Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

[Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox]

For many fans, this is the beating heart of all Star Wars films. Darker and denser than the original, it pushed the amazement audiences felt after watching the first visual extravaganza into another dimension.

1980 Special Achievement Academy Award® for Best Visual Effects

Director: Irvin Kershner
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Richard Edlund
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Dennis Muren
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Ken Ralston
ILM Visual Effects Art Director: Joe Johnston
ILM Studios: San Francisco

Case Study

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

Release Date: May 17, 1980

ILM once again used the new motion control system – this time, to send Luke Skywalker running under the legs of the mechanical walkers in the snow battle scenes, but that was only one extraordinary effect in a film filled with eye-candy.

The Star Wars team had laid the foundation for the practical application of visual effects innovations. Some would eventually leave to raise the bar for visual effects in their own studios, but a core group stayed together, learning, inventing, teaching others, and establishing a method for creating artistic visual effects at a level few have ever approached.

To realize Empire’s battle sequences featuring Tauntauns and snow walkers a new technique was developed that married the motion control technology that ILM had pioneered for Star Wars and stop motion animation.

In addition to focusing attention on developing a high-speed Vistavision camera, Richard Edlund and the ILM team turned their attention to building a four-projector-head optical printer for compositing, which coupled with advanced bluescreen techniques lead to composites that were superior to those the crew had been able to achieve for A New Hope.