ILM: ENGINEERS OF EPISODE I
For many years, it has been reported, through a variety of sources, that Episode I of the new Star Wars Prequel Trilogy will have the most special effects ever in a motion picture. Just think about that for a minute. It has been confirmed that this movie will have around 1,500 SFX shots, compared to 200 for 'A New Hope', and this movie will have more than double the effects of 'Titanic'. The company charged with achieving this feat is Industrial Light and Magic or ILM for short; the visual engineers of Episode I. The enormity and magnitude that the special effects will have on this film is realised when you consider that the post production for SFX will take a year and a half to complete!
Those familar with the wizardry of ILM will recall such names as John Knoll (who created the X-wing flyby in Star Wars: Special Edition) who is the overall supervisor of Special Effects, Dennis Muren (of Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 fame) will be doing two major effects sequences, according to Rick McCallum in the Star Wars Insider, Scott Squires is doing some other major sequences, while Robe Coleman is the supervisor of all animation.
ILM is just another revolutionary company that George Lucas has founded that has forever changed cinematography as we know it, along with the THX format and Skywalker Sound. Imagine films such as Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and Dragonheart would be like without the creative genius of ILM? Then consider other films such as Titanic, Starship Troopers, Star Trek, etc . . . (add any special effects burden films) would be like without the breakthoughs of ILM? They may not have been involved in that production, but people who started their careers there have branched off and started their own production houses, or added their talents to other companies, such as Phil Tippet. Such is the respect for ILM, that they are THE premier special effects company in the business.
Now, when you consider what they have DONE, now imagine what they will DO next with the Star Wars prequels. Ever since the beginning of the production, George Lucas and Rick McCallum have stated that they need to INVENT new technologies for this film to be possible. Quoting George Lucas "We're depending on it. If we don't invest in new technology, I don't know what will happen. That's the part that scares a lot of people. We depend on our ability to come up with ideas and things right now don't exist. ILM has spent the last nine months trying to reinvnet some of the techniques. We have to write new software to do some of the things that I want to do. We have a truly synthetic cyber-character. We did some acting in Casper, and obviously we made some very life like creatures in Jurassic Park, but nobody's ever made a life like creature that acts. You have a performance from the character, and he's a regular character. We're doing that."
Rick McCallum has also spoken about these 'digital synthetic characters', which he said should have genuinely individual qualities and be seamlesly integrated with real actors. The other core effects technology, McCallum explained, is 'virtual sewt-technology', involving the spatial manipulation of a three dimensional matte painting. These technologies, he said, are ' as REVOLUTIONARY as the coming of sound and color.' THINK about that statement folks! Reportedly, some background shots are so complicated that it takes 75 hours to combine all the matte paintings together properly on computers. A full hour and 45 minutes of computer generated imagery is being created for the prequels.
Just as ILM's work in the original trilogy revolutionized the industry, ILM's contribution to Episode I looks set to redefine state of the art special effects as we know them. According to Rick McCallum, ILM will be providing an average of 13 visual effects per scene in Episode I - which is quite a staggering amount of work, when compared to 'Independance Day', whch had three effects every five scenes!
Personally, like many others, I can't WAIT to see this movie. Imagine what we have seen so far in other movies that ILM has contributed to, and now TRY to imagine what the prequels will be like, as they are creating even new technologies just for this film! Picture that the film will be like the ending of ROTJ: SE - eg: Coruscant scenes, but all throughout the film, and even better. Picture a character created even better than JABBA in ANH: SE, that will be throught most of the film, and INTERGRATING with real actors (Jar Jar Binks). To conclude, I feel that to be an employee of ILM would be the most fun and enjoyable job in the world!
Until next time
PS: To find more about the people at ILM behind the creation of Episode I, head over to the Official Web Site: http://www.starwars.com
Sources used in this article with thanks:
(1) Star Wars Galaxy Magazine.
(2) Sci-Fi Invasion!
(3) Film Review