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'Rogue One' throws out the Star Wars rule book

Get a closer look at the costumes of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" with the film's special effects whizz Neal Scanlan.

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"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" will deliver a new and different take on the Star Wars universe.

The first Star Wars spin-off hits theatres on 16 December. And Neal Scanlan, one of the special effects Jedi masters working on the movie, reckons British director Gareth Edwards has something new for fans. "What's amazing and exciting about 'Rogue One'," said Scanlan, "is that Gareth Edwards is a young, dynamic guy who's brave enough to throw out the rule book."

"It's very respectful," said Scanlan, "but he's stamped his own personality on it."

Scanlan is one of the minds behind the creatures and droids in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Rogue One". CNET spoke to him at London's Pinewood studios, where parts of "The Force Awakens" and "Rogue One" were shot -- and after speaking to us, Scanlan had to nip back to work on the new movie.

He was speaking at a launch event for Gillette's new Star Wars-branded Mach 3 razors. The accompanying advert was shot on the movie's set with extras and production design that appears in the film, giving us another look at droids, vehicles and costumes glimpsed in trailers.

Speaking of costumes, here's a closer look at some of the outfits worn by the film's rebel heroes and Imperial baddies.

Scanlan was one of the people who brought to life BB-8, the ball-shaped breakout star of "The Force Awakens". From the moment J.J. Abrams first sketched the round robot on a napkin, Scanlan knew the cute droid would be something special. And now the effects whiz predicts "Rogue One" droid K-2SO will have a similar effect on audiences.

He describes the new droid as "full of attitude" and very different from previous humanoid droid C-3PO.

The lanky K-2SO is played by "Firefly" actor Alan Tudyk, whose performance was motion-captured while he wore stilt-like prosthetic legs. The sophisticated prosthetics let Tudyk jump around even though he was standing a foot above the ground, making K-2SO "the first droid with athletic prowess".

The motion-captured Star Wars droids are an example of real and computer effects combined. Still, Scanlan who previously worked for Jim Henson's Creature Shop and did animatronics for movies including "Babe" and "Labyrinth", professes his fondness for practical effects over CGI.

"Something deep inside us knows when something is real," he said. "It may not be as mind-blowing [as CGI], but we accept it in our heart and soul."

A combination of practical and CGI effects gives the best of both worlds, Scanlan believes. "We're at the point where we can find a middle ground we haven't fully explored yet," he said. "It's a great place to be."