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Film beats digital for Star Wars, again

Director Colin Trevorrow reveals he'll be opting for traditional film stock instead of using digital cameras for "Star Wars: Episode IX."

Director Colin Trevorrow is following J.J. Abrams' lead with a more traditional method of filming.
Lucasfilm/Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

With "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" making box office records left and right, it's clear director J.J. Abrams' decision to use more practical effects and be less dependent on CGI has paid off.

And all the subsequent films in the beloved space saga will have a tough act to follow.

So it's no surprise that "Star Wars: Episode IX" director Colin Trevorrow said he plans to pass on digital and shoot in film instead. That's despite the fact he's fresh off a big hit with "Jurassic World," which relied heavily on digital effects. "The Force Awakens," released in December, is the seventh film in the series. Rian Johnson is directing the next installment, set for release in late 2017.

"There's something in my brain that says, 'Well, they didn't have video cameras then,'" said Trevorrow, referring to period films, according to a Variety report. At the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, he spoke during a panel discussion about movie theaters converting to digital projectors due to more and more directors being pressured by studios to shoot in digital formats. Trevorrow came to prominence with lo-fi indie hit "Safety Not Guaranteed."

"Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan, who was also on the panel, agreed with Trevorrow in his praise for film over digital.

"There needs to be a choice," Nolan said. "As a medium it will continue to exist. It has to continue to exist. It's pointless to pretend it has to go away."

Ironically, the creator of "Star Wars," George Lucas, was a prime mover in the industry shifting to digital from more traditional film stock.

"The process itself is so much more malleable, so much easier to use, so much less restrictive, that it would give me a huge advantage in terms of the actual day-to-day process of making the movie and it would save me a lot of money," Lucas said in a 2009 interview with the American Film Institute.

The push to start persuading theaters to install digital projectors started with the first "Star Wars" prequel, "The Phantom Menace" in 1999, and accelerated with "Attack of the Clones" in 2002 and "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005.

Despite his illustrious predecessor believing in the benefits of digital film, Trevorrow still thinks his vision of approaching "Star Wars" with a more traditional method fits the saga's personality.

"It's a period film," Trevorrow joked during the panel. "It happened a long time ago."