Randy interviews creator of the custom TFA VHS project!

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Like me, you probably have a spot somewhere in your home that holds relics of media formats long lost. Specifically, VHS cassettes. If not, it was probably before your time and in that case, screw you for being young. For everyone else VHS was how we remember watching the original films over, and over, and over again.  

One of the coolest fan-made projects is certainly this homemade VHS of The Force Awakens. From the case to the actual movie on the cassette, every part of this retro project is lovingly crafted to bring back that warm, fuzzy feeling of watching Star Wars flicks at home when we were children. The dude who put this together is actually one of MakingStarWars.net’s own. You can hear him every Saturday on his podcast, “Force Cult“. I spoke with Ryan Baxter about what went into producing such a detailed project and some of the big questions he gets asked about The Force Awakens VHS.

Randy: Why did you make this?

Ryan: I grew up in the ’80s and my summers and weekends were filled with me and my friends sitting on the floor playing video games and wearing out VHS tapes. Star Wars has always fit into a certain era in my mind and that era is the ’80s. I wanted to see if I could get the same nostalgic, magical feeling from watching The Force Awakens as I did from watching the OT when I was a kid. Now, clearly TFA is an amazing film that echoes the past BUT it’s still very new and clean and HD. So my journey began to rewind a few decades and see what I could conjure up.

Randy: How did you make it?

Ryan: I took the full HD version into Adobe Premiere and the fun began. First I setup the project to 4:3 aspect ratio and went through the entire film shot by shot and adjusted the position so that things weren’t cut off. I went through the entire film again doing a color grade and color FX to offset the color channels. Then I added pop lines, tape warps, tracking errors, noise, etc. to really give it a 30-year-old look. After I got that just right, I was only 50% done. I had to go through the audio and model the sound after an old VHS tape as well. I had to not only make the audio sound old but I had to at pitch warps to match the tape warps. Then I remade the Bad Robot logo ’80s style, an old FBI warning screen AND used the old Lucasfilm LTD text. Now that it’s done, I had to figure out how to output it to VHS. Plenty of devices are made to get VHS footage IN your computer, not the other way around. The entire process took about a week to get it how I wanted it. Done? Nope, I had to design a VHS cover of course. I went the old Disney clamshell style because it seems most fitting. I took all the officially released images and dived into Photoshop. I took a lot of inspiration from the original Star Wars VHS cover. Every single detail on the cover was re-designed. After it was done, I took an old Disney movie, pulled out the cover and put the TFA cover in. Was I done? Of course not–I had to design the label for the actual tape.

Randy: Why put so much effort into making this?

Ryan: All I know is the amount of time and effort put in is nothing compared to how it makes me feel to watch it this way. There’s no way to describe the feeling. If you grew up watching VHS and saw this, you’d feel it too. I don’t think this would work with just any movie though. Star Wars has always been dear to me and in my mind, it’s a perfect fit. When it comes to fandom and the lengths people go to in order to feel a certain connection, crazy is relative I think.

Randy: Can people get their hands on a copy?

Ryan: Unfortunately, I can’t bring this into mass production because I’d rather not have an army of Disney drones surround my house. Of course if they were on board to license it somehow then I’m down. With the amount of messages I get every day asking me to buy one, I think it would be worth it for them to consider purely as fan service. I make them individually. Each tape is rigged up to my computer and output in real time to my Zenith 1987 VCR. I’d love to work with Disney/Lucasfilm on something but as of now there’s no way to get one without being a very close friend of mine.

Wanna be a close friend of Ryan Baxter’s? Well a good start would be listening to his podcast, “Force Cult“, on the MSW Podcast Network or following him on social media. Aside from that, hope that the stars align and a product like this can eventually see the light of day.