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Architosh Staff (
1 Aug 2005 [last edit: 1 Aug 05: 5:43pm PST]

SIG: ACM SIGGRAPH Keynote Highlights - Lucas Q&A

Keynote: George Lucas Presentation Highlights ( Live Coverage! - Refresh Your Browser)

Introductions: David Patterson president of ACM, cracked a joke the they have the world's strongest governor (in California) now. What is ACM? It stands for Association for Computing Machine. It was developed a year after the INEAC. It now has 80,000 members.

There are 35 Special Interest Groups (SIG) focused on various specialized interest in computing, such as visualization or grid computing.

They are responsible for giving out the Turing Award, the nobel of computer science. David continued describing some of the things ACM does for the industry and what end users/members can do to contribute via volunteering to ACM.

George Lucas Keynote Highlights

Live update: (scroll down for latest comments) - paraphrased for the most part.

Currently waiting for awards announcements to finish...okay! kinda stretching out like the Oscars here. About half way through awards and then George will come on.

2:00pm - Awards ceremony continues

2:15pm - Introduction of George Lucas starting....since Star Wars ILM has been setting the standard for visual effects. Using profits from Stars Wars George setup a distinct computer graphics division, the birth of Pixar. George continues to develop new technologies in combination with partners like Sony to advance not just the technology of making movies but of enjoying them in theaters. George's work in digital cinema is unmatched in the industry.

2:20 - Many people make movies...but George Lucas has changed them forever! George is getting a standing ovation from the audience.

George starts talking...

The first SIGGRAPH he attended was in Minnesota, he says. This event with George is moderated.

George begins by saying that he is a storyteller...and suggest that as a storyteller you constantly bump into the limits of technology (he mentions the Sistine Chapel in Rome). Literally making reference to hitting into the technological ceiling of what you are trying to do as a storyteller.

2:30 - George makes a joke that at SIGGRAPH we are giving awards to the water guy! He says that he doesn't really care about the technology, but he just wants to use it for his storytelling.

Mod: Do you see what you are doing as a big risks when trying to tell your stories and you push the technology so far?

George says that he is not afraid of risks so long as he can win. There are lots of risks.

He says that for him "the pursuit of telling the story has no risks."

Mod: How do you decide what technology to keep inside, in house, and what goes out into the industry or spawns off into some software firm?

He said that some of them -- the people that for him -- "would go off and sneak away and go write computer graphics at night." George is talking about the days when he was just starting with the original three Star Wars films. He said that nowadays it's getting easier for him to use what is out there versus inventing it themselves.

Speaking about the Letterman Center - his new consolidated facility in San Francisco -- he said that they are "trying to allow everyone involved" in the pipeline to participate in any stage. As opposed to the linear nature of the traditional CG pipeline.

Mod: When you started the last installment in the first trilogy, what technological feat remained unfinished, not done?

2:36 - George says that there were a few things still remaining, speaking about items like fire, hair. But "in Episode 3 there were not that much that was new", but "the whole thing was completely digital and that was new." George said, "it was really a matter of applying what was learned from episode 1 and 2" and applying that on a grand scale in the final episode.

Mod: In order for other filmmakers to embrace digital technologies like What do they need to do, what should they focus on?

George says that the technology has its limits and it has limited him in his storytelling. "...a big part of Star Wars was the problem of panning around the space ships -- that was huge!"

Mod: How has the convergence of films and games influenced your storytelling?

George says that they haven't yet, but speaks about waiting for voice recognition technology to come into games.

Mod: What tools do you use for pre-visualization today? What has changed?

George says that "pre-viz is just a fancy term for story-boarding." He says that he likes "very cinematic tools." When he got to Empire Strikes back they started doing very crude animated story board sequences. That was a beginning. Now they do very crude, simple animations for the story board process. They then turn that over to ILM

During the last film George had Steve (Speilberg) do some story boarding for him to free up time for George who was behind on the script. "Steve was out in the Hamptons (?) and was not too busy and I said I would send out a guy to do the technology..." " So Steve worked with this guy" that George sent out from ILM and together they produced 45 minutes of sequences which ended up about 15 great minutes of film in the final cut.

George remarked that "Steve is very old fashioned" and likes to "work the old way", but became convinced after this process, so "he did the same system on War of the Worlds."

2:50 - George said that on Episode 3 they did the entire sound on a workstation -- and that was the first time they did that. He said that was the future.

George said he is now going to do an animated TV show called Clone Wars. He said they are going to setup shop in Asia to tap Asian talent, CG wise. He looks forward to that.

...He is suggesting there is a challenge in making computer animation films less expensive. He said television is less intensive than film and "that TV is more fun" and you can experiment more. "Less pressure".

Mod: Like Disney, do you see Lucasfilm becoming more of a studio, changing.

George says that he is too old to see that kind of transition. He is not interested in that. He says television is something they are getting into more. Speaking about WETA he says that he "told Peter Jackson to come visit him to see if that is the place he wants to end up" in 20 years from now. how "businesses when they grow become like sharks that need to eat, you either grow and get bigger or you begin to shrink and die." He said WETA is an exciting place because they are just a bunch of "really committed guys working in this tiny closet like space."

George made several comments about corporate sized outfits and how when you get large you lose something.

Mod: Is there something at ILM that is going to spin off into other fields?

3:00 -- George says that "some people are getting into real time now" in other places. They did it first, but now it's more about digital applications in the film-making process. Convincing the "studios, too, to go all digital, right now is a big goal and it's proving hard because they would have to invest tens of millions of dollars" into changing the technology.

He said that "nowadays they do a lot of work on a Mac now. It has gotten a lot easier." "It is about democratizing the technology now."

Mod: So now we have a lot of film makers doing work and teaching themselves, you have spoken about education, can you tell us about what you are doing with education?

George says that the film industry has been difficult. "Education is even worse, it's a regilion...if it isn't 500 years old it is not worth anything." George says getting the educational world to go all digital is going to be really tough. "Digital technology is the virus that will change the educational system." He says let's not be dumb about it, let's be proactive.

At the Presidio (SF) there is going to be a little institute. To help other companies too -- to help train people. George says he is trying to build up an educational system for CG in the San Francisco area.

Speaking about changes happening in the industry (not just film industry), he said that when they started Phantom Menace, only about 10 percent of pre-viz was on the computer, "most were still drawing by hand." He said that for Clones it became 50/50 and by the final film "it was 90 percent on the computer and only 10 percent by hand." It had completely inverted.

George continued to say that this was the future. CG is an art form now, not just a tool.

The moderator has thanked George. The audience has applauded and is now getting up. The keynote has ended.

[Last edit version: 1 Aug 05: 5:43pm PST]



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