Much like George Lucas' original trilogy, Star Wars and ILM are continuing to push the boundaries of visual effects and change the way movies and television are made.
For Season 1 of The Mandalorian on Disney+, ILM and showrunner Jon Favreau introduced StageCraft volume sets. Specifically, these are massive, wraparound LED screens that act as a canvas where lighting, props, sets, and even digital and practical effects are layered and adjusted in real-time.
Following the conclusion of Season 2, fans are learning more about how ILM utilized new enhancements to the StageCraft for pivotal scenes of the series' sophomore season.
INTRODUCING STAGECRAFT 2.0
ILM released a new behind-the-scenes featurette offering a deep dive into the virtual production of The Mandalorian's second season and how StageCraft streamlined the entire production process.
In the featurette, ILM showcased several scenes from the episode titled "The Jedi" where Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka Tano first appeared in live-action, as well as Bill Burr's return to series as Migs Mayfeld in "The Believer."
For "The Believer," Jon Favreau explained that StageCraft volume screens had "live-action in the foreground," a "miniature shoot that was texture-mapped onto the geometry of a digital environment, "and "in the deep background are stop-motion figures."
While that may sound complicated, it actually makes the production process much simpler while only improving the quality of the finished scene.
But again, it's also changing the way directors go about filming that scene.
For instance, Robert Rodriguez, who directed Season 2's "The Tragedy" may have said it best when he explained that "you're not physically moving the camera, you're actually just moving the background."
REWRITING THE RULES OF FILMMAKING
When it comes to The Mandalorian, most of the attention centers on the Baby Yoda phenomenon along with Favreau and Filoni's ability to tell a new Star Wars story featuring both familiar figures (like Rosario Dawson's Ahskoa) and original characters (like Bill Burr's Mayfeld) alike, while avoiding the pitfalls of the Prequel Trilogy and now Disney's Sequel Trilogy.
But perhaps not enough attention is being given to this new tech and how revolutionary it will prove to be to the industry.
Green screens, post-production, and separate visual departments may soon be as archaic as the effect techniques originally used by Lucas for the original Star Wars Trilogy. And the same may be said for on-set shoots, especially in the wake of COVID-19.
While a number of films and series have had to pause or delay production due to COVID-19 restrictions and precautions, StageCraft eliminated the need for cast and crew to travel considering the same images can be created on a StageCraft volume set but with greater control than being on a physical location.
While The Mandalorian's status is currently that of pop culture phenom, the series' legacy may very well lie in its technological achievements and for rewriting the rules of filmmaking.