STAR WARS: EPISODE II
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
The Digital Camera/Special Effects
Digital technology has always been a major element of George Lucas'
creative process. Twenty years ago, he pioneered SoundDroid and EditDroid — the first computerized non-linear sound and picture
editing systems. These tools helped revolutionize the editing field, putting a
single frame at a sound or picture editor's fingertips, rather than buried
inside of thousands of feet of celluloid.
The technology is now available to allow the digital world to become part of
the shooting process itself. In 1996, Rick McCallum obtained a commitment from
Sony to develop a 24 frame high definition progressive scan camera, as well as
the key building blocks of a 24 frame post production system. Panavision then
came aboard to develop a revolutionary new lens that could accommodate digital
When cameras rolled in June 2000,
Star Wars: Episode
II Attack of the Clones became
the first major motion picture created by using the high-definition, twenty-four
frames per second, digital video camera and videotape rather than film. "We
received the final version of the camera one week before our first day of
principal photography," McCallum remembers. "We started shooting
without any film backup whatsoever. We just went for it. We shot in deserts —
where the temperatures were over 125 degrees for weeks — we shot in
torrential rain, and in five different countries throughout the world. All
without a single problem."
Attack of the Clones director of photography David
Tattersall notes that Lucas' interest in the potential of digital photography
dates back even further than 1996— to their early collaborations on The
Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Radioland
Murders. Lucas and Tattersall shot some digital tests
on their next effort, The Phantom Menace, but
the technology was not quite ready to be utilized for an entire feature film.
On Attack of the Clones, Lucas
and Tattersall finally had the opportunity to discover the numerous technical
and practical advantages of digital cinematography. "With digital, we can
time the movie as we're shooting it," notes Tattersall. "Also, there's
never any doubt about whether or not you see something in the background. With
film, when you review your shot you're looking at a pretty poor quality
videotape, and it's sometimes difficult to see the subtleties. But with high
definition video, there's absolutely no doubt about what the lens has captured. The playback on the HD
monitor is crystal clear. You can see everything you want to see — or shouldn't be seeing."
The use of digital cameras was a time-saver on numerous aspects of
production. No longer hampered with the delays of film processing, scenes could
be immediately modified and edited as soon as Lucas yelled, "Cut!"
further blurring the lines between production and post-production. The digital
format allowed unprecedented flexibility in the construction of shots, with
editor Ben Burtt and Lucas having the freedom to change or move sets, people,
and lighting within the image itself. In addition, visual effects shots no
longer had to be scanned into a computer, manipulated, and then scanned back to
With this new high-definition camera, Lucas is mapping out an exciting
digital future for the cinema. But he sees this as an evolutionary rather than
revolutionary process. "The advance of cinema into the digital world is a
normal transition," Lucas states. "Just as we went f
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