While Star Wars fans have been hungry for a TV series for some time, there is no doubt that one big obstacle to seeing that come about sooner lay in the budget. Unlike Star Trek or other sci-fi franchises, Star Wars isn’t one that’s ever had anything but the newest and greatest in VFX technology, and to lose part of that in a TV series would lose a key aspect of what makes the franchise great.
While The Mandalorian isn’t flawless when it comes to its VFX, I think it does a fairly solid job of feeling big and epic, even though it is at a smaller scale. So, what is this tech? It’s admittedly a bit hard to explain, but at a Women of Lucasfilm event, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy described it.
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“Jon Favreau and myself went into Disney and said, this is something that we would like to try and they said, what exactly is it? And we said we’re not exactly sure,” Kennedy said. “We have no idea what this is going to cost, and we hadn’t ever built anything with the technology, which we’re now calling ‘Stagecraft’ inside ILM, but it basically is a projection system on screens, and the real innovation is that when you move the camera inside this space, the parallax changes. So suddenly you’re in an environment that actually begins to behave in the same way it would in an actual 3D environment like this.”
So, what is this new technology they call Stagecraft? I’d be lying if I said I fully understood it, because I don’t. At first, I thought it was an evolution of The Lion King, where they were able to set virtual cameras in a virtual world, and while it kind of is…it’s also different than that. From what I was able to grasp, they have people go to locations and take special shots of environments (though they can also make full 3D environments).
From there, they also take 3D photos of props and such so they can create a full 3D environment, and that world can be manipulated in real-time as needed, adding rocks, props, or whatever they want to the environment. They then set up the equivalent of green screens on a set…but they project that environment so that the cameras see this real, lifelike environment behind them. It even shifts around naturally as the camera moves so that the perspective isn’t wonky.
Take a look at the tech in action in this video.
Apparently, the environments looked so good that they even tricked a Disney exec.
“It was really funny as we had an executive from The Walt Disney Company come down early in the process because it’s one of those things that is difficult to explain until you walk into the environment to see how it’s working,” Kennedy said. “And he stepped in, and he looked around, and he said, Jon, I thought you weren’t going to build anything. And he had no idea he was standing in a virtual set. That’s how unbelievable it is.”
So, what does this mean? It means that TV shows can actually have huge scope without having to take a crew of 400 people to a location to shoot. It also helps with setup time between shots and full locations, as Lucasfilm EVP and general manager Lynwen Brennan shared.
“And we’re able to have the perspective with cameras, but that means that you can change from Iceland to the desert in one [minute] from setup to setup so it really changes the flow of production. I think it also helps because actors are not in a sea of green. They’re actually seeing the environments that they’re in. And you add to that, after the puppetry and they’ve got characters to perform against in the environments that they are in and I think it does change.”
We all knew Jon Favreau loved to pioneer technology, but this really is a gamechanger. This will allow studios to create movies and TV shows of a greater scope for much less, and all of a sudden, those smaller budgets for the Disney+ Marvel shows don’t seem so crazy. Honestly, this is the first time in a while where I’ve felt that a movie or TV show had legitimately tricked me with its VFX. It’s a feeling I thought was left in the ‘90s along with practical effects, but I guess we’re always learning
What do you think of this new tech? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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SOURCE: /Film, Unreal