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Remarkably, Williams and Letteri tackled the five Jabba shots at the end of 1994, prior to the ILM software group's development of the Caricature animation program. Caricature had enabled animators on Dragonheart to work with fully shaded models in real time, resulting in excellent lip-synch animation. For the Star Wars Special Edition, however, Williams was still working with the less-facile technology used on Jurassic Park and Casper. "Spaz just hand-animated all of the lip-synch because that's his style," Letteri marvels. "[Sound designer] Ben [Burtt} did the voice track first. After George approved it, Steve animated to it using Jurassic Park technology. He animated the mouth as if it were a hard, almost horn-like material, but with a little more flexibility."
While Williams modeled and animated Jabba, Letteri was responsible for the scene's look and lighting design. "We tend to work like a director and cinematographer," Letteri says. "My job was a bit different than that of a traditional director of photography in that I had to figure out what the inside of Jabba's mouth and his tongue looked like, and how much drool there should be on his chin. I used the original Jabba's textures for reference; the CG model was constructed differently, so we had a Viewpaint artist paint it by hand. I also did a fair amount of repainting myself, and I adapted the shaders I had designed for Jurassic's T-Rex for Jabba's skin and surface textures. I also used some new eye techniques I'd designed for Casper to give Jabba eyes like a cat's or a serpent's. That varied from the original, but I wanted something a little more organic than those glass eyes. George just said, 'Go for it!' He liked the eyes."
Lucas did make one last-minute addition to the sequence that helped to unify the trilogy: as Jabba rejoins his henchmen, the familiar figure of bounty hunter Boba Fett follows the overlord out. With this scene, Lucas managed to unite the villains of both The Empire Strikes Back and Jedi in the original film.
A further host of challenges emerged from the fact that in the original sequence, Harrison Ford had walked behind the actor playing Jabba. In order for Han to tread behind the new Jabba, he had to step on his tail. "It's either over him or on him," Letteri grins, "so we decided, 'Well, let's make Han step on him!' George wanted to keep the action the way it was, and Han was the only character who could have gotten away with it."
Williams altered Ford's movements to accommodate the insouciant action. "Spaz didn't just track Ford up in the frame behind Jabba," Letteri explains. "He had to do a little bit of animation, because a step up involves a lot of body movement, so he cut up all of the pieces and put them back together with the right attitude."
At times, the CG Jabba head was situated off to the side or lower than the head of the original actor, so parts of the actor would occasionally bleed through. Letteri recalls, "Since this was a traveling shot, we wound up having to reconstruct the whole background behind him. A lot of it had to be removed, because everything kept tracking with it."
To convincingly "light" CG characters like Jabba so that they blended into the original photography, Letteri and his team struggled to reconstruct the lighting conditions of the original shots. These new "background plates," which were never designed to incorporate effects of any kind, were technically a far cry from the eight-perf VistaVision plates ILM generally prefers. In fact, the original negative from the Jabba sequence had disappeared: all that existed was a 15-year old interpositive. Moreover, very little reference material still existed. "We dug up the camera reports, which gave us the lens and the f-stop, but that's about all," Letteri laments. "Normally, I'll break down the light, then figure out where the key, fill and the bounce sources are to try and mimic the main sources of light. But we had no idea how the shot was lit. We figured out that they had used Space Lights and silver up on top. The set had a bright concrete floor and bright walls, so light was bouncing all over the place."
Of course, the re-creation of diffuse lighting in the computer graphics realm is an extremely difficult undertaking. "Most of the lighting models we use are point lights, like arcs or spots," Letteri adds, "so we ultimately shaded a lot of hard sources into each other to produce a soft effect. We had to match the lighting in the plate because Harrison Ford was standing right next to Jabba; their lighting had to be identical. Fortunately, most of the shots had just one setup, but that last long tracking shot where Han steps on Jabba's tail was 1,100 frames, and we actually had to go through three setups for the three different points in the action."
Reconstructing the cinematography and lighting conditions for the original Star Wars also became a thorny issue for computer graphics supervisor John Berton, whose team was charged with flushing out the Imperial stormtrooper's search for Rebel robots R2-D2 and C-3PO in the deserts of Tatooine. Lucas wanted to expand the presence of their dinosaur-like mounts, called "dewbacks"which appeared as full-scale puppets in only a few shots in the original filmthrough usage of ILM's Jurassic Park technology. Thus, Berton and his technical directors struggled to blend their CG characters into nearly 20-year-old footage. "Our background plates came from the original negative, which was shot straight up in four-perf 35mm," Berton explains. "To add in our computer graphics characters, we had to figure out how the initial images had been constructed from whatever historical notes existed and our ability to read an image."
Star Wars' director of photography, Gilbert Taylor, BSC (Repulsion, Dr. Strangelove, The Omen, Flash Gordon), had used what appeared to be an exotic Pro-Star filter to hide a multitude of sins during the desert shoot on location in Tunisia. Notes Berton, "When you're shooting an exterior that you want to look like another planet, and you've got a lot of detailed machinery that you're using to convey more realism than is really there, you can give the image a certain quality which diffuses those edges by putting filters on it. But you don't use filters when shooting effects plates, because it screws up the post process."
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