While the progression of what “The Mandalorian” is, in terms of bigger themes is obviously important, the underlying myth of what allowed it is be realized is part of what makes it work. While never actually spelled out for the most part, in Episode 4 of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian”, the use of what becomes known as The Volume is quite intricate and mind blowing but shows how forward thinking the show was in terms of capture. Interestingly enough, the tech advance as far as the main push here came from Jon Favreau, which is ironic having come from his independent background (although that was what George Lucas initially was). It was Favreau’s initial work on “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King” with photo-realism that set him on this path. The exploration of virtual sets that are mostly done in VR helmets made sense. But having the camera be able to change the background in real time on an actual set as it is being shot is something else entirely…because that means instant rendering in an unbelievable dexterity of HD.
In The Volume with the lighting and the LED projectors there is a sense of what this can actually mean for film making but also one in thinking of how much did the technology actually cost. Favreau speaks to its inception as not proprietary but using game engine technology, specifically Unreal. While this is true, creating this sound stage itself (who knows where it actually is) is interesting for what can come next. It brings to the forefront that all the episodes were shot inside this actual space. No exteriors at at all. That aspect with showing almost natural lighting opens the world up in terms of film making and creating creating new visions. The only thing not clear is how much of the backdrop needs to be shot as a set plate or does the computer build them. Obviously a lot of pre-production needs to be worked on in terms of set extension in practical view and to match the floor. In a sense it becomes a large form of theater.
But that said, it makes these types of science fiction shows much more doable in an increasingly controlled environment but with no post budget almost per se since everything is done in camera. This texture is undeniable in many ways of course. But does it make the films better. Ultimately that is people. Even Carl Weaters talks about the fact that if you can respond to something directly in front of you and not green screen, it makes the scenes and acting more organic. While the episode reflects back that Lucas wanted to do something similar and tried as much as he could in the prequels, it has come to fruition. You see a little bit of Lucas’ reaction but not as much as you would have hoped.. But again, with such advances, it will be interesting to see how it changes the industry, especially with what is happening now in the world. Strife despite its hardship sometimes brings along great innovation
By Tim Wassberg