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Mando and Grogu did a lot of planet- and ship-hopping in The Mandalorian, thanks in large part to special effects powerhouse Industrial Light and Magic developing StageCraft, a virtual production platform that seamlessly blends live action with virtual backgrounds. By rendering high-res digital backgrounds on a massive, curving panoramic LED backdrop, this new technology from ILM made it appear as though the performers were on otherworldly exterior locations even though they weren’t filming on exterior locations. Thanks to this technology, the crew didn’t even have to build sets.
Now, in a new seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette (not to be confused with their BTS featurette released last month), ILM shows how it revamped and reengineered this technology to expand its capabilities for the second season of The Mandalorian.
“For Season 2, there was a number of areas we wanted to improve,” Richard Bluff, The Mandalorian’s visual effects supervisor, says in the video. And among these things the team improved? Being able to see what the final shot will look like with effects and all ... even while currently filming. Whoa.
Check out the video below.
Dubbed “StageCraft 2.0” by ILM’s chief creative officer Rob Bredow, the upgraded platform can now offer, among other things, effects-rendering in real time, which, according to Season 2 directors Deborah Chow, Peyton Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Rodriguez, and series creator Jon Favreau, certainly makes their jobs easier.
Helios, ILM’s first cinematic render engine designed for real-time visual effects, enables the cast and directors to see what the final shot looks like while filming (even though there’s technically no physical set to speak of). Both Reed and Rodriguez point out that this is a huge boon for the actors and directors, with Rodriguez describing it as “painting with the lights on, finally.”
“It also has forced us into having a more efficient workflow that draws pre-production, post-production, and production into one continuous pipeline,” says Favreau.
The first two seasons of The Mandalorian are available to stream on Disney+. Though there's still no official start date from Lucasfilm for Season 3 (or when it will even begin production), the debut season of its spinoff series, The Book of Boba Fett, like Han, will shoot first.