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New video shows why The Mandalorian was a virtual masterpiece

The Virtual Production of The Mandalorian, Season One

The first season of The Mandalorian was a massive hit for Disney, but just how much of a technical achievement it was might get overlooked amid all of the Baby Yoda fervor.

Fortunately, visual effects studio Industrial Light & Magic released a making-of video that does a nice job of illustrating the series’ unique approach to creating the alien worlds, starship interiors, and other environments that gave The Mandalorian a home in the Star Wars universe.

As explained — and shown — in the video, much of the filming for The Mandalorian involved the use of massive LED screens that blended practical set elements with digital extensions — collectively dubbed “the volume” — to create the environments around the actors. This eliminated the need for location shoots in many cases while allowing the actors to see and react to details in the environment around them.

ILM collaborated with game developer Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) and other studios on the technology used to not only produce the 3D images on the screens but to make it possible to edit and manipulate the images as necessary while filming.

“We’ve been experimenting with these technologies on my past projects and were finally able to bring a group together with different perspectives to synergize film and gaming advances and test the limits of real-time, in-camera rendering,” Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau said in a statement.

The first season of The Mandalorian premiered in November 2019 on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+. The Mandalorian is the first live-action series in the Star Wars franchise, and is set five years after the events of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi and 25 years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The series casts Pedro Pascal as a lone bounty hunter on the outer rim of the galaxy who finds himself on the run after a mission takes an unexpected turn. The first season of the series earned overwhelmingly positive reviews and was one of the most popular streaming series of the year, generating widespread acclaim and more than a few viral moments online.

A second season of The Mandalorian is expected to premiere on Disney+ in October 2020.

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