Everyone lost their collective minds with the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian last year, the show that launched a billion Baby Yoda memes onto the internet. Though many in the UK are waiting for the more legal means of watching the TV show on with the launch of Disney+ in March, we can now get a peak behind the curtains at how the show wrapped Unreal Engine 4 into its production.
It’s really fascinating stuff with a huge impact on how the series is shot. Instead of using green screens or shooting on location, over 50% of the first season was shot on sound stages with a huge 20′ high and 270º semicircular LED video wall. It gave a 75′ diameter performance area, big enough for more practical set pieces to be inserted into the scene and many actors to interact together.
The LED screens allowed for the 3D environments created by ILM to be beamed into the background in real time, casting realistic lighting across the actors to place them in the scenes, and adjusting to the 3D positioning of the camera in real time to give the correct perspective. That’s important because the screens are flat, after all, and so parallax effects need to be applied.. There was also the capability of making quick edits to those background between takes, instead of the informed guesswork that other methods rely on.
It’s a real showcase of just how powerful and capable video game engines have no become, that directors and VFX houses like ILM are able to turn to game engines to render realistic environments. Not only that, but with the power of modern PCs, it’s running in real time. It might not necessarily supplant more traditional methods of filmography, but it’s a powerful tool that can be leant on in a lot of situations. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the technology can evolve further over the coming years.