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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 cinematography.

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 film.

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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