Definition September 2021 - Web


DIGITAL, BUT PRACTICAL The Midnight Sky used a ‘pop-up’ LED volume stage, thanks to ILM’s StageCraft technology

environment you want and have it in one place: an invaluable perk during a worldwide lockdown. It also helps put the tools of storytelling back into the hands of filmmakers, rather than an army of technicians. Using a combination of LED walls (and ceilings) with camera tracking systems and games engines to render content for playing not only in real-time, but in dynamic synchronicity with the camera’s viewpoint, filmmakers can stage scenes with greater realism. They can finally shake off that “we’ll fix it in post” mentality. But before we start heralding it as the future, let’s first look at what’s been done already – and what needs to improve. LIGHTING COMPLEXITIES For HBO comedy-thriller Run , the production built two cars, outfitted to resemble an Amtrak carriage, on a sound stage in Toronto. These rested on airbags that could simulate movement; instead of LEDs, a series of 81in 4K TV monitors were mounted on a truss outside each train window, displaying footage pre- shot by Stargate from cameras fixed to a train travelling across the US. It was a smaller-scale, less expensive version of Lucasfilm’s production of The Mandalorian – for Season 1, it used a virtual set that was 75ft in diameter, 21ft high, and also had a ceiling composed of LEDs – but the principal was still the same. “It brings the location to production, rather than moving an entire cast and crew to often hard-to-access locations,” says DOP Matthew Clark. Any light that played on the actors’ faces, or on surfaces in the train, had to be synchronised to the illumination outside the windows, otherwise the effect wouldn’t have worked. Clark says, “It was important to line up the picture so, when you’re standing in the car, your perspective of the train tracks and power

“Currently, the industry is using

live event technology. It needs to transition to fit-for-purpose, cinematic LED technology”

lines are realistic and continuous. If the angle of the TV screen is off by just a few degrees, suddenly the wires of a telegraph pole would be askew. When we needed to turn the car around to shoot from another angle, the grips could flip all the monitors around the exact angle.” Although LED lighting has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, output image quality from the panels still has some way to go. “Currently, the industry is using live event technology. It needs to transition to fit-for-purpose, cinematic LED technology,” explains Michael Geissler, CEO of Mo-Sys. Without cinematic LED technology, it’s not possible to light the actors and sets using panels alone – at least not well. Arri Rental’s Andrew Prior recalls a scene from Marvel’s Loki , where the eponymous lead, and another character, find themselves stuck on a hazardous, purple planet, with meteors crashing into it from all kinds of directions. He affirms: “You could tell it was a volume behind them, but it was done very well. The average viewer wouldn’t have known. What was interesting, however,

NEW TRICKS DOP Eben Bolter used virtual production techniques for his short film Percival, shot at the UK’s Rebellion Studios


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