The Mandalorian effect

It is not a stretch right now to say that The Mandalorian is the biggest show on television. Of course, it’s not on traditional television, but as an episodic series produced for streaming, it fits in the category.

According to Screenrant’s look at viewing figures following the launch of the show’s second season, The Mandalorian is currently five times more popular than anything else on the Disney+ platform. It’s more difficult to measure the show against what’s happening on television or in other streaming services. But all you really have to do is go online to see that Mando and Co. are generating more discussion than anything else in pop culture right now.

Pedro Pascal is the Mandalorian and Nick Nolte is Kuiil in THE MANDALORIAN, exclusively on Disney+

Why is this the case? The easy answers are the characters. The Mandalorian himself (and lets face it, his iconic armour) is endlessly intriguing. Every other episode seems to introduce us to some sort of wayward Han Solo knockoff. And then of course there’s Baby Yoda, who has taken over pop culture like few imagined creatures ever have before. But these are just the things people talk about most. What really makes the show so engaging and captivating is what surrounds these characters — an incredible world-building effort built on video effects that are quite literally unprecedented in the realm of television production.

In a typical show or film of this nature, production would use a combination of real-world scenery, studio green screens, and post-production editing in order to bring scenes to life. This can involve a great deal of travel, equipment, and editing costs, such that even if results are spectacular, they may be limited. Without a sensational budget (such as we saw at times with HBO’s “Game Of Thrones”), there’s only so much that can be done to build a TV world.

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN.

The Mandalorian has circumvented this problem to some extent, however, by using a first-of-its-kind video screen to create scenery. The Collider discussion on this circular set reveals that it is known as The Volume, and it is in part the brainchild of series director Jon Favreau — who employed somewhat similar methods in filming the recent adaptation of The Lion King. The Volume is essentially a large circular enclosure in which the ceilings and walls are covered in LED lighting panels, and the floor is used as a stage for the actors. Within this setup, The Volume depicts scenery as if it’s actually surrounding the actors — not only performing the same ultimate function as a green screen, but doing so in a way that’s more immersive for the cast in the moment.

So — how is this kind of effect possible, and why hasn’t it been done before? To some extent we have to chalk it up to pure creativity, and the boldness of the production crew behind The Mandalorian. But there is also a technical aspect of The Volume that comes right down to the most basic electrical components.

Jake Cannavale is Toro Calican and Pedro Pascal is the Mandalorian in THE MANDALORIAN, exclusively on Disney+

Generally speaking, an LED functions by way of a printed circuit board onto which it is attached. The Printed Circuit Board (PCB) communicates the signal for the LED to light and essentially supports its power — and in a large display, different PCBs can convey different commands, leading to deep, intricate control of displays. However, LEDs can overheat PCBs fairly quickly, which in the past would have made displays of The Volume’s magnitude difficult to create. What has changed over time, and particularly in recent years, is the actual material that PCBs can be designed with. Most important has been the introduction of metal cores for these small electrical components.

post on metal core PCB advantages by Altium clarifies why this shift is useful specifically for LED-related applications. It states that there is higher thermal conductivity in a metal core, which allows heat generated by use to be distributed evenly around the board, rather than concentrating in one place and creating a harmful effect. Essentially, a PCB designed with a metal core is significantly better quipped to handle technology known to generate heat. This means that complex LED displays like The Volume can now be built without doubts about the reliability or durability of the underlying electronics.

The ultimate result of this combination of technological advancement and ingenious creativity speaks for itself. The world of The Mandalorian comes from The Volume, and is every bit as beautiful and immersive as that of any big-budget sci-fi or fantasy epic. The Mandalorian himself may be fascinating, the side characters intriguing, and Baby Yoda the most beloved being since Pikachu. But it’s the world that draws us in and keeps us wanting more, and it’s The Volume that makes this world possible.

This is the true, profound significance of The Mandalorian, and why our Mandalorian Preview included the assertion that this show would give people working on future films and series “unprecedented opportunities.” It is not a stretch to say that the wholly original style and technology of video effects used on this show will change film and TV production.

The Chlld in THE MANDALORIAN, exclusively on Disney+

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The Mandalorian

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