Star Wars is amongst the most popular movie series ever created. Millions of fans and tons of inspired products or ideas sold all over the world are concrete evidence of this. With the long anticipated The Force Awakens released just before the 2015 Xmas holidays, Star Wars is obviously a very popular topic these days. There is also another popular topic at the present, namely "innovation". I remember during one lunch time recently, there were two groups of people talking about two different topics. The bosses were talking about innovation while their staff just cared about Star Wars. Though these two trendy topics sound irrelevant to one another, there are strong links between them.
Star Wars is so successful because George Lucas and his team always thought more than just outside of the box. Does it sound familiar? But thinking outside of the box is certainly not sufficient to create innovation! In order to be able to think out of the box, one must know more about the box - including what's inside it and even what's outside it. That means one must understand very well what the the problem he/she would like to solve, the limit of current solutions (if any), and the available technology/techniques that may be suitable to solve the problem.
To George, the problem he needed to solve, of course besides an attractive screenplay and interesting plot, were the special effects (SFX). In 1970's, SFX had not yet played a very important role in movies. The technology back then was inadequate to create Star Wars in the way George had imagined for planets, alien creatures, spaceships and space battles. Nevertheless, he did not give up his dream and had to persevere on his very own to build his universe. He had set up the problem with all the necessary detail and requirements on the SFXs; the next step was looking for a solution. As a result, in 1975 the legendary Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was founded by George Lucas with one major technical mission: the SFXs for Star Wars. Within two years, the team of about 45 young people (with an average age of about 25 years) led by John Dykstra accomplished their mission incredibly. They utilized computer-controlled motion photography on extremely detailed miniatures to create the SFX for the spaceship movements. It should be noted that the team did not invent the motion controlled photography technique. They just enhanced it and used it to solve their problem. However, they did that so magnificently that the first Star Wars trilogy set a unique benchmark for visual effects of that time.
The SFXs in Star Wars is a very good example on how innovation can be inspired. It's important to think out of the box but that alone is not enough to create innovation. From my viewpoint, innovation is simply a fusion between defining and solving a problem; so enhancing available techniques is what made it for Star Wars. And you know what? It's impossible to create visual effects in movies without the combination of computers and the smart people that go behind all this technology. Enjoy your Star Wars: Episode 7, the start of a new trilogy.
[As written by one of our Consultants]