Surrounding the actors and film crew with visuals is only part of the job, however. To really create immersive worlds, Bluff and his team of artists and engineers had to create images that would respond to the camera’s movement. They couldn’t just display flat images, like photographs or illustrations, on the LED screens.
To make responsive worlds, the team turned to video game engines. A video game engine is a type of computer software used to create digital worlds and environments. When used in video games, players can interact with these environments. They can look up at the sky or down at the ground and move closer to or farther from objects or landmarks.
Each alien world shown in the backgrounds of The Mandalorian is built in a video game engine to be just as responsive. Artists use photographs of real places, like a mountain range or a desert, as a starting point. They even create physical, three-dimensional models of things like spaceships or buildings that are then scanned into the game engine to capture as much detail as possible.
When these worlds are shown on the Volume, the camera’s motion causes the image on screen to change too. The shot in the camera’s viewfinder is complete with lighting and background because of the Volume.
“Once you put the image on the screen, and you’ve really finessed it the last 5 percent, that screen will blend away,” says Bluff. “You’d think the people could walk off into the distance when they’d really just walk into a wall.”