Jan 28, 2016 | By Tess

While watching the most recent instalment of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: Episode VII:The Force Awakens, many fans were overjoyed at the inclusion of a brief, but nostalgic, scene on the Millennium Falcon, in fact, many people around me in the theatre even clapped with giddiness when the scene occurred. What I am referring to, of course, is the scene where an already in motion game of Dejarik Holochess flickers on, a direct homage to Star Wars Episode III: A New Hope, where the game is first introduced. Now, thanks to an interview with Phil Tippett of Tippett Studios, the man behind the Holochess animation, we have more insight into how this magic movie moment was created nearly 40 years ago and again in 2015, and what technologies (ahem 3D printing) were used in the process.

In the making of Star Wars: Episode IV New Hope, George Lucas commissioned Phil Tippett, a still young stop motion animation expert, to create a game of holographic space chess to be played on the Millennium Falcon. In keeping with Star Wars’ tradition of real-as-possible visual effects, Tippett created the game and its pieces using stop motion animation and alien figurines made from a foam latex material. The scene was to go on to become one of the most beloved scenes from the film as R2-D2 wins against a disgruntled Chewbacca.

To keep the charm of the scene in tact, Phil Tippett was again brought in for the most recent instalment of the franchise to restore the original Holochess set with the help of his team of animators, including Tom Gibbons, and Chuck Duke. As Tippett explains, the original pieces, some of which were put on a plaque for George Lucas and kept in his office for decades, were not in a usable condition. As he says, “The problem was that the characters that we had made close to 40 years ago were in a horrible state of disintegration…They were made out of a rubber that disintegrates over time, turning into something like graham crackers.”

To get new characters that were as close to the original pieces as possible, Tippett and his team used various techniques, such as photogrammetry, to digitally reconstruct the characters. Based on the photogrammetry data points, the team of animators was able to create and archaeologically reconstruct the characters using 3D design software ZBrush until they were as accurate as possible.

To create the actual Holochess characters, the digital models were 3D printed and molds were subsequently made of the 3D prints. From there the molds were used to make the final figurines out of a resilient silicone material, which Tippett describes as “very squishy”. Funnily enough, Tippett also explains that in 1977 it only took him and his team a few weeks to create the characters, but this time around it took nearly a full year to get the scene ready.

The actual process of creating the scene, as in all stop motion animation, was extremely time consuming as well, as for each second of film, the characters had to be moved incrementally 24 individual times, making for a laborious process.

Despite the time the scene took to make, I think we can all agree it was absolutely worth it. When Finn unknowingly leans on the Holochess table in the Millennium Falcon and the game pops up, right where it left off in 1977, everyone in the audience was transported back to that first time they saw Star Wars and the magic of the series.

As Jon Berg, one of the original 1977 animators aptly says, “I think there’s a charm to the old way of doing it, because you can relate to it, you can feel it, you can look at it. There’s like an amazement of seeing something moving by itself and that still has not been able to be duplicated by CGI.”




Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Boba Fett wrote at 1/29/2016 7:56:43 AM:

Star Wars Episode III: A New Hope? Which one is that?!

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