Lucas Plans Animated 'Star Wars' TV Show - InformationWeek

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Lucas Plans Animated 'Star Wars' TV Show

Sci-fi's most famous film director plans to adapt the "Star Wars" movie series into a 3-D animated TV show.

Now that George Lucas has the final installment of Star Wars under his belt, sci-fi's most famous film director plans to adapt the movie series as a 3-D animated TV show.

Lucas' company is creating an animated program for television called Clone Wars, that will be produced in a new studio it's building in Singapore, Lucas said in a keynote at the Siggraph 2005 computer-graphics conference in Los Angeles on Monday. Lucas, chairman of Lucasfilm Ltd. and the creator of Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and American Graffiti, also said he's working on a live-action Star Wars-based TV show that he'll shoot with a Sony consumer digital camcorder.

"It's a little different way of looking at Star Wars," Lucas said of the animated series, and a way to "get my foot into anime." Producing Clone Wars in Asia would save costs and speed up production, he said. "I have hundreds of projects I want to do, and I'm running out of time, I'm afraid to say." Lucas called television "a great world to experiment in without much downside."

Three-dimensional computer animation is expected to be a $9.1 billion market between now and 2010, according to the Association for Computing Machinery's Siggraph trade group. The group's annual conference meets July 31 to Aug. 5.

In May, Lucasfilm released Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, the last movie in the series, which began in 1977. It has taken in nearly $800 million in box-office receipts. The film embodies an approach to filmmaking--heavy use of computers--that Lucas predicted would be commonplace in the near future. Only half of Episode III was shot in live action; the rest consisted of digital sets and characters. "It's a different way of dealing with filmmaking," Lucas said. "This is the future. ... It's not going to be too much longer before people look back at films and say, 'That was so 19th century.' "

By the time he undertook Episode III, many of the computer-graphics hurdles of previous Star Wars films had been overcome, Lucas said, though the company and its Industrial Light & Magic subsidiary had to design new techniques for effects like lava and flames. "We were able to take on the whole enchilada," Lucas said. "Star Wars was originally written around the technology." Now, the digital editing, postproduction, and storyboards that portend the future of filmmaking are common tools. Lucasfilm is designing new computer-aided editing and storyboard systems, he added.

"Anybody who works in the arts eventually runs into a technology ceiling," Lucas said. "I'm not one to take risks unless I know I can win. The problem with leading-edge technologies is you can't win. If you're the first one out of the box, you're guaranteed to lose."

A new digital-production facility that opened in San Francisco's Presidio in June consolidates production teams scattered around the Bay Area's Marin County into one facility to encourage collaboration. Lucas said he's planning to set up a film school at the facility to teach Bay Area high school and college students computer-generated animation techniques.

But Lucas said he doesn't plan to expand his Industrial Light & Magic effects shop into a full-fledged studio. Lucasfilm is headed more into television, and Lucas said he wants to return to "pure filmmaking. A big company has its downsides," he said. "Companies are kind of like sharks--if they don't swim, they die."

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