, personalization is the process of measuring the individual auditory response in the presence of loudspeakers and the upstream system electronics. The Realiser system precisely emulated the entire in-room listening experience comprised of the sum of loudspeakers, electronics, cables, and the room itself (in this case the Skywalker Sound dubbing room), including the acoustical signature (entire electro-acoustical system). Bottom line: I am able to hear any program material I choose to play through the Realiser as if I was actually sitting in the "sweet spot" of the Skywalker Sound dubbing room! Not only do I continue to marvel at this virtual surround technology, several Supervising Sound Editors also personalized themselves during my visit. Matthew Wood, the Supervising Sound Editor on Star Wars: The Clone Wars was astonished that the headphone system precisely replicated his room's sonic signature. Others who were personalized were David Acord, the Sound Designer on the series; Christopher Scarabosio, a sound designer and re-recording mixer; and Michael Semanick, a re-recording mixer. All ended the session in a state of disbelief at the virtual realism the Realiser system captured. It was room sound they were most familiar with and the Realiser faithfully captured the room's sonic signature.
So, that brings me to evaluating Star Wars: The Clone Wars using the Smyth Realiser system far, far away from Skywalker Sound. I am also able to compare how the soundtrack translates to our reference system and to other room signatures I have stored in the Realiser system. I hear precisely what Matt and Dave heard when they recorded and mixed the soundtrack. In their room the LCR loudspeakers are positioned behind the acoustically transparent 10-foot-wide transparent screen. Because of this, the sound is less dimensional in width than our reference system, where the left and right front loudspeakers are positioned outside the screen and beyond the screen's edges. The sound at Skywalker Sound is thus slightly less wide in the front hemisphere of the soundfield and the surrounds, which are positioned on the side walls and above ear height sound as such. Still the sonic character is effectively holosonically® enveloping with, at times, an aggressive surround presence. Frankly, I preferred the wider, and larger dimensional sonic character of our reference system. The soundtrack is limited to the lossy compressed Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel format and does not support a lossless soundtrack. The soundtrack translated impressively in our reference environment, revealing a very dimensional soundfield, with aggressive directionalized surrounds, pans, and frontal sound effect positioning. The music score is well recorded and sweeping in its soundstage width and depth, and extension into the surrounds. Bass extension is, at times, powerful and deep, with plenty of low-frequency impact delivered by the .1 LFE channel during battle scenes. Dialogue, while ADR produced, sounds perfectly natural and is nicely positioned to create a sense of spatial integration with the scenes. This a world-class soundtrack, as is to be expected by the sound wizards at Skywalker Sound. The sound effects, Foley, voices, and music are all perfectly integrated, for an enthralling sonic experience. I only wish that the 24-bit, 96 kHz masters had fully benefited from the pristine fidelity and dynamics that a lossless or linear PCM encoding can deliver. Nonetheless, this is a thrilling sonic experience that is sure to please fans. And, of course I was impressed with the room, the talent, and the realization that I can be at Skywalker Sound anyti