Star Wars: Epsiode III: While Editors Roger Barton and Ben Burtt busily piece together the first cut of Episode III, some initial work has begun with a small team at Industrial Light & Magic. ILM artists are preparing the digital assets required for the estimated 2,000 visual effects shot to be delivered, and the teams are closely examining the previsualized sequences provided by the Animatics Department from Skywalker Ranch.

At this stage of postproduction, Director George Lucas meets weekly with Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll and Animation Supervisor Rob Coleman, along with key members of their teams. Lucas approves or asks for changes on unpainted digital models (with an eye towards construction and proportions) and approves models that have undergone "viewpaint" and have their finished textures. In examining animatics -- the low-resolution computer-generated "templates" for the finished effects sequences -- Knoll and Coleman ask Lucas crucial questions about the composition and look of the finished shots before any of the concentrated work begins.

At this stage, the ILM team is currently a small fraction of what it will become. "Right now, we've got about 18 or 19 people," says Producer Rick McCallum."We've probably got 150 [digital] vehicles, objects, and model work done and painted," says McCallum. "George comes down to ILM every Thursday, and we spend a couple of hours going through all the models. We started our Matte Department; we've got three matte painters that are working on five set backgrounds."

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These backgrounds are cykes -- digital cycloramas providing the expansive vistas that replace the bluescreen currently visible through most windows. These views include Palpatine's office, the Jedi Temple, Padm

Brian B.