In fact, I didn't even realize until I started reading that it's a book not just about the making of Star Wars (all six of the first films): it's a book about the visual effects. Everything from building physical and digital sets to creating creatures or setting up lighting effects. John Knoll, Visual Effects Supervisor for ILM, goes through 365 pairs of pages, each dedicated to a particular set, location, or item. Text is on the left, from one paragraph to two or three. Small pictures on the left and a larger one on the right page is the general format. First each movie from the original trilogy, then the special editions, and then each movie from the prequel trilogy (this book was first published in 2005, when they were just finishing Episode III and way before plans for Episode VII began).
So it's all easy to follow along and easy to read just a couple of pages at a time if you wish. And that's helpful because this book covers a lot of ground and I did find that, while the material was very interesting, I could only read so much at a time just because it would be information overload otherwise. (I've also not been spending as much time reading in the last month, hence my very slow progress through this book. There have just been so many other things to do--it is summer, after all.)
In comparison to a movie companion or other basic making-of book, this one is much more technical. There were just a couple of times where I wasn't even exactly sure what technique John Knoll was describing. But overall he adopts a very straightforward tone that's easy to read and understand and so he did a good job of bringing us a taste of the details of the VFX world.
The pictures, too, are one of the best things about this book. Quite a few behind the scenes stills but also images of the miniatures, which are always fascinating to look at. Really, it's quite amazing how many miniatures are in the movies that I hadn't quite realized were miniatures. And matte paintings, too. I'm used to watching Star Trek: TNG and always knowing where the matte paintings are because they just look flatter and more still than everything else--the Star Wars are great, though (I'm not bashing Star Trek here: it was a TV show so of course the VFX weren't necessarily on the same level as with a movie).
I might add, as well, that this book was also only just over thirty dollars. All those glossy, colored pages of movie books are pricey to print, so I consider this a reasonable price, especially given how thick this book is. The compromise is, I believe, in the text: it's quite small, which I was fine with but might be a little more of an issue for others. Still, there's a lot packed into this book and I would recommend it if you're interested in this sort of thing. (Eventually I do want to get J.W. Rinzler's Making-Of books, too, for more of an overview.)
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