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ILM Expands Virtual Production Services, Global Trainee Program

StageCraft expansion plans include additional LED volume installations in LA, London and Australia, along with new Jedi Academy program aimed at underrepresented VFX talent.

Industrial Light & Magic has announced the next phase of its global expansion plan for the company’s virtual production and StageCraft LED volume services. Tied to a proactive initiative for increasing diversity in the industry, the expansion of services will combine ILM’s growth in innovative methodology with a global trainee program geared for underrepresented VFX talent.

The company’s existing StageCraft volume set at Manhattan Beach Studios (MBS) was used for the series The Mandalorian. A second permanent StageCraft volume set is slated for the studio to serve a variety of clients in the greater Los Angeles area. A third permanent StageCraft volume is being built at Pinewood Studios in London; a fourth large-scale custom volume at Fox Studios, Australia is to be used for Marvel’s upcoming feature Thor: Love and Thunder directed by Taika Waititi. ILM will also continue to provide “pop up” custom volumes for clients as the company recently did for the Netflix production The Midnight Sky, directed by George Clooney.

An end-to-end virtual production solution, ILM StageCraft is a production-hardened technology that provides a continuous pipeline from initial exploration, scouting, and art direction, traditional and technical previsualization, lighting, and of course, real-time production filming itself, with the innovative StageCraft LED volumes. Lucasfilm’s Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, and a highly anticipated feature film took advantage of the full complement of ILM StageCraft virtual production services. Other projects such as Avengers: Endgame, Aquaman, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Battle at Big Rock, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Kong: Skull Island, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ready Player One, and Rango, have utilized  aspects of the toolset as well.

The new stages are vast improvements over the original ground-breaking LED volume developed in 2018. Physically, the new stages are larger, utilizing substantially more LED panels than the original stage and offering both higher resolution and smooth wall to ceiling transitions. This directly results in better lighting on set as well as many more in-camera finals. ILM’s proprietary solutions for achieving groundbreaking fidelity on the LED walls at scale allows for higher color fidelity, higher scene complexity, and greater control and reliability.

“With StageCraft, we have built an end-to-end virtual production service for key creatives,” explained ILM SVP & GM, Janet Lewin. “Directors, production designers, cinematographers, producers and visual effects supervisors can creatively collaborate, each bringing their collective expertise to the virtual aspects of production just as they do with traditional production.”

“Over the past 5 years, we have made substantial investments in both our rendering technology and our virtual production toolset,” added ILM CCO, Rob Bredow. “When combined with Industrial Light & Magic’s expert visual effects talent, motion capture experience, facial capture via Medusa, Anyma, and Flux, and the innovative production technology developed by ILM’s newly integrated Technoprops team, we believe we have a unique offering for the industry.”

Alongside the new stages, ILM is rolling out a global talent development initiative through the company’s long-standing Jedi Academy training program. The program, which is part of the company’s larger global Diversity & Inclusion efforts, offers paid internships and apprenticeships on productions with seasoned ILM supervisors and producers who serve as mentors. The program is intended to fill roles across the virtual production and VFX pipeline with those from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds; ILM has posted expressions of interests for jobs across the spectrum, from virtual art department teams and production management to engineering and artist roles. The goal with this initiative is to attract diverse junior talent and create a pipeline for them to become future visual effects artists, technicians and producers who will be “ILM trained” and uniquely qualified to work in this new, innovative way of filmmaking.

“There is a widespread lack of diversity in the industry, and we are excited to leverage our global expansion in this game-changing workflow to hire and train new talent, providing viable, exciting, and rewarding jobs across many of our locations,” noted ILM VP, operations, Jessica Teach, who oversees the company’s Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. “We believe this program can have a multiplier effect, attracting even more diverse talent to the industry and creating a pipeline for visual effects careers. We know that bringing more diversity into the industry is a critical part of strengthening and expanding our storytelling potential.”

ILM expects to have the new stages up and running for production in 2021: London in February and Los Angeles in March.

Source: Industrial Light & Magic

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