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Virtual Production & LED Video Wall in The Mandalorian

The Disney series created by Jon Favreau The Mandalorian has been a before and after in the film-making history and the audiovisual production.

It has been more than a year since the Star Wars series The Mandalorian premiered in Spain and it still continues to make people talk, not only to fans of the galactic world that George Lucas originally created, but to all of us who are dedicated to audiovisual production.

So, why is the Mandalorian giving so much to talk about in the audiovisual production industry?

Before the production of the series The Mandalorian, the most common way to recreate scenes that were not  feasible or very expensive to produce was to use the Chroma Key technique: an audiovisual technique that consists of shooting the scene on a green or blue background for later, in post-production, extract and replace that background with another with the special effects that the scene needs. Although the green background technique is cheaper, the post-production process is nevertheless expensive and time consuming. Also, if the lighting is not correct, the result of the post-production may not be so realistic.

Now, since the production of the Mandalorian, LED screens are replacing the traditional chroma by allowing the creation of virtual environments where actors can immerse in real time.

The Mandalorian series, produced by Dave Filoni, is the first that shoots more than half of its scenes on a virtual set consisting of three large LED screens and a real physical floor that is part of the scenery. This combination of LED technology and real scenery is also known as Stagecraft and has been the historic innovation in film production that we talk about today.

Now that we have the gritty surface of the Mandalorian scenery and LED screens, the question would be: How is it possible to project 3D environments that change in real time as the actors move?

Once the virtual set is ready for filming, it is necessary for the real camera to synchronise in position, rotation and other parameters with a virtual camera created through the Unreal Engine game engine, so that, if the camera rotates and changes the angle, the photorealistic 3D background seen on the LED screen moves exactly in the same visual field as the real camera.

So, for virtual productions to work, it is necessary a virtual set using stagecraft (LED screens and physical and real scenery) and Unreal Engine to render 3D environments in real time and that the background moves with the movement of the cameras.

This revolutionary combination allows motion-tracking cameras to execute traditional cinematographic techniques within the virtual set, achieving kinematic movements such as the parallax effect, where an object in the foreground moves at a different speed than the background, which gives greater depth and realism.

What are the advantages of virtual sets with LED screens?

  • Lighting: High-resolution LED screens also serve as “natural” lighting since they can realistically illuminate the entire scene by themselves, without the need for additional devices. In this way, they act as the main source of light that will affect the stage and actors in real time.
  • Camera movement: Once the real camera and virtual camera of Unreal Engine are synchronized, when the real camera moves, the scene does the same, which also allows you to change scenes in real time.
  • Real-time VFX changes: Using a virtual reality set, scene modifications can be made in real time: light, visible angle or even movement of three-dimensional objects. This provides almost infinite options.
  • Less post-production work. Stagecraft saves on post-production work that, previously, with the use of green backgrounds or the Chroma Key technique, was a slow and expensive process. The LED screens and Unreal Engine allow most of the special effects to be already included in the scene in real time.
  • Long-term cost reduction: While stagecraft is not a cheap technology, the construction of gigantic sets is no longer required on the other hand, nor is it necessary for the film crew to travel to shoot specific scenes. By reducing travel and accommodation expenses, in the long run, it may not mean especially a more expensive technology.

We do not know to what extent virtual sets with LED screens will end up replacing the green screens, what we do know is that high resolution LED screens offer infinite possibilities, not only in film productions but also in television and in the events industry.

At Creative Technology we have an unrivaled stock of both indoor and outdoor LED panels from renowned manufacturers such as ROE, ABSEN, UNILUMIN, AOTO GTEK or INFILED. The versatility and flexibility offered by our LED screens, added to the technical skill of our team, can be the solution that your project needs.