George Lucas is one of the true innovators in the history of filmmaking, and the advances he made or pushed are numerous and legendary. There are some things that he wanted to do, however, that he wasn’t able to – because he had to wait for the technology to catch up.
“He always, always, was ten years ahead of his time,” Lucasfilm President Kathy Kennedy said in this week’s episode of Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian.
But now, thanks to the efforts of Kennedy, showrunner Jon Favreau, and the brilliant folks at Industrial Light & Magic, another of Lucas’s dreams is being realized. Director Bryce Dallas Howard recalled Lucas saying that one day they would be able to do all of this recording in his garage, and when she walked onto the set of The Mandalorian and saw how it was being filmed, she realized that she was in George’s Garage.
It’s called The Volume, and it’s a mind-blowing technological invention that radically changed the way the show was shot – and, I’d guess, will change filmmaking moving forward.
“[George] told me it’s what he was building, or wanting to build, at the base of the hill from the [Skywalker] Ranch, that he never was able to do,” Kennedy said. “That’s exactly what he was setting up.”
It came about as the development of things Favreau had done on previous films, like Iron Man, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King. The episode begins with him explaining how some of those were shot, which led to him wanting to develop this format. He credits Kennedy for making it happen, since she oversees both Lucasfilm and ILM, as she pulled the groups together and helped make it possible. And, of course, it’s all in the spirit of George Lucas: innovating and pushing the limits to bring about brand new ways to make movies and shows.
Basically, The Volume is a massive set that is totally enclosed with walls and a ceiling that is made up of LED screens. On these screens, the real locations are rendered (using video game technology) so that they can be filmed. Then on the set, it is made to match what’s on the screen, so that it looks natural. Then the actors are on set in front of these screens, making it a fully immersive experience that allows the lighting, reflections, and so much more to be better.
The directors talked about how it was often hard to tell where the actual set ended and the screen began, because they flowed so seamlessly into one another. Taika Waititi spoke about how he often would get confused, while Dave Filoni told a story about how he and Favreau filmed an update video for Disney from their director chairs – and how it appeared they were actually on-location when in reality they were just in front of these screens. The actors talked about how it greatly helped their performance as well; Carl Weathers spoke about how having all of the actors being able to see the same thing happening around them made their takes more unified, but also took the pretending out of it.
In my opinion, this was the best episode of this show yet, and that’s saying a lot. Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian goes far beyond typical behind-the-scenes shows, as it’s truly giving us the look at what all went into making the highly-successful live-action series. It is absolutely incredible to see how this show was filmed, to see the awesome technological advances, and to see how it keeps in line with Lucas’s legacy.