Game-changing ‘STAGECRAFT’ Technology by ILM

Ever wondered how the realistic backgrounds and scenes are accomplished using technology in movies and TV shows? Now, it’s time to discover the secret that led to the unprecedented success of many big banner movies and TV shows. Let us explore how technology is used to the fullest in making an imagination of mind into an on-screen reality. Here we go.

Now before we proceed further, I would like to tell you that there are a couple of ways in which you can make something non-existing look realistic on-screen. The most famous or I can say most frequently used technique is by adding CGI(Computer Generated Imagery) by using Chroma-key technique. Another method which is still used in movies like Star Wars is by making miniatures of sets and props and combining them with live action performances of actors using VFX (Visual Effects). I will write a separate blog post about VFX so don’t worry about that. You can check that later.

This new technique is developed by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) the studio which gave us the fantastic world of Star Wars. ILM was founded by George Lucas in May 1975. It is a motion picture visual effects company, a division of film production company Lucasfilm also founded by George Lucas. This company changed the whole world of film industry by making movies which were literally not possible at that time (1970’s) by pushing the limits of technology in every way possible. It gave us masterpieces like Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Studio like PIXAR is also a consequence of this company which later emerged as full-fledged animation studio.

What is Stagecraft Technology?

The notion of creating big and humongous sets for movies seems on a verge of extinction. The level of realism achieved by making these sets is great but what if I say that there is an alternative to it. What if you get a natural scenic beauty in front of you without spending a lot of time travelling and searching for a particular fabulous location to film something? What if I tell you that to achieve all this, you just need a couple of synchronized LED screens and some props and actors (of course) ?

Looks weird huh, but all this is possible thanks to some advanced tech developed by artists and technicians at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).

Ok, so let us understand what’s all this.

ILM worked with Epic Games, (the studio behind Fortnite) by using Epic Games’s Unreal Engine to develop this tech in association with Jon Favreau’s Golem Creations and several other technology partners. They used this tech while shooting Disney+ series The Mandalorian. Actors performed not in front of green screens but in front of a 20 feet high, 270 degree semicircular LED (Light Emitting Diode) screen and ceiling with a 75 feet diameter space for performance. Practical props and small sets were combined with the virtual backgrounds on the LED screen by using ‘cutting edge’ synchronization and programming of Unreal Engine.

Source :- ILM

LED screen is used as a background for filming a scene but the images displayed on the LED screen aren’t always static images. Here as the camera moves, the background image also moves in real-time accompanying the motion of the camera in order to remove any perspective error. Not only that, the digital environments created by the LED screens can be edited in real-time allowing filmmakers to create and render different 3D imagery in real-time.

Source :- TechCrunch

The ceiling is also customized in such a way that it can provide the optimum lightning condition for actors in accordance with the background image displayed on the LED screen. It’s like standing in a real 3D environment as we would experience in VR tech. ILM states that, “pixel-accurate tracking and perspective correct 3D imagery is rendered at a high resolution via systems powered by NVIDIA GPUs.” It gives you a complete perfectly lit 3D environment.

Source :- TechCrunch

Why it is better than VFX and makes everything so realistic?

When shooting in a studio having negligible sets with actors performing in mocap suits (for motion tracking) having no background except a green screen behind the actors (which can be replaced with the visual effects in the post production), there are a couple of limitations and high precaution has to be taken. For example, see the images and the limitations below:-

BTS from AVENGERS: ENDGAME (not Stagecraft tech)
  • The green screen should be of high quality and should be kept at a particular distance from the actors in order to avoid green spills(reflection of green color) on actors.
  • The lightning should be perfectly balanced and the space in which the actors are performing should be perfectly lit in accordance with the lightning of the scene.
  • The actors have to literally imagine the scene as they are not working in a real 3D environment of a particular scene.
BTS from AVENGERS: ENDGAME (not Stagecraft Tech)

All these limitations of VFX can be removed by using Stagecraft Technology. But how does it make things so realistic? The answer lies in the camera. By using VFX you can only capture the performance of actors hitting the camera sensor (in-camera shot) but you cannot capture the background of scene. Instead you have to add it digitally by VFX. And that’s where sometimes CGI (VFX) sucks. In Stagecraft tech you are capturing everything within the camera in real time, allowing filmmakers to capture more detailed and high resolution shots. The filmmakers have not to worry about the lightning also because the light coming from the LED screen is itself enough to provide sufficient and exact lightning on the actors and props. That’s what makes look everything so real as if it was shot at a real 3D location.

Here’s the comparision between behind the scenes footage (enlarged) and the final footage (bottom right).

This is just the Beginning!

This tech is used for the very first time for shooting Disney+ Star Wars series ‘The Mandalorian’. It was implemented as an experiment but it turned out very fruitful and amazing. That’s the reason why ‘The Mandalorian’ was successful in achieving stunning visual effects even in a low budget.

Source :- No Film School

This tech proves to be the ‘Game changer‘ in the film and TV industry. Watch the video below to get a greater insight of this tech. That’s all for now. See you soon in the next blog post, till then WASH YOUR HANDS.

Source:- ILM

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