Both ILM’s and Sony’s displays are extremely bright and coated with anti-reflection technology—improving yet another one of the drawbacks to green screens. Normally, visual effects artists have to edit out lines and reflections on a set created by the big, bright-green walls. But these new displays emit realistic light of their own onto the actors and props, making it seem as though they are actually in that physical space while avoiding the costly and time-consuming task of hiding a green screen’s limitations.

The technology is especially convenient for filming in the time of Covid-19. Filmmakers can put recordings of remote landscapes on the displays instead of sending an entire cast and crew to those actual locations. It allows productions to swap multiple sets in and out on the same day, saving money and requiring fewer crew members.

To be sure, virtual production is not yet the industry standard. Most big-budget productions in the near future will likely still make at least some use of green screen. But for the first time, there is a promising new method, and it’s quickly becoming popular. It’s easy to see a future in which it becomes the predominant method through which the industry visualizes 3D environments on screen.

ILM announced in September that it is building three new Stagecraft stages around the world—one at its existing headquarters in Manhattan Beach, California, one at Pinewood Studios in London, and one at Fox Studios Australia. It also plans to operate more bespoke, “pop up” systems for filmmakers, as it did for Clooney’s Netflix film. Sony is marketing its version as long-lasting and easy to install, perhaps serving as a more accessible option for filmmakers who can’t work on one of ILM’s stages.

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