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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 13:37 GMT
Big three back digital film school
Zemeckis (left) directs Hanks in Cast Away
Zemeckis (left) directs Tom Hanks in Cast Away
Three of the most successful directors in the world will open a digital film centre in Los Angeles on Thursday to help foster the next generation of movie makers.

Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas will officially open the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts at the University of Southern California.

The whole notion that what was photographed in the camera is the final image is gone forever

Robert Zemeckis

The project is the brainchild of Zemeckis who contributed $5m to the centre, which is based at his old alma mater, and opposite the Shrine Auditorium, where the Oscars are held.

Zemeckis has long been associated with advanced film techniques in films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back to the Future and Forrest Gump.

Digital film making requires no film and allows film makers to edit and manipulate footage almost at source.


The technology is still in its infancy, in terms of its widespread use.

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, likens the advent of digital film making to the shift between silent and "talkie movies".

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg is a financial supporter of the centre

"What we are going through, with this shift to digital, is on the same level and just as significant as the change from silent to sound films, or the shift from black-and-white to colour," Lucas said.

He added: "Each one of these changes, whether it's from silent to sound or from film to digital, has really changed the vocabulary that the filmmaker has to work with.


"What happens with digital is that it makes the medium much more malleable. You can do things that you just could not do before."

The centre will provide digital facilities for students studying filmmaking at the university.

Zemeckis said: "With digital technology there is so much that you can do with the image after you shoot it.

George Lucas
George Lucas likens digital filming to the leap from silent to sound movies
"The whole notion that what was photographed in the camera is the final image is gone forever."

He added: "Film as we have traditionally thought of is going to be different. But the continuum is man's desire to tell stories around the campfire. The only thing that keeps changing is the campfire."

The centre has the financial backing of Hollywood's major film studios, including Warner, Fox, Universal and Sony, as well as filmmakers such as Ron Howard, who has paid for a digital 50-seat screening room.

Spielberg and Lucas, who will help open the centre at a gala dinner on Thursday, have paid for two digital stages, adjoining the centre.

They have been named after filmmakers Stanley Kubrick and Akira Kurosawa, who had large influences on the work of the two American directors.

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See also:

12 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Director's Cast Away challenge
08 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Hanks holds box office lead
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