Disney+’s “Mandalorian” Season 3 mixes volume with other techniques

Series creators Favreau and Dave Filoni discussed the creation of Mandalore and the more strategic use of ILM’s StageCraft volume.

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Season 3 of Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” marks a turning point in more ways than one: the reunited Din Djarin/Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Grugu (Baby Yoda) may take on greater responsibility for protecting the scattered and divided Mandalorians. According to series creator Jon Favreau, these higher stakes required greater visual scale and pushed the production further to the limits of ILM’s innovative virtual production tool, StageCraft Volume.

Favreau, of all people in Hollywood, was responsible for the earlier-than-expected adoption of on-location virtual production when he made the bold decision to use StageCraft or The Volume as the primary mode of production for Season 1. While Volume has dramatically improved and expanded its abilities since Season 1, Favreau acknowledged that it needs to be more strategic about when and how it’s used.

“Volume is a very specific tool that is very useful in certain situations,” Favreau told IndieWire. “There can be a lot of interactive lights on set, so the photorealism and the environments we can create are getting better and better.”

Compared to a traditional green or blue screen, the most important advantage here is that the large, curved LED walls serve not only as a background, but also as a light source. As the virtual environment changes (such as hyperspeed or characters moving around a location or set), so does the lighting of the real-world subjects on the stage in front of The Volume. Additionally, the StageCraft setup allows the camera to dynamically move across The Volume in the correct parallax. In contrast, one of the current limitations of The Volume is that it can only simulate “soft” or even light sources and environments. That’s one reason why the bleak, silvery winter exterior and darker interior of “The Mandalorian” Seasons 1 and 2 were an ideal match for the pioneer of new technology. Still, as Season 3 moved the story into non-volume-friendly lighting environments, Favreau and his team had to shoot more traditional location and set-based shots.

Mandalorians in a scene from the third season of Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN, exclusively on Disney+.  ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.  All rights reserved.

“The Mandalorian”

Lucasfilm Kft.

“It becomes difficult because sunlight has such a particular aesthetic,” Favreau said. “Hard daylight is best done on a hard day, but there are certain time slots, like magic hour, indirect sunlight, or cloudy, where we can do a lot of similar things.”

When Din’s home planet Mandalore had to deal with the devastated area, it was impractical to rely solely on The Volume. Instead, the team leaned heavily on set construction. First depicted in the animated series The Clone Wars, the desert planet with bio-domed cities was reimagined by the art department, led by production designers Doug Chiang (also executive creative director of Lucasfilm) and Andrew Jones, who built the physical sets. .

“We have a Mandalore we’re going to, and it doesn’t fit on the stage of The Volume, so we let the story dictate what we do,” said Favreau, who pointed out that The Volume has been used in other projects. increasingly used as an incentive. developing new techniques for it while combining its use with set design, green screen and location shooting. “That means knowing what environment to do photogrammetry in, how to build the set so that the boundaries disappear, and mix it up from shot to shot so we’re not always using the same technique. And then the geniuses at ILM and the other vendors we work with figure out how to capture all of that within the time frame and budget that we have.”

(L-R): Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu in Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN Season Three, exclusively on Disney+.  ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.  All rights reserved.

“The Mandalorian”

Lucasfilm Kft.

Lucasfilm executive producer Dave Filoni, who served as supervising director on “The Clone Wars,” added that it was exciting to explore more of Mandalore in Season 3. “It was a fusion of the old and the new in live action.” he told IndieWire. But we never actually went into the domes (in The Clone Wars). We couldn’t build that much on this show. So we had a lot of time to say, “Well, what does this look like now?”

Still, when it came to Mandalore, The Volume had plenty of use. In Part 2, the disgraced Din returns to his home planet to seek redemption by taking a ritual bath in the “living waters” beneath the city’s old mines. The 42-minute episode was directed by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison, who is making her feature directorial debut this year with the boxing biopic “Flint Strong.” I really liked that the episode was visual, there was less dialogue and I enjoyed the volume. It’s a lot better than blue screen or green screen,” he told IndieWire.

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