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Larry Cuba: Star Wars Computer Animation

This making-of video from Larry Cuba explains how he created the computer animation sequence used during the Death Star briefing scene in Star Wars Episode IV. Looking back at the dawn of CG imagery is always interesting for a nerd like me, but it’s even more fascinating when you consider that Larry thought of himself more as an experimental filmmaker than anything else.

In Larry’s own words, from an interview with Video and the Arts Magazine:

It seems the major assumed goal is to push the state of the art technologically. I’m not interested in that. My work is not part of that big race for the flashiest, zoomiest, most chrome, most glass, most super-rendered image. My interest is experimental animation as the design of form in motion, independent of any particular technology used to create it. The underlying problems of design in motion are universal to everyone working in this tradition whether they use the computer or not. So in that sense what I do is not “computer art.”

Other Larry Cuba works
Excerpt from Calculated Movements (previously posted as a Quickie)
Arabesque (created with John Whitney)

Big thanks to Russell Hirtzel for the tip!

Posted on 31 March 2008 |

5 thoughts on “Larry Cuba: Star Wars Computer Animation

  1. Greetings all.

    I have a few comments about this post:

    The Video:
    This “making of” video was originally
    produced for my personal presentations as
    I was often asked to explain the process
    (back in the 70s and 80s when it was still
    obscure).
    Lucasfilm was vigilant in protecting its
    copyrighted material but OK’d this video at
    the time, since i had no intention of
    distributing it.
    (although copies apparently escaped)
    I wonder what they would say, now that the EVL
    in Chicago has resurrected it (after 30 years!)
    and posted it on YouTube.

    Question to Justin:
    Why do you think this job is “more fascinating”
    considering i’m an experimental filmmaker?
    (just curious)

    Quote from the interview with Gene Youngblood:
    This too, is quite old, being published in
    1986 on the occasion of the release of
    “Calculated Movements.”
    It is missing a little bit of context because
    the next paragraph qualifies the “not ‘computer art’”
    statement, beginning with, “On the other hand the
    technology is clearly important…”

    “most chrome, most glass”?
    yikes. (i do *not* like interviews)
    Should that have been “chromiest” or “glassiest”?
    Anyway, I was just referring to the technical push
    toward photorealism which wasn’t helping me do what
    *I* wanted to do, which was geometric choreography.

    The YouTube link to “Calculated Movements”:
    It should be noted that this video is
    an *excerpt* from the film, posted by the EVL.
    I also posted my ‘official’ excerpt here:
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=wH0MXZ-T4Js

    Some day soon, all of my films will be
    available on DVD. They should be projected
    large, if possible as scale is important when
    you’re dealing with visual perception.

    Those who are interested, should watch my
    site for news, or sign my guestbook
    and I’ll notify you when it’s released.
    http://www.well.com/usr/cuba

    Thanks for the attention.

    Regards,

    Larry Cuba

  2. Wow, I am amazed and honored that you’re responding here, Larry. Thank you so much!

    With regards to this question:
    “Question to Justin:
    Why do you think this job is “more fascinating�
    considering i’m an experimental filmmaker?
    (just curious)”

    We post a lot of technical wizardry here on Motionographer. Sometimes it seems that jumping through digital hoops becomes the end instead of just the means to an end. Your attitude about filmmaking makes your technical achievement more fascinating to me because you subordinate (in some ways) the technology to your artistic vision.

    Personally, that is very difficult for me to do. I get so enamored with the software or hardware at hand that I can lose focus of my original intent and drift into a trend-drenched world of visual stunts.

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