From the beginning,
Lucas wanted Chronicles
to have the same style and quality of a feature
film, which was impossible considering the accelerated
schedules and scaled-down budgets of television
production. It was something that had never been
done before but the advancements in post production
video technologies made the entire enterprise
feasible. San Francisco-based Western
Images, a computer graphics company whose
credits at the time included The
Lawnmower Man was commissioned to produce
all of the effects for each forty-four-minute
weekly episode, working in close collaboration
Young Indy surrounded
by forty horsemen.
The effects for the Chronicles
were the kind of effects viewers would never know
are effects while they enhanced storytelling process.
These effects varied from adding rain to soak
actor Sean Patrick Flanery on his motorcycle to
something much more complex, such as digitally
composited wildlife to simulate an African savanna.
In general, Western faced two types of effects
for each episode, those planned in advance, such
as matte paintings, and other 'fix-it' effects
necessitated by problems encountered during the
breakneck pace of shooting. Due to time constraints
of television schedules, it was often difficult
or impossible for the production team to wait
for the perfect sunset, or outfit a military base
location with full wartime regalia. In such instances,
the color and texture of the desired sunset, or
composite a landing plane to lend wartime verisimilitude.
provided a full regiment of soldiers out of a
mere handful shot on location by digitally arranging
and compositing multiple camera passes to effectively
'clone' the same small group and position them
side by side. For the pilot episode, there was
a very dramatic scene where Young Indy is thrown
off his horse and surrounded by forty horsemen
from Pancho Villa’s gang. In reality what
was shot was twelve horsemen surrounding actor
Sean Patrick Flanery. Because of the high cost
of renting horses and hiring extras, what Lucasfilm
did was duplicate the Mexican bandits so that
it looked like there were forty men surrounding
Indy instead of the twelve actors that were actually
there. There were times that Lucas employed shots
from other films such as 1989’s The
Old Gringo starring Gregory Peck and Jane
Fonda or actual black and white footage from WWI.
In the last case Western’s
job was to clean the negative, add color and match
it with the rest of footage filmed some 70 years
A small group of soldiers
turned into a full regiment.
also created entire sets by incorporating matte
paintings rendered by Lucas’ Industrial
Light and Magic on a Macintosh
system. A scene of the Vienna
1908 episode was set at an authentic and
renowned riding school in Vienna, but the production
was not allowed to film at the historic site.
To circumvent the restriction, a horse was photographed
in a ring and the surrounding school was created
as a matte painting. Whereas standard matte paintings,
rendered by an artist with a paintbrush, had traditionally
been too expensive for television production,
the digital renderings were both a cost-effective
and efficient means of providing background locales,
usually taking only two to three days to complete.
In another episode, a shot suggested
that Indy was being chased while on board a mountain
train. As the chase progresses, the train is seen
darting in and out of a series of tunnels. While
the train was shot live-action, the tunnels were
was tasked with creating the needed environment.
"We had to take scenes of trains going down
the track either away from us or coming toward
us," said Western vice president and effects
director Jonathan Keeton. "Utilizing those
specific shots, we digitally composited tunnel
mattes that had been painted previously at ILM.
What we got from them was a digital image of a
matte painting. Then we took it from there."
produced all of its final effects composites using
system, completing an episode every one to two
weeks. Edgar Burcksen of Lucasfilm,
Young Indy's chief editor, had been the first
to propose the Harry
system as an expedient means for compositing the
effects sequences. With approval from Lucas, he
had contacted Western
early in the development of the series. "Edgar
had come to talk to us," Keeton recalled,
"and without exactly giving it away, he let
us know what he was going to need for the show.
We discussed some of the problems we foresaw on
the project and how we could solve them. Basically,
the Harry is very
much like having an entire optical department,
an animation department and an editing department,
all in a computer. It has the capability of doing
chroma keys and luminance keys, and you can also
paint directly on frames with a high-end paint
The original left
Part of the challenge for Western
was creating seamless cuts between the live-action
footage, shot on l6mm film, and the effects footage,
which is shot with pin-registered 35mm cameras.
By pin-registering film in the gate of the camera,
a rock-steady image can be shot, eliminating any
'film weave' - the impression of the image moving
ever so slightly horizontally or vertically, which
may expose the effect. After each episode was
shot, all of the film was processed and transferred
to videotape in London for further transfer to
laserdisc at Lucas’ Skywalker
post production facility. The negative was then
sent to Western
for scanning onto D-1 digital tape. By using Lucasfilm’s
list as a blueprint, only those elements selected
for the show were retransferred. Harry
was then 'fed' the D-1 tape, and the information
was stored on large disc drives. "At that
point," explained Western
president Mike Cunningham, "the various post
production tasks were done disc-to-disc and through
video processors inside the Harry."
Once all the effects had been completed,
both optical and original footage - l6mm and 35mm
- were conformed on videotape, again using the
edit list. Dissolves, fades and color correction
were executed and the final cut was copied onto
the master tape with the completed sound track
sent from Skywalker Ranch.
The utilization of l6mm film and video compositing
techniques reduced the cost per effects shot considerably,
without sacrificing quality. "Part of the
reason it works," stated chief digital effects
artist Jimi Simmons, "is that we go from
that magical film thing right to a digital domain.
The shot never sees an analog signal until we
make a dub to go to broadcast." Through their
months of working on the series, the Western
Images crew had learned to anticipate Lucas’
likes and dislikes regarding effects. "A
lot of people would consider it a disadvantage
to have to do effects 'on the fly' this way,"
said Simmons, "but for me, it's very creative
and challenging to have somebody like George Lucas
come to me and say, 'Do you think you can do this?'
and then be able to pull it off." These cutting-edge
digital processes were later used on the production
of the Star Wars movies. For many people the Young
Indy series served as testing point for the new
techniques. "What used to be called 'post
production' has become an integral part of the
creative process," Keeton observed.
The original left
Once the final cut of each episode
was ready it went off in the process of scoring
the music. The composers were Laurence Rosenthal
and Joel McNeely. They took turns on each episode.
When talked about the whole process
Lucas confessed that "I sort of enjoy the
fact that I don’t know that much about television.
I’m just doing what I want to do. I’m
creating this thing that I enjoy and conforming
to the sort of standards that belong in television
in terms of time and where the commercials go
and have those sorts of things. But I’m
basically getting to tell the stories that I want
to tell, and that’s really what excites
me about this. It’s very time-consuming.
You’re doing fifteen hours, which is the
equivalent of seven movies. Normally I do one
or two movies a year. Now I’m doing the
equivalent of seven movies a year! It’s
really intense, but it’s fun too. I’m
having a ball with the whole thing!"
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