Chapter 5. Tangible Trumps Theoretical

Prototypes: Worth 1,000 Mockups

To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.

MILTON GLASER

FOR TWO SIGNIFICANT SEQUENCES in 1977’s Star Wars, George Lucas wanted to do the unthinkable: create dogfights in space.

“I had no idea at that point how I was going to accomplish it,” Lucas said of the sequences. “[So I] got together with some of the people who I brought in to start ILM. We had to create different technology to accomplish [those shots].”[80]

At the time, film sequences were commonly represented by static, drawn storyboards. But for these particular sequences, Lucas knew that he’d have to put together something more robust to get the scenes he envisioned out of his head.

We had to do it by sleight of hand...[we cut together] videomatics, crude animation, footage from actual dogfights and various documentaries to create a sequence of visual motion.

With the help of his then-wife and legendary film editor Marcia, Lucas cut together an eight-minute long 16mm film that represented every cut of the battle sequences.

Before the storyboards were done, we recorded on videotape any war movie including aircraft that came up on television, so we had this massive library of parts of old war movies—The Dam Busters, Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Battle of Britain, Jet Pilot, The Bridges of Toko-Ri, 633 Squadron and about forty-five other movies. We went through them all and picked out scenes to transfer to film to use as guidelines ...

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