It is no question that The Mandalorian is an enormous success. The inaugural live-action series under the Star Wars banner stirred up a plethora of discussions among fans and critics, ranging from theories up to rule-changing implications for the Golden Globes. No doubt, the success of The Mandalorian lived up to the hype, proving that it is a solid victory for both Disney and Lucasfilm.
Just like The Mandalorian's on-screen triumph, the same goes for the crew behind-the-scenes who have been showcased in Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian on Disney+. From a previous breakdown of virtual effects to uncovering unexpected surprises for the hit show, there has been no shortage of interesting tidbits unearthed.
And now, a new interview may shed some even more light on the show's groundbreaking technology behind-the-scenes...
In an interview with Collider, The Mandalorian cinematographer Greig Fraiser opened up on how the show's technology was very helpful in terms of treading new ground for the franchise. Fraser, who also worked on Rogue One, admitted that filming the 2016 film was far different from filming the live-action series:
“Nothing like this had been put together specifically. There were things like it on Rogue One, which effectively was the genesis of the concept with ILM. On Rogue One we built a kind of a volume. Around the spaceships we built a horseshoe and a lid and an uplight, and we effectively built the same concept in terms of lighting, but we didn’t have a real-time 3D gaming engine interaction. We didn’t have that because remember that was 2015, and even though that’s not long ago, it’s long enough ago that the LED panels were 9mm then and now they’re 2.4mm on The Mandalorian. So that tells you how much the technology has progressed in a couple of years.”
In addition, Fraser shared that using a virtual environment to film The Mandalorian was a "financially viable option" in order to suit the show's budget:
“Doing a Star Wars TV show could be prohibitively expensive because Star Wars requires a lot of prop building and a lot of character building, so we wanted to – with ILM’s help – be able to make it a financially viable option to solve all the problems that you have with shooting a blue screen environment.”
Fraser also revealed the game-changing effect of using a blue screen in major productions:
“If you go into a studio without a set effectively, you’ve got a blue screen. As a DP you have to light it of what you think it should look like. You don’t have any reference of what the background looks like. You might have some concepts, but effectively you’re lighting it as what you think it should look like. You’re framing it as what you think it should look like.”
Moreover, Fraser opened up about the "rewarding experience" of working behind-the-scenes for The Mandalorian:
“It was a very rewarding experience. There was a lot riding on ILM’s shoulders at that point, a lot riding on my shoulders, a lot riding on Jon’s shoulders, because there was a lot of money invested in the hardware. If this technology didn’t work, if we turn up on Day One, everybody’s done their job – costume’s done their job, everyone knows their lines – if we turn up on Day One and it does not work, there is no Plan B. All these problems that could occur we were trying to get ahead of and pre-empt. Thankfully the worst did not happen and we always had something to shoot.”
WHAT THIS MEANS
Fraser's remarks about the use of a blue screen on the set of The Mandalorian serve as good news not just for fans but to the rest of the entertainment industry. It's clear that filming technology has thrived over the years, as evidenced by Fraser's comments about the difference between filming Rogue One and The Mandalorian. In a way, the use of blue screen serves as one of the many innovations of the film industry that will be used by future productions moving forward.
It's true that a franchise like Star Wars requires a lot of universe building. Fraser's reveal about the blue screen serving as a budget-wise solution could inspire the next slate of live-action series under the Star Wars umbrella. This has been true for the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series since it has been revealed by lead star Ewan McGregor that the show will take a page from The Mandalorian's playbook in terms of filming technology. No doubt, the next wave of Star Wars series will follow suit from their predecessors.
In many ways, working for the Star Wars franchise is an enriching experience. As evidenced by Fraser's comments, the cinematographer's experience was in full display while also acknowledging the usual problems on set. Whatever the case, the success of The Mandalorian should be enough proof that all of it was worth it.
While it's true that the ongoing pandemic is a major hurdle for those who will get back to filming, it's worth pointing out that the behind-the-scenes crew has shown an ability to adapt with their resilient attitude, as evidenced for years.