Keri Allan catches up with Van Ling, DVD Producer extraordinaire
to chat about his work on the DVD for Star Wars: Episode
II - Attack of the Clones...
Is the Episode II disc as much an epic as its predecessor?
Ling: I certainly think so based upon the time and effort
put in by Lucasfilm, THX, Fox, myself and everyone else involved.
It's a Star Wars movie on DVD, so it has to reflect
the epic scope of the Star Wars universe. We set a
bar with the last one, and the challenge was to maintain that
level of scope and quality.
How much time and effort was taken to create it?
Based upon the amount of sleep I got, I'd say it was half
again what we put into the Episode I DVD, which was
already a lot. Thousands of hours, between the documentary
and video editors at Lucasfilm, my menu team, the compression
and authoring facilities, plus all the folks at THX. It's
important to realise that creating a great DVD takes this
kind of effort. You can't just collect all the existing material
and put it out. Well, you can, but neither Lucasfilm nor I
have ever been interested in just doing that.
We want the movie to be the best presentation possible, straight
from the original digital master in the case of Episode
II, but also to make the extras entertaining and educational
What can Star Wars fans look forward to seeing on the
Apart from the movie itself, which really does look and sound
amazing on the disc - I think it's a perfect example of how
well digital filmmaking can translate to DVD - there are three
cool new documentaries, eight deleted scenes that were completed
especially for the DVD, and hours of other goodies that the
fans have come to expect.
some pretty fun menus. We loaded the disc to the brim again.
In fact, there's actually more content in terms of time on
the Episode II DVD than there was on the Episode
Did you have pretty much free reign on the menus and how were
The guiding vision for the menus, as always, is the film.
The great thing about the Star Wars universe is that
it's so rich in design and concept, you already have an amazing
palette with which to work. The challenge is taking all that
and trying to create a functional and fun navigation system
that stays true and does justice to that universe. And I think
we achieved that.
knew that structurally, we had a winning formula from Episode
I and we wanted to keep that navigation intact and focus
on upping the creative side of the menus themselves, to get
the viewers into the spirit and mood of the different worlds
seen in the film. There's a lot more motion in the menus,
which meant a lot more custom animation, to reflect the dynamics
of the movie.
Where did the source material come from? Was Lucasfilm on
hand to provide additional images?
We had access to both the Lucasfilm image archives and to
the final digital shots from ILM, and in several instances
we were able to get separated elements for shots we wanted
to use. Unlike on Episode I, however, we weren't able
to use as many shots "as is" for menus this time around, simply
because the movie is a lot more dynamic.
menu needs to stay on screen with a stable image either indefinitely
or in a 20-second loop at minimum; a typical shot from the
film itself was 2-4 seconds long with whip pans and camera
moves and everything needed to advance the story. There were
great set pieces and memorable scenes, but few actual shots
that in themselves could be used as menus.
needs of the two media are different, so we had the challenge
of taking many of the cool shots and materials we got from
Lucasfilm and ILM and use them as reference, and recreate
the look and environment in a way that maintained their great
visuals, but that also served the DVD.
meant a lot more 3D work, since in a lot of cases it meant
taking this great signature shot from the film and saying
"I need to pan the camera 67 degrees to the right to compose
a good menu from it." Or "I need to slow this camera move
to a stop, but with the action of the scene action still going.
And off we'd go into building entire environments from scratch.
we were subscribing to the digital filmmaking concept of the
film, that you could play with a virtual environment to get
what you needed to get your point across.
How many people worked on creating the disc?
VL: Scores of people worked on this DVD to make it a great
disc, from Lucasfilm to THX to the authoring and compression
facilities. For the menus, though, I like to keep my team
small; it concentrates the creativity. There was basically
three of us: me, my video/audio editor Lauryl Duplechan, and
my lead digital artist Johnathan Banta. Later, to get the
menus out to tape for compression, we had Eli Jarra of Digital
Chaos and Pat Grandclaudon at Performance Post to help us
lay off the menu animations and audio.
Which part of the disc would you say you were most proud of?
There were a lot of menus that were really fun to create,
but the one that stands out is the Kamino Options menu, with
the fight between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett on the landing
platform. Using one wide establishing shot as a reference
- with no fighting in it - we basically had to create a "master
shot" of the entire fight, complete with lightsabers, blaster
fire, rocket packs, explosions, rain and a 3D animated Jango.
Plus, the menu had to loop after 20 seconds! This
was one of those "wouldn't it be cool if..." moments in coming
up with menu ideas, and we were just crazy enough to tackle
What was the largest obstacle in creating the disc?
For my end of things, I think the biggest challenge was the
limited amount of time available to create all of the menus
and graphics. While the documentaries and deleted scenes could
be taking shape even as the film was being completed, I couldn't
really get going on creating the actual menus until all the
shots were done and we knew what we had to work with in terms
of elements. I was able to design everything out, but I couldn't
build or animate or rotoscope things without the final shots
finishing the film itself for its May release was ILM's and
Lucasfilm's most important task, so until that process was
done, I couldn't get shots and elements for creating DVD menus.
This is as it should be, of course; the movie should always
take priority. But couple this with the fact that my menu
designs for Episode II required twice the amount of
work as Episode I, and the fact that we needed to do
menus for a dozen different languages for a simultaneous worldwide
release, it adds up to a lot of long hours.
was really supportive. They believed in what I was trying
to achieve for their DVD and they tried to help clear the
way and give me as much time as possible. All in all, we probably
generated over 200 000 frames of menu animation, including
domestic and international versions.
Are there any Easter Eggs on the disc?
I think people should find out for themselves, don't you?
Thank you for your time.
Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones is out to buy now
from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
(£24.99 DVD & £16.99 Video)