Monday, 2 January 2012

CG in the Original Star Wars Trilogy.

In re-released version of 'Star Wars IV: A New Hope,' There is a scene where Crime Lord 'Jabba the Hutt' threatens to put a bounty on Han Solo's head. The scene includes a CG Jabba interacting with Harrison Ford, however the scene was original shot with the intention of adding in a stop motion Jabba the Hutt. Because of costs and time, the scene was not included in the original release, but the improvement in CG technology, was re-introduced in later re-releases. I managed to find this compiled video taken form various sources, showing the original scene with Irish actor Declan Mulholland filling in for Jabba:

From this original scene filmed with live actors, the challenge at this point would have been placing in the CG Jabba the Hutt. There are points where Han Solo is standing in front of Jabba in relation to the camera. Today I imagine a green screen technique would be used for such shots. Perhaps with the ability to manipulate a 3D model and play it alongside the original video content, a live actor to fill in for Jabba would not even be needed. Obviously the process of planning and then producing a stop motion animation to be placed next to a live actor would need to be much more intricately planned, the original actor being used as a marker for each movement of the alien crime lord. Take a look at the finished sequence:

The visual effects supervisor Joseph Letteri said that the aim was for the revisited scene was for it to look as if Jabba and Han Solo were interacting with each other on set. Apparently the team had trouble getting the CG Jabba to resemble the original puppet used to portray him in 'Return of the Jedi.' After the 1997 release, they even polished the CG Jabba later in 2004. However, the computer generated results still do not fully resemble the puppet.

One thing I found interesting was a problem that arose and how the team tackled it. at around 50 seconds, Han solo walks behind Jabba. This was not considered in the original take, and the later concept used for the puppet meant that the alien's tail would be in the way. To solve this, they animated the CG Jabba to let out a yelp signifying that Han Solo had stepped on his tail. They even managed to elevate Han Solo, emphasizing further that Jabba's tail was over his path. I believe this was a very clever way of making the live actor and the CG model appear as if they were both sharing the same physical space.

Despite the CG model not reflecting the original puppet used to portray Jabba in Episode V, I find it very interesting how a 3D animator can create the illusion that a live actor is truly interacting with a computer generated model. I have already visited this concept with my last post on Jurassic park, and the placement of CG in the original shots. Although puppets and animations look more realistic in my opinion, I am beginning to see that working with CG can unlock many more capabilities.

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