By: Marc Loftus
August 10, 2005


Earlier this month, director/producer/screenwriter George Lucas addressed a crowd of thousands at the annual SIGGRAPH show in LA. For 45 minutes, the famed filmmaker recalled the challenges he faced in making his epic features, while shedding some light on how technology has affected his work.

To say that technology has affected Lucas is somewhat misleading, as it's Lucas that has influenced so much of the technology used in filmmaking today. His credits include developing the first NLE - Edit Droid - which was later sold to Avid, along with the Sound Droid audio workstation. He established the THX quality assurance program. Photoshop was developed by members of his team, as was the Pixar computer. He was the first to use Sony's 24p HD camera on a major motion picture, and his "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" was the first feature to see major digital cinema release.

And with all these credits, Lucas opened with, "I am not a computer guy," much to the amazement of a very tech-savvy crowd. "I am a storyteller at heart." Still, he says, technology is an inescapable part of storytelling and "anyone working in the arts runs into that technology ceiling."

The original "Star Wars" ["Episode IV" for purists] had a visual effects budget of $2 million, and was "written around the technology" available at the time, he says.

"Now, it's completely different," Lucas states. "Digital is the future and it won?t be long before people look back at film and say, 'That is so 19th century.'"

Today, Lucas says his facility is trying to develop a pre-viz system that is "dumbed down and idiot proof." One that he believes "will help change the way people make movies."

He also feels strongly about editing systems that strongly connect both sound and picture, and is working on a well-integrated system with a simple UI.

"I've always had a belief that sound is 50 percent of the experience."

"Episode III," Lucas recalls, was mixed completely on a workstation. "That's the future," he says.

For the large crowd of aspiring content creators gathered at SIGGRAPH, Lucas offered some advice: Don't be afraid to take risks.

"In the pursuit of telling a story, there are no risks," he says. "Without challenges being thrown at you, you don't advance."

Without question, George Lucas has advanced the art of storytelling.