SAN FRANCISCO -- After filming the first ''Star Wars" movie with special effects that were far from special, George Lucas spent millions to develop a complete digital editing system to populate his sequels with armies of X-wing fighters and Gungan warriors.
Then, he virtually gave it away.
''We were 10 years ahead of the commercial reality," said Bob Doris, who helped run Lucas's computer division in the '80s. ''He inspired some worthwhile ventures . . . but the innovations weren't close to paying for themselves."
So Lucas sold many of his technologies for cheap -- technologies that would later appear in home stereos, cellphones, medical imaging devices, and virtually every Hollywood studio, driving firms employing thousands.
One of the first things his team created was EditDroid, the first digital editing system. It allowed movies to be transferred to computer disks so editors won't have to fiddle with cumbersome film reels. Lucas sold that technology to Avid Technology Inc., which went on to sell the forerunner of modern movie-editing bays.
In fact, dozens of groundbreaking technologies were developed at Lucasfilm Ltd.'s San Rafael, Calif., headquarters, known as Skywalker Ranch.
Besides the Industrial Light & Magic division for special effects, Lucasfilm for movie production, Skywalker Sound for audio post-production, and LucasArts for video games, he inspired Sonic Solutions and Digital Domain.