The first season of The Mandalorian expanded upon the Star Wars universe — or galaxy, if you will — when it arrived at the tail end of last year, bringing fans to places they hadn’t seen during the adventures of Luke Skywalker and friends. And the Disney+ docuseries Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian revealed that many of the backdrops seen in The Mandalorian are actually the products of a virtual set the series creators refer to as “The Volume.”
The Volume is a stage that consists of ceilings and walls covered in LED panels, all of which help bring the various settings of The Mandalorian to life; it allows the actors to shoot in all kinds of sprawling outdoor settings without ever leaving the studio. Technologically speaking, it’s a step up from the green screens, but it obviously took some getting used to for the actors.
Speaking with Collider, Breaking Bad alum and The Mandalorian villain, Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon), opened up about what it was like to use the Volume. He emphasized the importance of using your imagination while filming with the LED screens, particularly since the actors have a bit less to work with using this new filming method.
In the old days, we had greenscreen, which created our environment behind us. And now this world creates all of our solar system, our sky, our earth, but it’s really being projected through a computer. So I find that your imagination has to fill in the rest. And so it’s a different style of acting — you’re looking around the room, you may have some props to stand on, or the vehicle that you arrived in, whether it be my TIE Fighter, or something else. But there’s nothing else there, except what’s projected.
The results speak for themselves, though. Watching some of those outdoor scenes, it would never occur to me that they were filmed on an indoor set.
Of course, using one’s imagination is easier said than done. Esposito explained that he’d “always sit down, read the scene, read the elements that are a part of the scene” and then “reflect upon” them in order to prepare himself. He also pointed to the many positives of using this technology, expressing awe for just how accurately the LED panels bring the backdrop to life. “[It] completes the environment for me — you walk into The Volume and you could be in the desert,” the actor said. “They could take you into outer space. They literally put it up there.”
It sounds like the VR technology many have been waiting for, and it’ll be interesting to see if other series adopt this method of shooting over time.
Esposito recently wrapped filming for the second season of The Mandalorian, which is expected to arrive on Disney+ this October.