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To craft season two of Jon Favreau’s Disney+ series The Mandalorian, Industrial Light & Magic debuted updates to its virtual production system as seen in this new behind the scenes video (below) with fresh footage and interviews with filmmakers including Favreau and Dave Filoni.
For the uninitiated, virtual production systems have become one of the most talked about new techniques in visual effects, effectively enabling filmmakers to create and then project an environment onto an LED wall, during production, allowing the filmmakers to capture more in camera and reduce the VFX work needed during postproduction.
“There are certain shots where you have live action in the foreground, you have a miniature shoot that was texture mapped onto the geometry of a digital environment on the wall and in the deep background are stop motion figures that are moving around,” says Favreau in the video. “So you have all the different layers of techniques that come together to hopefully feel like one combined environment, all in real time.”
ILM senior vp and chief creative officer Rob Bredow tells THR that the new version 2.0 of ILM’s “Stagecraft,” first used on season two, offered “the ability to create even higher resolution images on the walls at increased complexity” by upgraded software including ILM’s Helios render engine, while using a new, larger (roughly 90 feet long, 75 feet wide and 22 feet tall) and higher resolution LED wall on set.
Bredow relates that “one set that we never would have been able to attempt in Season 1, but worked really well in Season 2 was that burnt forest” on Corvus, where Grogu–aka Baby Yoda–meets Ahsoka, played by Rosario Dawson. “Since we had the larger environment, we could actually push the camera well into the volume and out. So you could have these long walk and talks. You had more virtual set and more real set to leverage, so you could do much more expansive scenes like that.”
Janet Lewin, senior vp and general manager at ILM, adds that the filmmakers could “interactively move the geometry,” meaning that, “for the forest, for example, we could dynamically move those trees to customize the environment per shot. … And we were able to put animated elements into the environment. So you may see creatures in the far distance in the environment.”
In the foreground, the art department “built a couple of beautiful burnt-out trees for the camera to be able to push around and move. And then we just blended those into the digital set,” Bredow explains.
ILM’s latest version of Stagecraft is currently in use on productions including Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder, which is filming in Sydney.
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