It has really been just three or four years since direct view LED started being demo’d and marketed as a screen alternative to projection for cinemas, and now we’re starting to see tangible examples of LED being used to make blockbuster movies and streaming series.
Fine pitch LED has matured to a point that production companies and directors are cutting over from shooting scenes in front of giant green screens to shooting them in front of giant fine-pitch LED video walls, flat and curved.
The advantages are numerous, most notably that actors can react to more than a blank green wall, actually seeing the surroundings that would more normally in post-production. It can also save enormously in location shoots, if you can bring the desert or mountains or jungle into a soundstage, instead of transporting, housing and feeding scores of people on a remote site.
The trade publication British Cinematographer – which is about guess what – has a good piece up about how these virtual sets were used for shooting the Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
Industrial Light and Magic, the movie FX company, says:
“Over 50 percent of The Mandalorian Season One was filmed using this ground-breaking new methodology, eliminating the need for location shoots entirely. Instead, actors in The Mandalorian performed in an immersive and massive 20’ high by 270-degree semicircular LED video wall and ceiling with a 75’-diameter performance space, where the practical set pieces were combined with digital extensions on the screens.”
“Digital 3D environments created by ILM played back interactively on the LED walls, edited in real-time during the shoot, which allowed for pixel-accurate tracking and perspective-correct 3D imagery rendered at high resolution via systems powered by NVIDIA GPUs. The environments were lit and rendered from the perspective of the camera to provide parallax in real-time, as if the camera were really capturing the physical environment with accurate interactive light on the actors and practical sets …”
This is not digital signage, but certainly an opportunity for a lot of companies in digital signage – the DV LED manufacturers, obviously, but also the companies who do custom mount systems and video wall processing software and servers.
Sony has, I think, been the most overt about pursuing the opportunity, with marketing material specifically calling out movie production as a use-case for its new generation of microLED displays. It helps that there is a thing called Sony Pictures.
LED has been used as a backdrop for lots of broadcasting sets, but this is a very different application. There’s a finite number of big soundstages that would use this sort of thing, but the positive is equipping those locations involves a LOT of DV LED cabinets, which means big returns from individual sales.
This video nicely shows the how and why: