Digital format for Star Wars Episode2

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Joined: Sep 27 1999

Does anyone out there have a clue what format the new Star Wars film is being shot at (or rather HAS been shot at). It has been stressed several times that it is shot entirely digitaly, but what format do they use?

Is this available to buy for Production Companies etc. or are we talking about prototype-equipment?

I am rather curious and would be happy to hear from anyone who might know...

Joined: Nov 7 1999

Since Lucas is so keen on open source and open stadards he has chosen for a mpeg-4 usb camera. He'll edit the stuff on Pinnacle's Studio 400 which he is trying to port onto Linux.

George Lucas will shoot Star Wars: Episode II using digital 24 frame progressive high definition
Using a prototype digital acquisition system consisting of a Panavision modified Sony HDW-F900 integrated camera recorder, a series of carefully prescribed tests were initiated by teams from ILM and Lucasfilm working in
conjunction with Sony and Panavision. These tests, which include image performance and system functionality culminated in comparative shoots with motion picture film, convinced George Lucas and producer, Rick McCallum of the benefits of shooting in digital 24P at 1920 x 1080 HD sampling.

"The tests have convinced me that the familiar look and feel of motion picture
film are fully present in this digital 24P system and that the picture quality
between the two is indistinguishable on the large screen," said Lucas.

"It's an exciting step that we are taking, and working with Sony and Panavision,
we plan to further advance this system over the coming years," continued
Lucas. "Star Wars: Episode II is our first giant step."

The prototype digital cinematography system consists of a Panavision modified
HDW-F900 with a new Panavision viewing system and other modifications, one
of which enables the use of Panavision's extensive range of film style

In order to meet the image quality required by Lucasfilm, Panavision has also
developed a brand new series of Primo Digital(tm) lenses. The ultra high speed
F1.5 lenses have been custom designed to maximize the performance of the
new HDW-F900, enabling the image performance which helped convince Lucas and McCallum.

In November 1999, Sony delivered the Phase I prototype camcorder to
Panavision which physically converted the camcorders to accept its newly
developed cinematography lenses and associated accessories.

Following preliminary system testing at Panavision, the ILM / Lucasfilm tests
were initiated in January 2000 and continued through February and early March.

These tests included separate optical, digital camera, and digital recording
tests ultimately leading to integrated system operational testing. The latter
encompassed subsequent computer processing of the digitally captured

"These tests included a series of comparative shoots in which they shot a
variety of scenes in parallel with motion picture film, including interior and
exterior scenes, close-up and wide-angle takes, and a series of complex
blue-screen composite shots," said Larry Thorpe, vice president of acquisition
systems for Sony Electronics' Broadcast and Professional Company.

"They made sure to compose all scenes for final 2.40:1 aspect ratio which also
involved extraction of this widescreen format from the 16:9 digital capture. They
used large format VistaVision film for the reference film origination," continued

The tests also explored different technologies for the transfer of digital to motion
picture film. The proprietary ILM transfer system, the EBR system of Sony, and
the laser recorder system of E-Films of Los Angeles were used to transfer the
digital material to 35mm film. The VistaVision film originals were processed to
a 35mm-film release print. The two 35mm films were viewed on a large screen
at the Skywalker Ranch Stag Theater on March 10.

"The tests were really quite astonishing," said Jim Morris, president of Lucas
Digital. "The image quality of the new Sony camera and the Panavision lenses
exceeded our expectations, and really validate the 24P system as a great new
tool for moviemaking. All of our hopes about digital capture for the big screen
have started to be realized, and we are extremely jazzed by the possibilities."

"This is the exciting dawn of a new era in moviemaking," said Star Wars
producer Rick McCallum. "There is no turning back. It is being born within an
environment of super teamwork among our people at ILM and Lucasfilm, and
the folks at Panavision and Sony. We set the bar high for digital HD imaging
and they have responded magnificently. We intend to cut through all of the
industry angst and thrust 24P digital HD squarely onto the moviemaking stage.
Star Wars: Episode II will do just that," he added.

"We start shooting Episode II in Australia in June," McCallum noted. "All of the
sets are in final stages of construction. In August the shooting will move to Italy
and to Tunisia. We will shoot for a total of three months and then we plan to
spend about 18 months in postproduction."

"We brought optical design to a new height in meeting the challenges of
developing cinematography lenses for the small 2/3-inch image format," said
John Farrand, president and CEO of Panavision's goal of providing our clients
with the very best in digital and film acquisition systems. These tests show we
are well on our way to meeting that goal."

"Clearly, this is the realization of a vision we have held at Sony for quite some
time," said Ed Grebow, president of Sony Electronics' Broadcast and
Professional Company. "The confidence and vision of George Lucas greatly
motivated our dedicated engineering team. Lucasfilm is breaking new ground
in proving that digital acquisition empowers the creative process."

Phase 2 prototype HDW-F900 units have been delivered to Panavision, and
following the docking to the final lenses and accessories, these will be used by
David Tattersole, Director of Photography for Star Wars: Episodes I and II, to
establish camera set-up parameters for his photography of Star Wars: Episode

The final product versions of the planned six HDW-F900 camcorders for Star
Wars: Episode II will be prepared by Panavision in May and will be ready for the
onset of principal photography in June.

Hope this helps!


Joined: Sep 23 1999

It sounds like they're going to print it onto film stock and project it in the usual way. Surely they could project the digital stuff directly? This would open up a new era of high quality cinema:- unlike we have now, where, I gather, we get the old prints which have done the rounds in the US first.

Joined: Nov 7 1999

quote:Originally posted by Jim:
It sounds like they're going to print it onto film stock and project it in the usual way. Surely they could project the digital stuff directly? This would open up a new era of high quality cinema:- unlike we have now, where, I gather, we get the old prints which have done the rounds in the US first.

Yes, the projection mechanism will not change. We still have to deal with the old prints. Once cinemas invest in digital projection techniques inked up by stalellites we will be released from the latency in film openings and bad quality prints.

I think it's coming...maybe in 5 years

But what do fancy digital projectors with satellite links matter if the quality of Lucas' new film explorations are tremendous crap . I mean Jar Jar Binks is irritating on a thrid-generation VHS tape and on a digital projection surround theatre!

Just my 2 belgian franks