The impact that the Star Wars franchise has had on the media industry is largely unmatched. Known all across the world for its deep lore, exemplary storylines and, of course, roaring soundtrack, its iconic character design has also managed to become recognisable even to those who have little-to-no interest in the franchise.
Darth Vader, C-3PO and R2-D2 are all characters that we are willing you can clearly picture in your head, even if you haven’t watched a Star-Wars film in years. However, creating an iconic design is no overnight feat. The journey from concept to finished product is a road often paved with many obstacles. Take, for example, the character design process for Boba Fett. Known as one of the most lethal bounty-hunters in the Star-Wars universe, Fett’s original characterization was that of a ‘supertrooper’, an elite imperial stormtrooper. After conducting reams of screen tests, it was eventually decided that Boba’s colour palette failed to distinguish him from the typical ‘rank and file’ members of the imperial army.
His iconic subdued green costume design was conceived as a visual medium between the stormtrooper’s white look and Darth Vader’s deep-black uniform. The resulting character design later became one of Star-Wars’ most valuable merchandising assets and an instantly recognisable icon of the franchise.
An example of this is Han Solo’s interaction with Jabba the Hutt, which was first filmed in 1977. This moment was not featured in the original A New Hope, but was re-cut and featured in the remastered 1997 and 2004 versions. As seen in the following deleted scene, Jabba was represented by stand-in actor Declan Mulholland, as seen here: Jabba Scene Original Cut
As you can see, Solo originally walks round the back of the stand-in actor for Jabba. When Lucas eventually decided to use the scene later on, the original shots did not account for Jabba’s giant physical presence. The result of this is an unconvincing faked step-over of Jabba’s tail (Jabba The Hutt - A New Hope [1080p HD] @1:03). A simple bit of pre-visualisation of this scene would have shown the need to consider Jabba’s presence, and would have prevented the need to fix the issue in post; thus saving time and money. (For great further reading on this, read VFX Blog’s interview with animation supervisor Steve Williams!)
This is why we always encourage filmmakers to consider previsualization; in a world where physical and computer-generated sequences are commonly melded, it is important that special plans are made in order to allow each to seamlessly accommodate the other. Previsualization has the ability to deliver this; by showing filmmakers their characters interacting with the world that they live in, and by helping them to develop their place there.
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