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Galactic Innovations: Star Wars and Rogue One caught the interest of people across the galaxy, giving insight into the technological advances made between the time of the two films and highlighting just how far VFX tech has come to allow pixels to look so much like real, physical models.

It was early 2016, and the scheduled release of the first Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer was coming up fast. But something was missing.

“Just a few weeks before the first trailer of Rogue One came out, a decision was made that there needed to be this Death Star reveal within the trailer,” recalled Rachel Rose, who worked as a visual effects artist on Rogue One. “But this was something we weren’t expecting to actually do.”

Indeed, one of the most striking shots from that first trailer came together at the last minute. It was one of many secrets and stories told at “Galactic Innovations: Star Wars and Rogue One,” an event on Thursday night at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The evening included presentations from visual effects artists from 1977’s Star Wars to 2016’s Rogue One. Kicking off with Academy president John Bailey entering with a military escort from two Stormtroopers, the event was hosted by Kiri Hart, who formed the Lucasfilm Story Group and was a co-producer of Rogue One and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

In a night that highlighted the technological advances that the Star Wars visual effects teams have seen over 40 years, the story of that Death Star reveal shot stood out. Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, who was in attendance Thursday, used a virtual camera setup — kitbashed together from an iPad mini, a Gamevice controller system and a Vive controller — to navigate a digital environment in real time himself, “experimenting live with lights and shadows in order to find this particular shot,” said Rose. In fact, Edwards used the setup for many other shots in the film, including some in the final space battle above the planet Scarif.

It’s technology that was likely impossible to imagine back in 1977, and is a fitting continuation of the work done by the first employees of the George Lucas-founded Industrial Light and Magic. The team behind the original trilogy were a scrappy bunch, the type who once posed together, eight artists crammed into a small hot tub.

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Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Thomas G. Smith
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Edition no. 1 (10/12/1987)
  • Hardcover: 279 pages