In October 1983, Rear Window and Vertigo were the first two films re-released by Hitchcock's estate after his death. These two films and three others -- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Trouble With Harry (1955), and Rope (1948) -- had been kept out of distribution by Hitchcock since 1968. Some cleaning and restoration was performed on each film when new 35mm prints were struck.
In 1996, the film was given a lengthy and controversial restoration by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz and re-released to theaters. The new print featured restored color and newly created audio, utilizing modern sound effects mixed in DTS digital surround sound. In October 1996, the restored Vertigo premiered at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, with Kim Novak and Patricia Hitchcock in person. At this screening, the film was exhibited for the first time in DTS and 70mm, a format with a similar frame size to the VistaVision system in which it was originally shot. When restoring the sound, Harris and Katz wanted to stay as close as possible to the original, and had access to the original music recordings that had been stored in the vaults at Paramount. However, as the project demanded a new 6-channel DTS stereo soundtrack, it was necessary to re-record some sound effects using the foley process. The soundtrack was remixed at the Alfred Hitchcock Theatre at Universal Studios. Aware that the film had a considerable following, the restoration team knew that they were under particular pressure to restore the film as accurately as possible. To achieve this, they used Hitchcock's original dubbing notes for guidance of how the director wanted the film to sound in 1958. Harris and Katz sometimes added extra sound effects to camouflage defects in the old soundtrack ("hisses, pops, and bangs"); in particular they added extra seagull cries and a foghorn to the scene at Cypress Point. The new mix has also been accused of putting too much emphasis on the score at the expense of the sound effects. The 2005 Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection DVD contains the original mono track as an option. Significant color correction was necessary because of the fading of original negatives. In some cases a new negative was created from the silver separation masters, but in many instances this was impossible because of differential separation shrinkage, and because the 1958 separations were poorly made. Separations used three individual films: one for each of the primary colors. In the case of Vertigo, these had shrunk in different and erratic proportions, making re-alignment impossible. As such, significant amounts of computer assisted coloration were necessary. Although the results are not noticeable on viewing the film, some elements were as many as eight generations away from the original negative, in particular the entire "Judy's Apartment" sequence, which is perhaps the most pivotal sequence in the entire film. When such large portions of re-creation become necessary, then the danger of artistic license by the restorers becomes an issue, and the restorers received some criticism for their re-creation of colors that allegedly did not honor the director's and cinematographer's intentions. The restoration team argued that they did research on the colors used in the original locations, cars, wardrobe, and skin tones. One breakthrough moment came when the Ford Motor Company supplied a well-preserved green paint sample for a car used in the film. As the use of the color green in the film has artistic importance, matching a shade of green was a stroke of luck for restoration and provided a reference shade.
In October 2014, a new 4K restoration was presented at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. This version gives credit to Harris and Katz at the end of the film, and thanks them for providing some previously unknown stereo soundtracks. This version, however, removes some of the "excessive" Foley sound that was added in the 1996 restoration.