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George Lucas used the computer to guide his camera for the special effects in Star Wars, and it has been a staple of effects movies ever since. But a Disney film due for release in the United States in July and in Britain in December uses the computer in a way which could make obsolete much of what has always defined Hollywood: huge soundstages, big sets and armies of craftsmen. The film is Tron, directed by 30-year-old Steve Lisberger, and its story concerns a designer of computerised video games (Jeff Bridges). Somehow finding himself inside one of his own creations, he discovers a world populated by beings made of electricity and light. One of these is the warrior of the game ‘Tron whom he must fight to escape from the machine.

Many of the sets, costumes and even background characters did not exist on the soundstage or even as special effects miniatures. The images were created by a computer, using advances made in the last decade in digital technology by defence contractors. ‘We're using a combination of technologies for the first time. Never have backgrounds and ships and whole environments been computer simulated, said Richard Taylor, who is supervising the Tron effects with Harrison Ellenshaw.

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