Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

[Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox]

1999 Academy Award® Nomination for Best Visual Effects.

1999 BAFTA Award Nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.

Director: George Lucas
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Dennis Muren, John Knoll, Scott Squires
ILM Animation Director: Rob Coleman
ILM Visual Effects Art Director: David Nakabayashi
ILM Studios: San Francisco

Case Study

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Release Date: May 19, 1999

Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to reclaim their old glory.

No one had attempted to do a film with 2000 visual effects shots before George Lucas and ILM showed the world that the visual effects community was ready to work on this scale. The world responded with an explosion of blockbuster films with mega-vfx shots.

The Phantom Menace had so many milestones that people lost track: the first walking, talking CG film star, the first high-speed race through a virtual landscape, the first battle scenes with thousands of CG characters, the first characters to use rigid body simulation (for the droids, which caused them to break apart automatically by following the laws of physics), the first use of motion capture to propel armies of characters.

Before this film, no one had combined actors shot on bluescreen stages with digital characters and CG effects in environments seamlessly patch together from footage shot on location and digital models for more than 1000 shots.

By showing other directors what could be done, Lucas and ILM had a phenomenal impact on filmmaking.