In addition to the various retail DVDs available around the world, there are also a number of fanmade DVD projects made over the years. This page details one such project assembled by myself, the webmaster. It's worth pointing out that fanmade DVDs are not meant as a pirated replacement for legally bought discs, but a companion to them, produced as a labour of love by die hard fans to offer other fans something more which isn't commercially available.
November 28, 2008
Number Of Discs:
Retail Japanese NTSC Laserdisc
Retail Greek PAL VHS Tape
Bootleg NTSC VHS Tape
This was a project to transfer The Evil Dead rare 1985 Japanese 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc to DVD, as well as adding some separate rare material as DVD extras.
This DVD emerged out of an earlier project. In April 2008 I attempted a re-edit of The Evil Dead, which was to be re-titled back to it's original title of Book Of The Dead, editing back in some of the raw footage found in the 'Treasures From The Cutting Room Floor' extra from The Evil Dead 2007 Anchor Bay Ultimate Edition DVD and the raw footage extra from the 1999 The Evil Dead Elite Entertainment DVD.
DVD cover artwork - 14mm spine (click to enlarge)
The edit was quite involved and would have taken many more months to complete. It's worth pointing out, that it was unfortunate that the 'Treasures From The Cutting Room Floor' extra was matted into a 16:9 aspect ratio which made up the bulk of the substantial new footage, which left me little choice but to make the entire project matted widescreen to match. Below you can watch three test clips showing some of my work. 'Matte Repair Test' was a test sequence to see if I could repair a bad/unused matte, by matting together two separate shots. 'Title Test' is the new title sequence, and 'Wood Chopping Scene Test Edit' shows the two shots I thought would be hardest to fit back into the film; the wood chopping shot, and Ellen taunting Bruce. I attempted to create the title text from scratch using various motion filters, and the results were far from perfect. Learning from experience, different methods were used to recreate the same effect for the Book Of The Dead fanedit DVD, which looked near perfect. All the below sequences are very rough cuts without colour matching or complete audio, but will give you some idea of what I was trying to achieve.
I had got around half way though editing the video (leaving the audio for a second pass) when I discovered a forum thread detailing the rare 1985 Japanese 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc release at the end of May 2008, which you can see Here.
This laserdisc is arguably the best transfer of Evil Dead ever made available. Two major things separate this version from every other; its colour timing, and its picture framing, although it does suffer from burnt in Japanese subtitles, but they’re fairly unobtrusive. As far as is known, The Evil Dead was transferred twice in its early home viewing days. The first transfer was used on the 1985 Japanese 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc. At some point a second transfer was made and was then used on every subsequent release. The colour timing for this second transfer was much warmer in tone than the bluer & colder 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc version. This subtle change seemed to alter the whole ‘feel’ of the movie and the 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc seems much scarier because of it. Additionally there is also quite a difference in picture framing between the two versions. The second transfer seems to have been zoomed in around 10-15%, meaning the 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc version has more visual information on each side of the frame. The 1982 'Palace Pictures' VHS, 1995 Japanese 'Beam' laserdisc, 1999 US 'Elite Entertainment' laserdisc, along with every DVD version all seem to use that second transfer, only differing very slightly on colour timing, brightness levels.
1985 Japanese 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc cover (front)
1985 Japanese 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc cover (back)
The Evil Dead was originally composed to be shown theatrically in a matted/cropped 1.66:1 aspect ratio, but it was only ever shown in this format once for its première, thereafter it was screened in the standard full-screen AR of 1.37:1. A number of DVD releases have taken this and matted it to achieve a 1.85:1 AR, then marketed somewhat erroneously as the 'widescreen' version. The 'Herald Videogram' laserdisc version is shown in that full un-matted 1.37:1 ratio, and also contains the original 1.0 mono audio track, before it was re-mixed to stereo and later 5.1 surround for the various DVD releases.
I decided this laserdisc would be far better editing source material than the 2007 Anchor Bay Ultimate Edition transfer I was currently using, and put the whole project on the back burner. After much searching, I tracked a copy down on an Ebay auction in Kagawaken, Japan, which I won on May 26, 2008, which I recieved a few weeks later on July 9, 2008. Rather than buy my own laserdisc player especially for this project, I made contact with a user on the OriginalTrilogy.com forums, who was able to transfer the laserdisc to his PC as an uncompressed AVI, then encode it into an NTSC MPEG file with AC3 audio. I finally recieved the transfer back on October 10, 2008. I decided not to immediately launch back into the editing project, as I thought a DVD containing the untouched laserdisc transfer itself would be a worthy project, so I began work on that instead, which with motion & audio menus, is the most complex I have done to date, and the entire project took around 6 months to complete from start to finish.
The DVD menus were created using Adobe Photoshop CS2, of which many of the elements were compiled from scratch using stock textures & photos, along with sections taken from screenshots of the film itself. As well as the standard main & chapters menus, I also included ten pages of release notes giving explanatory background to each items' inclusion on the disc, along with an easter egg hidden within those menus. The completed menus were then exported as still images. Adobe Premiere 1.5 was then used to animate the motion of each menu and the transitions between them. The main menu was a seamlessly looped 53 second sequence which featured lighting flashes and a mixed 'cabin ambience' soundtrack. Premiere was also used to edit & encode any of the extras, as required. The final DVD was then assembled & authored using Adobe DVD Encore 1.5.
I also included an differences excerpts from the rare Book Of The Dead titled print of The Evil Dead, which was was never generally released theatrically or on home video, but there were a couple of rare exceptions. As far as is known, there were four releases; the 1984 1st issue 'Diamond' label PAL Greek VHS tape, then the later 1985 'Video Standard' label PAL Greek VHS tape, and also the 1982 1st issue 'Videomax' label NTSC Mexican VHS tape and then the 1995 'Videomax' label re-release NTSC Mexican VHS tape (all four in English language). The movie itself plays shot for shot identically to the general theatrical version, but with four minor differences; the movie title, and alternate sunrise shot at the end just before Ash walks out of the cabin, Ash's scream resonates for a few seconds with a black screen before the end credits roll, and the text on the last page of the end credits. This was transferred for me from VHS to DVD via a DVD recorder by fellow fan.
The extras were drawn from a range of very rare material. I added the best quality version I had at the time, of the 1978 Sam Raimi Super-8 short film and The Evil Dead protoype; Within The Woods sourced from an existing NTSC DVD. Additionally there was a four minute workprint trailer for The Evil Dead made late in 1980, which was again sourced from an exiting NTSC DVD. This was edited from the rough cut of the then titled Book Of The Dead, and narrated by John Cameron. It was produced in order to raise more funding. Because it was edited from the 97 minute version rather than the 85 minute theatrical version, some shots run slightly longer, and there are snippets of footage that aren't in the final movie.
The DVD motion menu overall layout, main menu left and chapters menu right, with animated transition between the two
Finally there was a PC viewable DVD-ROM folder packed with over a gigabyte of rare Evil Dead trilogy material painstakingly created & collected by myself over many years, things like saved websites/pages/forums/ threads, PDFs, Photos, Artwork, Magazine/Newspaper Scans, Scripts, Fonts, Music & Audio Files, Videos, Text Files, etc... The DVD cover & disc artwork were also created using Adobe Photoshop CS2 and heavily drew upon the 1982 Palace Pictures The Evil Dead VHS cover & poster artwork campaign illustrated by Graham Humpreys, replicating the layout and grungy feel.
This DVD was produced to share some of the rarest The Evil Dead material with the wider world. I personally traded copies with a fair number of fans, and it was uploaded by others and shared online via bittorrent to various sites, and Rapidshare, with downloads into the thousands. While I wasn't overly happy with this, this DVD did however have form of semi-pirate/bootleg protection in that who would watch a DVD with a softer laserdisc transfer and burnt in Japanese subtitles over any of the retail releases, unless they specifically wanted to watch this version. Late in 2009, I revisited this project retitling it Book Of The Dead replacing some material and adding a second disc. You can see that project's page for more information.