The Mandalorian came into our lives last year, facing a great amount of pressure to deliver quality content. The first live-action Star Wars television series could determine the future of those to follow. Fortunately for everyone, it did not disappoint.
One strength of the show is its beautiful cinematic quality. Its realistic scenery and effects put viewers right in the action. This was achieved through a groundbreaking new visual effects method, called StageCraft.
StarWars.com recently spoke with several of the creative team behind The Mandalorian, who went into great detail about this new technology.
“It takes an enormous amount of courage and vision to believe that we could pull this off,” said Richard Bluff, visual effects supervisor for The Mandalorian.
Not only did it take enormous courage, it took an enormous team. The Mandalorian team called on some help, including “ILM, Epic Games (maker of the Unreal Engine), and production technology partners Golem Creations, Fuse, Lux Machina, Profile Studios, NVIDIA, and ARRI,” according to StarWars.com.
StageCraft is a method that “immerses the cast and production crew inside their CG environments in real time with the help of a massive wraparound LED screen.”
This is an improvement from green screens, which “cause confusion for both actors and crew, limiting spontaneity and on-the-fly creativity,” Bluff explained. Not to mention Mando’s shiny armor would reflect the green colors, anyway.
“The theory I had was that the textures and the lighting from content had to be unmistakably real,” said Bluff, “If we can put photo-real imagery on the screen, we will believe that the character is in that environment in a certain lighting situation.”
Kim Libreri, chief technical officer of Epic Games, remembers the victorious moment when the team realized they were onto something.
“People were literally gob-smacked at how good it looked. It was just mind-blowing. Everybody sat on the stage going, ‘Oh my god, I think this is the future. I think we’ve all together, as a team, worked out what is going to be the template for making visual effects in-camera.’ The birth of a new way of working.”
Bluff called the technique a “game-changer” that allowed not only the cast, but the technical crew as well, to interact with a “set extension that typically isn’t created until weeks after the shoot wraps…Everybody was standing on a desert or in a forest or in some hangar somewhere.”
The method certainly worked in The Mandalorian, giving us shots that could otherwise only be achieved with on-location filming, which isn’t always possible. It’s an exciting new step in technology, not just for Star Wars, but for the entire entertainment industry.
Be sure to check out the interview in its entirety at StarWars.com!