First Book Review

As in my What Do Yo Want To Read On This Blog-poll some of you also voted for “Reviews of inspiring books” I will start a new section containing my thoughts on books I have read and I found worth reading.

Let’s make a start with the book that started it all. The book, that fueled my will to make movies approximately 10 years ago. I think, that if I had read something like that when I was a boy, I would have started much earlier making my own short films. Before I had this book in my hands I had always thought, that making movies is something I could never reach – something made of rocket science, sorcery and at least two pacts with the devil.

The book I am talking about is Creating the Worlds of Star Wars: 365 Days by John Knoll.

Star Wars book review
Star Wars book review
Star Wars book review

The book shows beautifully behind the scenes footage of the creation of the worlds George Lucas and his crew created for Star Wars. It not only lets you peek behind the curtains of episodes I – III, but also IV – VI, which is awesome!

What is inside this book?
You will find mainly fotographs of the miniature models of different sets of the Star Wars universe, as well as fotos of the construction of several filming sets build in the studios and on location. The short accompanying texts briefly describe what they did and why they did it that way, without going too much into detail.

This is not a textbook on how to make visuals effects or consrtucting sets, but the images tell more than enough to fuel a geeks fantasy.

Star Wars book review
Star Wars book review

Why did it inspire me that much?
During the reading of this book my thoughts went like:

Hey, I can do that… Oh, and I can do that… Man, that’s how they made it… And that was just a painting….and…

It inspired me, because I saw, that – even with the advanced technology they had at the time of making episode I – they were heavily relying on miniature models to get many of backgrounds created. It shows, for example, the miniature rock archs they build for the pod race (which honstely I hated in the movie, because it seemed like an overly long commercial for a computer game): After they had fotographed the miniatures in daylight they projected (“mapped”) it onto the surface of the digital representation of it on the computer (the 3D model).

Star Wars book review
Star Wars book review

This was a light buld moment for me. Suddenly I knew how I could create the backgrounds I wanted to create!

  • Knowing how to make miniature models? – Check!
  • Knowing how to do this socalled 3D mapping process? – I can learn that!

I suddenly understood, that creating visuals effects was not a secret wizardy. It was a matter of creativity and problem solving (and maths – but that I will show you on another review). And that even today good old craftmanship is still worth something.

As I started teaching myself how to make films, I learned, that – of course – it needs much more than that to make visual effects – not to speak of a whole movie. But the core ideas where all there.

Snake Plissken

Snake Plissken

I got to admit, that I have not been a fan of Star Wars when I was a kid. I loved the dark and subversive worlds and characters John Carpenter, the master of horror, had created. I loved Snake Plissken and The Thing. And now I loved Star Wars for the way they created their images.

The book has a different cover in the newer editions, but I think, that the content is the same. You can find it at amazon.

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