‘The Mandalorian’ Uses Epic’s Unreal Engine for Production

“The Mandalorian,” one of the original exclusive shows on Disney+, follows a mysterious bounty hunter who takes on secretive jobs after the fall of the Empire. Recent data reveals that the show was the third most “in demand” digital original show since its debut. Epic Games is listed in the show’s end credits because series creator Jon Favreau used it in his production process. Epic Games’ Unreal Engine is a popular platform for creating games, such as “Fortnite,” but it’s now being used in more Hollywood productions.

VentureBeat reports that Favreau described how he used Unreal’s Virtual Camera Plugin “to make a movie essentially in VR, send those dailies to the editor, and we have a cut of the film that serves a purpose that previs would have.” He also brought it on stage to “provide on-set visual information for actors and other creatives.”

The Lucasfilm production, with VFX provider Industrial Light & Magic, built CG environments and projected them onto LED walls. Unreal, which provides accurate lighting, is able to change the perspective and characteristics of the CG projections “depending on the position of the camera and what kind of lens it is using.” That results in less work for the VFX team, which “doesn’t always have to replace the LED walls and Unreal renders.”

“We got a tremendous percentage of shots that actually worked in-camera, just with the real-time renders in engine, that I didn’t think Epic was going to be capable of,” said Favreau.“For certain types of shots, depending on the focal length and shooting with anamorphic lensing, there’s a lot of times where it wasn’t just for [actor interactivity]. We could see in-camera, the lighting, the interactive light, the layout, the background, the horizon.”

In addition to taking out the guesswork for actors, on-set visualization provides interactive lighting emitted from the LED walls. “To me, this is a huge breakthrough,” said Favreau. “Your cinematographer isn’t lighting to something that is greenscreen that’s going to happen later. It forces you to make creative decisions early and not kick the can down the road.”

Variety reports that “for the week of Nov. 10-16, ‘The Mandalorian’ … notched nearly 40 million ‘demand expressions,’ according to research firm Parrot Analytics.” Parrot also revealed that, “in its first four days, the show had stronger U.S. demand than four of 2019’s biggest streaming originals: Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ ‘When They See Us’ and ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,’ and Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Good Omens’.”

But “The Mandalorian” only had 40 percent of the demand of Netflix’s “Stranger Things’ during the same period. In fact, said Parrot, “The Mandalorian” wasn’t in the Top 10 for that week “across all shows on TV networks and digital services … [although it] expects demand for [it] to continue to grow as Disney+ releases new episodes on a weekly basis.”