The ILM magic behind The Mandalorian – this is amazing!

I was going to write about the Industrial Light & Magic’s technology for The Mandalorian in this week’s This Geek in Review, but I was too excited to wait. It all starts with this behind the scene look at the production of Disney’s The Mandalorian. As you watch the videos and look at the pictures, it’s hard to see the tech. The backgrounds are created from the screens, not out on location.

Unfortunately, the behind the scenes look isn’t as indepth as I would like, but The Mandalorian: This Is the Way and Forging new paths for filmmakers on ‘The Mandalorian’ has more information behind the technology. In a nutshell, over half of The Mandalorian is recorded on a stage. And not just any stage. This stage has LED panels 20′ tall that circle the stage 270 degrees. That’s all well and good, productions have been using projection behind the actors since the beginning of movies. The difference now is computers and videogames.

Powered by Unreal

Using Epic’s Unreal game engine, the production is able to create realistic looking backgrounds for the actors. The difference between this and using the older projection technology is the ability to change the perspective relative to the camera.

In real life, as a camera moves through a room, the background perspective also changes. This is why you notice pretty quickly if the background is a static image, like a matte painting, or a projected moving image. For The Mandalorian, the Unreal game engine knows where the camera is, and what it is looking at, in 3D space, and can modify the background to match.


The sets also used practical effects, adding tables, chairs, etc. to the stage, which helped make the different locations feel real. Using LED panels and Unreal also offer other advantages. The actors didn’t have to imagine where the horizon was or where they should be looking. Since the panels emit light, adjusting lighting on the set used an iPad app. This was a process that was pretty time intensive in the past.

Getting sunrise or sunset shots are tough. Go watch Aquaman if you want to see a lot of CGI generated sunrises. The technology used here allowed the director to take as long as they wanted to record a scene during a sunset.

The director could also change the components of a scene on the fly, adding or removing items from the background easily.

Game changing

As I watched the first season of The Mandalorian, I was impressed by the varied locations and set work. Both gave the impression of a very expensive production. I assumed this was because it was Disney and Star Wars, which one would assume would get as much money as they need. How wrong could I be, it was this new technology.

I can’t wait to see what they can do with this.

I have spoken.