Season two of The Mandalorian is only 32 days away and as we are already learning, the advances made by StageCraft are set to blow people’s minds as technology advances to the point that even seasoned eyes like those of senior vice president and chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic Rob Bredow can’t tell the difference between a real wall and a ‘fake’ one. That advancement also means the requirements of taking numerous crew and equipment around the world to shoot on location is reduced, as is the carbon footprint the show generates, something discussed during the final episode of Variety‘s Sustainability in Hollywood event with Bredow and Janet Lewin, co-producer of The Mandalorian and senior vice president and general manager at ILM.

Lewin said the key to creating a live-action film through virtual production is “moving post-production to pre-production,” which means creating and editing the backdrops prior to the shooting.

“You can bring these locations — these amazing desert locations, these amazing buildings that you would probably never be able to take a crew of 100 or 200 people to, because they just might not be suitable for that big of a team,” Bredow explained. “But you can bring these amazing locations into our Stage Craft (virtual production platform) set and reproduce them, make changes to them, make them appropriate for “Star Wars” and put them up on the wall, so the director of photography can directly photograph it.”

Lewin added the advance of production technology has changed the creative team’s workflow. Rather than relocating the cast and crew from one location to another, “The Mandalorian” team shot half of the series on one Stagecraft that provided more than 60 backdrops. Some scenes were shot in a small backlot, Lewin said, especially when the team working in a virtual environment wanted a bit of sunlight to brighten up their day.

“Today in our current lockdown situation, people can be in different places, and we can network everyone together so they can be virtually in the same space and doing a virtual scout in a location that either never existed or they’ve never been before,” Bredow said. “We can still extend a crew of one or two people out to go acquire a new place and then bring it to the filmmakers so they can plan out the future series in this way, and we’re at a very good time for this kind of innovation to allow those kind of workflows and to allow the creative process to continue.”

By reducing set construction and relocation costs, the production was also able to cut down on carbon emissions by 30 tons, the equivalent of 39 acres of trees for a year, according to Bredow. With lighting, the team used LED-powered lights that use 70% less energy than the equivalent incandescent light. For physical components of the set, the production designers also used foam and luan, materials less harmful to the environment.

For the second season of the show, Bredow shared that “The Mandalorian” team no longer feels limited to following the pre-production plans with the LED walls. “We knew we could make it work, and we knew how much we could rely on the real-time computer graphics,” he said. “I’ve walked into the set knowing what I expected to see, knowing what the set was supposed to be, and I knew where it was supposed to be practical and where it was going to be digital. And sometimes the set fools me, like I walk in and I’m like, ‘wait a second, is that a real wall or a fake wall?’ And I can’t tell with my eyes, so that’s how detailed the work is. So you’ll see in Season 2 that the sets are a lot more ambitious.”

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Star Wars The High Republic: A Test of Courage
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