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Krisana Polyotha

An inspired 1963 SFX technique that will be the forerunner of this decade

Summary of the video above:

  • The Mandalorian is the first major production to use LED screens as part of their special FX.
  • It helps the actor to enhance their performance with less imagination. Therefore, focus on emotion.
  • The Mr No (1963) projection screen didn’t have today’s technology. So the camera operator wouldn’t be able to move around the subject and make the background looks cohesive with the action.
  • This technology is a collaboration from the video games industry, which makes Camera View Frustum match the camera movement, which exterminated the fragmented aesthetic.
  • It’s better than a green screen because it gives the look of natural lighting. This gives a lot of benefits, significantly decreasing the time of editing (in post-production). Especially when they have to adjust the correct lighting by getting rid of the spill. The green light that will reflect from a reflective object, e.g., metal armour or shield.
  • In addition, it saves a lot of money with the production because you don’t have to create the set. Also, it saves a lot of money because you cut travelling cost out of the production.
  • This is a game-changer for DOP who wants to work in big-budget films that will include a lot of SFX.
  • Additionally, they can still use the green screen, but you just put it on the screen instead of physically putting them up. Therefore, saves a lot of time.

Don’t be surprised, Es Devlin stage sculpture has been using this technique in the music industry. She has been designing stages with A-List Musicians like Adele, Beyonce, The Weeknd, and U2. She even helped create the opening ceremony for Olympics in 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio). In addition, Devin Coldewey (Tech Crunch) says, “this particular volume, called Stagecraft by ILM, the company that put it together, is not static. The background is a set of enormous LED screens such as you might have seen on stage at conferences and concerts. The Stagecraft volume is bigger than any of those — but more importantly, it’s smarter”. He also added, “there are innumerable technological advances that have contributed to this: The Mandalorian could not have been made, as it was five years ago. The walls weren’t ready; the rendering tech wasn’t ready; the tracking wasn’t ready — nothing was ready. But it’s ready now.”

Disney might be the front runner when it comes to this production style. However, WarnerBro studio recently released Dune (2021), and they collab LED screens in part of their products. In addition, they also went for the brown screen instead of a green or blue screen to allow the post-production editing process to be less complicated. They will enable the cinematography process to be more straightforward to film because they don’t have to focus on using the correct lighting colour. They can now concentrate on elsewhere like the framing, composition etc.

On the other hand, it helps the actor with their acting. Therefore, it should decrease the time, especially when the director believes they can move on to the next scene. The negative about this is that it will be accessible for only big-budget films, but how long will it take for low-budget indie or a university to access this?

Positively, it’s good for the environment because we don’t have to produce a lot of CO2 into the air when travelling. However, this can affect the economy of other countries that has excellent filming location. Nevertheless, a city like Atlanta is building a thousand-acre Film and TV production zone with housing for the employees and potential A-list actors and directors who can rent them out. So it would be beneficial to only the city that has this technology. The negative about not creating the set is that this will make a future trend of how production stage designers won’t be able to create an authentic scene. Therefore, a company must adapt and try to get into the SFX industry or focus on stage design with theatre, which is a lower budget job.

Overall, there tends to be a lot of negative feedback from fans about the overuse of SFX in films, and it doesn’t make the movie feel real. Now filmmakers like Jon Favreau solve the problem by pushing this form of innovation to improve the aesthetic of cinematography and remove the creative roadblock.

Here is some more insight from Charmaine Chan who is the Lead Composition from Industrial Light & Magic (a LucasFilm company).

Coldewey also said, “I’ve been told that nearly every production house is building or experimenting with LED walls of various sizes and types — the benefits are that obvious. TV productions can save money but look just as good. Movies can be shot on more flexible schedules. Actors who hate working in front of green screens may find this more palatable. And you better believe commercials are going to find a way to use these as well.”

But who got access to this sort of production right now? According to Chris McGowan (2021) from VFXV:

Studio Lab – Derry, New Hampshire

NantStudios – El Segundo, California

TRICK 3D – Atlanta, Georgia

Pixomondo – Toronto, Canada

           Major Production: Star Trek: Discovery (Season 4) and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Season 1)

80six – Slough, UK

ILM (associates with Pinewood Studio) – 2 in Manhattan Beach, California and 1 in London, England

           Major Production: The Mandalorian, Rogue One and Solo in the past. They are now under contract to produce: The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantomania.

           In addition, they’re planning to continue with this expansion to Vancouver, Atlanta, Sydney and maybe more in London.

Vu Studio (Diamond View Studios subsidiary) – Tampa, Florida

Dark Bay – Potsdam-Babelsberg, Brandenburg, Germany

           Major Production: The Netflix series 1899

MELS Studios and Postproduction – Montreal, Canada

Weta Digital (in association with Streamliner Production and Avalon Studios) – Wellington, New Zealand

           Major Production: Avatar sequels and Black Adam

Framestore has a small set up in LA studio, but they’re also working with Dark Bay to set up Europe’s most enormous LED stage.

DNEG used this technology during the First Man (2018), and they have a close relationship with 80six in Slough.

Lux Machina doesn’t own a stage, but they work closely with UK Bild Studios. As a result, they have known how to use the VFX software Unreal Engine and Disguise that design to work with the volume. In addition, they will be deploying stages in LA, Atlanta, Seoul, and the UK.

Other VFX companies that have access to this technology, but no fixed locations are Final Pixel and Dimension Studio.

Oh! How did I forget about the Epic Games who willing to come to collaborate with Film and TV industry? Their stage is in London. Nonetheless, it uses for demos, education, research, and development purposes only.

Written by Krisana Polyotha

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