As fans of The Mandalorian know, Lucasfilm's first live-action Star Wars TV series took the company's ability to innovate the game in Hollywood to a new level, deploying the virtual sets of 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, instead, most of the series was shot using this virtual production service. StageCraft uses ultra-high resolution images projected onto screens that surround the set and give the impression of being on location while actually being on a stage. It has become a game changer for Hollywood, and Disney betting big on its user in the future.
Speaking during the Lucasfilm section of Disney's Investor Day, company president Kathleen Kennedy announced that they not only expanded their operation for season two of The Mandalorian but that they're in the process of building three more StageCraft studios around the world with an additional stage being constructed in Los Angeles, plus brand new StageCraft studios in London and Australia, "advancing the Disney owned technology and building the studio of the future" as Kennedy said.
"A few times in my career I've had a chance to be part of game changing technology, moments when a new way of filmmaking changed the way stories could be told forever," Kennedy said. "Working with Jon Favreau to create the world of The Mandalorian with our own StageCraft technolgoy has been one of those moments."
She continued, "This new collaboration process brings the artists and the crews into a creative partnership with efficiencies that now marry pre-production, production, and post all in sync to preserve the cinematic culture around a singular artistic vision. By eliminating unnecessary travel, a more controlled environment and efficiencies with set design and special effects that allow for an in-camera visual experience, actors are immersed in those environments rather than having to imagine what they're seeing or reacting to. And, ironically, the efficiency of StageCraft has allowed us to continue to work during this pandemic."
What remains to be seen is how much this technology will be used for non-Lucasfilm and non-Disney shows and films. That one StageCraft studio is being built in London, the place where Star Wars: Andor and Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi are both being shot, makes it seem like the company will be keeping it in the family for the time being. We can't say for sure what will be the first thing to shoot on the Australian StageCraft, but that Marvel's Thor: Love and Thunder is shooting down under is probably not a pure coincidence.
ILM Rob Bredow previously said in an interview with that he expected StageCraft to be a huge factor in getting productions back up and running amid the coronavirus pandemic, telling THR:
"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?'"