Filmmakers discuss bringing virtual worlds to life for The Mandalorian (S2)

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A behind the scenes image from season 2 of The Mandalorian

Aug 27, 2021

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in virtual production with StageCraft. In a new video released by ILM on our YouTube channel, we shed light on the process and advances made for the second season of the series with interviews from a variety of the key filmmakers involved. “(StageCraft) gives us the opportunity to bring that production scale, size, scope; that kind of expansive storytelling that we have never been able to shoot before”, said Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Rob Bredow added, “It really is an end-to-end solution; everything from the early stages of previz and working with the art department, all the way through motion capture, and now, working with live pixels on set. What you see on that LED wall is actually what goes straight into the show.” This toolkit also enables filmmakers like Jon Favreau, and Dave Filoni, to realize their vision faster and more efficiently. “We could actually get in-camera, finished visual effects that would really help us with the quick turnaround that television requires,” said Favreau.

Now with StageCraft version 2.0, advancements have been made across the platform, including the addition of a suite of tools specific to filmmaking and ILM’s groundbreaking real-time cinema render engine, Helios. Filmmakers are now able to capture high-fidelity visual effects that are rendered in real-time, and indistinguishable from the physical environment. This provides a deeply immersive experience for both filmmakers and actors alike, enabling them to harness seamless interactive light on the physical environment, and thousands of in-camera visual effects finals.

“The DP’s, the directors, and the actors can now see the world they’re in, and interact with that world the way they would if they were out in a real location,” said Richard Bluff, Visual Effects Supervisor on The Mandalorian. Adding, that filmmakers can leverage traditional techniques such as “ Focus pulling, pushing a real camera, getting the interaction from the lighting from the LED’s onto the actors.”

This incredible immersion also extends to how these environments are scouted and blocked. Bryce Dallas Howard, Director of The Mandalorian explains, “Locations are created, because they’re digital assets, essentially, so the way that you scout is you do it in VR; basically blocking out your scene in this virtual world.” Taika Waititi, voice actor for IG-11, and Director of The Mandalorian adds with a laugh, “It’s just a fresh new way of looking at stuff, and the way that you can decide on the landscape as well. It’s a great throwback to a time when people would make decisions before post.”

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ILM StageCraft 2.0 and Helios combine to bring unprecedented fidelity, power, and flexibility to the filmmakers on the second season of Lucasfilm’s Emmy Award-winning hit Disney+ series.