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The accurate Death Star dimensions – size does matter!

Discussion in 'Original Trilogy' started by Lt. Hija, Mar 23, 2018.

  1. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Part I – The first Death Star

    During production of Rogue One ILM’s John Knoll stated a size of “100 miles” (160 km) for the first Death Star (DS I) which has become the ‘new’ official diameter of the Galactic Empire’s first planet killer battle station, replacing the previous figure of 120 km (75 miles) proposed by West End Games’ Bill Slavicsek in his 1991 Death Star Technical Companion. The 75 miles figure had most likely been derived from (a) the “100 miles” diameter figure Velasco provided in his 1984 A Guide to the Star Wars Universe for the second Death Star (based on its drawing in the Return of the Jedi Sketchbook that indicated a horizontal diameter of 100 miles) and (b) the suggestion of the author of the Return of the Jedi novelization, that DS II was “nearly twice as big” as DS I.

    But already in 1991 the diameter claim of 120 km for DS I, was quite in contrast to what both the chief model maker of the Star Wars Model Shop and concept artist Ralph McQuarrie had suggested before:
    1. In the Star Wars-A New Hope (ANH) issue of Cinefantastique (February 1978) Grant McCune had been (mis?)quoted that the Death Star VFX model (diameter approx. 91 cm / 3 feet) had a scale of “1:2400” which was obviously erroneous. In the sixth issue of the Official Star Wars Fan Club magazine Bantha Tracks he stated a rather plausible diameter of “102+ miles” (i.e. 164+ km).

    2. Preliminary sketches of Ralph McQuarrie that surfaced in recent years (e.g. Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie) indicated a diameter of “92 miles” (i.e. 148 km) for DS I (with a double trench 2 miles tall). According to Ralph McQuarrie they “calculated the size of the sphere that would have a flat horizon when you were standing on the surface“.

    DS I size suggestions.jpg

    Bearing in mind that the VFX model of DS I isn’t a perfect sphere - it’s wider at the equator - these two figures actually don’t contradict but rather complement one another. According to full images of the VFX model a distance of 92 miles from northern to southern pole would yield a width of approx. 102 miles from western to eastern equator. But we can’t exclude the possibility that Grant McCune just made a calculation based that on the (preliminary) size figure of Ralph McQuarrie, who might have changed the scale as the production of ANH progressed.

    Thanks to high-resolution behind-the-scenes images published in recent years, we are finally able to evaluate precise dimensions for the first and (Part II / later) second Death Star.

    The tool to do so are high-res images of the equator matte paintings and the in-universe dimensions of their bays that need to be calculated as precisely as possible by using the Millennium Falcon (ANH) and the Lambda-class shuttle (ROJ) as rulers.

    Death Star Bay 327 size evaluation

    The first step to evaluate the real size of the first Death Star (DS I) is to calculate the height of the equatorial trench based on the correct height of Bay 327 in Ralph McQuarrie’s matte painting “Death Star Docking Trench # 1” (i.e. the Falcon’s arrival watched by two Imperial guards in the dock section control room). To do so we need to use the in-real-life (IRL) dimensions of the Millennium Falcon as a ruler and that’s where trouble begins.

    The large Millennium Falcon VFX 5-footer model built for ANH yields the largest overall dimensions IRL and is only slightly wider and longer than the life-size film sets. The ANH cockpit film set has an interior diameter of 2.45 meters (8 feet 2/4 inches) and inserted into and matched with a high-resolution top view of the ANH Falcon model the Corellian freighter would be approx. 21.3 meters (70 feet) wide and 29 meters (95 feet) long IRL (it would be even less according to the cockpit proportions of the smaller VFX model built for The Empire Strikes Back). Apparently the ‘official’ figures suggest the ship to be 1/5 bigger, either to somehow help rationalize the other and oversized interior sets (i.e. too big to be reasonably accommodated in a Falcon only 29 meters long) or based on erroneous measurements taken on the 5-footer Falcon, but the film set cockpit is the interior location undoubtedly seen the most. So it seems more than appropriate to evaluate the height of an object from the first film (Bay 327) based on the IRL dimensions suggested by the Falcon model (and film set cockpit) from the same film.

    Having clarified that, we’ll move on to what really is a can of worms, i.e. the visual footage in the final film isn’t consistent regarding the proportions and height of Bay 327:

    1. Millennium Falcon watched from the top of a flak tower flying towards Bay 327 (“Death Star Docking Trench # 2” matte combined with VFX composite elements)

    2. Millennium Falcon passing through the exterior frame of Bay 327 (VFX models)

    3. Millennium Falcon parked inside Bay 327 (matte painting combined with live action footage)

    Death Star spacetroopers correction attempt and trim.jpg

    Fig. 1 – The VFX element of the Falcon is smaller than the one Ralph McQuarrie visualized in his preproduction painting for this scene. The height of Bay 327 would be approx. 27.4 meters (90 feet) in real life based on a Falcon length of 29 meters (95 feet).


    Millennium Falcon entering Bay 327 with measurements.jpg

    Fig. 2 – The Falcon enters the VFX model of Bay 327. The engine section of the model is connected to a vertical supporting stand covered with blue screen (faintly visible below the “r”), so that the Falcon’s center section (between the port and starboard fusion reactor / converter) is just a bit ahead of the inner bay’s frame (i.e. the model can’t be moved any further). Now, the bay’s height is only 16.5 meters (54 feet).


    star-wars4-movie-screencaps_com-7666.jpg

    Fig. 3 – The Falcon has landed. Although the proportions of the bay frame match those McQuarrie envisioned (unlike the VFX model in Fig. 2), Harrison Ellenshaw’s matte painting of the bay frame (in the Special Edition his matte painting of the Falcon was replaced with a shot of the small Falcon model, see above) suggests even smaller dimensions. Distortions in perspective make an accurate evaluation difficult, but it appears that bay height doesn’t exceed 9.5 meters (31 feet).


    So as the scene progresses the height of Bay 327 shrinks from 27.4 to 16.5 to 9.5 meters! I suggest we look for the common denominator of the above scenes and consider their screen time exposure, using the https://starwarsscreencaps.com/star-wars-episode-iv-a-new-hope-1977/43/ screencap galleries an assistant.

    Fig. 1 is shown there in 10 frames, Fig. 2 is shown 18 in frames (+ 15 frames upon departure, gallery page 61 ), Fig. 3 is shown in 10 frames. As a result the common denominator would be an in-universe bay height of about 17.3 meters (57 feet).

    Bay 327 height suggestion McQuarrie.png


    But “what about those towers?”. The Death Star notch accomodating Bay 327 is protected by twin towers that were originally designed to be giant cannon towers by Joe Johnston (approx. 60 meters tall). McQuarrie integrated these into his drafts of the close-up equator views, but in the first colored preproduction paintings these had lost their gigantic gun barrels. Apparently the giant turbo-laser gun tower was abandoned because (a) audiences might have gotten a wrong sense of the equator height as gun turrets of that size don’t exist on Earth and (b) the basic gun turret design couldn’t cover the space below its horizontal firing line (the Alliance pilots in ROJ exploited that blind zone of the DS II gun towers by flying low). Thus the giant towers were converted into flak towers, featuring extendable turbo-laser gun emplacements (of different sizes) on top, and most likely upside down in the gap between the original gun turret and the base tower to cover the space below, too (the apertures where the gun barrels used to be probably became gunports with smaller cannons manned by gunners as seen in ANH. In real life a flak tower would be approx. 157 meters (515 feet) tall, i.e. more than twice as tall as originally envisioned by Joe Johnston.

    Death Star I cannon tower conversion 125p.jpg

    To be continued next week, stay tuned...
     
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  2. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Unfortunately I didn't proceed as much as I wanted this week. I had some private discussions with some Millennium Falcon aficionados that wondered how I arrived at these unusual, aforementioned Falcon dimensions, so I had to make an extra visualization (and also realized that the reference image is only usable for the starboard side, apparently the model was slightly tilted so there are perspective distortions on the port side):

    Millennium Falcon match ANH model with cockpit film set 50p.jpg

    Interestingly the width figure stayed intact, but I had to adjust the length figure. As a result the common denominator figure for the height of Bay 327 isn't 17.3 meters but 16.5 meters - which also happens to be the figure supported by the majority of Falcon shots in ANH (Fig. 2 in my previous post).

    As a result we are looking at an equatorial trench height of the first Death Star of approx. 934 meters:

    Bay 327 height determination on Docking Trench 1 135p TRIMMED 105p.jpg

    More to follow next week after the holidays, stay tuned...
     
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  3. srg

    srg Force Attuned

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    Wow, impressive research! ;)
     
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  4. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Death Star I size evaluation

    The analysis (see previous post) reveals that the height of the equatorial trench doesn’t exceed 934 meters (1,021 yards). Although McQuarrie originally sketched a double trench with each being one mile tall, his matte painting of the Death Star with the equator dish - coming up soon - shows that he had reduced the equatorial trench height to 767 meters or 839 yards (on a Death Star 92 miles large).

    The big problem with previous Death Star size evaluations had been the lack of high-resolution images of the battle station VFX model as a whole in order to be able to compare the tiny equatorial trench in relation to the other dimensions, but fortunately Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie (2016) provided us the largest and sharpest image ever published, yet.

    I scanned the image at 600 dpi (1.9 MB), enlarged it on my computer screen and measured an equator trench height (at the eastern edge!) of 3 mm in relation to 486 mm height and 525.5 mm width.

    Death Star I master image 600 dpi (SWA McQ) with MEASUREMENT lines 50p.jpg

    As a result, the first Death Star would be approx. 151.3 km (94 miles) tall and 163.6 km (101.66 miles) wide in real life.

    And these two figures are so close to the DS I dimensions provided by both McQuarrie (“92 miles” high) and McCune (“102+ miles” wide), that there should be no doubt left that these are accurate and correct, the same applies for the “100 mile” figure (for a ‘perfect’ Death Star sphere) mentioned lately for DS I in Rogue One by John Knoll (ILM).

    Why the plexiglass sphere used as the basis for the DS I VFX model was wider at the equator is not known. Considering that McQuarrie arrived at the 92 miles figure because it would have a flat horizon for a person standing on the surface, the spheroid nature of the VFX model provided an even flatter horizon in the northern hemisphere in the vicinity of the thermal exhaust port trench.

    Coming up soon: More Death Star equator details...stay tuned

    P.S. Did some more Millennium Falcon research. Based on a cockpit pod diameter of 2.69 m, the life-size Falcon built for ESB should be 21.56 m wide and 29.03 m long. The 3-Footer VFX model built for ESB, however, suggests a width of only 21 m and a length of 28.43 m (based on aforementioned cockpit pod diameter). What I found interesting: The life-size exterior film set is smaller in terms of actual dimensions (only 65 feet wide), yet its proportions somewhat suggest the biggest Falcon there is... ;)
     
    #4 Lt. Hija, Apr 3, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
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  5. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    More DS I equator details

    According to the original production plans, the Death Star would have only existed as a matte painting (a painting on glass that could be illuminated from behind) but not a physical, three-dimensional VFX model. Originally, the Death Star had a far less prominent role in earlier drafts where the cloud city of “Alderaan” had been the place to rescue the Princess from. By January 1976, the cloud city ‘rescue’ concept had been abandoned (it would return in ESB) and the Death Star had become both the planet killer and the prison for the Princess.

    early Death Star I matte details.jpg

    By the end of February 1976 McQuarrie had finished the whole view matte painting of DS I with the superweapon dish located at the equator (that would also become the basis for Larry Cuba’s computer generated images, visible in the Bay 327 control room and the Yavin 4 briefing. From a retroactive continuity point of view we do see the propulsion dish of DS I on its “dark side”, i.e. the side never seen in any film).

    As the camera would have moved closer into the matte painting, the lack of detail would have become visible, so McQuarrie painstakingly crafted an extra matte painting of the center section with enhanced details to compensate for such a visible loss of detail (a short view of an Alliance pilot, a laserblast or else would have covered the transition from the whole matte painting to the separate, enlarged section of it). Although that section did, of course, belong to the Death Star prototype, it was nevertheless used in the final film as the X-wing-fighters and particular Red Leader moved closer in on the Death Star, revealing additional equator details (note the circular structure above the equator that could be a large tractor beam emitter):

    star-wars4-movie-screencaps_com-12503.jpg

    (Although Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie featured the best image of the DS I VFX model in terms of image detail and optimal illumination, the same cannot be said for the above McQuarrie DS I matte paintings, as these are way too dark and his matte painting equator trench details – visible above (!) – are almost indiscernible in the book, up to the point where I felt compelled to trace the features I could barely identify. This was quite a letdown! The close-up view chosen in the book focuses on the equator areas further to the left in the above screencap)

    The first thing that meets the eye is clusters of notches like the one accommodating Bay 327. But unlike Bay 327 that was located in a notch with five vertical segments (each accommodating up to three bays) and 14 bays in all, these notches are wider and feature up to 13 vertical segments (up to 39 bays in all). While the pylons above and below the bay cluster notches could be deflector shield projectors, there are no such features around these space doors which probably just rely on their mechanical armor – and take up most of the space between the aforementioned bay clusters. The space doors we can see are 934 meters tall und up to 833 meters wide, but there are probably still wider space doors to take in Devastator-class Star Destroyers (1,276 meters wide and 613 meters tall).

    Death Star I equator detail and McQuarrie space doors.jpg
     
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  6. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Rather enigmatic are the big slots Ralph McQuarrie added both on his DS I matte paintings and the VFX model. Considering his professional background (and the information in Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie) he wouldn’t have added details that didn’t serve a practical purpose. Interestingly the big slots are big enough (approx. 1,388 meters tall and 185 meters wide) to take in a Devastator-class Star Destroyer turned 90°, possibly for refueling purposes. The smaller slots, especially those above the equator trench, seem to feature extendible crane booms, either to hold ships and/or to serve as refueling booms for TIE fighters (on patrol duty) and other vessels.

    Death Star I more equator details 140p.jpg

    "Almost there..." Next week I'll take a quick look at the Rogue One equator suggestions for DS I, then we move on to the second Death Star, stay tuned.
     
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  7. Grand Master Galen Marek

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    Yep it's amazing all facilities stored on it, I can't believe shopping centres were built on it.
     
  8. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    The Rogue One equator trench

    The Art of Rogue One (2016) contains plenty of (beautiful) concept art but unfortunately none that features design work for the film’s recreation of the first Death Star.

    While the Rogue One Death Star designers retained McQuarrie’s original concept of rectangular notches across the equator, they placed larger bays inside these notches (probably inspired by the larger bays in the central or main docking trench notch of the second Death Star in ROJ). But although McQuarrie had also put smaller bays in between these notches, the RO designers obviously felt these should rather go above and below – and added extra surface detail on the otherwise mostly blank area above and below the equator trench. The RO design does not feature any of the space doors envisioned by Ralph McQuarrie:

    Death Star I Rogue One equator details.jpg

    And last but not least - The incredible odyssey of the original Death Star VFX model, how it almost got lost, and how it was recovered:

    http://www.starwars.com/news/saving-the-death-star-how-the-original-model-was-lost-and-found

    http://neatocoolville.blogspot.de/2007/05/death-star-prop-episode-i-raiders-of.html

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8bzoCf37s0

    Next stop, the second Death Star…stay tuned
     
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  9. SKB

    SKB Force Sensitive

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    Many people wrongly assume the trench which had the thermal exhaust port in it is the equatorial trench. It isn't, it's far too narrow and you don't see any hangar bays in it either.
     
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  10. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    I hear and read that a lot, but I'm unable to understand it. Unless some folks fell asleep during the Yavin IV briefing and didn't catch that the exhaust port trench was in the northern pole region, I always thought the Larry Cuba CGI images were graphic and concise.

    Okay then, one Death Star down, one more to go for (this could get controversial, I'm curious to read reactions...)


    The accurate Death Star dimensions – size does matter! (Part II – The second Death Star)

    If the different size figures for the first Death Star were irritating, then the different figures for the second Death Star (DS II) in Return of the Jedi (ROJ) are even more confusing:

    1. A genuine production sketch in the Return of the Jedi Sketchbook indicated a horizontal diameter of “100 miles” for DS II (the sketch depicted the battle station with erratic construction patterns, i.e. it must have been a final design that stands in contrast to the earlier 1981 linear construction pattern sketches)

    2. The ROJ novelization by James Kahn stated DS II to be “nearly twice as big” as the first Death Star (which in Part I turned out to have a diameter of approx. 100 miles). Now, Kahn didn’t specify whether he referred to diameter or volume. In terms of diameter DS II should then be almost 200 miles wide, in terms of volume only 124 miles (200 km).

    3. And ILM’s Richard Edlund claimed in the ROJ issue of Cinefex magazine a diameter of “500 miles”. But bearing in mind that he was responsible for filming the crash of the Emperor’s super Star Destroyer (14 miles long) into the second Death Star - which should have required a curved, not a flat surface – it would be understandable that he exaggerated the diameter to make his VFX contribution look more realistic.
    Just as with DS I it’s mandatory to take a closer look at the second Death Star’s equator (ILM: “waistband”) matte painting by Christoper L. Evans and (a) look for exterior objects that could be used as rulers to determine the height of the equator and/or (b) evaluate the suggested size of the bays according to their interior views and compare these with their exterior dimensions in the equator painting, (c) determine the height of the trench based on these findings and (d) compare the equator height of the matte painting’s equator with the one on the VFX model of Death Star II to arrive at an accurate size figure for it.

    Christopher L. Evans’ matte painting of the second Death Star’s equator

    Artist Chris Evans had joined the ILM matte painters (a matte painting is scenery usually painted on glass so it can be illuminated from behind and combined with other footage to simulate large places) at a crucial time during the post production of ROJ and spent the entire month of August 1982 to create and contribute one of the most elaborated and complex matte paintings ever done for a (Star Wars) film (next to the ones Ralph McQuarrie created for the first Death Star), add to this the commendable perspective accuracy which unfortunately doesn’t apply for all the matte paintings created for ROJ by artists other than Chris Evans.

    However, Chris Evans did some noteworthy (but easy to overlook) revisions to his matte painting, that started with rectangular skyscrapers in the notches but ended up with pyramidal structures at the base of the these:

    Chris Evans working on the equator of the second Death Death Star in ROJ.jpg

    In the final, revised version of the Death Star equator matte painting San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid had been added on the left (apparently as some kind of inside joke or comment, in 1982 it was the largest skyscraper in the Marin County vicinity), and on the edge of the central notch six towers had been ‘erected’ whose proportions resembled both the three different turbo-laser gun towers created by ILM’s model shop to populate the surface of the second Death Star and the flak towers Ralph McQuarrie put into the notch of the first Death Star.

    Asked about these revisions, Mr. Evans replied ”Comparing the picture of me working on the painting and the final image I believe that the revisions were artistic ones I made during the process of completion. Matte paintings often go through changes. It appears that the larger more square buildings were broken up so as to not compete as areas of interest with docking bay opening. The sloped structures also refer less to recognizable human architecture and more to a non-gravitational orientation. The matte dept. was very collaborative and we discussed our shots and what would make them better. Any decision to break up the larger structures was probably an intuitive decision or the result of internal dept. discussion. It was my decision to make the areas under construction to have red-orange colored girders so that in the few seconds the shot was on the screen the audience would interpret that as the new construction. The very small detail of the Transamerica Pyramid at edge of frame was never discussed”.

    Death Star II equator examination.jpg


    (for an unobstructed view of the entire matte painting see http://www.igorstshirts.com/blog/conceptships/2015/star_wars/star_wars_12.jpg , for more Death Star turbo-laser gun tower information see https://thecantina.starwarsnewsnet.com/index.php?threads/anh-death-star-assault.54234/page-3#post-489263 )

    In the above visualization we see the full width of the Death Star equator matte painting with enlarged sections containing the Transamerica Pyramid and the Emperor’s Shuttle parked inside the main bay (a temporarily insert only used for one particular scene and removed later). Apparently, the Transamerica Pyramid cannot be used as a reliable ruler, besides it is never visible in the final film. On the other hand, the depiction of the Emperor’s Shuttle in the main bay could be erroneous, i.e. way too big.

    Therefore, it becomes necessary to examine the interior views of the bays and their size dimensions in real life, suggested by the film scenes for comparison:

    Death Star II central notch matte painting Pangrazio (with welding droid).jpg

    Matching the Death Star II bays with the panoramic equator painting

    Although it appears sufficiently clarified who landed in / departed from which bay, this is actually not the case!

    As illustrated in this evaluation attempt -http://www.st-v-sw.net/STSWdeathstarsizes.html – it is a popular belief that Darth Vader’s Shuttle ST 321 did land in the smallest of the five illuminated bays in the (central) notch.

    And there appears to be a good reason for that, because the final editing of the film suggests that just as Vader’s shuttle is about to vanish in the matte painting’s small bay, it cuts to the interior scene of a bay where the shuttle crosses its illuminated outer frame. But considering other examples in the Original Trilogy, events on screen that are separated by editing cuts do not necessarily occur in real time (e.g. Han Solo’s arrival in the trash compactor in ANH, after Luke Skywalker had already gotten up and after Luke had already tested the trash compactor doors with a shot from his blaster!).

    Death Star II equator painting with missing right bay.jpg


    The above scene from the film shows Vader’s shuttle to be on a straight trajectory, but the upper wing tips would come dangerously close to the ceiling of the small bay (red lines), which is not the case at all in the next scene with the bay’s interior view (which suggests a low approach instead)! Had the outermost bay on the right been shown, the flight trajectory (green lines) would match perfectly.

    In Evans’ exterior matte painting the small bay has an aspect ratio of 1.5:1 (close to the old 4:3 TV format), the one to its right has one of 2:1 (exceeding our current 16:9 TV format) and the interior view of “Vader’s Bay” suggests an aspect ratio of 3:1, i.e. Vader’s Bay is twice as wide as the small bay usually assumed to be the one where he landed!

    Death Star II Vader bay width.jpg


    It therefore becomes an inevitable conclusion that Vader did not land in the small bay of the central notch but instead in the one right next to it (which is also the only compatible candidate for the bay where Luke took a shuttle to leave the Death Star)!

    Comparing the interior bay dimensions with the exterior ones in the matte painting

    When ROJ director Richard Marquand saw the work of the ILM matte artists he exclaimed “Why did we build this huge set if you guys are painting it out in every shot?”

    The ILM matte artists had been expected just to add the upper wings (which the shuttle set didn’t have) to the live-action footage they received from the UK, but apparently felt “better safe than sorry” and painted the entire upper body of the shuttle with the wings over the live action footage of Vader’s and the Emperor’s arrival (of course the shuttle set was useful, as its bottom reflected correctly on the polished Death Star floor, something the matte artists couldn’t have done). Thanks to the shuttle film set blueprint we know its main body is 12.2 meters (40 feet) wide and can use that as a ruler to measure the width of the bays suggested by the interior views.

    Determining the width of Vader’s Bay (apparently belonging to the secondary DS II main control room, as the main control room in the tower was occupied by the Emperor) based on the VFX composition of the matte painting and the VFX shuttle model arriving was rather easy, because there are no considerable perspective distortions that could affect usable results.


    Death Star II main bay width examination.jpg


    In contrast, Mike Pangrazio’s matte painting of the Emperor’s Bay has several issues. The personnel standing next to the starboard side of the Emperor’s Shuttle (supposedly Scout Walker drivers) are part of the matte painting and so are most of the Stormtroopers standing right next to them, yet for AT-ST drivers these look rather short.

    According to the known shuttle dimensions the bay appears to be 99 meters wide, but assuming the AT-ST driver personnel is of average height, the bay would be 132 meters wide. Why there is this strangely suspended TIE fighter on the left (size reference?) is unknown, according to its official ILM VFX model scale of 1:24 it would be 11.8 meters tall in real size and suggest a bay width of 275 meters! And last but not least there’s the exterior view of this scene which recommends a bay width of 177 meters. The common denominator of these four contradicting width figures would be 170 meters or 560 feet.

    Even if we were to exclude the exterior view suggestion (177 meters), the common denominator approach would still suggest an interior bay width of approx. 169 meters. This emphasizes that the parked shuttle in the exterior view is the most accurate approximation next to the three conflicting figures and clarifies that the suspicion - that the Emperor’s Shuttle size in the exterior view of the main bay might be erroneous (i.e. too big) - is unfounded.

    Having established that the Emperor’s Shuttle (in the exterior view) is a reliable ruler, we next return to the exterior matte painting view to determine the actual height of the equator trench of DS II.

    Stay tuned...







     
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  11. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    It's a bit off-topic but here is a close-up detail of Chris Evans' matte painting featuring the bunker complex close to the Endor landing platform:

    Endor bunker detail.jpg

    Notice that its windows are obviously rectangular, I'd really like to know who came up with that nonsense that all Imperial windows nowadays have to look like Star Destroyer bridge windows.... :confused:
     
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  12. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    The Emperor’s Shuttle in the main bay is the ruler with which to measure the exterior dimensions of the central notch of the second Death Star. Considering the shuttle’s size already in the main bay it should be crystal clear that it would fill the entire small bay (from top to bottom) next to the main bay, which therefore is most likely not the bay where Vader landed at the beginning of the film.

    While the main bay would be 177 meters wide according to the shuttle height (20.4 meters), the small bay would be only 35.2 meters wide and the bay further to the right would be 76.4 meters wide. Earlier we saw that the flight approach scene of Vader’s Shuttle suggested a bay width of 81.3 meters. Curiously, after he has landed (matte painting by Frank Ordaz) the bay width now appears to be only 67.7 meters:

    Death Star II Vader Bay width evaluation No. 2.jpg

    The common denominator of these two conflicting figures would be 74.5 meters, but that’s a deviation of only less than two meters or 2% which is rather negligible, therefore 76.4 meters (250 feet) is apparently the correct width of Vader’s Bay (or the secondary DS II control room bay) in real life.

    Death Star II simulations of small and larger bay to the right of the main bay 130p.jpg

    The gun towers at the front edge of the notch seem to be last minute additions to the final version of the matte painting (because they are of variable height). As these ‘stand’ closer to the viewer than the notch wall with the bays, these are between 36+ (smallest) and 50+ (tallest) meters tall. Judging by their tower proportions they all appear to be Mark I (ANH) gun turrets on the (new and slim) ROJ towers, and the largest ones in the matte painting match the standard height of 51 meters rather perfectly (see https://thecantina.starwarsnewsnet....h-death-star-assault.54234/page-3#post-489805 ), reassuring the usefulness of the (exterior view) main bay and its width of 177 meters (581 feet) as a ruler to ultimately determine the height of the DS II equator trench.

    Now, we need to simulate the entire height of the central notch wall with the bays, which fortunately is rather easy because matte artist Chris Evans provided an accurate vanishing point:

    Death Star II equator height determination.jpg

    As a result the equator trench height of DS II is approx. 595 meters (651 yards) which is much less than the equator trench height of DS I (934 meters) and could have interesting ramifications regarding the accurate overall size of the second Death Star in real life.
     
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  13. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Looks like I couldn't wait myself to see the final results, so here they come:


    Death Star II size determination

    Again, the big problem with previous Death Star size evaluations had been the lack of high-resolution images of the battle station VFX model as a whole in order to be able to compare the tiny equatorial trench in relation to the other dimensions. The second (Japanese) Star Wars Chronicles (2016) featured a high-resolution image that still could be more detailed, but it’s one of the best at our disposal.

    Just as with DS I scanned the image of DS II (already mirror-inverted to match the mirror-inverted footage in the film) at 600 dpi (1.8 MB), enlarged it on my computer screen and measured an equator trench height (at the western edge!) of 1.8 mm in relation to 358 mm height and 357 mm width (obviously a perfect sphere):

    Death Star II dimensions IRL.jpg

    As a result, the second Death Star would have a diameter of (only) 118.3 km (73.5 miles) in real life!

    This comes as a big surprise because prior to Rogue One the previous belief and assumption had been that the first Death Star had a diameter of 120 km and the second one of 160 km, but as it turns out it’s actually the other way round!

    The ROJ novelization's claim that DS II was “more than twice as powerful [as DS I]” may still be correct, but the claim that DS II was “nearly twice as big [as DS I]” is obviously erroneous.

    What happened here? Supposedly the motto for ROJ had been “bigger, badder”, yet it seems as if the ILM model shop conspired against its boss, feeling that the next generation of a technical item should be somewhat improved, and in the particular case of the Death Star a reduction in volume and mass would be a clear sign of such an improvement and technical progress. Let us have a look at a fictional rendezvous of both Death Stars:

    Death Star rendezvous and size comparison.jpg

    While the (horizontal) diameter of DS I has been downsized by 72% the engineers of DS II were apparently only able to reduce the size of the superweapon dish by 85%.
     
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  14. Capt_Mange

    Capt_Mange Rebel Trooper

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    I like quite a few aspects of your work, especially the exhaustive research which has uncovered some interesting details. With that out of the way, there are also quite a few things I am in disagreement about. One such thing is the supposition that Vader's shuttle does not land in the small hangar bay. However, the movie clearly shows that the shuttle is on a trajectory to the small hangar bay next to the large hangar bay used by the Emperor in the shot after the crew gets clearance and in the subsequent shot of the shuttle approaching the hangar bay (I've circled the shuttle).
    DSII_S1.jpg
    DSII_S2.jpg
    There's thus no basis for the claim that it landed in the hangar further to the right. It's also clearly the same hangar bay that Luke uses to escape the Death Star later.
    DSII_E1.jpg

    Why was the rightmost hangar bay not included in Pangrazio's matte painting? A guess would be that the area wouldn't be shown and thus wasn't painted.

    That is completely wrong: A curved surface would have indicated a smaller, not a bigger diameter. Together with the size of the Executor and the slight curvature of the surface, the shot implies a size of perhaps a few thousands in kilometers. However, I don't think that shot is the best one can use.
     
  15. Capt_Mange

    Capt_Mange Rebel Trooper

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    Sorry for the double-post, but I couldn't edit to add to my earlier post.

    So, how big was the second Death Star? I've done quite a number of scalings. I used to belong in the camp which argued for a 900km DSII, but it's clear that the waistband and equatorial trench doesn't support that size. The largest number I've arrived at was 291km over a decade ago. I have lost my work, but I thought that I would do a somewhat quick scaling.

    As I established in my earlier post, it's beyond doubt that Vader's shuttle landed in the small hangar right next to the Emperor's hangar. According to on-set blueprints, the shuttle is 12 meters wide between the engine hinges. As the opening is 5.96 times wider than the aforementioned section of the shuttle, it would mean that the bay is 72 meters wide (rounded).

    Shuttle_landing.jpg

    Next we can scale that to the hangar bays and the equatorial trench:

    Scaling DS2 hangar bay area.jpg

    With the caveat that the image is from an angle and that we're looking at recessed areas (which reduces the size somewhat). The Emperor's hangar bay (yellow line) is about five times wider than Vader's hangar bay (red line) which would made it ~370 meters wide. The inner notch (light purple) is 1.88 times the width of Vader's bay which would make it about 690 meters tall and the entire equatorial trench is 4.54 times the width of Vader's hangar bay which would make it 1,680 meters in height.

    The measurements of my own high-res scan deviates a bit from Lt. Hija's (the relationship between the trench and the entire station), but would indicate a size of 245 km in diameter. That was a quick scaling. I also did a quick pixel-by-pixel scaling and I ended up with ~220 km in diameter.
     
  16. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Thank you for the feedback, a healthy discussion is always better than a monologue.

    Technically speaking we do have a classic "You can't have cake and eat it, too" situation. In this particular case one of the two is incorrect, it's either a) the (editing) suggestion that Vader landed in the small bay or b) the depiction of the Emperor's Shuttle in the main bay (it's WAY too big).

    Again, Chris Evans working on the (first "skyscraper" Version of the) equator matte painting:

    star-wars-matte-art-02.jpg

    We can see much better than in the final matte painting that the small bay and the one to the right are separated by a surface detail that looks like a frame.

    It's rather obvious that the bay to the right is missing in the whole width of Pangrazio's side view matte painting:

    Best DS II equator (SW to Indy) Pangrazio.jpg

    As I wrote and illustrated earlier, the larger bay to the right was also featured in the storyboard for this painting, yet it's missing, and three other shots in the film (Vader's arrival, Emperor's arrival, Luke's arrival) show us that it is there.

    Add to this the top of skyscraper (ahead of the main bay) with a Mark III gun turret turned sideways, that doesn't exist in the three aforementioned scenes and wasn't erased / revised, my impression remains that this matte painting (because it was only scheduled to appear in one scene amidst a hectic production) was never really finished and abandoned during work-in-progress.

    Since the main bay was reserved for the Emperor's arrival, the ILM guys doing the VFX composition seemed to make the shuttle land in the small bay, yet the trajectory and the low approach of Vader's Shuttle still favor the (unseen) larger bay to the right - which I addressed and illustrated by putting the larger bay where it belonged:

    Death Star II equator painting with missing right bay TRIMMED.jpg

    If you insist that the small bay is the one where Vader's Shuttle landed (it never vanished inside, it's just that the next scene shows his shuttle landing) then you must or should claim that the exterior view of the Emperor's Shuttle in the main bay is erroneous and incorrect:

    Death Star II equator detail Lambda-shuttle in every bay.jpg

    (The close-up scene of the Emperor's arrival in the film features distortions of Evans matte painting, therefore the element of the parked shuttle has been isolated and carefully matched and inserted into a close-up view of the matte painting)

    The above simulation shows us the Emperor's Shuttle in the main bay (as shown in the film) and how much space the shuttle would take up in each of the other bays.

    Viewed from within we'd get a result like that:

    Death Star II simulations of small and larger bay to the right of the main bay.jpg

    To the left is what the small bay would look like (based on the Emperor's Shuttle in the main bay), to the right we see what Vader's landing scene would have looked like in the bay further to the right.

    All I can say is that what I see in the film is the landing scene on the right, but definitely not the one on the left. Add to this it follows an editing cut, so the exterior view with Vader's Shuttle approaching and the above scene where it landed could have been several seconds longer, but the edit cut it shorter, creating the (IMHO) erroneous impression that he landed in the smaller bay.

    With Luke's escape from DS II it's a similar story, i.e. the bay is much, much wider than the small one shown above left (although the bay's proportions admittedly rather resemble the small bay):

    star-wars6-movie-screencaps_com-14494.jpg

    Given the choice between an appearance and editing suggestion (and a flawed matte painting that lacked the larger bay to the right) OR the clear view of the Emperor's Shuttle parked inside the main bay, I obviously chose the latter as the reference and ruler to evaluate the height of the DS II equator trench.

    (But I freely admit that during an evaluation I did a longer time ago, I also based my findings on the belief that the small bay was the one where Vader landed - and arrived at almost exactly the same figures you presented).
     
    #16 Lt. Hija, Apr 24, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
  17. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Today I want to do some 'reverse engineering'. Now, @Cap_Mange has stated his unwavering belief that Vader's Shuttle landed in the small bay (and I'm confident he is not alone).

    In this case the small bay would be 76.4 meters wide, but then the width of the main bay would increase to staggering 392.2 meters (1,287 feet):

    Death Star II equator main bay width assuming small bay is Vader's.jpg

    Since we do have an interior (matte painting) view let us be aware of the ramifications:

    simulation of main bay width of 392 m with Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets and insert.jpg

    The opening of the main bay would be wide enough, so that 6.5 Boeing 747s (Jumbo Jets, each 59.7 m long) could sit on its frame like birds on a wire. As explained earlier in this thread this matte painting has several issues, but at 392 meters width, none of the other elements that are part of the matte painting would make any sense anymore.
     
    #17 Lt. Hija, Apr 26, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
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  18. Capt_Mange

    Capt_Mange Rebel Trooper

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    The "editing suggestion" as you call it, is clearly the effort made by the F/X-crew to establish which hangar bay that Lord Vader lands in. It makes sense that Vader's hangar bay would be close to the Emperor's. As you say, Vader's bay and the larger bay to the right is separated by a rectangular feature. The rectangular shape can be seen in Pangrazio's painting but the right-hand bay can't and I've already given an explanation as to why: The area wasn't to be shown on screen and thus the painting didn't need to. I will continue after the quote below.

    Speaking of the storyboards for this scene, I'm looking at them right now (dated September 1982, a month before one of two matte paintings showing the waistband trench was finished) and what had Johnston written in the description field below the storyboard? Well:

    "Vader's Shuttle moves across the screen L to R toward the smaller, upper docking bay of the Death Star."

    On an interesting side note, Johnston marked on the storyboard that the shuttle wouldn't be a miniature. The shot was realized with a photograph of the model together with stop-motion.

    As I've showed, the shot was planned to show Vader's shuttle landing in the smaller, upper bay and the result of the composition work is clear: Vader's shuttle was headed for the smaller, upper bay in the waistband trench. Your convoluted idea and insistence that this shot showing Vader's shuttle approaching said bay...

    Shuttle_approaching_2_a.jpg

    ...instead should be interpreted like this...

    Shuttle_approaching_2a.jpg

    ...not only falls because the shot was planned and executed to show Vader's shuttle landing in the smaller, upper bay but on its own absurdity.

    As to the questions you pose regarding the Emperor's shuttle bay: If there is a discrepancy in the external matte painting, it could very well be intentional: It's a brief shot so to make it clear as to what we see, the shuttle was made oversized or it could be that there was a mistake during optical printing and instead of redoing it with all the elements again, it was kept.

    As for the size of the hangar bay based on the shot from within the bay: I don't think it can be judged properly from it.

    As I have demonstrated, you are quite simply wrong when it comes to your supposition that it landed in the lower bay (your "simulation" is thus irrelevant). When it comes to the proportions of Vader's hangar bay, as well as the hangar bay that Luke escapes from (as they're one and the same, I'll use singular), it has more the shape of a square with a width/height ratio of 1.50 (a perfect square would of course be 1:1) while the lower bay has more of a rectangular shape with a width/height ratio of 2.15.
     
    #18 Capt_Mange, Apr 29, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2018
  19. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Rebel Official

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    Storyboard Vader arrival 81p.jpg

    Here is the storyboard you are referring to. It's rather obvious that Vader was originally supposed to land in the main bay, but obviously that was changed so that the Emperor could have it instead.
    It's correct that the annotation appears to indicate the tiny bay, but from a technical point of view it still looks to me that they realized (too late) that the larger bay to the right (its edge can clearly be seen on the right side of the storyboard) had not been put there in Pangrazio's matte painting and they had to improvise with what they had.

    Again, as I illustrated before, the top of the shuttle's wings come dangerously close to the small bay's ceiling but gradually continuing the flight approach with the simulation of the bay to the right i.e. where it would have been, had the matte dept. had the time to revise and/or finish Pangrazio's matte painting correctly) would match much better the low flight approach that we do see in the film, the moment Vader's shuttle passes the illuminated frame:

    Death Star II equator painting with missing right bay TRIMMED.jpg


    I concur that the trajectory in the images you provided appear to indicate the small bay as the landing 'target' but in the sequence of images the shuttle enters the frame from the top and gradually descends which is continued in the subsequent shot (Frames 130 thru 145): https://starwarsscreencaps.com/star-wars-episode-vi-return-of-the-jedi-1983/

    You suggest that the depiction of the Emperor's Shuttle was deliberately erroneous (oversized) and that's where I do not - or better - cannot agree. In my research efforts (and since I didn't witness the actual production process) my motto is always to give these great artists that contributed the benefit of a doubt, i.e. they knew exactly what they were doing (and were striving for continuity, i.e. to avoid all kinds of continuity errors).

    What we do know for a fact is that Mr. Pangrazio's matte painting was flawed, because a) unlike the equator matte painting the skyscraper top we (still) see wasn't removed and b) the bay to the right wasn't put there although it must have been visible.

    (I've really had it today, the editing function seems to be messed up to...)

    On the other hand we do have visible and authoritative evidence with
    a) the Emperor's Shuttle in the main bay (as a ruler)
    b) the interior view of the main (admittedly with issues)
    c) the width of Vader's Bay which the floor relection tells us is twice as wide as the small bay
    and ultimately
    d) the exterior view where the Emperor's Shuttle ruler supports the width figures of Vader's Bay as displayed by the larger bay to the right

    IMHO this visual information outweighs and supercedes information derived from an editing suggestion and/or VFX composition, especially since the latter appears to be owed to the unfortunate fact that a matte painting didn't feature the larger bay that should have been there and ultimately forced ILM to improvise.
     
    #19 Lt. Hija, May 3, 2018
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
  20. Capt_Mange

    Capt_Mange Rebel Trooper

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    It can "look" whatever it will. The storyboard is dated September 24 and work was underway in October on the matte painting.

    The shot was PLANNED so that Vader's shuttle landed in the SMALLER, UPPER hangar bay, not the LOWER, MIDDLE-SIZED hangar bay.


    They would have had time. The painting had come a quite a long way by October 1982 and it was approved in January 1983. I can't find any dates for Evans's beautiful matte painting other than "early 1983" (which is when I guess it was approved). In any case, it's moot since the shot was filmed as planned with Vader's shuttle landing in the smaller, upper bay.



    Yes, it descends into the hangar bay it's supposed to...


    Actually, if there's a matte painting that is flawed, it's Evans's.
     
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