For its first live action series in the Star Wars universe, Disney saw things big visually. The breathtaking scenery of The Mandalorian is possible thanks to the work of its creator Jon Favreau, Industrial Light & Magic and Epic Games. Instead of using green funds, usually used on blockbuster shootings for special effects, the teams of the Disney + series used a unique and revolutionary technique: giant ring-shaped LED screens which allow project and calculate the decorations in real time.
It is not the first time that a large production has used this technique like Gravity, Interstellar, First Man or Oblivion, but it was a small-scale use. The first Star Wars production to use LED panels was Rogue One, which was worked on by Margaux Durand Rival, preview supervisor at Associated Androids. The artist explains to us that this is one of the first films to use this process on a large scale, especially for cockpit planes of vessels: “We used elements that we had created in anticipation for the projection, elements created in 360 ° to surround the whole cockpit and which projected the decorations of each scene and the good lighting”.
On the set of Rogue One, the use was more rudimentary according to her: “We were using a video projected on the LED screens which was already calculated. On Rogue One, once we had calculated the 360 ° videos to be projected, we could no longer change them in real time on the day of shooting and the interactivity was limited to adjustments of brightness or color and some interactive effects such as spacecraft lasers. This technique was used again on Solo but the most complex and sophisticated system is that used on The Mandalorian “.
A revolution for special effects
So how is this technique revolutionary? For Margaux Durand-Rival, it is beneficial for the artists planned. The latter are artists who work in the pre-production phase but also during filming to assist the director and the supervisor of special effects. Their mission, often equated with an extension of the storyboard, consists in “work on the staging before shooting full and raw sequences of the upcoming film in 3D to allow the film crew to view them before they actually exist. It is a more advanced tool allowing to see fairly faithfully the frames and camera movements and thus to make artistic and technical decisions very early in production “.
The ILM company shared a making-of video of the filming of The Mandalorian:
The use of LED panels is very beneficial for the work of preview supervisors in terms of time savings and teamwork according to Margaux Durand-Rival: “According to the interviews of the artists that I read on the subject, it is that The Third Floor (international preview company which previewed all the episodes) took into account the technical constraints upstream and prepared this shooting by working in real time with the visual effects teams and the artistic department team “. What ensure a faster shooting with sets and special effects modifiable in real time.
This teamwork upstream with the use of LED panels promotes the smooth running of the following special effects: “the quality of lighting on the characters is much better than with a green background and many shots are almost final after filming”. This technique is becoming more and more popular since film studios are starting to equip themselves with LED panels and tools in real time are more and more accessible. According to Margaux Durand-Rival: “It becomes a benchmark for realistic lighting, especially if the character has reflective objects on him such as pilot helmets, reflective windows on the cockpit or the armor of the Mandalorian”.
The giant LED panels also allow the inlay of images and Jon Favreau took the opportunity to slide cut sequences from the original trilogy of the Star Wars saga, including certain creatures to avoid the use of too expensive animatronics. As revealed ICG Magazine, the director and his teams had access to certain scenes: “There have been a huge number of sequences of technical elements from the previous Star Wars, so we have made the most of the resource library”. A way to please fans of the early saga while using new advanced technologies to offer a breathtaking spectacle.
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