Wired Feature on John Knoll Hints at Details of Rogue One Space Battle.


Wired has a great feature out this week on John Knoll, Chief Creative Officer of Industrial Light & Magic and originator of the newest Star Wars Story. The piece tracks Knoll’s entire history from a precocious 15 year old willing his way to a guided tour of ILM all the way to the man who would pitch Kathleen Kennedy on an idea for a movie about the rebel spies who stole that plans to the deadliest battle station the Star Wars galaxy had ever seen.



It is a fascinating article that touches on John’s role in co-creating Photoshop, his early days at ILM helping to develop computer graphics as a tool of art, his part in creating some of the best effects of the Special Editions, and eventually spearheading the daunting task of completing the effects for the prequel trilogy, which at the time was an historic endeavor unseen to that point in Hollywood.


rogue one


The piece also touches on Rogue One including some references to a specific battle scene…




Knoll’s job also requires painful, almost microscopic scrutiny. At one point he reviews a Star Destroyer torn in half in battle—the reflections, the textures, the realism of the bent metal. The model maker is working from the book Incredible Cross-Sections of Star Wars: The Ultimate Guide to Star Wars Vehicles and Spacecraft to make sure that what an audience sees inside the ship matches what’s known about Star Destroyers. No one wants to be the subject of a subreddit dedicated to power converters and the jerks who put them in the wrong place.

Next up: a sequence of two Star Destroyers about to collide, part of the beat that ILM had to solve. The shot is impressive—the immensity of the cruisers overwhelming, the cinematography stunning. Knoll smiles.

“Final,” he says. The room cheers.




The piece also gives a detailed retelling of the story of how Knoll developed the idea for Rogue One and the process that led him to pitch it to Kennedy.

He couldn’t let it go. For weeks he buttonholed friends in ILM’s spaceship-and-monster-filled hallways with the words “Picture this …” In the company’s cafeteria at lunch, he’d refine the story, live. People loved it. “It would get a little more elaborate in each telling,” Knoll says. “We have this annual trivia night, where we raise money for charity. And I sat down at one of these tables with a bunch of friends of mine, and we had about a half hour before the thing was going to begin, and somebody said, ‘Hey, tell me your Star Wars idea.’ So I did like a half-hour version of it.”

The response? Pitch this to Kathy.


To read the entire piece head over to Wired.



+ posts

22 thoughts on “Wired Feature on John Knoll Hints at Details of Rogue One Space Battle.

  • November 30, 2016 at 12:07 am

    This piece in Wired was excellent, and has some great insights. Highly recommend reading through the root article. 🙂

    • December 2, 2016 at 4:45 am

      Yeah, it was a great article. Really well written 🙂

  • November 30, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Hell yes! Star destroyers colliding or torn in half are always welcome!

  • November 30, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Amazing article. Totally fascinating. The bit about the Star Destroyers was pretty cool, too!

  • November 30, 2016 at 12:57 am

    sounds like we’re getting another battle of endor. love it!

    • November 30, 2016 at 1:39 am

      yeah, ewoks ftw! (do people still say ftw?)

      • November 30, 2016 at 1:54 am

        I do, so that’s at least two people. 😉

    • December 2, 2016 at 4:43 am

      Are you suggesting the endor justifies the means?

      *Ducks and runs*

      • December 2, 2016 at 5:36 am

        *slow clap* 😉

  • November 30, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Star Destroyer getting ripped in half? Sign me UP!

    • November 30, 2016 at 6:06 am

      Star Destroyers colliding. I said it at the first trailer, this film is Star Destroyer porn. So, so ready.

  • November 30, 2016 at 2:25 am


  • November 30, 2016 at 5:26 am


  • November 30, 2016 at 6:53 am

    John Knoll is the man. This guy came up with Rogue One AND one of the key apps I use professionally on a nearly daily basis to keep food on my table.

    • November 30, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Same here 🙂

    • November 30, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Well his brother deserves a huge amount of the credit for PS, but, yeah, his fingerprints are all over too. The other thing he deserves huge kudos for is finding ways to make Lucas’ visual aspirations for the prequels, whatever you think of the films themselves, actually achievable on budget and on schedule by ILM at a time that no one had tried to tackle effects on that scale. He’ll be up there with Dykstra, Edlund, and Murren when the history of the industry is written.

  • November 30, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Funny – the servers behind him in the pics have 3.5″ floppy drives. Vintage stuff!

      • November 30, 2016 at 8:22 pm

        Doubt it – their aperature on the top-side was convex; they were also slap-happy about making sure iomega was plastered absolutely as prominently as possible in the front. Huge rarity to see them onboard x86 rackmount servers too…

        That notwithstanding: Strange to see an apex FX guru being pictured w/ such dated equipment…

        • November 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm

          Got it. Those are the LS-120 SuperDisk drives…but certainly not the 1.44mb floppy.

          • November 30, 2016 at 10:42 pm

            Ha! NICE! *mega nerd fist-bump*

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