Light & Magic (2022–…): Season 1, Episode 6 - Episode #1.6 - full transcript

The level of effects is so high right now

that the only limitation is
basically money and imagination.

It's almost like we've come full circle.

We now have to be telling
a damn good story with good characters,

and the effects are more of a given.

You can no longer earn
somebody's sense of satisfaction

just because you dazzled them visually.

I really believe that effects
need to service the story.

When the effects become the story,
we've lost our way.

The story is still the story
is still the story is still the story.

Whether you write it in pencil

or you write it in ink,
it's the same story.

Who are the real-world Illuminati ?
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You can never pinpoint
how or why things happen.

And there's always a collision
of circumstances,

a little bit of luck.
Sometimes something goes wrong

that actually sets you on another course,

and in this case, we had started

talking about doing Jurassic Park.

We convinced Stan Winston and Dennis Muren
at ILM to work together.

Steven Spielberg
always has the A-team.

He had the four best in their arenas.

The four horsemen there.
You got Stan Winston.

He's creature creator builder
par excellence, he's the best around.

He got Phil Tippett. He's Mr. Creature
animator, puppeteer, stop motion.

He's the guy. You got Michael Lantieri,
who's the practical effects guy.

And you got Dennis Muren.
He's the visual effects wizard

that can take the stuff these people do

and make it all work together
and look like it's real.

I've heard anecdotally that Steven
was looking for someone that could help

with the dinosaurs,
and George said, "Phil's your guy."

I was completely ready to go down
the Phil Tippett route

to be able to create these animals
in all the wide shots that Stan Winston

wasn't creating in his monster shop.

At that point in time,
with that technology,

we were going to use the stop motion
puppet and high speed miniatures.

Just going to go stop motion.
We could go in and help

some of the animation
as a post-production thing,

to help smooth it out and make it better.

Dennis goes, "Okay,
we've got to figure out what to do,"

"so this doesn't look like"

"the stop motion pictures of
before Ray Harryhausen."

"So you guys can add the blur," and I go,
"Yeah, sure we can add the blur."

But my belief was, man, we've already done
stuff that's so far advanced from that.

Why are we saying
this is what we're going to do?

Well, we can do CG dinosaurs.

I was very reluctant
to even think about doing

the CG or computer graphics thing
at the beginning of it.

Didn't seem like we were ready for a show
that big and much more complicated

than Terminator 2.

Dennis is a believer,

but he's a realist, so he's like...
You know, we did The Abyss,

we did T2,
but those are alien hard surfaces.

They're not natural, organic,
breathing, sweating, bleeding things.

We haven't really done that successfully.

I don't know.

The other point is that they've already
pushed the project in a direction.

They spent a lot of time and money.
They're already building huge things.

But what I said to Spaz is,
"We cannot not try."

So after hours, basically,
we began building the bones of the T. Rex.

I started with bones.

I scan in a T. Rex mukada,
some perfect specimen

that they had found flat
on a high tech scanner.

Put it up on my monitor
and built the bones,

made him 3D, had a great pose, you know,

and then started animating it
as a forward kinematic process.

So I had a walking Rex on bones.

I'm pretty sure that Dennis
saw the walking bones.

But again, it's kind of like,
"Okay, that's really cool,"

"you know, but living, breathing."

We're not doing skeletons.

Phil Tippett was way down the road

with his stop motion,
and they were looking really good.

Phil Tippett is working away.

Stan Winston is working away.

We're pulling every single tool together

to figure this out
and seeing shot for shot what can work.

Things were now moving. Kathy Kennedy
was coming up once in a while.

I knew they were coming up,

Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall,
on November 14th, 1991.

They were like an ensemble
moving through, right? The company.

And I knew where they were
in C building here.

So this is kind of this big moment.

No one's going to present this idea
because no one believes in it.

So I had a monitor position
and I had the cycle going,

this walking T. Rex in bone
and they came walking in,

and it was a total ambush.

There's this room we have
where we screen these clips

and they'll be on monitors
and they could be on a loop.

People can see them and go,
"I like that or I don't like that."

She was looking at something else.

Go into this room and there's this kid
sitting there, it looks like,

and he's really a kid,
and he's manipulating everything.

And Dennis and I are staring
at this computer screen.

I can remember her saying,
"What's going on with that?"

"That's a dinosaur bone.
I mean, that's part of Jurassic, right?"

"So what is that?"

I said, I'm just messing around like that,
you know, and she patted me on the back

and she goes,
"You have a very bright future."

That's what she said.

The first thing, of course, I said to
Dennis was, "Well, what does this mean?"

"Can we do some shots this way?
What? How's this going to work?"

And he said, "We're working on something
to show Steven."

They ended up speeding up the test,

doing it faster and faster,
and it ended up working

at every step of the way that it was
sort of undeniable that they...

Just had to, like, consider it,
even though Phil was starting on the show

and his company was gearing up
and everything like that.

Dennis was
in a very difficult position,

you can imagine, because here
we are doing this clandestine thing.

Yet his buddy is supposed to be doing
the entire film in stop motion, you know,

and we're sneaking around doing this,
you know.

It was Mark and Steve

that had a belief that they could
make dinosaurs, and they did.

They pulled it off terrifically well.
But there was a bit of antagonism there,

and it was kind of, like,
the old gunslinger.

And, you know, the new one, you know,

it was like there was a competition
that I thought was like, "Why?"

Phil Tippett. In those days,
he did not believe

in the computer's ability
to create lifelike creatures.

He believed that the linearity,
the perfectness,

the mathematical aspect of computers

makes them create things
that have that characteristic,

and things like the liquid metal man.

Get out.

Whereas living, breathing creatures
do unexpected things,

don't behave the way you want
when they trip or break their leg.

It looks all ugly and messed up.

He was sort of philosophically
against that approach.

He was dealing with this thing
that he saw as being,

you know, a Voldemort. Computers, right?

You know, I'd see him there
working on the computer

with the mouse and all this stuff
and just...

And what I visualized was like,
you'd be saying,

"Okay, well, if you're a cowboy

"and you have two six-guns,
let's see you shoot that tin can

"off that post 100 feet away."
And they go like...

I was like, "Well,
why didn't you shoot the can?

"Well, I don't have any bullets."
"But I do this really well."

So what happened then is now

the project became official,
as in sort of an experiment at ILM.

Obviously, Dennis had talked
to Spielberg about it,

and so more money
had secretly come to ILM,

and we find out that they want us
to build the whole skin.

I have heard Dennis Muren say
that the view paint,

the texture painting, was the thing
that made the transformation for Jurassic.

It took a long time, I think it was
six months to paint one dinosaur.

They originally had planned to do much
more of the texturing of the animals,

procedurally with the computer
by saying, "Here is a pattern."

"Repeat this pattern all over the animal."

But the problem with that
is that it was too repetitious,

it was too machine-like.

We really needed some more
artistic freedom.

So we went back
to designing skin texture

to actually bump maps and color maps,
where an artist would actually go in

and paint those onto the creatures.

This is the wire frame
on the T. Rex.

This is how the model comes to us
before it's painted.

Once this wire model is made, its skin...

And then I put the color on the model.

This is exactly
how I would go in and paint.

I would choose my colors
and I painted him from toe to nose

three times, and then went in
and did lot of touch-up work

on top of that.

When the thing could tell a story,
and it could,

the dinosaurs could have the scale,
pattern, and the color...

That was the tremendous leap
forward about Jurassic Park.

So we got a sixth scale T. Rex model
that Stan Winston had built,

and then we cut it up very carefully
in our shop.

We got these wizards that can do
anything like that, perfect.

And it's in these sections small enough

to put into the laser scanner
that existed down in Monterey.

We went down to a company
called Cyberware.

They had the only
three-dimensional scanner.

And it would extract the data
into a polygonal data set.

Now, polygonal data sets are 90 degree
crosshair section, like a ship, okay,

but there's no contour to it,
so you can't have proper animation.

So from that we had to rebuild
all the data to have the proper contour.

Then we hooked on all the skin data
from the skin artists.

Then did the first walking,

fully rendered in daylight shot,
which took us about four months to do.

And Dennis went and shot a plate, I think
might even been a still in the end.

I picked the hardest design
I could come up with,

which was just a static view

of the T. Rex in broad daylight,
walking right toward you.

Big, looming above you,
and Steve Williams animated it,

Stefen Fangmeier did the lighting on it.

Every opportunity to see anything wrong,
you were going to see in this test.

We weren't trying to hide anything.

Steve Williams invited me
for one of the very earliest screenings

in the C building of the T. Rex test.

And I was in this perceived
screening room... I think Dennis,

and a handful of people,
and I knew that I was lucky to be there.

This was going to be a very
interesting moment, but I had no idea.

It's one thing to see little tests,

you know, it's another thing
to see it rendered on the screen.

And the T. Rex comes thundering across
the screen and it's fully painted.

I mean, it's still early days,
but there it was in the scene.

And to watch that T. Rex
coming across the screen...

I knew that at that moment,
I knew that visual effects

would never be the same again.

The thing worked, and just instantly,
it's like, everything worked.

The animation worked,
the design, the lighting worked.

The comp worked, the sense of it
being standing on the ground worked,

the blurring on it worked. All this stuff,
because these guys are all terrific.

Up until really that moment,
everything that we were doing

in the model shop to create a dinosaur,
Phil's beautiful stop motion work

and the stuff
that Stan Winston's company created

they were all bound by gravity.

You had to have a way
to support that thing

with your wires or a pole
or a hand puppet or something.

And all of a sudden I realized

that this could exist anywhere
and it could do anything.

And I was witnessing it with a small group
of people in the C screening room,

going almost weak, you know,

with the amazement of it.
I'll never forget that.

They did the stained glass man
for Young Sherlock and water snake thing

in The Abyss and Terminator 2,
and I had always kind of thought

well, yeah, the computer is great
for these hallucinogenic things

but good luck doing a living,
breathing creature.

Until he showed me the final shot
that they were going to show Spielberg,

- and it was like...
- Whoops! Okay.

My memory of Phil is he's kind of going,
"Okay, it looks pretty good."

But, you know, that's just a dinosaur,
kind of taking a few steps,

you know, so he was still kind of
like, okay, and but he's,

you know, you can't say, it sucks.

Everyone in the room's going holy ,
you can't.

You've got to, like,
accept the truth of what it is.

Then Dennis brought down
the film with Tippett

to show Steven Spielberg,
and, boom, comes on Kathleen Kennedy.

This isn't a very long piece of film
that we're putting up.

It's pretty quick.

It was a fully rendered walking T. Rex,
and they saw it and they flipped out.

All of us leapt to our feet.
I mean, literally leapt to our feet.

I had a kind of religious experience,

and probably the greatest epiphany

I've ever experienced
in my own world of making movies.

That was the moment that I suddenly saw

that everything was going to change.

Not just my movie
was going to be a better movie,

but the entire world was going
to follow in the footsteps

of what Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett
and ILM were bringing to Jurassic Park.

It was going to change
everything for all of us

and for audiences everywhere.

And we were never going to go back.

Steven goes, "Well,
that's how we're gonna do the movie."

And he was actually
a very compassionate guy.

Yeah, I was putting on a brave face,
but he realized what the consequences

that this were for me
and asked me how I felt,

and I said, "I feel extinct,"
and he goes, "That's a great line.

"I'm putting that in the movie."

I think he was shell-shocked.

My world had evaporated.

I got pneumonia.
I had to stay in bed for two weeks.

I just thought everything that I had

ever worked for and built
was like... into the trash can.

I can't think of many other
moments in effects

where one way of doing something

was so almost overnight, had changed.

So when the whole thing
came down with Phil,

I don't think he was very happy.

And I don't blame him
because it basically was

supposed to be the ultimate stop motion.

It was supposed to be his opus,
you know, pretty much.

Yeah. I feel like . And I don't
remember, all that's kind of a blur to me.

"But then I got a call from Steven and
he says, "Yeah, we want you on the show,

"you know, you know too much."

You know, so... "You never lost your job.
We'll just kick you upstairs."

"You don't need to be an animator.
You just need to direct animators."

He was going to go from somebody
whose hands in the craft

of changing armatures, to the greatest
dinosaur whisperer in the world.

Phil knew how animals
moved and loved,

and his guys that he was working with
were the same way, the animators.

We needed them moving the dinosaurs.

But with a tool that could
feed it into the computer,

then we could fix things
up in the computer.

So we had to build this thing
that's called the D.I.D.

They called the Dinosaur Input Device,
and that was basically

an armature, stop-motion armature,
in the shape or the skeleton of a T. Rex.

It was hooked up to encoders
that would plug into the computer,

and when you move the head
of the Tyrannosaurus here,

the image on the computer
screen would move.

The idea to build this device,
it just seemed like a no-brainer.

And I guess I had such experience at ILM,

you know, starting with what John Dykstra
had done on Star Wars.

Just starting from scratch and doing it
that I had no problem

saying, "Let's do this."

There were people at ILM
that wanted to exclude Phil,

but it was not going to happen
because the value he had needed

to stay within the show,
and I had my personal relationship.

It was much, much better for the movie
to have Phil working it.

He roars right there.

This is where he hurls it
into the skeleton.

This direction so you could

get the raptors on this side of his head,
get him around this...

Through Phil Tippett's
stop motion miniatures

and his on-the-set monitoring of behavior,

he was going to bring life
to those animals in a different way.

- He'd be wiping like...
- Yeah.

Right at the camera.

What I insisted
that the animators do

was imagine themselves as the dinosaur

to kind of, like, self-hypnotize yourself
into this imaginary mindset.

So here's how far we went...
movement classes.

Okay. Ready? Focus. Get down here.


A lot of that's Phil.
You get your guys,

if you're gonna do movement of animals,

you've got to be able
to move like animals.

When I think about it,
it's exactly the right way to do it.

You just go all out.
Everyone is totally immersed in dinosaurs.

We learned all about this stuff.

And we got so freaked out.

I remember one day we're sitting there
going, "How do we know"

"the way we're doing dinosaurs
will look good on film?"

Well, let's take 35mm film
of us being dinosaurs,

and project it,

and look at it and see what we think
of ourselves being dinosaurs,

because that might be what it looks like
when we animate them.

Okay? Yeah. Why not? Why not?

So we go out there, we build a set,

it's the scene where the Gallimimus
are running from the T. Rex.

They jump over the log and everyone's
supposed to be in character.

And so Ty Ellingson, one of
the lead art directors on the show,

he's going to be the scared Gallimimus,

where he stops on the log and looks back,
and then jumps off.

Everyone's running like...
a Gallimimus.

Ty jumps the log, he slips
and lands and breaks his drawing arm.

So after that, the rule at ILM
was no more pretending you're dinosaurs.

But it's all worth it
if you get the right end result.

- Timmy, what is it?
- It's a Velociraptor.

It's inside.

The kitchen sequence in Jurassic Park,
if you look at the original animatic

done with little rubber puppets like this,
you know, it's been worked out.

I mean, there's some attitudes
of the dinosaurs,

there's their performances.

You know, so much of it
was worked out already,

and he had the same guys
that did those animatics

also did the actual performances
for the film

by moving the D.I.D. creature.

So their essence and soul
was in it, and Phil was directing it.

He directed the original animatics
and the other stuff, too.

You know, the main road sequence
when you first see the T. Rex,

that's his guys doing that stuff.

That stuff has got a lot
of powerful performance animation.

Boy, do I hate being right all the time.

Early in the process, Steven said to me,

um, "I need it to run."
Like that was going to be something easy.

It was obviously not easy.

That took me four months
to figure out that animation.

I had to figure out how to make
nine tons run 35-40 miles an hour,

which your eye does the math.

It goes, this does not look right,
you know.

it is not natural to have

an animal that large that
only has two legs,

whose head weighs a ton
to do all these things.

So it's strange.

Of course, everybody's reading,
"The T. Rex never ran." Great.

Well, Spielberg wants it to run.
I have to make it run.

I have to make it chase a Jeep, you know?

So we do this animation
and we work on it, like, crazy,

and Phil isn't liking it.

And Spielberg's kind of agreeing,

and we've been beating
on this thing for weeks,

and Spaz is getting depressed.

Every day. It wasn't looking right.

Wasn't looking right.
Wasn't looking right.

Phil is basically saying Spaz can't do it.
What are we going to do?

But I'm saying Spaz can do it.
You guys can do it. We can do it.

It's really getting like that.

There's this one last meeting,

Phil can point at a million things that
are wrong, and Steven's on the fence.

I can hear it. "It's pretty good. I think
you're right, but it's pretty good."

So Mark and I are looking at it
and it had 150 curves,

so I took all the curves
and I scaled them by 20%.

So I wrote a little algorithm
that scaled all the curves.

It just slowed the creature
down that much more.

And bingo, it worked.

The last shot I animated was the Rex
chasing Jeff Goldblum.

You know, by that time I just,

you know, it took me five, six days
to animate that shot.

And the guy who gets it
off the toilet seat, right?

That's a T-1000 with shorts on,
and that's the actual data.

I just repurposed the data.

When we saw the dinosaurs
that were created by the computers,

I mean, I cried because I knew
the writing was on the wall.

The creature shop was no more
and that digital would take over,

which was George's vision all along.

When we went digital,
most of the model shop

just packed up and left.

When that transition happened,

you know, to CG, from practical,

we thought it would take
a little bit longer.

You know, Jim Morris one time came to us
and talk to, before the whole group.

You know that the world is changing

and this is going to happen,
and this is going to happen.

And he called a meeting,
like, four months later, he said,

"It's happening a thousand times
faster than I ever anticipated."

It was a hard time because,
you know, I'd been in the trenches

with all the guys,
whether it was the camera folks,

the model makers, the gaffers, grips,

the practical effects people.
And I loved all that stuff.

So it was a wistful time at best,
and a sad time at others

as that started to go away.

There was less and less work
for the Model Shop,

so if you weren't going
to do the digital thing,

you weren't going
to be working full-time anymore.

Some people actually made
the transition, didn't like it,

and came back again.

Some people just didn't want to do it.

You know, I had absolutely
no inclination to switch to CG.

It's not a love of mine and never was.

Sitting in a chair... I couldn't do it.

They said, "You know,
they're looking for another CG person"

"to do hard surface stuff,
are you interested?"

And I said, "Yeah."

Kim transitioned
a month ahead of me

and when she went, I was like,
"Okay, that's what I'm gonna do, too."

It was grueling. I was exhausted.

For about six months,
I dreamt in pull down menus.

People from the model shop would say,

"What's it like working
in computer graphics?"

I said, "Well, imagine
you go into the wood shop"

"and you're going to cut wood.
You turn on the saw."

"You put the wood down,
you start to cut it,"

"and the shop disappears,
and you don't know where it went."

"You bang around for a few minutes
and it comes back"

"and the wood's cut,
and you don't know how."

I said, "That's what
computer graphics is like."

You can't expect everything
to stay the same.

You can't expect things to be
exactly the way they were.

The world changes
and the company changes and so be it.

But it's still ILM.

All those years
of building up the technology,

finally came to this sort of a cliff thing
around this period of, like, '93

when Jurassic Park came out,
and it's like a lot of changes

in the world that
you're building up for it

and you're under the radar
and supporting it,

you're trying to make things work.

And then all of a sudden, bam!

Everything changes
in a short period of time.

When I first arrived at ILM,
I worked on Casper.

I moved to America

to pursue the film business
and really to pursue that dream of ILM.

I mean, it just seemed so exotic
to me and so fantastic.

And that was during that big bump,
all this explosion in the digital world.

- Hey, guys.
- Look, it's Casper.

- Yeah, Casper.
- Casper.

Casper had 45 minutes
of CG characters in it.

It was 600 shots or 500 shots,

which was an enormous number of shots
in those days

'cause you think of Jurassic Park,
whatever it is, 80 shots or something.

We had to do a huge ramp up
and grow the computer graphics department.

In fact, we got up to 105 people
at that point in time,

which is only noteworthy because
we weren't sure there were 105 people

that could do computer graphics
at that point in time.

ILM had really been
a relatively small company

for so many years, so they were

really hiring on a grand scale, and it
turned it into a sort of a bigger machine.

And then it sort of crept up
to 1,200 or 1,500 people.

We spent many years
to develop digital technology.

I was designing the place
for a different kind of production.

Nobody had ever harnessed it
to put in the movies,

and most people didn't think it was
possible, that you just couldn't do that.

So we were learning
to use a different form

of visual effects
and ways of making movies.

Congratulations. How do you feel?

I got to pee.

Now suddenly, in the short period of time,
these projects that George has initiated,

the video editing...

In this non-linear editor,
you can splice in, just like in film.

In the digital audio...

In computer graphics...

All of them come together,

and the industry changes
in about a three, four year time span.

And that's when I decided
I could do the next three movies.

I was excited to go back and go to work

because a lot of frustration
I had with analogs cinema is gone.

How can we manage to change
the operating procedures

in a way that we can
completely revolutionize

the way we make movies
so that this is all doable?

I got pitched as one
of the sups on Episode I

and that was an opportunity
you do not turn down.

I was terrified.

But I comforted myself with the thought
that that must have been the same reaction

that John Dykstra had
when he was first exposed to Star Wars.

When I first arrived at ILM,
you know, my whole goal,

like everybody else,
was that I want to work on Star Wars,

and I felt like my art skills
were so lacking.

So I gave myself assignments
every day for a full week

with the idea that the end of the week
I would produce a production painting.

And so I literally did that
for a full year.

And the terrific thing about that was that
everything that I was doing unconsciously,

mirrored what George was doing in terms
of how he was designing for Star Wars.

He was merging things.

He was combining things, he was mixing
and matching, and that's when he saw

my portfolio, and that's why he hired me

to head up the art department
for the new prequels.

I was asked to go up to the ranch
to see the artwork that Doug Chiang had,

and there were these boards

that were covered in the most
beautiful Doug Chiang illustrations,

you know, the concept art,
one after the other, after the other.

He had storyboards

that were pasted up
on 4x8 sheets of Foamcore.

Ten to a column, ten columns across.
And I think there were 36 boards.

So 3,600 storyboards,
and almost every board

there was something
that we had never done before.

So I was keeping notes of,
"Yeah, okay, we're going to need"

"to be able to do crowd scenes
with dozens or hundreds of characters."

You know, we hadn't
really done that before.

These are CG characters
that have clothing.

We're going to have to do
the cloth simulation on them.

These Jedi are slicing through droids,

and the pieces are landing
on the ground, we'll need

a rigid body dynamic system.

You know, we're pushing
the envelope in a few places,

but I know this is going to work.

The big grass planet battle there,

- zillions of creatures.
- Yeah.

And we don't have a real
good way of doing that right now.

And it got to be a little overwhelming
'cause just as you're

writing down this thing,
we're on to something else

that had never been done before.

And they were not just that

we were doing a lot of effects,
we were creating entire worlds,

and many of them.

I had the sensation that I just wanted
to go and lie down,

because it was hard to take it in
in one go like that.

I remember during the production
of Episode I,

George was often encouraging me

to do things that I thought
were marginal or ill-advised.

There's not enough power
to get us to Coruscant.

The hyperdrive is leaking.
We'll have to land somewhere

and refuel and repair the ship.

A result of the digital technology
was that what happened in editorial

was much more of a manufacturing process.

You did what I called "film recomposing."

So what I want to do is

we'll leave this for the time being
and we'll create this other shot

and if this other shot works,
we'll come back to the shot,

take Panaka, slip him out of sync
so he doesn't start to move.

- So he's just standing there. Okay?
- Okay.

You know, you've got character A
talking to character B over the shoulder,

and you could cut out between them and use
different takes that were not the takes

that they actually talk to each other
because you might prefer a response

from somebody or a hand gesture
or something, or a blink differently.

He started doing a lot of editorial comps

where he would take this actor from
this plate and put him in that plate,

and I'm going to drop out
this line of dialogue,

so just morph it together and...

John Knoll great. He was
the visual effects person on my left,

and he would sit there and do,
you know, shots and things.

He would just do them on his
little laptop, and all it did in the end

was gain him
a whole lot of heartache.

Because then I relied on him
for everything.

He was doing all these things that,
boy, I wouldn't have chosen to do that.

I said, "Let's do this. Let's do that."
And he would always be going, "Oh, God."

I said, "Just try it, see what happens."

I said, "Yeah,
but the lighting doesn't match."

"And the perspective,
it's the wrong focal length and..."

Just try it.

I know you're in pain,
I recognize you're in pain.

And I appreciate your pain,
but let's do it.

All right. Let me see what I can do.

And you'd go in and you do
the best job of it you can.

The main things here,
we have the walking hologram generator,

which will be added in computer graphic.

We have a matte painting of Theed City
to put back there, and the light fixtures

on the hall in the hallway
are not what George wants.

So we're going to replace them
with something else.

So it's a relatively straightforward shot.

And it actually turned out
better than I thought.

But now when I'm on a...

I would think of as a more
normal production, and you'd say,

"If we just take that guy from that plate,
we can split that in there,

"and that'll be fine."
And the director will go, "Really?

"You can do that?"
I said, "Yeah, we did stuff

"way dumber than that on Star Wars."

George, especially the time that I joined,
when it was his film that we were making,

he was really pushing us
to do something different.

I knew I could use those films to make
people believe that digital cinema works.

George has always had a intense curiosity

for innovating film making technique
and production methodologies.

The film industry was so calcified

that that was,
they were going to stay that way.

And it took a lot to get them to change.

We went to Sony, who was building
a high-def television camera,

and we said, "It has to go
24 frames a second."

"It can't go 30 frames a second."

They said, "That's really hard."

So after a lot of talking,
we convinced them to do it.

I was a persona non grata
in the film industry.

The Camera Guild was out to get me.

They wrote terrible editorials about me.

There were some
that were probably worried or defensive

that this was gonna put them out of work.

We got the cameras finished,
but we couldn't find

a lens that would go on it
because it was a very

different area that had to be covered.

And so I went to Panavision
and they said, "We'll do it."

So when we got to Attack of the Clones,

we were able to shoot
the whole thing digitally.

- Okay, cut. Okay. That was good.
- Cut that!

That was beautiful.

Then we had to go to Texas Instruments,

who was starting to build
digital projectors.

The projector
stores images electronically,

they're shot through
a special chip

that packs over a million tiny mirrors.

They reflect colors in different ways
to make pictures on a screen.

But in order to get the theaters
to get the projector,

we had to give them projectors.

And they cost around $100,000 apiece.

So we just gave 'em to them for a while
until they got used to them.

It all may cost more,
so the industry may need convincing.

I remember, early days,

he had so much resistance,
like, "No, no way."

"Digital projectors? No way."

Even though we saw the results,
there were no scratches

and the clarity was so much better.

The Theater Owners Association
was saying that we were like drug dealers.

Once they get you hooked on this,
you'll never get off and all that.

It was really a bad time.

But when we did the first one,

Phantom Menace went out
in four digital theaters.

The next film went out in 200 theaters.

Eventually, we got
to the point where, you know,

almost half of the theaters
in America were digital.

I was working at an AMC movie theater
when the original prequel films came out.

This is right before I realize
I want to become a filmmaker.

And every time I was
working in an auditorium

and that came on, I would just
stop what I was doing

and I would just get lost in it.

And at that point in time,
the fight scenes were magnificent.

And I must admit

seeing Yoda wield the light saber
and fight was magnificent.

And so I think at that point
it was just about scale and spectacle.

It was just epic,
you know, it was just epic.

I couldn't make one,
two and three without digital.

I couldn't do any of that stuff.
I mean, those are giant movies.

A lot of things changed at ILM
as a result of all of that.

In fact, I think that the changes
were way beyond the company.

They changed film making more generally.

Ladies and gentlemen,
the President of the United States.

You start drawing dotted lines
back to innovations

that George and his team
of geniuses at ILM made.

You know, it was like EditDroid
and CGI characters and CGI at all.

Like digital cameras, digital compositing.

There's so many things.
It's like Menlo Park.

It's like Thomas Edison, like...

Thanks and welcome to the White House.

It is an honor to be in the company

of so many bright
and distinguished Americans.

He totally changed
the entertainment industry.

The 2004
National Medal of Technology

is awarded to Industrial Light & Magic,

Chrissie England and George Lucas
for 30 years of innovation

in visual effects technology
for the motion picture industry.

The National Medal of Technology
was really a recognition

at a higher level,
and George was super proud of it.

You know, his company
receiving something like that.

It gave people a sense of accomplishment
that was super valuable.

George has innovated so much.

I grew up in Queens in the '70s and '80s,

and as I watched films, I was right
in the sweet spot of practical effects

in the films of Spielberg
and Lucas and ILM, all of it.

So I'm kind of patient zero

for what impression that world
made upon a generation.

And because of that,
I didn't really like CGI.

And it was on Iron Man working with ILM,

I really began to trust that
CGI could live up

to the promise of what was presented
back in Jurassic Park.

Jon came in as someone who was
pretty openly skeptical of CG effects,

and that was fine, you know.

I think that served us well, actually.

I was shooting a real suit
that Stan Winston built,

and then we would also have a CG suit

because there were certain things
a suit couldn't do.

Starting into it,
everyone was very keen,

including Robert to have him
in the real suit whenever possible.

You know, obviously,
because you built this thing.

It's beautiful. You should use it.

But it was so limiting in its movements
that Robert, I think,

very quickly embraced the pajamas
with markers that we gave him for

when we were going to do CG.
He was all for it

once he realized, "I can just
wear this and it's going to look great."

We started figuring out in shots
when to use pieces of the practical suit

and finish the rest of it in CG.

Because it was a mix,
hopefully the audience, never quite sure.

"Is Robert Downey wearing that?"

"Or is that? Well, that can't be,
you know,"

"all those mechanisms underneath.
I guess that's CG."

But, boy, that surface sure looks like

it's something I could touch,
and that's part of it.

If the audience just looks at something
and immediately understands in their brain

what it would feel like to put their
hand on it, then you're halfway there.

And lights, and action.

There was a point when we were midway
through a review on the shot,

and Jon was making a comment
about something in the real suit,

and we said, "Well, actually,
it's all CG now. The whole thing is CG."

I was giving notes on the practical suit.

In other words, I couldn't tell
which was the digital suit

and which was the real suit,
the real one that we had sculpted.

And he's like, "Great. I didn't know that."

"All right, well,
then I think we're good here."

It's looking good,
anything else to look at?

And that's when I knew that
I could really trust CGI,

that they were holding a standard

that was going to not distract
from the storytelling.


Digital really opens up

a whole different type of movie
that could be done.

Some movies are designed to be invisible
visual effects.

Forrest Gump has a lot of that.

And if it carries an audience through
with an exciting moment

that blends beautifully in
with the live action,

that's what it's about.

There are two big threads of

digital technology that have blossomed up,
you know.

The big effects ones and then the ones
that every film can use a little bit of,

and you don't even know there's stuff
there a lot of the time.

When I came to do
The Underground Railroad, I thought,

"I don't want CGI trains,
I don't want CGI tunnels."

It would be a tragedy
if you're watching this thing,

and the thing you notice most
is the artifice of the creation.

So I felt like there was
a degree of realism

that we wanted to approach.

ILM and all these wonderful artists

are capable of really taking
this image to this place

beyond artifice to this place of realism.

I love that some people watch
The Underground Railroad,

which is 10 hours of trains and fire,

and they go, "Yeah, and there's
very few visual effects, right?"

I'm like... "Thank you."

"And I would tell the folks at ILM."

"You said that, but there are tons
of effects, tons of effects."

Sometimes you want it to be,
this is going to be

the best thing you're ever going to see.

Sometimes you want to be
like nothing to see here.

Oh, my God, that's so great.

But at the end of the day,
it's a big shell game, right?

So sometimes it's the story you're telling
when you're moving the shells around.

Just doing something
that's impossible

used to be enough to impress somebody.

Now, the driving force has to be something

that's more intrinsically
tied to the storytelling,

and the parts of the story
you really care about.

Because just the magic trick on its own,

people either know how it's done, or they
at least think they know how it's done.

We care about humans.

We think we like all of this digital stuff
and this visual effects stuff,

and it's interesting,
but at the end of the day

you really got to see another human.

So we wanted to bring more
of the environment, live on set,

so the actors had to act against
and the camera could actually see it.

And The Mandalorian
was really the opportunity

where we got to take all those ideas,

and build it out at the largest scale.

The technology was there.
Using newly available hardware,

these fast video cards for gaming,
these really good screens,

and motion capture technology,
so you had positional data on the camera.

We made what we called the volume.

Because that's what they call
a motion capture volume.

It wasn't like we coined it.
We were just using that term.

And the basic idea is,
what if you had a perfect screen

that surrounded you almost 360 degrees
above you and all of your sides

and you could make any digital environment
that you wanted to create on that wall.

It's thousands of these small patches
that make up a seamless wall,

and it's really kind of amazing.

You can't even tell that
they're individual screens.

It's just a continuous surface
to your eye and to the camera.

It turned it from a system
of having to do blue screen

or green screen composites
on everything to a system

where what you see on the day
is what you get in the show.

You can be anywhere in the world.

So if you want to be in Iceland one day,
and you want to be in the desert the next,

you can literally change between
those locations with a button click

back at the computer
that's driving the volume.

The real trick to what we're doing is that

as the camera moves inside of this volume,

there are little cameras
all around the volume itself

that are paying attention
to where it's moving,

and then correcting
the image on the screen

so that the perspective of the image that
is being seen by the camera is correct.

The parallax is locked in it perfect.
Your brain tells you it's real.

Half the set might be made
practically, real props on the set,

extend that off
into the distance digitally,

and when you look at it
through the camera,

it just looks like it's completely real.

The cinematographer loved it because
you could actually compose your own shots.

You weren't trusting it later
to a cop artist.

I remember the guy from the studio came

"and he says," I thought
you weren't building a set.

"I thought we already,
we installed the screens."

"We invested all that money."

And I was like, "That's just the desk.

"That's just the desk
and some boxes."

He didn't realize
that we were in the volume.

It was all projected.

The first day I went in for
an interview, actually, for Mandalorian,

I didn't even know
what I was going to the meeting for.

And then Jon walked in,

and I was like, "Oh."
"Nobody had told me this at all."

And then within five minutes,
I was in a VR headset,

flying around one of the sets
for Mandalorian,

one of the early prototypes.

Jon told me later actually
that it was also his way of kind of seeing

how quickly I would adapt to it
or how techie I was, basically.

It was really quite simple for me

because I had played enough
PlayStation in my life

that the controllers are very similar,
so I got it pretty fast.

Mandalorian was a very different
process for me

because it was like no TV show
that I'd ever worked on.

We were working very closely with
all the ILM team, right from the get-go,

about how we're articulating things,
how we're building sets.

So everybody had to collaborate in a way
that I've never seen happen before.

Just because the nature of the technology

and the dependence of people
knowing what each other are doing.

Like, you'd have something like,
set dec creating something,

but then it has to be photographed

because it'll be on the volume
and you've got it both

as a practical element
and a visual effects element.

What's happening with something
like the volume

and what we're doing with Mandalorian is
by taking that post process,

the creation of those images
that usually we wouldn't see

until months after shooting,

and moving that
to the beginning of the process.

All right, nice and quiet
all around, please, here we go.

And play back!

With actors who are being
directed by the director,

with something they can see
and actually experience,

I think you're getting back
to real film making.

When you get all the departments
working on something

that you have in camera on the day,
you bring back the expertise

to the film making process on the day
and you get these wonderful coincidences.

You get opportunities because
you have everything there on the day.

Because you have
to make decisions up front,

and you're using visual effects
techniques and tools

as part of your principal photography,

it changes the process, and you do have
to be very judicious with your decisions.

And I actually think that that ends up
with a better end result.

In traditional model building
and photography,

you get happy accidents,
and those are things you can't capture.

You can't invent that.

But now, when you combine the two,
you can get the best of both worlds.

On many of our shows, we would always say,

"Well, can we do this traditionally?
Can we actually have a model shop?"

"Can we build a model and photograph it?"

And we would always get pushed back.

And the difference for The Mandalorian
was that Jon loved it.

Jon wanted
to build a practical model

for The Mandalorian TV series.

I get this phone call about once a year,

and it sounds great and all that stuff,
but, whatever. It never happens.

And then it actually happened.

They did a 3D print,

which was like getting a deck of cards,
was like 50 little pieces.

Put it all together.

It built a two-foot model,
and it was so cool.

And then John Knoll
built a motion-control system.

Next thing I know, I'm hearing that
John Knoll is building a rig.

Now, we didn't ask him to build a rig.
This wasn't part of the pitch.

The pitch was, "Could we do a shot?"

He starts doing it
like he's in the AV club,

in the basement at ILM, at LDAC,
and he's making this thing,

and next thing you know, everybody's
coming around to see what it is,

because, you know,
it's like Tom Sawyer painting the fence.

So that's what's making The Mandalorian
feel like Star Wars,

is we're inheriting this legacy,
this energy.

And that shot was glorious.

That's really what I appreciate most
about George Lucas specifically.

But this whole generation of filmmakers
is that there was an eye to the past

and an eye to the future
and into innovation.

Jon Favreau
and Dave Filoni and I,

from the moment we started talking about

creating the volume,
all we did was talk about George.

Because he was already anticipating
a lot of what we've ended up doing.

The first thing he did when he walked on
was he was like,

"Hey, this is what I've been trying
to tell everybody we had to do."

Very George.

But I think he was incredibly thrilled
to see that it was actually being done

in the way that he did
envision in his mind,

and anything that pushes
digital film making,

that is so near and dear to his heart.

What he was able to achieve
with a lot of time and money

with the prequels, we were able to do
on a TV schedule and budget

because we were afforded all of that
through the technological innovations

that had happened since he had done that.

So when he comes in,
it feels like a satisfying thing

because finally, what he
saw in his head, we could do.

The thing that I love
about the industry

is that we are always doing something new.

Therefore, you have to have
an affinity for danger.

You have to have
an affinity for taking risks.

You have to not be scared of that
and actually be energized by that.

And that unique passion in the way

that we are pushing the industry
is still there.

That's the thing that
always strikes me about ILM.

It's like this brain
that is always thinking.

Industrial Light and Magic

is the three key ingredients to

a film, a successful film,

and George encapsulated it
in those three words.

It's an industry.
Things have to be done on time.

They have to be done for a price.
There has to be pragmatism.

And then the light. Of course,
this is that we are shining the light,

and it isn't just light on the screen.

It's light in our lives.

And the magic is the innovation

that we do at the company,
both in terms of art and science.

It's super ingrained in the culture
and will continue for a long time.

There's no other visual effects company
that's been around as long,

and so they always had this connectivity
all the way back to, you know,

these guys setting up shop in a warehouse
in Van Nuys in '75 to make Star Wars.

It felt like there were all these elements

that came together
to put me in this situation

that can never be repeated.

A lot of chance things came together.

But at heart, it was also because
George wanted to make it happen.

He knew he had a problem.
He didn't know how to solve it.

"But he knew" If I take this person
and that person and this person,

"I put them together,
maybe I'll get to the solution."

The whole process was like,
"I got a job in the circus,"

you know,
and that's what I wanted to do.

I don't care, I'll clean up
the elephants.

Or you know, whatever, you know,
I just want to be there.

There was something here about
the people and the spirit and, you know,

the source of where we came from
and why we're here, and the talent,

and the mixture of art and technology.

Being around such a talented group,

feeding off of them, getting stuff from
them and then trying to give stuff back.

I really feel that
the original team of rebels

that George pulled together

that had the audacity to think
that his vision was possible,

that still lives.

This idea that just because it hasn't
been done, doesn't mean it can't be done.

That's what makes ILM what it is.
I believe we all feel that.

That we can do anything.
And I don't know that there's ever

been another collection of people
that could say that with such conviction.

Working with ILM is like working with,
you know, I don't know, Marlon Brando

or someone, early Brando.
But like, you're going to do the best

you can to work with them,
collaborate with them.

But they're Marlon Brando.

ILM is full of these people
who are geniuses

and are pushing the envelope all the time.

One of the things I loved so much
about working there is that there was

a whole studio full of people
that were more talented,

smarter and more experienced than I was,

that I could draw on and be inspired by.

There wasn't a day either on the set

or painting that I didn't learn something.

ILM was like, you know,
as much of a job as it was a school.

I'll never graduate from ILM
and I'll never leave the halls of ILM.

It made the way that I thought okay.

It was a playground,

and I looked forward
every day to going to work.

My favorite place is
to be on the edge of discovery.

That's the best feeling in the world.

I want to work with people
that inspire me, that push me.

I think that is the spirit of ILM

that is inherent in everybody
that I've met there.

It's always sleeves rolled up,
and "Here's what we're thinking."

"What are you thinking?"
"Here's what we think we can do."

"Let's talk."

And it goes back to that original group,

that were just unpretentious,
yet brilliant people.

You work on a lot of movies
through your lifetime.

You know, you'll be lucky
if you work on two or three that are,

you know, hugely successful to the public.

But what you walk away with
is the family that you've built.

The magic at ILM,
really was the people.

The camaraderie was something
that I don't think you

you can ever experience
in several lifetimes.

It was a true joy.

I can't think of anything that I would
have gone back and done differently.

I still don't get it.
It's sort of like a weird dream.

I think back at it and go, "No, no."

"It couldn't have been like that
'cause it's too perfect."

I got to work on some of the best movies
people still talk about.

It makes no sense to me.


I'm still astounded
by how well it has gone.

Some great people here
and we're still friends.

I'm friends with them after, like,
40 years or so and it's...

It's been terrific.

My daughter, she comes to me
and she says, "Dad, I have a problem"

"I need to talk to you about."
What she would do,

every night after dinner, she would
go up to her room, shut her door,

and she had all these plastic animals,
and she would come up

with different scenarios for the animals.

Just like I did with army men
and plastic dinosaurs.

So she said,

"My problem is like I'm getting too old
to be playing with toys."

"That makes me sad."

And I said, "Maya,
if you become a filmmaker",

"you never have to grow up."
And we grab the Hi8 camera,

and we just went out and we just started
in the backyard, that moment.

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