Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution

So I just finished the book titled DroidMaker - George Lucas and the Digital Revolution and I thought I'd share my thoughts
Amazon link to book

The book is prefaced around George Lucas and his eventual efforts into digital to support his film habits :) The book starts with introducing George's early days, including his time in film school, and then his tutalage under Francis Ford Coppola. This section gives great insight into the 'anti-establishment' attitude Lucas is known for, as well as his insistence on owning his works.

One of the best aspects of the book is, as people are introduced, footnotes give you their film credits right on that page. A large part of the book is seeing and following just how critical people's paths cross and merge at various times to create some of iconic films and companies that we came to love.

Significant for Disney buffs is, the Pixar founders, and most centrally in the book, Ed Catmull, are deeply wound through this book. George picks Ed and Alvy to basically be the founders of the digital computing efforts in Lucasfilm.

The book is a fascinating look into Ed Catmull and the teams he helped organized as they moved from the challenges of simple computer images, to the aspirations of film quality CGI, and ultimately into the vision of a full CGI feature film.

This book is not really heavy on ILM.. (tho there is a lot of talk about it leading up to Star Wars. including some ILM history).. this book is mostly about Lucas and the computer division.. and how that division's people came together, their impacts, the challenges they tackled, and their progression as Lucasfilm expanded and then contracted.

Disney gets a few cross-overs in the book.. but this is more about the guys at Lucas, and ultimately Pixar. The lack of detail about the CAPS projection is one of the disappointments for me from the book. The other is, the book I think does a poor job benchmarking the computer division's progress against what else was out there at the time. We go from talking about how they struggled with technology to even see their images due to memory constraints, all while largely ignoring the shipping products of the time like video games. They do talk about Atari quite extensively in the book, but the timelines and 'progress' in the industry outside of the computer division isn't linked up quite well I think. This is particularly troublesome in the sections talking about digital audio.

Where the book excels is enlightenment into Lucas, and how/why he started these divisions and how they eventually morphed into what became Pixar. It also goes heavy into the film editing aspects, which was one of the driving motivations behind Lucas' investment into technology. The book also gives great insight into contrasting Lucas and Coppola's efforts in these spaces.

The book was a fascinating read and I feel like I gained a ton of knowledge from reading it. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in computer animation, CGI, Pixar, or just the technology revolution that computers brought to Hollywood.

4.5 out of 5

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