If you watched the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, you probably wondered how Disney and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) got it to look so darn good. Their powerful new filmmaking technique, StageCraft, is to thank, and ILM talks about it in greater detail in this cool new behind-the-scenes video.
Industrial Light and Magic teamed up with Epic Games and NVIDIA to build Stagecraft, which itself revolves around “the volume.” This is a physical set surrounded by enormous LED panels around the back and top of the set, which can display virtual sets. The software that powers and controls StageCraft allows the director, cinematographer, and other crew members to visualize and plan shots ahead of time, make on-the-fly adjustments to lighting and other specific elements, and film at a faster rate because you can swap out sets instantly.
This allows for a richer and more immersive filming experience as well. Both the actors and the director can see more of the set and other elements in real time (compared to working in front of a green screen or with motion-capture suits) and adjust each shot as they film. With the ability to adjust everything from lighting to different sets with just a few quick taps on an iPad, directors and actors also have more time (and mental energy) to focus on performance, too. The technology also allows for 30-50% more pages to be filmed each day as well.
ILM originally teamed up with Epic Games and NVIDIA to build Stagecraft, and they continued making improvements in preparation for season two of The Mandalorian. They increased the size of the LED stage and made other improvements to Helios, ILM’s in-house rendering engine, which then allowed for even more interactive adjustment options to the show’s production team.
“We now have the capability to grab hold of any tree in a forest, of which there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, and move them around independently to reset dress on the day based upon what we were seeing through the camera,” said Richard Bluff, visual effects supervisor for the show.
ILM says it is always working to improve Stagecraft and push its boundaries. The technology is sure to impact how other shows and movies are created in the future, and may inspire even more amazing technology down the line.