There’s been a lot of exciting and innovative technological advances in virtual production and cinematography recently, especially the innovations developed by Industrial Light & Magic and Epic Games for The Mandalorian.

This StageCraft or the “Volume,” as they call it, allows cinematographers to actually see and capture all the special effects in-camera. The backgrounds and the environment not only look hyper-realistic, but there is a significant advantage as the lightning in the scene will directly light the characters and the scene. 

Roger Deakins, after having worked in animation films such as Wall-E, Rango, Rise of the Guardians, and the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, believes that animation and live-action will merge in the future. He thinks that most mainstream Hollywood films will be done on a computer within the next 10 years. 

Check out this video of Greig Fraser and Roger Deakins discussing the future of cinematography.

Fraser says that he’s never been more stressed in his entire life while filming The Mandalorian. We’ve generally seen and heard of all of the good sides of filming on LED wall projectors, but rarely has anyone discussed the issues with filming primarily with this technology. 

Fraser says that the biggest issue is that there is no plan B when you have an issue with the LED Volume. If you have any issues whatsoever, your shoot is completely shut down. Whereas when filming on locations, you can always find ways to recover the day if something goes wrong with your location. 

Although he had his fair share of challenges, he believes that the LED Volume creates some of the most realistic lighting scenarios. There is a huge benefit of using the Volume in many scenarios, such as being able to shoot a sunset scene for 12 hours.

Deakins says there is a huge advantage in that, as you won’t have to shoot multiple days at dusk/dawn to catch the light. For example in No Country For Old Men, he shot a twilight scene over 7-8 days, which could have easily been done in a single day in a Volume. 

Another very important and interesting question Deakins brings up is on the topic of the Inverse Square Law. Deakins mentioned that because the LED light is actually closer to the subject than the sky, for instance, you wouldn’t quite have the same fall off as a real skylight, because the distance of the actual sunlight is much further away than where the LED light would be lighting from. 

Mandalorian StageCraftCredit: Disney

Fraser says that he is exactly right, and that’s one of the challenges that he had to figure out in the early stages of filming The Mandalorian to get a believable exposure level and fall off. He says that although true in theory, if exposed properly, it’s still very believable that the LED sky is actually real and lighting the subject because the general “feel” is the same.

Fraser says that another extremely difficult challenge with filming on the Volume is that you can’t just go on location scouts because, in the early stages, none of the sets are built. So the biggest challenge is trying to block the scenes without knowing where you’re filming, kind of like working on a stage set with no locations.

Although challenging, he is in complete favor of using this technology and says that there is absolutely no reason why someone couldn’t film a serious drama on the Volume. Fraser thinks that in the next 10 years, we’re all going to be doing films where we’ll shoot a few locations outdoors, and then move into the Volume to finish the scenes. 

“We as DPs, [when the script calls for] last light, we’d have to find ways to do the coverage into things that don’t see the hillside to be able to get the shot on schedule. With this [LED Volume], every angle you look is perfect. I’m a strong advocate of it, and I love shooting for real… but this is just another tool in the toolbox that I feel is better than the bluescreen," he says.

What do you think? Is this the future of cinematography? Let us know in the comments below.

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