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Other locations included the sand dunes of the Tunisian desert a few miles outside Nefta. The scene called for the skeleton of a monster creature to lie in the background as robots Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio made their slow way across the sands. As the sinister Imperial stormtroopers searched for the robots, one of the stormtroopers rode a mammoth beast which looks like a half-dinosaur, half-elephant.
After several sequences were filmed against the rocky grandeur of a volcanic canyon outside Tozeur, the cast and crew moved to Matmata, one of the most unusual towns in the world.
Matmata is largely inhabited by troglodytes, people who make their homes in caves cut from the sides of the crater-like holes in the ground. These craters dot the landscape, much like craters on the Moon. The underground homes evolved not so much in defense against possible enemies many years ago, but as a means of protection from the weather, which is scorching hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter.
The average Matmata home consists of an open central hole, 25 feet in diameter. Often the hole is surrounded by parapets. In this way, there is shade from the sun and protection from the wind. The only entrance is by a gently sloping ramp which leads through a tunnel with recesses on either side for the storage of fodder and produce. The recesses are also used for stabling animals. The courtyard is 20 to 30 feet square and contains cisterns fed by channels from saucer-like depressions designed to catch the rain. There are usually two rooms on each side of the square, gouged from the earth. Inside the roomsor caves niches and recesses act as shelves, seats and beds.
In Matmata, George Lucas filmed sequences in the depths of the Hotel Sidi Driss, which is larger than but still typical of, the local troglodytes' dwellings. In Star Wars, the hotel is seen as the interior of Luke Skywalker's homestead.
Following two-and-a-half weeks filming in Tunisia, the Star Wars cast and crew moved to EMI Elstree Studios. It took all nine sound stages to house production designer John Barry's thirty sets of other planets, starships, caves, control rooms, cantinas, and the vast network of sinister corridors on the evil, man-made Death Star. For the enormous rebel hangar sequence filled with a squadron of X-wing and Y-wing fighters, the set was so huge that it had to be filmed on the largest sound stage in Europe, located at Shepperton Studios, in Middlesex, some twenty miles away. The scenes with the actors took 14 and one half weeks to film in England.
The script called for a large number of miniature and optical effects. In June of 1975, George and Gary contacted John Dykstra with regard to his supervising the photographic special effects. No commercial facility had the equipment or the time to accomplish what Star Wars required, so John worked out the plans for a complete in-house effects shop. Appropriately named "Industrial Light & Magic Corporation," the shop was set up in a warehouse in the San Fernando Valley.
Employing as many as seventy-five people and, in post-production, working on two full shifts, ILM executed the three hundred and sixty separate special effects shots in the film. Altogether, film enhancement and special effects are visible for half of the running time of Star Wars.
The various departments at ILM included a carpentry shop and a machine shop, which had to build or modify the special camera, editing, animating and projecting equipment required for the special effects. A horizontal 35mm double-frame format was utilized on all the special effects filming in order to get a larger negative that could sustain the quality of the images filmed in live action. A model shop was built to execute the prototype models of the various space and land vehicles.
Other departments included optical printing for putting multiple images together on film, and a rotoscope department, which provided matte work and also generated original images to be used in explosion enhancement. The electronics shop devised special cameras for a self-contained camera and motion control system. There was also a film control department for filing and coordinating all of the special effects and other film elements.
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