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Inside the Holocron – Every Line Counts

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

Every Line Counts – An Interview with Concept Artist Kun Chang

The Art Department that envisioned many of the designs of Episode I was not wholly located at Skywalker Ranch. There was a second team of concept artists across the Atlantic, working in England under Production Designer Gavin Bocquet. One of these artists was Kun Chang.

Separated by an ocean but connected by modern communications technology, the two teams worked together to craft the fantastic far away worlds. “We were always very impressed with the things that came from America,” says Kun. “When I started, I actually had a different drawing style. But Gavin gave me a drawing by Doug Chiang and said ‘Can you do this?’ In the end my drawing style became similar to the U.S. Art Department.”

Born in Denmark, Chang has lived in England, Germany and San Francisco. His schooling has included the Royal College of Arts in London and the California College of Arts and Crafts. He has worked in advertising and graphic design. His path into the motion picture industry wasn’t as obvious as some might think.

“My father was a nuclear scientist and he wanted me to become a nuclear scientist, of course,” explains Kun. “When I was about 15 I met a friend from Germany and he was a big fan of Star Wars. It really changed his life. He said he wanted to do films and everything and I just thought ‘Yeah, that sounds fun.'”

“I saw the second one first, The Empire Strikes Back,” says Chang. “My father took me to see it in a completely empty Danish cinema which was huge and I was really blown away. I think I saw the first one on video actually, but the second one made a huge impression on me. At that point I hadn’t really thought I was going to do cinema or anything because I thought I was going to be an engineer. But people used to see me drawing and they would always say, ‘Well you know what you want to do, don’t you?'”

Even though he had been working as a concept artist and illustrators on films for a while, including such movies as The Fifth Element, Chang’s involvement in Episode I came about almost by accident.

“I had a documentary that I wanted to direct and I went to England to see if I could get it done,” recounts Kun. “As part of that I went into the Royal College because my old teacher asked me to come in and show my work from the last year so the students could see what I had done. I wasn’t really that keen on working on another film, but I showed my portfolio and Tony Wright was there and he was teaching them. We went for lunch and then I said ‘Ah, there’s one film I would love to work on, that would be Star Wars.’ My teacher just said, ‘Well, actually,Tony is working on Star Wars. Are you still interested?'”

Chang had actually heard rumors that a new film was in the works, and that it was coming to England. Just in case, he had started some preparations to his portfolio. “I made sure my final project for my degree at the Royal College of Art was a science fiction project,” says Chang.

After revealing his interest in the project, Kun got Gavin Bocquet’s phone number from Tony Wright, another UK concept artist on Episode I. “I called him up and Gavin was very positive and everything.” Time passed, and more of Kun’s past acquaintances from The Fifth Element were beaming about landing positions on The Phantom Menace.

“I was like ‘Ah great, I haven’t got the job,” sighs Chang. “And then when I had given up the hope and I was about to start all kinds of other things I got a call from California one evening and it was Gavin saying I got it. It was a big surprise.”

Once work started, Kun was given a degree of flexibility in his designs that let him explore numerous approaches to a subject. “I was given a lot of freedom and I really enjoyed that. Gavin would give me like a list of things that had to be designed and he would just expect like five, six drawings of each. He would just send them over to America and then they would come back with the ‘OK’ stamps or not at all.”

“We were all working on the Podracers when I first started. There were some people who came in for a couple of weeks and they were just apprentices and they were doing kit-bashing. So, it was very free for everyone to join in then and make something,” Kun recounts. The enthusiasm did occasionally spill over into a form of rivalry between the two Art Departments. “Every time we sent something off we thought, ‘this is better than anything we’ve seen from those guys in America,'” jokes Chang. “And then over time there would come a pack back from America that was like really stunning and we’d just go ‘Wow!'”

Chang’s drawings helped develop several Podracer designs. His sketches made their way to Elan Mak’s and Wan Sandage’s racers. He also had some input in Anakin’s Podracer design.

Occasionally changes have to be made when a two-dimensional sketch is transformed into a three-dimensional sculpture. “When I did a full-scale model of Anakin’s Podracer in foamboard, we discovered that the way the handlebars were designed, his hands would cover his face. We changed that, so that’s why the handles swing outwards towards the top,” says Chang.

At times, the distance between the Art Departments did hamper communications. “I spent two weeks designing handguns for the Gungans only to be told they don’t use guns,” recalls Kun.

With new direction, Kun began developing the more exotic Gungan weaponry – the atlatls and cestas used to hurl balls of plasmic energy. Early in the design stage, the Gungan would use these weapons to create the energy balls much like a glassblower would.

When the decision was made craft the interior of the Royal Starship in England, Chang was part of the design team that tackled that particular challenge. “I got the job of doing all the initial models and to come up with the interior designs. I spent a lot of time doing models as well as drawings.”

“The American Art Department designed the exterior of the Queen’s ship, and we’d design the interior, except the cockpit. Gavin gave me like all the models of the ship to work off of. It was really hard because I just had an empty shape, and I knew George Lucas had done a really rough drawing where he had put a little kind of circle, and that was where Padmé was going to be. And that was where the handmaidens were going to be, and so on,” describes Kun.

The Queen’s ship underwent some early changes. “There was originally a reception room which was supposed to be at the back of the ship where it’s kind of round,” says Chang. “There was supposed to be a window so you could look into space. However, there was no corresponding window when you see the spaceship from the outside. From the outside it’s all metal and chrome. So it was decided to take the window away.”

Aside from the various interior rooms of the ship, Chang also designed the slotted T-14 hyperdrive generator that is the cause of such consternation for our heroes. With a design quite different from the utilitarian nature of previously seen starship innards, the T-14 could almost pass as a wall-hanging, so artistically elaborate is its surface.

Many of Chang’s designs were of so-called “action props,” gadgets and devices actually held and used by the actors. Chang helped ensure that a Jedi Knight was always well equipped. His sketches include Jedi utility belts, breather masks, and holoprojectors.

“One idea for the breathers that everyone loved – but ultimately wasn’t used – was that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon were going to pick up a kind of jellyfish and place it over their faces which would enable them to breathe underwater,” reveals Kun.

The Jedi props — the holoprojector particularly — had to have a certain elegance to them, to be associated with such a noble order. “I think that was kind of hard,” admits Chang. “I saw everything that was Jedi-like as being tiny and more jewel-like. Kind of like a Chinese artifact or something. Not clunky like everything else is in Star Wars. The few items that a Jedi walks around with would be beautiful items.”

While chance played a role on his joining Episode I, another accident cut Kun Chang’s work short. A herniated disk caused him to leave the production early. Still, he managed to make many important contributions to The Phantom Menace. Now recovered, he continues to work on other film projects. His favorite memories from the Star Wars experience come from seeing something imagined come to life and be realized in three-dimensions.

“It was a real rush to walk into the final set and see every little detail of the drawing translated into reality,” says Kun. “Even little doodles which I hadn’t really given much thought had been turned into handles or screws — seeing something like that really makes you aware of how every line counts once it has been accepted. That was really amazing.”

Ewan McGregor Thinks ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Season 2 Will Happen Eventually

Source: SWNN

Obi-Wan Kenobi was always described as a limited series, a six-part event that would wrap it up for Ewan McGregor’s time as the character. However, leading up to the series’ release, Kathleen Kennedy and Ewan McGregor started toying around with the possibility of coming back for another season. While there is no official confirmation that a new season will happen, McGregor said recently that he thinks that, sooner or later, it will.

The actor was recently a guest on Celebrity Fan Fest, where he was asked about the possibility of Obi-Wan Kenobi coming back for a second season, to which he responded:

“I’m totally up for it guys, I wanna do it. […] I’m absolutely honest, there is no plan to make one yet. But I think, I’m pretty sure they’re just biding their time. But nobody’s approached me as of yet.”…

Read the Full Article @ SWNN

Han And Leia Reckon With New Truths

Source: StarWars.Com

The newlyweds must navigate new, difficult issues as their honeymoon begins.

StarWars.com TeamWith the end of the Empire came new beginnings for the galaxy and those who worked so hard to set it free. For Han Solo and Leia Organa, it was a future they would explore together, good and bad.
In StarWars.com’s latest exclusive excerpt from Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel, the new novel by Beth Revis arriving August 16, Han and Leia arrive at the first stop on their honeymoon cruise aboard the Halcyon starcruiser. The two discuss certain misgivings about their hosts, as well as a burden Leia now carries — the revelation that Darth Vader was her biological father. (Before you attend the galaxy’s biggest wedding, be sure to check out our previous excerpt featuring Luke and Leia, the reveal of the book’s stunning cover, and a Q&A with the author.)…

Read the Full Article @ StarWars.Com

Review: The Halcyon Journey Concludes With Halcyon Legacy #5

Source: SWNN

It’s time for one last adventure aboard the Halcyon with the fifth and final issue of the Halcyon Legacy arc. The galaxy’s premiere luxury star liner has gone through some harrowing ordeals in its time. Ranging from being boarded by the Nihil to a Maz Kanata-led heist, each issue has left its unique mark. The present-day storyline takes mostly a backseat to the adventures of the past, but each story serves its purpose. The previous issue was my favorite of the bunch, and I was left excited to see what might be done for the conclusion piece. While this issue has its moments, overall, I was left disappointed. This felt more like a giant Disney marketing plug than any of the previous issues and was hastily introduced to new characters. Because of the jarring introduction, the payoff of the issue didn’t feel entirely earned. Bossk graces the cover of the issue, and I was excited to see him have a strong presence, but he was gone in the blink of an eye. While being a bit of a mess it’s still a fun read. It may not be an issue to return to time and time again, but that doesn’t it is not worth your time.

Spoilers Ahead

Read the Full Article @ SWNN

Mark Hamill Strikes Back At Empire Reshoot Rumors

Source: Cinemablend

Even years after Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released, fans cannot stop analyzing the 1980 film and discussing theories about it online. A few fans pointed out the differences between released set photos and stills from the film. Specifically, they had questions about the Medical Bay scene at the end of the film–and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, has responded.

An argument arose after fans of Episode V saw inconsistencies between images from the film, and could not agree whether or not re-shoots were done after principal photography had wrapped. They decided the only way to find out for sure was to consult Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, and ask about the rumored re-shoots.

We could inquire to @HamillHimself about it. Mark, did you guys re-shoot the Medical Bay scene at the end of Empire after principal photography had already wrapped?March 8, 2022…

Read the Full Article @ Cinemablend

Giancarlo Esposito Hypes Up ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3

Source: SWNN

Giancarlo Esposito recently made an appearance at Thomas J. Henry’s Superhero Car Show & Comic Con in San Antonio, Texas, where he was asked about the future of Moff Gideon in The Mandalorian. In a moment captured in a TikTok video included below, Esposito said that the chances of Gideon returning in a future season of The Mandalorian are very high, adding the following:

“I got to tell you, just to share something with you without spoiling anything. Season 3 of The Mandalorian is off the chain! You’ll be amazed!”

Check out the moment here…

Read the Full Article @ SWNN

Disney Plus Day To Feature “Epic Events And Surprises” On September 8th

Source: SWNN

Disney Plus has teased on social media that this year’s Disney Plus Day, taking place on September 8, will be filled with “epic events, premieres, surprises, and so much more”. The event will happen the day before D23 Expo kicks off in Anaheim, California, where Lucasfilm will co-host a panel with Marvel Studios on Saturday, September 10, at 10 am PT.

1 🗣 MORE 🗣 MONTH until #DisneyPlusDay!

Prepare for a day filled with epic events, premieres, surprises, and so much more. pic.twitter.com/hJLaeN5VeE

— Star Wars | Andor Premieres Sept 21 on Disney+ (@starwars) August 8, 2022

This will be the second Disney Plus Day, following last year’s event that took place on November 12. In the previous edition, Disney Plus premiered multiple projects on the platform, in addition to teasing a lot of the upcoming projects on a Twitter thread. Star Wars was barely mentioned, with Lucasfilm only showcasing a featurette on Obi-Wan Kenobi that had already been shown to investors 11 months before. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios announced multiple new projects and premiered quick teases for the three shows they planned to release in 2022….

Read the Full Article @ SWNN

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Actor Teases Cal Kestis’ Big Changes In Sequel

Source: Star Wars – The Direct

The floodgates are about to open when it comes to Star Wars video games. As the EA exclusivity deal for the license expires next year, studios from around the world can pitch their own game in the galaxy far, far Away. However, EA will get one last Star Wars epic out there before the tides change, in Respawn Entertainment’s recently revealed Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

Jedi: Survivor serves as a direct follow-up to 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order, taking place five years after the events of the first game. Protagonist Cal Kestis has quickly become a favorite amongst fans, with both Disney and actor Cameron Monaghan expressing “interest” in having the character make the jump into live-action.

But before that can happen, Jedi: Survivor has to come out, and gamers have just gotten their first taste of where the game’s main character is at this point in the story….

Read the Full Article @ Star Wars – The Direct

Lucasfilm Had One Actor In Mind For Acolyte

Source: Star Wars – The Direct

Lucasfilm is currently in development on multiple new Star Wars series for Disney+, including The Acolyte. Coming from executive producer Leslye Headland, The Acolyte is set to explore the waning days of the franchise’s High Republic era as the Dark Side of the Force begins to grow stronger.

Beyond that, not much is known about the streaming show. Its assumed that the Acolyte in the title will refer to a character who follows, or is being taught, the ways of the Sith. This seems especially likely given the sinister-looking red lettering that makes up the series’ logo.

In July, however, fans got that much closer to understanding the scope of the series when Lucasfilm officially announced that The Hunger Games star Amandla Stenberg was boarding the show as its lead actor. And now, it would seem as though the studio’s list of potential stars for The Acolyte wasn’t especially lengthy.

Amandla Stenberg Was The Acolyte’s Top Choice

Read the Full Article @ Star Wars – The Direct

Inside the Holocron – 1977

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

1977
The Star Wars Theatrical Experience

Coming Soon to a Lobby Near You

In 1977, the phrase “I’ll just wait for the DVD” was not the common recourse it is today, when fans can wait a few months for a film to make its way to the home video market. Back then, home entertainment systems and videocassette players were few and far between, and television movie premieres were often broadcast years after a film’s theatrical debut. So, to catch the latest movies, people went to the theater.

While the exercise of theater-going has changed little over the last three decades — buying tickets, waiting to buy popcorn, finding a good seat, etc. — the theatrical experience itself has changed significantly. Moviegoers now often have a choice of several films, with the added option of digital or traditional projection. In 1977, most small-town theaters offered only a single screen, and a digital presentation was still decades away from the projectionist’s booth. Audience members were also not guaranteed a clear view of the screen from a stadium-style seat, smoking was still allowed, and monaural sound was slowly being replaced by stereo and the new Dolby technology of the day.

It was this old-world, analog setting that greeted the early Star Wars audiences of 1977, whose first stop on their way to that faraway galaxy was often the theater lobby. Unlike today, where posters, banners, standees, and other promotions from any number of movies compete for attention within a theater megaplex, a single film was often the star attraction at venues of the past, and the lobby was the first place to exploit it.

Movie tickets, programs, posters, concession premiums, retailer tie-ins, t-shirts and more all had the effect of collectively dazzling patrons as they entered, adding to the “event” experience of the film they were about to see. What follows is a collection of items that old-school movie-goers might have seen while catching Star Wars at their local U.S. theater back in 1977, or in the subsequent re-releases that ran through 1982.

Handbills

Handbills, or flyers, were often given away at local businesses, college campuses, and theaters themselves to ramp up excitement for movies either coming soon or already playing. For Star Wars, three different handbills were printed — one that simply said “Star Wars”, another with the “A long time ago…” slogan, and finally a third with the word-intensive “An Entertainment Odyssey to the Edge of your Imagination and Beyond. Far Beyond.”

Tickets

While admission tickets to see Star Wars were probably the first tangibles most moviegoers received from their theatrical experience of the film, few, it seems, were actually saved. Of course, most theater tickets back in 1977 were generic, with no venue or film information printed on the stub — as a result, fans and collectors saw little reason to keep them. Some big city theaters and benefit organizations managed to print up nicer tickets with the Star Wars title on them, giving some examples (such as cast and crew screenings) an enhanced appeal among collectors.

Posters

While today’s theaters will often display movie graphics in the form of a one-sheet (27″x40″) poster or larger banner, back in the ’70s and early ’80s there were several formats theater managers could choose from. Star Wars posters could be displayed in the classic one-sheet size (actually 41″ tall back then), or insert (14″x36″), half-sheet (22″x28″), 30″x40″, or two-sheet (40″x60″) sizes. The two-sheet was also available printed on thick cardstock with an easel, called a standee.

Poster artwork itself was different in 1977. While most of today’s posters are photo-montages composed in the computer with several hands in the design, most posters 30 years ago were beautifully illustrated, with much of the composition left up to a single artist. Star Wars and its various re-releases represented the best of this tradition, with posters such as Tom Jung’s classic Style “A” one-sheet (and re-styled half-sheet) and the retro-inspired White/Struzan “Circus Poster” of 1978. Though not illustrated, the silver mylar “Coming to Your Galaxy this Summer” advance and “Happy Birthday” anniversary posters were also stunners, and have taken on mythic status among collectors. (Collectors note: The famous Style “C” artwork one-sheet by Tom Chantrell was actually distributed exclusively to international venues, although a few “mystery” domestic issues have recently surfaced).

As an interesting side note, many theaters early on were using the commercial Hildebrandt poster printed by licensee Factors Etc. in their lobbies, since distribution of the famous Tom Jung one-sheet bearing similar artwork was allegedly slow to reach them.

Theatrical Banner

Most fans who caught Star Wars in its original theatrical run probably don’t remember seeing a large nine-foot silk-screened banner draped from the lobby ceiling, since few were ever distributed. Little documentation exists to reveal the exact numbers produced for the infamous, cartoon-like nylon banner with gold fringe, but their scarcity make them hotly sought-after among today’s collectors.

Lobby cards, which traditionally depicted photographed scenes from the movie in any number of different sizes, were a lobby fixture dating back to the earliest days of cinema. Sadly, they fell out of favor when single-screen cinemas began giving way to megaplexes in the U.S., and were largely phased out by the mid-1980s.

But in 1977, lobby cards were still in full swing — and for Star Wars, interestingly, lobbies were apparently the primary means of advertising the movie at the theater level in its first weeks of release. Photos of theaters showing Star Wars during May and June of ’77 reveal that lobby cards were often the only form of advertising displayed, with no posters in sight (even the famous footage captured at the Chinese Theatre footprint ceremony held on August 3 shows no posters — only lobby cards).

For Star Wars, there was an endless array of images and sizes produced in lobby card form. There were eight mini lobbies (8″x10″), eight standard (11″x14″), four jumbo (16″x20″), and two scene cards (20″x30″). There were also six portrait cards of the core cast (12″x17″), although these are often found printed together on a single uncut sheet. (Collectors note: The earliest mini and standard lobbies were designated with the number “77-21-0″, while subsequent printings exhibited the same code without the “0″.There were also cards printed with no number codes at all. Also, early printings of the jumbo card depicting Luke and Leia in the Death Star chasm included the soundstage’s floor in the shot just below the heroes. For this reason, most of these jumbo cards are found with the lower edge trimmed by the printer to preserve the scene’s intended illusion of a perilous height).

Some Star Wars licensees tried to reach their target consumers directly at the theater level, touting sweepstakes, rebates, or premiums to generate interest in their products.

In 1977, Toyota ran a sweepstakes which awarded a grand prize customized Star Wars Celica to one lucky winner, a promotion that was advertised both in car showrooms and in movie theaters. Posters and counter displays were sent to theater owners, graced with rare artwork by noted rock-and-roll illustrator John Van Hamersveld. The fate of the stellar auto has since receded into the realm of collector lore.

Kenner finally took its Star Wars merchandising message to theaters in 1979 with a free handout booklet full of coupons and rebate offers — a promotion even called out on the 1979 re-release one-sheet. They followed with a similar promotion for the film’s 1981 re-release, this time installing an attractive countertop display in theaters asking kids to send in their movie ticket stubs for a $1 rebate. Not a bad deal when one considers the cost of a movie ticket in 1981 was about $3.

Coca-Cola offered a concession stand premium in 1982 for Star Wars’ final solo re-release to theaters. With the purchase of a Coke, patrons could get a free 20 or 32oz plastic cup, and for the ambitious, a 50oz pitcher filled with popcorn. Interestingly, the cups and pitcher featured graphics from both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, since both were appearing in re-release that year.

Programs

Among the very first Star Wars collectibles available was the movie program, which could be purchased directly from the theater lobby. Unusual for its horizontal format, the first printing was an immediate sell-out, since initial orders did not anticipate the strong level of enthusiasm for the film. (Collectors note: The first printing of the theater program can be distinguished from later printings by its slick cover — later printings have a textured “pebbletone” cover and pink interior pages). Lucky attendees of early preview and benefit screenings took home the relatively scarce credit sheet, which was a slick foldout brochure listing the film’s cast and crew.

T-shirts and Buttons

Twentieth Century Fox issued t-shirts and buttons bearing the “May the Force Be With You” slogan to some theaters for employees to wear. While the t-shirts are quite rare, the buttons are still relatively easy to find, as many theaters ordered hundreds to give away to moviegoers.

Life in 1977

When Star Wars hit theaters in May 1977, punk music pushed out disco and Burt Reynolds became the poster boy for outracing the boys in blue. Take a look back at what life was like in 1977 in preparation for the DVD release of the original theatrical edition of Star Wars! The original Star Wars will be available as a bonus disc packaged with the 2004 Special Edition of A New Hope when the Star Wars trilogy is released as individual movie DVDs on September 12. Click here for more information.

Highlights of 1977:

President Jimmy Carter is inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States; pardons Vietnam War draft evaders in the same year.

Elvis Presley is found dead at his home in Graceland at the age of 42.

The bands the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Talking Heads and Motorhead release their debut albums. The bands the B-52′s, Black Flag, INXS, Whitesnake, Def Leppard and X form.

Stevie Wonder wins the Album of the Year Grammy Award for Songs in the Key of Life.

The television shows “Three’s Company,” “Fantasy Island,” “Eight is Enough,” “CHiPs,” “The Love Boat,” “Soap” and “Lou Grant” debut.

ABC broadcasts the TV miniseries “Roots” — setting ratings records.

Comedian Bill Murray becomes new cast member of “Saturday Night Live.”

A private plane crash kills three band members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Celebrity deaths include Anaïs Nin, Freddie Prinze, Joan Crawford, Groucho Marx, Bing Crosby, and Charlie Chaplin.

The first Apple II computer debuts.

The New York City Blackout of 1977 lasts for 25 hours, resulting in mass looting.

United States Senate Hearing on CIA mind-control research program Project MKULTRA begins.

David Berkowitz, otherwise known as the serial killer the Son of Sam, is captured after one year of murders in New York City.

Cost of a movie ticket is $2.23, while gas is .62 a gallon. A first class stamp is .13.

New York Yankees win the World Series with help from Reggie Jackson who hits 3 home runs and earns the nickname “Mr. October.”

Top-grossing films: Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, Smokey and the Bandit, King Kong, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and A Star is Born.

Other films released: Annie Hall, Eraserhead, Oh, God! , Orca, Pete’s Dragon, The Goodbye Girl, The Rescuers, The Spy Who Loved Me, Pumping Iron and Carrie.

Annie Hall wins Oscar for Best Picture, and Woody Allen wins for Best Director.

Atari develops the Game Brain — the first Atari system to use cartridges. Cinematronics releases Space Wars, the first vector-graphics arcade game. Mattel releases Missile Attack, the first handheld LED display electronic game.

Hit songs:

“Heroes” – David Bowie
“We Are the Champions” – Queen
“Watching the Detectives” – Elvis Costello
“Carry on My Wayward Son” – Kansas
“Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac
“God Save the Queen” – Sex Pistols
“Margaritaville” – Jimmy Buffett
“Nobody Does It Better” – Carly Simon
“Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” – The Ramones
“You Light Up My Life” – Debby Boone
“Dancing Queen” – ABBA
“Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” – Meco

Inside the Holocron – Let There Be Light!

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

Let There Be Light!

As one of the three Industrial Light & Magic visual effects supervisors who worked on Episode I, Scott Squires had to deal with the creation of virtual realities on a daily basis. But the challenges of visual effects have changed a lot since the computer revolution reached cruising speed at the beginning of the 1990’s.

Now able to manipulate photons like atoms to create an entire universe and its inhabitants, the visual effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic use computers to accomplish an always-increasing number of tasks that were traditionally handled not only by model builders, but also set builders and practical effects specialists.

“Our first step is to scan the film into the computer so that the whole shot is digitized,” says Squires. “Then everything is done digitally from that point.” For visual effects veterans, this is a great leap from the way effects work was accomplished before computers took over. For instance, the traditional procedure used to combine several different elements in the same frame is called “optical compositing,” and involves the projection of a series of already-shot visual elements that are re-photographed, in sequence, on unexposed areas of a previously partially-exposed strip of film. Optical technicians first photograph a background using mattes, which are opaque silhouettes used to block out certain areas of the film. Then the technicians “fill in the gaps” by photographing the rest of the elements, placing each of them in the proper blank space left by the mattes during the first step of photography. But if the asteroid added to the star field background during step two needs to be partially covered by a spacecraft, then the asteroid will be photographed with a matte in the shape of the spacecraft on top of it, in order to leave the blank space that will be occupied by the ship in step three – and so on. When this delicate process is completed, when all the layers have been added, the result is one frame of film. Twenty-three more of these will be required to create the illusion of one second of movement on the screen.

Visual effects used to be created in such ways, because optical compositing was simply the most effective process at the time. All the space battles in the classic Star Wars Trilogy, among other scenes, were painstakingly done using optical compositing techniques. In some cases, particularly in Return of the Jedi, the procedure involved putting together up to forty layers of visual elements combined on a background, for just one frame of film. Now that the digital revolution is in full bloom, the technology allows visual effects creators to combine different elements within the memory of a computer, without ever touching a piece of film. And though the digital age gives filmmakers access to a broader range of effects than what had been possible before, the work remains just as complex as it has always been. Better doesn’t necessarily mean easier, especially in the world of visual effects.

Whether the computer is used to combine two live-action elements photographed separately or a live-action shot with a computer-generated object, the process of digital compositing remains generally the same as it was with optical compositing, with each new layer being added onto the previous ones. Except, of course, that everything is accomplished within the computer. More importantly, the output also remains the same: one frame at a time. “After the digital work it goes back out of the computer: we put out little frames every day – this is called a “wedge” – just so we can check the color and the look on film,” says Squires. Still, today’s visual effects wizards have more power, and can do more in less time than was required in the past. Gone are the days of white-gloved optical artists manipulating strips of film in a dust-free environment. But enhanced power comes with enhanced challenges.

“I guess the biggest challenge was the volume of complex shots,” Squires says. “Our team alone had to deal with 561 shots in less than a year.” Dennis Muren and John Knoll were handed out different volumes of shots, based on the complexity of the work involved. So Muren’s team had to produce 310 shots, while Knoll’s team tackled an impressive 1072 shots. In Muren’s case, the number of shots was kept at a minimum because he needed to produce scenes that were completely computer-generated: the underwater sequence and the ground battle. And since an outside, daylight scene is the most difficult environment to create digitally, the ground battle alone represented quite a challenge.

“For my team, this meant twelve to fifteen final shots each week,” continues Squires, “compared to the average output of about 5 VFX shots a week on a major motion picture. And we needed to keep the quality level up, of course. So part of the challenge on this movie was to find creative and clever solutions to problems. To speed up things, we needed to find a balance between digital and practical effects. So for certain sequences, we would shoot physical models, and then digitally enhance the footage. At other times, we might use a digital matte painting instead of having the computer render a new background for each frame. And so on. We even used salt, poured from fourteen feet up in the air, as the basic visual element for the Theed waterfalls.”

However, as Squires points out, digital technology has reached a point where another type of challenge arises: “We also need to know when to say, okay, let’s stop here,” he continues. “One of the great things about this technology is that you can control everything to the Nth degree, but a lot of times you have to take a step back and realize that the element you’re working on might end up onscreen for two seconds. And sometimes, it won’t matter whether a particular piece of hair goes this way or that way. You just have to look at it realistically and make sure that your last few months on the project are spent finishing the film, and not making half the movie more perfect than it needs to be. Basically, we bring each shot up to the level George Lucas wants and needs. Then it’s time to move on the next shot.”

As traditional visual effects artists have discovered long ago, it is not always wise to do everything to make an effect absolutely perfect simply because the technology allows its users to do so. Most of the time, an element doesn’t need to be perfect in real life to look perfect on the screen. It’s a question of balance, and in that, digital technology hasn’t lightened the burden. It may in fact have made it a bit heavier. But the wizards of ILM rose to meet the new challenges of visual effects, and stand ready to repeat the feat on Episode II. The ‘magic’ in Industrial Light & Magic doesn’t only appear in the final product on the screen : It is part of the whole process.

Inside the Holocron – Pirates Ahoy!

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

Pirates Ahoy!
An Interview with Haden Blackman

Bad to the Crossbones

The expanded universe of Star Wars spin-off fiction has developed a cast of unforgettable characters that typically reside only within the media of their origin — a comic book, a novel, or an electronic game. It’s a rare and special occasion when a character draws enough attention to break through into a different medium. Such is the case with Nym, the alien pirate, who has made the jump from electronic games to comic books in Dark Horse Comics’ current series, Star Wars: Starfighter — Crossbones.

Nym is the brainchild of LucasArts story developers, and helming his comic book escapades is Haden Blackman, producer at LucasArts.

“When we were working on the first Star Wars: Starfighter, I sat down with [Project Director] Daron Stinnett. We started brainstorming different character concepts, including a Robin Hood-type pirate figure who was a little more gruff than he was flamboyant and similar to Han Solo in some ways, but we envisioned him as big and loud,” recalls Blackman.

Early concepts had pegged Nym as a human. It wasn’t until Lead Artist Jim Rice and Concept Artist James Zhang first sketched the tentacle-tressed alien that Nym gained his Feeorin heritage.

“At that point, it all came together, and we realized how cool he looked,” says Blackman. “There’s something you can do with an alien that is harder to do with a human character. You can really punch it up and go overboard with his emotion, so we really made him wear his emotions — especially his anger and frustration — on his sleeve. That was incredibly fun to write.”

Stinnett worked with a team of writers to develop Star Wars: Starfighter’s dialogue. He oversaw the recording sessions, and it was then — with the casting of actor Charlie Rocket (“Saturday Night Live,” “The X-Files”) as Nym — that the character came to life.

“He just brought a really great voice to Nym,” says Blackman, “really deep and gruff, and was able to take that certain kind of emotion we wanted to put behind Nym, and not make it too comical but really push it.”

Though internal reaction to Nym was overwhelmingly positive, it wasn’t until the game went public that Blackman knew he was dealing with a character with star potential.

“We started to receive some really good feedback about Nym. Then, Dark Horse actually came to me and asked if I wanted to do a short story featuring a character from a LucasArts game. I brainstormed some ideas, and the one they liked the most was the one with Nym.”

Thus Nym saw publication in a Blackman-penned short story in the pages of the anthology series, Star Wars Tales. Dark Horse wanted more, and Blackman was only happy to oblige.

“He’s fun to write,” the author reveals. ” I kind of describe him as the Lobo of the Star Wars universe, without the comical invulnerability. It’s the fact that he can be so loud and rude.”

A comic series was then envisioned to tie-in into the upcoming sequel to the best-selling Star Wars: Starfighter game. The Dark Horse mini-series would prepare fans for some of the events to be depicted in Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter.

“We wanted it to be a story that stood on its own, so it had to show some of Nym’s story-arc, but it also planted some seeds for the game,” says Blackman. The events of Crossbones would advance Nym’s character, aging and maturing the pirate to a level anticipating the game. “At the end of the first game, Nym just takes off. He does what Han Solo doesn’t — he turns his back on his new friends and decides to go back to his old way of life. But he can’t really, because the Trade Federation has taken everything from him. We had to get him to where he could actually become a more important leader than he was in the first game. There, he’s leading a band of pirates. In the second game, he’s leading a real resistant movement that’s fighting the Trade Federation in a remote system.”

Cast and Setting

While Nym’s moral growth is but one aspect of the three-issue series, fans of blaster-packed hard-hitting action have plenty to look forward to. Crossbones takes Star Wars piracy from the spacelanes to the high seas, and delivers a story with sail-rigged vessels, hull-scaling boardings, and deep sea treachery.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do with Star Wars,” admits Blackman. “It’s one of those ideas that has been kicking around, but there hasn’t been a good outlet for it. I’m a big pirate buff — you know, Blackbeard and Captain Kidd — so whenever I hear that term ‘space pirate’ it conjures up these other images that are outside of what we think about in Star Wars. I really wanted to make that crossover.”

Blackman’s affinity for buccaneers dovetailed well with the story development of Jedi Starfighter. “One of the things we decided early on was to have a water planet in the game.” he says, “We wanted it to be in Nym’s home setting, so that planet, Maramere, became a natural setting for the Crossbones comic.”

Aside from settings, the comic also previews upcoming characters. “Loreli Ro makes a cameo in Jedi Starfighter,” reveals Blackman, “Adi Gallia, who makes a cameo in the very beginning of Crossbones, is one of the main characters in the game.”

The previewed character with the most import, though, is the comic series’ main villain, the pirate chieftain Sol Sixxa. “Sol Sixxa has a scene with Nym in the game and tons of dialogue. We had Jeremy London (Mallrats, “Party of Five”) do his voice. He’s in several missions and he’s got his own special aquatic craft.”

By introducing Sixxa to readers first, Blackman not only previews an upcoming game character, but also sheds some light on Nym’s growth.

“In the Crossbones series, Sol Sixxa’s scope is relatively small. It’s limited to Maramere. He’s become a pretty ruthless, violent pirate. He preys predominantly on the Trade Federation, so in that way, he and Nym are similar. But Nym has grown past that. I almost see Sol Sixxa as a younger version of Nym. Nym still commits violent acts, but because he needs to, to get by, and it’s not a power trip that he’s on, like Sol Sixxa.”

Blackman’s writing is usually translated into rich vocal performances by professional actors and mindblowing graphics by electronic game artists. Having them instead rendered as pen-and-ink illustrations by artist Ramon F. Bachs is no less rewarding.

“It’s been pretty incredible working with Ramon,” says Blackman. “It’s unbelievable how he’s taken my panel-by-panel descriptions and been able to translate them very well. It almost felt like, towards the end of the series, that I wasn’t writing abstract descriptions anymore, but that I was writing concrete things that he’d translate.”

Throughout Blackman’s script are examples of faith in the artist’s ability:

Open with a large shot of the Havoc, Nym’s bomber, screaming over Maramere. It should be low to the water, kicking up wakes as it goes. It’s being pursued by several (six, seven?) Trade Federation droid starfighters. Laser-fire barely misses the large bomber. Through the next few pages, Nym engages in a battle with these droid starfighters. Yet again, if you can think of any images that would be more powerful, etc., feel free to mess around with the layout and even the action. I’m not married to any of the maneuvers described here.

“I really wanted him to have the freedom to change things so that they’re more dynamic,” says Blackman. “I’m friends with a lot of comic book artists, and talking with them before I even got started, one of the things that they say they hate is working with writers that say ‘this is the way it HAS to be,’ unless they’re someone like Alan Moore who always seems to have a larger plan. So, I try to be as flexible as possible, and try to provide as much detail as I can so that if that’s the direction he wants to head, he can translate that as well. Ramon’s just really intuitive, and even though we’ve only exchanged e-mails and have never met, we’re on the same wavelength, which is great.”

The future for Nym looks bright, says Blackman. “We plan to use Nym in one of our other game titles that takes place in the Galactic Civil War period. We do want to keep him around and use him again. If there are any future Starfighter games, Nym will probably be a part of them.”

Blackman looks forward to his future, too, particularly in writing comics. Recently announced is his four-issue high profile Star Wars: Jango Fett — Open Seasons series coming out in April.

“I really hope to write more comics in the future,” says Blackman. “The Nym comic was great because it’s sometimes just really fun to write a one-note character, and Nym is maybe a two-note character. He’s pretty in your face, and that’s really fun to write, but the tone of Open Season is totally different than Crossbones, and I’m really excited about that. Hopefully, if both of these series do well , I’ll get to do some other stuff.”

Inside the Holocron – Robin Gurland, Casting Director

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

Robin Gurland, Casting Director

Episode I was a very atypical assignment,” begins Robin Gurland. “The casting started in July 1995.” This was almost two years in advance of principal photography. “I’ve never had the luxury of such a lead time in casting before, but fortunately Rick McCallum had the foresight to know that we’d need an in-depth pre-casting period. It allowed me to look as long as I needed to get the perfect people.”

Casting, Gurland says, is far from an exact science. “There is no finite specific set of tasks,” she explains, “no checklist. There could always be somewhere else to look. And every agent in the business had people available to work on this Star Wars film!”

The casting project began atypically as well, Gurland notes. “There were no principals attached. I could look at anybody.” Star actors are often identified at a film project’s inception, but Gurland had a blank slate to work with. “Outsiders kept saying that we would ‘of course choose unknowns’ for the parts, but the truth is that I had no constraints. It didn’t matter whether someone was unknown or famous. All we wanted was the right person for the part.”

As for her techniques of casting, Gurland comments that “first instincts are usually best. This was true here in the cases of Ewan and Natalie. We went through the whole review process nonetheless, looking at everyone else, but we came back to our origins.”

Her quest began with brief summaries from writer-director George Lucas and Producer Rick McCallum. “I had thumbnail sketches of the characters from George to start with. Two months later I was working from the script itself.” Gurland worked on finding players for the two youngest roles (Anakin and Padme) first, then moved on to the Jedi Knights eventually portrayed by Ewan MacGregor and Liam Neeson. Around these principal actors she built the rest of the cast. “By January 1997 or so, I was fully casting the whole film,” she says.

Casting Anakin Skywalker was a particular challenge. “I first saw Jake Lloyd when he was five years old, when I was first starting the process. Of course, he was much too young at the time, but I was looking towards the future. Every six months or so I would check back in on him, to see how he was developing and what kind of identity was emerging in him.” Anakin’s character sketch carried not just traits but a very specific age, and at first Gurland thought Lloyd simply wouldn’t be the right age at the right time to play the part. “But he really stood out,” she says. “In the end, as a start date for principal photography was finalized and as George settled on the age of the character, Jake’s age worked out as well as his personality, and we had our Anakin.” Keeping an eye on promising talent and following up on her prospects over the course of the whole casting process allowed Gurland to settle on ideal choices time and again.

Gurland enjoys her job very much. “It has been wonderful to see how much talent is out there!” she says. “This big search will be helpful for future projects. I like working with actors-tweaking performances for auditions, and seeing what you can get out of a little bit of material. I also love talking with actors about the philosophy of theater.”

To hopeful future film performers, Gurland suggests “get in something, to get yourself seen! Theater, low budget films, anything. Be an extra on a film, just to try it out or get started.” Good intentions alone are not enough, she says. Letters pledging enthusiasm and asking ‘just give me a chance’ don’t get anywhere when there are so many people with demonstrated ability to review . “As an actor you need proof to show what you can do. Even a small part in a bad film can offer a chance for a noticeably good performance. As long as the role is not fighting your basic sensibility, or something repugnant, then take it and do your best,” she advises. Gurland stresses the need for a serious commitment, sounding a little like our favorite Jedi Master when she says this. “Do your homework, and know what you’re talking about,” she adds. “Acting is not something to be undertaken on a whim. You need to love your craft.”

The casting of Episode I was an enjoyable process for Gurland for many reasons. “Fortunately, our ideas about the principal actors were all aligned. George and Rick backed me up 100%,” she says. “I didn’t have to buy into any of the industry game-playing. We ended up with a wonderful cast that brings so much to the film.”

Which brings Gurland to the threshold of Star Wars: Episode II. Has the casting process begun for the prequel sequel? “Not formally,” she says. “But I was just noticing some interesting possibilities the other day….”

This Week in Star Wars -New Andor Trailer, Lawrence Kasdan Talks Light & Magic, and More!

This week in Star Wars, we get a fresh look at Andor in the new trailer, slather on SPF for some fun in the sun with LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation, and pull back the curtain on Industrial Light & Magic with the six-part documentary Light & Magic streaming exclusively on Disney+. Plus, the docuseries director and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, whose writing credits include the scripts for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, stops by to talk about his latest project.

Scarif Beach Party

Summer is going swimmingly for these two LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation is streaming tomorrow only on @DisneyPlus.

The all-new animated special from Lucasfilm and the LEGO Group and the newest entry in the popular signature branded cross-saga storytelling series that began with “LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” and continued with “LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales,” will premiere August 5, 2022, exclusively on Disney+.

“LEGO® Star Wars Summer Vacation,” which is set shortly after the events of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous “LEGO Star Wars” specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, Scarif Beach Party.

Inside the Holocron – Building A Galaxy Board By Board

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

Gavin Bocquet: Building A Galaxy Board By Board

For Star Wars: Episode I, Production Designer Gavin Bocquet faced the usual challenges of turning ideas and concept art into three-dimensional sets. But the size and complexity of Episode I, with its many otherworldly environments, presented Bocquet and his team with some extraordinary challenges too. Many of the environments in Star Wars: Episode I had to be created in the studio as sets, since nothing like them exists anywhere on Earth. Building these otherworldly places and making them real for the camera was Bocquet’s job.

“Generally my role is to produce any constructed background that you see behind the actors, whether it’s an in-studio set or on location, including props and set dressing. In short, we deal with any inanimate objects,” Bocquet says. All together, he and the designers and crafts people who work with him built around 55 sets. “About 40 of those were constructed on the stages at Leavesden and the rest were on location,” he adds.

Bocquet himself designed some of the sets, but in most cases he was responsible for bringing to life the elaborate designs of Doug Chiang (Director of Concept Design) and his team. Bocquet would turn Art Department renderings into construction diagrams, figuring out how to build in wood and plaster the fantastic worlds spun from imagination.

The Production Designer also got lots of guidance from George Lucas and Producer Rick McCallum. “George had been thinking about this project for years, and he and the concept art staff had been working together for many months before I signed on. As on most films, our job was to interpret the director’s ideas and convert them into some sort of visual form,” Bocquet says.

Bocquet has considerable experience working for Lucas and McCallum. He was Production Designer for the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, for which he received an Emmy Award. He also has ties to the original Star Wars Trilogy, having been an art department draftsman on Return of the Jedi. His feature film production design experience includes Radioland Murders and Kafka, among his other credits.

On some film projects, final sets can change dramatically in appearance from the way they are first visualized by an artist because of issues of cost, time or design impracticalities. But on Episode I it has been more a matter of subtle changes as sets approached the construction stage. “The development of every environment was sort of an organic process,” Bocquet says. “Using early sketches and foam-core models, reference or location photos and just sharing ideas, the process moved along until we got something much more defined.”

One challenge was to determine in advance just how much of a set should be built on stage and how much would later be done digitally by Industrial Light & Magic. “Since we’re producing one part of the film before digital work is underway, we all had to make assumptions about what we should build and what could be achieved at ILM,” Bocquet says.

Another unusual aspect of working on sets for Episode I is that many could be left standing for planned further use after the completion of phase I principal photography, since Lucasfilm has a long-term lease at Leavesden Studios. “Normally studios are expected to clear out one group of sets and get the next film right in to pay the rent,” Bocquet says. “But it’s a great advantage to Lucasfilm, because it has tied up the studio for a longer period of time, to be able to leave sets up to come back and shoot newly-written bits and pieces if necessary.”

When asked if there’s a single set or even a specific room for Episode I that he’s most proud of, Bocquet grins. “No, and I’ve been asked that question a few times,” he says. “There are five or six major environments that are totally different from each other. And even the smallest set can provide its own satisfaction. It’s not just about scale or things being unusual. Generally, it’s the whole lot of them together that provides the greatest satisfaction.

“Actually, a better time to ask that question would be after we’ve all seen the film. Because until then, we’re never quite sure what’s going to be seen and what isn’t,” Bocquet adds.

The designer points out that even with wildly unusual environments, Lucas likes them to relate to environments that are familiar to the audience. “So we’ll come up with geographical or environmental things like forests or deserts, or architectural styles that are known such as classical or art nouveau-things that give the audience some sort of key. If you try to design something completely in the abstract, something not of this world, there’s less chance that the audience will believe in it. They need to have something to latch on to, even if it’s subconsciously.”

Working with location filming was fairly similar to doing the sets at Leavesden, Bocquet says. “There’s obviously the geographical distance and the communications problems that entails, meaning you can’t get back the information as quickly and as visually as you’d like. So you have to delegate and trust the people you employ to use a lot of their own creativity. I was only in Tunisia once every two or three weeks when the sets were being built.”

The timing of the location shoot was arranged mid-way through the filming schedule, partly to give the production crew at Leavesden a chance to dismantle some of the first wave of sets there and build the second wave in their place. “Since there was only one or two days of shooting on many of the sets, without that break it would have been impossible to get all the sets built-even though Leavesden is a very large studio. One advantage of that size was that we were able to prefabricate a lot of the second group of sets away from the stages where they would be shot.”

Many of the decisions regarding camera angles and specific areas of the sets to shoot were made in discussions as the sets were designed. Sometimes, however, Lucas would decide to shoot from different angles. “Filmmaking and design aren’t fixed sciences,” Bocquet says. “Everything must be as flexible as possible, and you just have to be prepared to get as close as possible to the shot that the director wants.”

Doing a film such as Episode I is a constant learning experience, Bocquet says. “Every day there’s something to learn, whether it’s dealing with a tiny screw and trying to decide which head it should have on it, to the conceptualizing, planning, scheduling and the economics,” he adds. “If you’re not always learning something then your job probably isn’t quite as interesting as it should be.”

RFR: LIVE From Rancho Obi-Wan

Join us for a very special LIVE Rebel Force Radio. Jimmy Mac is in Petaluma, CA, at Rancho Obi-Wan as we sit down for an extended interview with legendary fan ambassador and Guinness record holder for the largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia Steve Sansweet.

Steve will showcase some of our favorite items in his collection while also taking your calls. Plus, 100% of all super chats will go to Ranch Obi-Wan. If super chats aren’t your thing, please consider making a donation at the link below.

Donate – Rancho Obi-Wan (ranchoobiwan.org)

Punch It!

EVERYONE’S PUNCHING HAN IN MARVEL’S STAR WARS: HAN SOLO & CHEWBACCA #5 – EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW

AND IN STAR WARS: BOUNTY HUNTERS #26, T’ONGA CONTINUES HER IMPOSSIBLE MISSION AGAINST CRIMSON DAWN.

Pro-tip: When you’re a nerf herder, you’ll make some enemies.

As Marvel’s Star Wars: Han Solo & Chewbacca 10-issue miniseries reaches its midway point, Han and Chewie find themselves stranded, under attack, and still looking to finish a job for Jabba the Hutt: stealing an urn containing the ashes of the crimelord’s archrival. In StarWars.com’s first look at issue #5, help arrives for our favorite scoundrel and walking carpet…or does it?

Meanwhile, in Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #26, novice bounty hunter T’onga heads into the Crimson Dawn flagship, looking to rescue Cadeliah — the young heir to two rival crime syndicates…

Han Solo & Chewbacca #5, written by Marc Guggenheim and illustrated by David Messina, with a cover by Phil Noto, arrives August 10 and is available for pre-order now on ComiXology; Bounty Hunters #26, written by Ethan Sacks and illustrated by Paolo Villanelli, with a cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Jesus Aburtov, also arrives August 10 and is available for pre-order now on ComiXology. Both issues will also be available at your local comic shop…

...Full Article

Andor Showrunner Explains Why K-2SO Won’t Appear

Here’s the latest from Coming Soon.Net :

When the Stars Wars Disney+ series Andor premieres later this year, one character from the Rogue One prequel — the Imperial droid K-2SO — will not be involved in the show. According to the head writer, there are various reasons for that.

“From a storytelling point of view, there are multiple reasons,” head writer Tony Gilroy told critics at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Wednesday (via The Hollywood Reporter). “I would say, ‘Wait and see.’ It’s a story we are eager to tell. It’s difficult to carry an Imperial droid around with you and not draw all kinds of attention. It’s a difficult piece of luggage. When we do it, we’ll do it in a spectacular fashion as opposed to presenting it and ignoring it, or presenting it or hiding it, or the bad versions we would have been forced to do.”

Due to Andor taking place so much earlier than the events of Rogue One, the writers of the series are more so focused on the journey of Andor’s of life. According to star Diego Luna, it makes perfect sense as to why K-2SO wouldn’t be involved just yet.

“We have five years [before the events in Rogue One],” Luna said. “If he knew K2 back then there would be no journey to go through.”

Tony Gilroy also later added that the writing team knows how the series will end, and notes that the show will directly lead into Rogue One, completing the loop of the series and film.

“Our last scene of the show, our 24th episode, will walk the audience directly into Rogue One and directly into the first scene of Rogue One.”

Andor is executive produced by Gilroy, who previously directed the reshoots for Rogue One. Gilroy was originally expected to direct three episodes but was forced to give up the position to Black Mirror‘s Toby Haynes due to pandemic-related travel issues…..

……Full Article

An RFR Live Update from Rancho Obi-Wan

Hey Star Wars fans. Apologies for the delay tonight but we are having issues with the internet in a Ohio and cannot connect with Jason so we are postponing tonight’s show from Rancho Obi-Wan to tomorrow – Wednesday August 3 at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific on the RFR YouTube Channel. We’ll be taking your calls and talking Star Wars with Steve…Please join us!

Inside the Holocron – The Very Model of a Modern Major Model Shop

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

The Very Model of a Modern Major Model Shop

Traditional model-making retains a strong role in the creation of Star Wars: Episode I. In fact, the model works at ILM sprawl throughout several large rooms and workshops, and there is a tremendous amount of model work underway. A walk through the Episode I model shop reveals an astonishing level of model construction for a film being created in imaginative cinema’s new digital age. White maquettes, projects in gray primer, finished works, and huge castings crowd every space available. They make a strong statement for the health of traditional model-making artistry around here.

“We’re using a combination of models and CG work,” says Episode I Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll. “For each effect we’re using the technique that is appropriate, best suited to the particular situation. An effect may be easier to achieve in one medium or another, and we go with what makes sense. We have found that models remain the best solution to some of our challenges.”

The Episode I model shop is, in fact, bustling with activity and personnel. You can walk from one room of Episode I model-makers, to another…to another. They seem to be everywhere. This isn’t what they were expecting a few years ago.

A 1994 exhibition featured original Star Wars Trilogy movie models at the Yerba Buena Gardens Center for the Arts in San Francisco. This exhibit included an introduction by the museum curator that suggested that due to the innovations in computer-generated effects, these models were the final works of a closing era. “At Yerba Buena I thought I was reading my epitaph as a model maker,” reflected Steve Gawley, Episode I’s Model Supervisor. And one often reads of the digital revolution that has ‘made special effects models obsolete.’ “But we’ve been busier in the last two years than we have ever been before,” Gawley observed. The successful marriage of model effects and cutting-edge work has brought about a model-making renaissance. Just as it was back in 1976 during the making of Star Wars, innovative approaches to creative visual effects are contributing to the power of illusion that supports George Lucas’ imaginative storytelling.

As the small army of dedicated builders make progress on their many works, Star Wars traditions are alive and strong in the ILM model shop. The original Rebel Blockade Runner sits in one of the workrooms: this is Princess Leia’s ship, which fled the colossal Star Destroyer in Star Wars’ famous opening shot. The very first spaceship seen in the very first Star Wars movie was brought in to inspire the artists creating the models for Episode I. In more ways than one, this film is a journey to back to Star Wars’ beginnings.

Steve Gawley’s Star Wars model making experience stretches back to the very first movie. Today he is the overall Model Supervisor for Episode I. Gawley explains that far from being phased out, movie models actually retain a variety of uses in the era of computer-generated (CG) effects. These uses occupy three major categories.

Models as Conceptual Tools

“We’ve found that models help directors and the many creative people on a film project get a handle on a design, to size it up and to find the best camera angles,” Gawley says. “It is easier for most people to happen on serendipitous discoveries with a model than with a wire-frame computer version that is hard for them to manipulate and experience. You can easily look at something physical and realize ‘hey, it looks great from this angle,’ or ‘it would look really cool for it to move like this.’ It’s a matter of a real model being easier to deal with.”

Models for Physical Effects

Fire, water, crashes, and especially explosions are all physical effects that remain difficult to create convincingly in the computer, Gawley continues. While such effects can be done CG, ‘rigging the explosive powder’ or arranging some other live physical effect is often significantly less trouble than programming the myriad fine subtleties needed to portray a truly realistic physical effect in the computer. Accordingly, the use of real models for “pyro” or other practical effects remains in some cases the preferred solution.

Veteran Star Wars model maker Lorne Peterson is now one of four Chief Model-Makers in the Episode I shop. Peterson explains that “some realistic appearance effects, like textures and weathering in surface detail, can be easier and quicker to do with a real sculpture or model, with real paints and pastels rather than CG tools.” Rock textures or engine fuel stains might be created quickly and convincingly by hand but might take a long time to make realistic if done purely in the computer. John Knoll also emphasizes this aspect of practicality: “Grime effects, corrosion, oil streaks, things like that can be very quick and easy to create using chemicals or paints or whatever. If you can do a really good effect in five minutes with bleach and a rag, why bother trying to re-create it with the computer?”

On-Screen Models

Finally, some models remain destined for screen time themselves, continuing the long cinematic tradition of special effects miniature photography. The word “miniature,” however, is a relative term. Huge models are even now under construction at ILM for Episode I, for subjects ranging from vehicles to architecture to whole environments. Colossal starships and huge buildings are taking shape in such detail as to defy the eye. They simply seem impossible, even on close inspection, and even, in many cases, without their final paint work. They are covered with textures and levels of seemingly infinite detail. One can only imagine how amazing the final product will look on screen, filmed to appear life-size and in full color.

Episode I producer Rick McCallum has high praise for the work in progress, which he emphasizes as vital to the production. “The guys at the model shop are doing an absolutely remarkable, incredible job. They’re terrific. Digital technology is wonderful-it’s brilliant, and it can do so much-but you can’t forget that sometimes a model is still the coolest way to go, and these people are doing tremendous work.”

Model techniques, like those of sound design and all the other arts that go into a Star Wars film, are just another way of translating a story’s vision to the screen. With both the strength of tradition and the dynamism of cutting edge approaches to capturing visual images, cinematic imagination is able to roam more freely than ever before.

Sith Snapshots

Here you’ll find a collection of old features pertaining to various articles to do with the movies, in front & Behind-the-Scenes at SW.Com

Today, we have a small collection of thumbs from the Sith Snapshots series in which the teasing got worse for, what we thought at the time was the final Star Wars movie. Check out the small gallery.

The Look of Episode I: A Talk with Doug Chiang

Here you’ll find a collection of old features pertaining to various articles to do with the movies, in front & Behind-the-Scenes at SW.Com

The Look of Episode I: A Talk with Doug Chiang

Episode I’s chief artist Doug Chiang has taken up where Ralph McQuarrie’s paintbrush left off, and has brought a new look to Star Wars for the new movie. Find out about some of the influences shaping Chiang’s designs in this special interview.

Episode I is fortunate to rely upon a remarkably talented individual for the distinctive new look of its environments, spacecraft, and other elements of design. Artist Doug Chiang has taken up where the great Ralph McQuarrie left off, and has brought a fascinating imprint to Episode I. Chiang’s work includes not only the creation of a huge body of original artwork and designs, but also the supervision of the team of extraordinary conceptual artists brought together in George Lucas’ Episode I Art Department. Beyond this, Chiang works closely with the effects supervisors at ILM and is overseeing the miniature set and model construction to ensure that the Art Department’s work is translated faithfully to the screen. He is as busy now as he was in pre-production, since design is still very much in progress for some of the more elaborate sequences presently being put together.

Taking the helm of the Star Wars Art Department would be a daunting challenge for anyone, but Chiang has risen to the occasion with an appealing mix of fresh artistic style and great respect for those who built the art of Star Wars before him. An interview in Star Wars Insider #39 explores Chiang’s background. Here on http://www.starwars.com, David West Reynolds carries on from that article to explore the influences that Chiang has brought to the look of Episode I.

What kinds of thoughts got you started on the art of Episode I?

When I first started, I didn’t know whether George wanted more of the same designs that we had seen in the earlier trilogy–the kind of work that Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston had produced. So I thought a lot about trying to identify the exact look of Star Wars in Ralph’s work. I wanted to identify his visual style and the qualities that made it distinctly Star Wars, and incorporate that into my own work.

Ralph’s work displays such grandeur with striking imagery, and I wanted to try to capture that. I considered Ralph’s work very closely, and what really struck me was the clarity of design, how well his paintings and ideas read. He has a great sense of fitting bold images into unusual contexts. He present things in unfamiliar contexts, something that George likes very much–the unexpected. This approach adds to the richness and the depth of fantasy world history. In addition, Ralph’s colors are just as striking. His palette is fresh and bold, and sometimes stylized.

Stylized colors? Give me an example of what you mean by that.

[Well, for instance, Ralph’s blues in his Hoth paintings are really strong and vibrant, almost electric blues. Because the paintings work so well, you don’t realize right away that those blues are much more stylized than realistic. They’re powerfully effective at creating mood, and they feel like the actual movie scenes more than they really look like them.

Was this approach something you chose to follow in your paintings?

At first I was very uncomfortable about being so bold in my own work, but since then I have pushed myself into new territory and tried some rich color combinations as well.

In the Star Wars work of Ralph and Joe Johnston, what has been the strongest influence on you?

For me it had always been about functionality when I came up with designs. The design quality was in how well they would work, and how they were built. For George, film design quality is not about details like that, but about how well a design reads to the eye, immediately. Ralph and Joe’s works really express that. They’re very clear and bold in concept, and I have tried to learn that quality.

So has Ralph checked in on you? I notice that you have one of his original paintings on your wall there.

He has come by three times and has been really kind. I think I spend most of my time just trying to live up to his work!

But Episode I is yours! What kinds of influences can we expect to see in your Episode I designs?

George Lucas influences, to start out with! After I had spent all that time studying the Star Wars style, George came in and told me he wanted something as fresh as Ralph’s original work, but different. We’ve been saturated in designs derived from the original Star Wars look for twenty years now, and George wanted something really new. He said, “push the envelope, discover new things.” It was a surprise, but really exciting. He said, “I want chrome, sleek shapes, Art Nouveau, and Art Moderne.” That’s when I realized that this was going to be something new and not just a rework of the earlier material.

How would you describe the look you’ve developed in Episode I?

This film takes place a generation earlier than the classic trilogy, and in it you see vehicles and ships treated as art forms. Many of them are romantic and elegant. It is a craftsman’s era. Every detail is given care. It is kind of like the 1920’s and 1930’s compared to the later 20th century. Towards the later times of the classic trilogy, designs become more assembly-line like, with mass-produced aesthetics, hard angles, and a machined look. More utilitarian. The era of Episode I is more polished, more individualized, even overly-designed, but very refined. You see artistic values expressed in vehicles that are pure craft and aesthetics. Some elements are purely visual statements. Something simpler could function, but the design statements turn them into works of art.

Are there deliberate links between Episode I designs and those seen in the classic trilogy?

Absolutely. There is one ship in particular that very much foreshadows the look of a design from A New Hope, and there are other conceptual links as well.

What’s your toughest challenge in working up these new designs?

There is a fine line between a handcrafted look and a look that is “too sci-fi,” or “too design-ey.” I think that you get that “too sci-fi” look when you use present-day aesthetics and try to project it forward into a foreign world without the history to back it up. As a result these designs date very quickly. To get around this, I’ve found that you should avoid making things up without anchoring them to a strong foundation based in world history.

What areas of world art or history have you drawn on for Episode I?

I took early 1950’s American car design as a starting point for some of the space fighters, for chrome and sleek streamlining. For another culture in the film I drew on traditional African art stylization to get the look of their vehicles, their aesthetic. I combined that with hints of animal forms, and this invested the designs with personality, which is one of the hardest things to do.

What kind of design input do you get from George?

George is always very directly involved. He is a fantastic designer! Sometimes he will make very specific requests while other times he will just ask to see something different and fresh. In fact he will often ask for combinations of forms that, at first, don’t seem to fit together. But that is where George’s design genius lies, in the odd juxtaposition of unrelated images. It took me awhile to adjust to this. But this kind of direction takes the art into new areas, and we have ended up with some of our best designs by wrestling with direction that seemed impossible.

The illustrations for this feature all come from the portfolio that Doug Chiang had put together before he came on board for Episode I. We chose these artworks to demonstrate Doug’s style and range, and in them you see some of the influences that emerged later in Episode I.

Inside the Holocron – The Creatures Of Episode I Take Form

Welcome to a look Inside the Holocron. A collection of articles from the archives of *StarWars.Com no longer directly available.

(*Archived here with Permission)

The Creatures Of Episode I Take Form

Star Wars: Episode I has presented Creature Effects Supervisor Nick Dudman and his team with a daunting array of challenges in the realm of creating convincing alien characters. The broad and unusual range of life forms populating the worlds of Episode I begin their lives as sketches. In sketches, practicalities do not operate, and the artist is free to create according to imagination. But to make it off the sketch-paper into the movie, the creature has to take form…somehow. Once selected and modified to director George Lucas’ satisfaction, the creatures are computer-generated (CG) or realized as physical creations (animatronics, prosthetics, puppets).

Nick Dudman told us, “When they first approached me about animatronic or prosthetic work in the film, they did not know how much there would be. They had decided that Yoda would be a puppet, made the same way as he was before. And then the list of animatronics creatures started to grow. Gradually all these other creatures started surfacing, where they would say, ‘well, actually, maybe this should be a puppet too.'”

Dudman is the first to admit that some things simply belong in the realm of CG. “There are lots of things we can’t do that CG can. I have no intention of ever going to a full-size brontosaurus! With CG, you don’t need to.” And ILM is shouldering an impressive load of creature effects that draw upon the unique capabilities of the computer medium. At the same time, animatronics work remains the ideal solution for many effects. “There are plenty of things where you can say, ‘actually, for this shot, this sequence, we don’t need to CG it.’ And so we build it.” Meetings with ILM sorted out how the creatures in each shot would be most appropriately realized. It’s not unusual to have a single character realized in different ways. In Episode I, for example, Yoda will be performed by Frank Oz once more. In later films, should the Jedi Master need to walk and move around, a CG Yoda will “step in.”

Some of these decisions came late. One type of creature was always planned to be CG. Just twelve weeks before they were due on set in the schedule, Dudman was suddenly asked, “Can you do these animatronically? And they have to lip-sync.” Dudman replied, “Yes, I suppose we can.” It was a race. His department reached into its magician’s hat of inspiration, late nights and determined effort, and the creatures were ready the day before they were needed.

Other creatures were intended from the beginning to be CG, but were created physically as well for other reasons. Dudman’s shop created one ‘CG character’ to assist ILM for lighting and coloring reference. “They used our suit to walk through the set and allow light to fall on it and show where all the highlights are. It’s a reference for ILM when they do their rendering later on.” This approach saves ILM the considerable time and trouble of doing it from scratch. On-set animatronics creatures also assist the actors in reacting and relating to non-human characters. “That human connection is one of the reasons why I like building animatronic things or doing prosthetic make-ups, because you actually walk something that’s real in front of people, and you get a reaction from them. With a lot of our creatures, the real kick for us, is just to be able to have kids on the set and see the reaction you get.”

Dudman is always quick to acknowledge the special powers of CG creations. “CG creatures look and behave beautifully. They always look right and always hit their marks. They’re great. And we are fully aware of the limitations in terms of what we can get our creatures to do as opposed to CG.” Nonetheless, animatronics and prosthetic work, even puppets, still hold an important place in the world of Episode I. Dudman carries on a rich tradition in his creature shop, having worked on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with the legendary Stuart Freeborn. Dudman’s history with Freeborn and the Episode I re-creation of a certain Jedi Master are stories we’ll visit here in the future.

Image Attack

Here you’ll find a collection of old features pertaining to various articles to do with the movies, in front & Behind-the-Scenes at SW.Com

Today, we have a small collection of thumbs from the Image Attack series in which the teasing got worse for, what we thought at the time was the final Star Wars movie. Check out the small gallery.

Foley artists of Episode I

Here you’ll find a collection of old features pertaining to various articles to do with the movies, in front & Behind-the-Scenes at SW.Com

Foley artists of Episode I

In a dark, cavernous underground sound stage, two women crouch, their eyes riveted to a giant movie screen. Projected in front of them, frame by frame, is the final cut of Star Wars: Episode I. Like musicians in an orchestra pit playing to a celluloid score, they take their cues from the movements of the images flickering in front of them. The duo of performers creates a sound to match the movement onscreen wielding mysterious metallic instruments. Highly sensitive microphones record the specialized work of these two women. Lithe and highly focused, Dennie Thorpe and Jana Vance are the foley artists of Lucasfilm. Together with their partners, Foley Recordist Frank “Pepe” Merel and Foley Mixer Tony Eckert, they provide the ambient sound effects of Episode I.

These subtle yet essential foley effects – the footsteps, the cape movements, the rattle and hum of everyday life – provide all of the natural sounds that exist between the remaining layers of sound in a film. Many films utilize a foley track because sound as recorded on the set is often unusable. Background noise like a plane flying overhead or the toot of an automobile horn can obscure dialogue. Sometimes live sound recorded on a set must be replaced because sets created to look like real environments are actually fake. For example, when Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn) faced Ray Park (Darth Maul) in Episode I’s climactic lightsaber battle, they were actually performing on a set constructed of plywood made to look like metal. The live sounds recorded during this scene consisted of a series of heavy footsteps on plywood, the clack of prop lightsabers and the breathing of the actors as they performed the complicated fight choreographed by Stunt Coordinator Nick Gillard. To create the necessary illusion of realistic sound, Dennie and Jana recreated the scene foley-style by running, jumping and occasionally falling on a special square of marble “spaceship” surface. The other sounds, like the lightsabers and doors opening and closing, were created by Ben Burtt and his sound editing team.

The Episode I foley team has worked together for over three years, though Dennie has been part of the Lucasfilm foley team since she walked in both Darth Vader’s and Luke Skywalker’s footsteps in Return of the Jedi. “It was my third or fourth job and I was scared to death,” says Dennie, “because I was doing it by myself. Yet it was fun.”

The well-knit team works closely with Sound Designer Ben Burtt. At the beginning of Episode I production, the foley team and Burtt watched an early cut of the entire film. They made a scene-by-scene analysis to determine which foley effects were needed. After foley work for each 10-minute reel was completed, Burtt returned to the foley stage to evaluate a playback. The group then discussed the sounds and determined what needed to be altered, enhanced or simply redone. Each day the busy team created approximately 200 different “sound events,” which are unedited recordings that will eventually be crafted into finished sound effects.

Their huge sound stage is full of real-life objects – ancient vacuum cleaner canisters, the battered hood of a car, a mini-swimming pool, and cabinets of stuff that most would be hard put to identify. “Very low tech stuff sounds great when used in creative ways,” says Jana. Yet, though the foley cupboards were packed, the team decided that they would need a set of truly unusual sounds for the production of Episode I. “Often,” says Tony Eckert, “the real movement doesn’t sound as real as you’d want it to and the artist must find a more suitable object with which to create.

This search for unique sounds led Dennie and Jana on a foley shopping spree to several scrap yards in the Bay Area with a special mission to find the perfect droid parts. While imagining the movement of the battle droids, Dennie had a brainstorm. “I was a foley artist for the T-1000 on Terminator 2,” says Dennie. To capture the chilling metallic footsteps of the T-1000 she had had a pair of perfectly ordinary boots resoled with metal plates. Planning the droid movement in Episode I, she continues, “it occurred to me that those monstrous boots I used in T2 would work perfectly.” Soon afterward Dennie and Jana were each fitted with a pair of specially made boots – Dennie’s combat boots were soled in brass while Jana’s cowboy boots sported thick steel soles. They were then able to create a sound unique to the battle droids: a heavy and metallic footstep, with a bit of a slide. “The droid sounds in the final battle scene took meticulous prep time,” says Jana, “and although each sequence only lasts 2 minutes on-screen, it probably took us about half a day to create it.”

Once Dennie and Jana have walked a character for one reel of film, they can anticipate a character’s every movement. At this point they don’t need to look at every cue. “It’s because we have them ‘muscle memoried’,” explains Dennie. Dennie performed the parts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Padme Naberrie. Jana “walked” the parts of Qui-Gon Jinn, Jar Jar Binks and Darth Maul. Of Ray Park who played Darth Maul, she says, “he was incredible – he was more like a dancer than an actor.”

Although Dennie and Jana performed their characters individually, there were some effects they created as a team: the big battle scenes, and the movements of the larger creatures. Together they did the saddles and bridles of the kaadu, a giant beast used by the Gungans, and modeled these sounds on everyday equestrian equipment. “We’d been doing horses for years,” says Tony, who had assumed that the job would be a straightforward one. But what made the kaadus unique is that they’re enormous in size and completely computer-generated. The team began their approach as they would for a horse, using leather straps and clinking metal parts. Then Tony laid special microphones to pick up the deepest frequencies, enlarging Dennie and Jana’s human movements so that they would sound massive.

On Episode I, almost every reel the foley team worked on had 24 tracks of different sounds. Foley Editors Bruce Lacey and Marian Wilde would determine the foley effects to be recorded each day, creating a cue sheet that looked like a musical score – with movements set to time. This cue sheet was then passed to the Episode I foley team who would read, for example, that at the thousand feet marker of a particular cue sheet, a battle droid would walk on a marble surface for ten feet. Because of this system, the team was able to perform and record each scene in a very efficient manner.

After the foley sounds were recorded, they were handed to the editors who examined each movement on every track to determine whether the foley work had been done in synch with the picture. Then the editors used a computer to cut and nudge each sound into place. Once this initial composition was complete, it was passed on to a pre-mixer who mixed the bulky 24 tracks of foley down to either 3 or 6 tracks. At this point the Episode I audio existed as groups of pre-mixes – a music pre-mix, a foley pre-mix, an effects pre-mix and a dialogue pre-mix – which were combined during a final mixing session overseen by George Lucas.

The foley track can cue the audience to pay attention to certain characters or actions. Just as music can sway your emotion, foley influences where you focus your attention. When done well, foley enhances individual characterizations. Some in the business consider foley to be the glue that holds a picture together. “It’s just like life,” explains Tony. “If you sit with your eyes closed and start to listen you’ll hear the scuffing of cloth, or someone dropping a glass. You don’t really think about it – you just accept it. But you’d miss it if it wasn’t there.”