Winning numerous awards for its presentation of its feature film, and the quality of its extras, the Episode I DVD set a precedent for what the Star Wars
DVD experience should be. The same team that developed that two-disc set returns to bring Star Wars
: Episode II Attack of the Clones
Unlike Episode I, the Episode II DVD arrives only six months after its theatrical release, hitting stores on November 12. The lessons learned in making The Phantom Menace DVD helped prepare the team for what was to come.
"A DVD takes about a year-and-a-half or so to produce," says Jim Ward, Lucasfilm's Vice President of Marketing and Executive Producer, who led the DVD project. "As early as 2000, when we were shooting principal photography in Sydney, we were already trying to figure out what the configuration of the DVD would be."
While Director George Lucas and Producer Rick McCallum were busily shooting Episode II, Lucasfilm's Marketing Department was developing the Episode I DVD, and also earmarking content and areas to explore for the Clones DVD. "The Episode I disc gave us a really good benchmark. We had a very good blueprint so that we could multi-task everything and get it done," says Ward.
"My contribution to the DVD is the movie itself," says George Lucas. "Because Episode II was shot with a digital camera and created digitally, you can almost say it was made for the DVD format."
Attack of the Clones will be the first major live action feature mastered direct from the digital source. Because the image stays within the digital medium from start to finish, the feature itself has unprecedented clarity. Lucas credits THX, under the leadership of Rick Dean, Head of Special Projects, for assuring the quality of the transfer.
"They did a phenomenal job making sure that there was no loss of definition to the digital images that were so full of motion and detail," says Lucas. "Their expertise in image and sound replication preserved the creative work that so many artists and sound designers had put into making this movie."
"We spent millions carefully developing and mixing the soundtrack and creating infinitely detailed visuals, and it breaks my heart that many theaters out there aren't equipped to show it the way we intended," laments Rick McCallum. "But with home theaters now fully digital and getting better and better every year, DVD is now a real safe haven for people who really love films and want to see it as the creators intended."
While the DVD format is known for its enormous storage capacity, it comes at a price that must be carefully balanced in the mastering process. The more material packed onto a single disc, the poorer the quality for all of it. As a result, Disc One optimizes the presentation of the feature by keeping such extras as deleted scenes and documentaries on Disc Two.
"It's always a challenge. We sit down and understand what the bit-rate budget is," explains Ward. "Our first and foremost priority is to make sure the bit rate budget for the film is the highest it can possibly be. Other people will take a lower bit rate on the film in order to cram some other content in there."
Like the Episode I disc, Episode II uses the fantastic environments of the Star Wars
galaxy to deliver the menu information and navigation options. Producer Van Ling worked with digital resources direct from Industrial Light & Magic
to create worlds to explore. Each time Disc One is inserted into a DVD player, one of three planetary themes is randomly selected for the menu interface. Viewers may find themselves inspecting the clone hatcheries of Kamino
, the towering skyscrapers of Coruscant
, or the treacherous conveyer belts of the Geonosian droid factory
to select their viewing options.
The movie is divided into 50 chapters, which makes homing into a favorite scene easy. Sound options on domestic discs include an English 5.1 Surround EX track, delivering audio experiences such as the reverberating twang of seismic charges, the wailing howl of Zam Wesell's speeder
, or the layered chaos of the Clone War in THX-certified clarity and balance. Spanish and French-dubbed Dolby 2.0 audio are available on separate tracks.
The second English audio setting is a commentary track assembled by Gary Leva, the same editor who put together Episode I's commentary. The Clones track features Lucas, McCallum, Editor Ben Burtt, Animation Director Rob Coleman, and Visual Effects Supervisors John Knoll, Ben Snow and Pablo Helman. "We take it for granted that these guys are inventing the process every step of the way," says Ward. "Everyone else follows their lead when they're finished, but these guys are the ones that are inventing it. I think it's wonderful to allow people to understand and learn more about the process through such commentaries."
Star Wars fans fortunate enough to have seen Episode II in a digital theater will be happy to know that the D-cinema version of the movie -- which differed from the standard film print version -- formed the basis of the DVD master. "The digital version of the film is on this DVD, but there are also some additional, minor changes. You're going to have to figure those out for yourself," says Ward.