Lucasfilm’s Immersive Mandalorian Sets: A Blessing or A Curse?

We take a look at how much film has progressed, as Lucasfilm teams up with Industrial Lights and Magic and Epic Games to build virtual sets for The Mandalorian.
lucasfilm virtual sets

The Mandalorian‘s locations are so beautiful, it’s almost impossible to believe Lucasfilm crafted many of them virtually.

In the early years of cinema, production crews traveled together to many locations in order to film scenes for their movies. Producers spent most of their budgets on transportation to and from each location, so the solution to this was to build film sets.

This was way more convenient for the budget of the production, and the crew had way more control in this sort of environment. The creators could manipulate anything they wanted in a scene, but they had limitations. The scene would be confined to a single space and a single moment in time, until 1913 when Rear Projection came into practice. This technique was commonly used in transportation scenes.

For example, the 1961 film Breakfast At Tiffany’s had a few car scenes which were filmed with a car placed in front of a projection screen that displayed whatever background the scene needed displayed. Some fans were positioned to give the effect of the wind blowing in Audrey Hepburn’s hair, along with some stage lights and other set props to add to the movie magic effect. 


Lucasfilm Changes The Game For The Mandalorian

lucasfilm on the mandalorian set

Now it’s 2020 and Lucasfilm has teamed up with Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) and Epic Games to build virtual sets for The Mandalorian. This allows creators to get a firsthand look at what their productions will look like before they are released. Actors will no longer have to react to solely green screen structures, but to a LED video wall that surrounds the set. They will cease to feel like people playing dress up in a make believe world, but instead, actors immersed in a digital set that makes their confined space into the world they’re exploring. This will enhance every actors ability to give their best performance and it brings many other conveniences with it.

Throughout the years of VFX and cinema, filmmakers shot all the scenes that were needed with all the actors and crew together on set. The footage was later taken to a visual effects team to replace all the green screen structures with a digital world. Everyone, except for the editors, have had to wait to see what the world of the story they were telling looked like until it was premiered.

Now, the world they’re helping to create can be experienced the moment they walk on set. This will also save time and money for production when it comes to transportation and location scouting.  No more flying actors and crew members out to different parts of the world to try and film a scene in front of a sunset that will only last for a few minutes. They can spend hours perfecting that same scene with virtual sets. This can make scheduling everyone to meet up in more convenient times to film with ease. Camera angles can be more accurate and more experimentation with motion and tracking can be done. 

On the other hand, there are some concerns such as, the cost of all the added equipment that would be needed, besides the LED screens. More crew members who specialize in using that equipment will have to be hired. One thing I often hear actors talk about in their interviews is their experience in traveling to different parts of the world to shoot certain scenes and how they enjoyed being in each environment.

Yes, this will be one thing that actors will no longer experience while working on a production, but the money that is used to pay for transportation and hotel stays can be spent on the equipment and crew members needed to build these virtual sets. Besides, I would much rather experience a temporary fantasy world brought to life than flying out to a location that will be there until the end of my existence.

Film and TV productions have come a very long way, and it is amazing to see these creators add improvements to classic techniques that paved the way. Are you amazed by the way Lucasfilm has helped expand these changes, or do you want to see more traditional filming methods? Let us know in the comments below.