Star Wars fantasy art takes a special pride of place for me as one of the major factors contributing to my love for Star Wars. At first I read the book, but until I saw the movies with all of it’s special effects, which at the time were far ahead of their time, I couldn’t bring it to life in my imagination as easily as after seeing the movie Star Wars A New Hope. The special effects really did pave the way for the future.
Documentaries Shed Light On What Can Be Achieved
I remember watching documentaries, or reading little tidbits of information about the amount of work that went into the production of the original trilogy. Nowadays with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) they can work miracles with almost anything, create any scene or setting or character in whatever shape or form they can imagine. When the original trilogy came to be, the kind of technology needed in making Star Wars look realistic just didn’t exist. Almost everything had to be designed and made from scratch, or invented in order to achieve the things dreamed up by George Lucas.
The Death Star Was A Model
It’s hard to believe that huge ominous sphere of massive fire power fast approaching the moon on Yavin 4, that looked so real was merely a model built for filming the scenes, hardly dangerous at all. They also built models of the fighters, they made trenches within large models for the rebel attack run on the Death Star to make it look like the surface of it, and all of it was handcrafted by the design team.
Design And Filming Were Very Precise
On the documentary in the bonus material in the 2004 DVD boxed set it was said that the designer glued on a lot of pieces of model kits to the sides of the ships and Death Star to make it look more realistic. The camera man set up a dark room with special lighting effects just so that George Lucas could film in just about any angle he wanted to for the final battle scenes. The time and effort it must have taken in working out the finer details of something like that must have been enormous.
Cool Costumes, No Really!!
The adaptations of the costumes that were required to help the actors be more comfortable were ingenious. I remember a story about the Bith characteres, who were the band playing in the cantina on Tatooine during the scene where Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker meet Han Solo and Chewbacca for the first time. They are playing instruments like saxophones in the scenes, but in actual fact they were cooling hoses blowing cool air into their costumes due to filming in the heat of Tunisia.
Conceptual Art As A Guide For Sets and Scenes
Another of the areas that boasted great special effects was in the set department where they had to paint the scenes and sets from the work of Ralph McQuarrie’s conceptual art. This was to create the scenes exactly how George Lucas wanted them to look for the film. Picture the Hanger scene when Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker have just hired Han Solo and Chewbacca to fly them to Alderaan and they see the Millenium Falcon for the first time. If you imagine the scene from the movie from your memory and look at the painted scene below you can see just how close this scene is to the one in the movie.
Two New Companies Way Ahead Of Their Time Are Founded As A Result
The name Industrial Light & Magic arose from Star Wars innovations and in fact was created just for the production of Star Wars. Because there was nothing available of the calibre that was required for special effects at the time, George Lucas had to source the people required and create the special effects division. Skywalker Sound was also developed as a result of the production needs of Star Wars and remains to this day an influential component of the film industry. You will see their logo on many movies, not just the Star Wars franchise.
The Characters Make It
Star Wars to me has always been about the storyline and characters, the special effects are a much loved bonus. Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fame, summed it up quite nicely in an interview. Jackson speaks of the fact that its the characters you remember the most in Star Wars, not necessarily the special effects. The detail of the scenes is what makes it believable and creates the ability for the audience to relate better to the characters.
Documentaries Are Not Always Boring
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this little bit of trivia. I found it a pleasant experience this time. I often find documentaries a tad on the boring side, hence why I prefer the adventure of books and action of movies. I did find some interesting pieces of information that I might never have known otherwise.
Star Wars Was A First
From Star Wars fantasy art, to being reproduced on film, Star Wars was the film that paved the way in special effects even to this day. It will always be remembered as being ahead of it’s time. I’m really happy the area of special effects has grown so much, because so many more movies are possible, and will look realistic too.
Thank you for reading this little blurb about the special effects. Please comment below on what your favourite special effect of the saga has been so far and why. I’d love to start a discussion going. I think for me it is a tie between the enormous Star Destroyer in the first scene, looming across the screen and moving to dwarf and engulf Princess Leia’s craft, and the explosions in the dog fights during the battle for Yavin.
Image “Peter Jackson01” by Stefan Servos – http://ardapedia.herr-der-ringe-film.de/index.php/Bild:Peterjackson01.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peter_Jackson01.jpg#/media/File:Peter_Jackson01.jpg