For production on Lucasfilm's first live-action Star Wars TV series, their visual effects arm Industrial Light and Magic deployed something they'd been working on which became a game changed, StageCraft. Though The Mandalorian sees its titular character fly through space and visit a variety of planets with unique visual landscapes, almost none of the series was actually shot on location. Most of the series was shot using this virtual production service, which projects ultra-high resolution images onto screens that surround the set and give the impression of being on location while actually being on a stage. For that reason, could StageCraft be the thing that helps Hollywood get back to work in the face of the coronavirus shut downs?
In a new interview, the head of ILM Rob Bredow says just that, confirming they're preparing to let productions that aren't The Mandalorian use the technology and that it could be a big step forward in making sure movies and television get back to filming in the near future.
"We're very excited to actually have a [virtual production services] offering [dubbed StageCraft] that we're not only using on The Mandalorian but now making available for other shows in the industry," Bredow told The Hollywood Reporter. "We think tools like StageCraft will be an important part of us being able to get back to work sooner."
How exactly can that be done? Bredow broke it down succinctly, revealing that they're already working with some productions to develop the digital sets for them so they can begin shooting immediately after they're given the okay from local governments to start.
"We can digitally build a big percentage of sets and can be doing that while we're in this work-from-home situation [so that] the first day we can safely return to shooting, we'll be able to pick up as quickly as possible. We're continuing to collaborate with art departments for upcoming shows and with production designers and directors of photography to build their digital environments. The first couple of weeks, we were making sure everybody was 100 percent productive. Now we're in this phase of, 'What does it look like to get back up and running and shooting these films, and how few people can we have on set to keep everyone safe?'"
It's unclear when feature film and television productions can actually begin again in the United States, but just yesterday it was announced that the country of New Zealand is preparing to begin work on shoots once again. Smaller shoots have already resumed shooting in the country but larger productions like Amazon's Lord of the Rings and Avatar 2 could restart again soon.