'The Batman' Using 'Mandalorian' Virtual Production Techniques

The Batman Publicity Still 1 - H 2020
Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.' The Batman, which is currently filming in the U.K., is using virtual production techniques for select scenes, Industrial Light & Magic chief creative officer Rob Bredow revealed Monday during a featured session from this year's virtual VIEW visual effects and animation confab.

Virtual production — a term generally used to describe techniques that enable real-time visual effects production — has been steadily growing in popularity, particularly with Jon Favreau's uses on The Lion King and The Mandalorian.

For season one of The Mandalorian, ILM worked with Favreau to configure his system using an LED wall driven by the Unreal real-time game engine. Earlier this year, the VFX company launched "StageCraft," a virtual production unit built around the Mandalorian technique.

Bredow declined to detail work on The Batman, only saying the production design team had pre-built practical sets in the U.K. and an LED wall was built around these sets to enable use of virtual production in those specific scenes. He added that this meant the ILM team could continue to collaborate with Batman DP Greig Fraser, who recently won an Emmy for The Mandalorian and also shot Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Batman, from director Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson, is dated for March 4, 2022.

ILM’s StageCraft LED set at Manhattan Beach Studios was again used for season two of The Mandalorian, which debuts Oct. 30 on Disney+. Bredow related that the use of the virtual production techniques was more complex for the upcoming season, as their process was relatively new when they started work on season one.

As previously reported, a StageCraft virtual production stage will also be available at Fox Studios Australia, where it will be used during production of Marvel's Taika Waititi-directed Thor: Love and Thunder. Waititi previously used virtual production when he helmed the final episode of The Mandalorian season one.

ILM additionally provides “pop up” virtual production configurations, as it recently did for Netflix's upcoming sci-fi movie The Midnight Sky, helmed by and starring George Clooney, "to create a location that would be very hard to get to," according to Bredow. Another StageCraft volume is being assembled at Pinewood Studios in London, which is expected to open in February.

During the session, Bredow suggested that the "Holy Grail is that our entire workflow can go real time, with less time waiting for computers to process." He added that companies including ILM and Epic Games (maker of the Unreal Engine) are making "big investments" in such development.

The virtual VIEW conference runs through Friday.

THR's Carolyn Giardina moderated the conversation with Bredow.