In the age of coronavirus, we all have to resist the urge to touch our faces. It’s how the virus can travel from doorknobs or other objects to your mucus membranes and get you sick. Luckily, a startup called Slightly Robot had already developed a wristband to stop another type of harmful touching — trichotillomania, a disorder that compels people to pull out their hair.
So over the last week, Slightly Robot redesigned their wearable as the Immutouch, a wristband that vibrates if you touch your face. Its accelerometer senses your hand movement 10 times per second. Based on calibrations the Immutouch takes when you set it up, it then buzzes when you touch or come close to touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. A companion app helps you track your progress as you try to keep your dirty mitts down.
The goal is to develop a Pavlovian response whereby when you get the urge to touch your face, you don’t in order to avoid the buzzing sensation. Your brain internalizes the negative feedback of the vibration, training you with aversive conditioning to ignore the desire to scratch yourself.
“A problem the size of COVID-19 requires everyone to do their part, large or small,” says Slightly Robot co-founder Matthew Toles. “The three of us happened to be uniquely well equipped to tackle this one task and felt it was our duty to at least try.”
“We’re not looking to make money on this. We are selling each unit nearly at cost, accounting for cost of materials, fabrication, assembly, and handling” co-founder Justin Ith insists. Unlike a venture-backed startup beholden to generating returns for investors, Slightly Robot was funded through a small grant from the University of Washington in 2016 and bootstrapped since.
Slightly Robot and Immutouch co-founders (from left): Joseph Toles, Justin Ith, and Matthew Toles
“We built Immutouch because we knew we could do it quickly, therefore we had the obligation to. We all live in Seattle and we see our communities reacting to this outbreak with deep concern and fear” Slightly Robot co-founder Justin Ith tells me. “My father has an autoimmune disease that requires him to take immunosuppressant medication. Being in his late 60’s with a compromised immune system, I’m trying my best to keep the communities around him and my family clean and safe.”
How to calibrate the Immutouch wristband
Based on a study using wearable warning devices to deter sufferers of trichotillomania from ripping out their hair, Immutouch could potentially be effective. University Of Michigan researchers found the vibrations reduced long and short-term hair pulling. Ith admits you have to actually heed the warnings and not itch to instill the right habit, and it doesn’t work while you’re lying down. The Immutouch stops short of electrically shocking you like the older gadget called Pavlok that’s designed to help people quit smoking or opening Facebook.
Perhaps smartwatch makers like Apple could develop cheap or free apps to let users train themselves using hardware they already own. But until then, Ith hopes that Immutouch can gain some initial traction so “we can order larger quantities, reduce the price, and make it more accessible.”
Modern technologies like Twitter for rapidly sharing information could encourage people to take the right cautionary measures like 20-second handwashing to slow the spread of coronavirus. But having phones we constantly touch — before, during, and after we use the restroom — and then press against our faces could create a vector for infection absent from pandemics of past centuries. That’s why everyone needs to do their part to smooth out the spike of sickness so our health systems aren’t overrun.
Ith concludes, “Outbreaks like this remind us how we each individually affect the broader community and have a responsibility to not be carriers.”
As much as we’d all like to believe that our houses are built with perfectly square angles and other highly regular measurements, that’s rarely the case — which makes remodeling complex and tedious. ShapeMeasure hopes to alleviate that pain with a device that automatically measures a space and a robotic mill that cuts the required lumber precisely to size, shortening and easing the process by huge amounts.
Founder Ben Blumer, who was exposed to the art of building and repair early by his father, a general contractor, had a brainwave that became the company during some renovations of his own.
“I was shocked to see our flooring installer, who had 10 years of experience, and was excellent at what he did, take over an hour to install a single stair,” Blumer said. “I started thinking, ‘a little bit of technology could go a long way here.’ ”
Finding himself at the time free to work on such a project, he recruited a former general contractor friend and applied to HAX, which soon shipped them off to Shenzhen to pursue their idea.
The main issue is stairs: they’re tricky, and especially in older homes can be pretty off-kilter. So although you know each stair is about 35 inches wide, it might be 35 and 3/64 inches, while the next one could be 34 and 61/64. Likewise, the angles might be ever so slightly off the 90 degrees or whatever they theoretically should be. Painstakingly measuring every single stair and manually cutting wood to those many slightly different dimensions is extremely time-consuming. The tool ShapeMeasure built makes it literally a push-button affair.
The device they settled on is essentially a super-precise lidar that measures around itself in wide arc, and the exact details of which comprise part of the company’s secret sauce. This gives the precise dimensions and attachment angles of the area around it, in the first intended use case a stair. The design, helped along by HAX’s Noel Joyce, looks a bit like a giant Dust Buster by way of the original “Alien.”
Obviously his shirt contradicts my headline, but if you think about the cutting as an automated process rather than something a person has to do, mine makes sense.
“We were working with Noel Joyce, HAX’s lead industrial designer. We wanted a product that looked and felt like a tool. We figured, if you’re trying to convince contractors to try something new, it should feel familiar,” Blumer said. “We spent hundreds of hours sourcing parts and re-engineering our scanning mechanism so that it could fit into Noel’s beautiful form factor. Turns out, contractors don’t care what it looks like. They liked the design, but were way more excited for the functionality.”
Once the shapes are scanned in and checked, that information can be beamed off to ShapeMeasure’s other device, a robotic lumber sizing system that cuts wood into the exact size and shape necessary to fit together as stairs. Of course, the contractor still has to bring them to the location and attach them by whatever means they see fit, but what was once a process with perhaps hundreds of steps has been simplified by an order of magnitude.
The machine is similar to other lumber-cutting devices, but simpler and easier to operate.
“There are lots of automatic cutting systems — often big, heavy, expensive and operated by professional CNC technicians. To cut flooring on a machine like that involves setting up jigs, clamping and reclamping each board, and generating custom gcode for each stair we cut,” Blumer said. They can be several times more costly and difficult to employ. “The cutting solution we’re building is compact, requires no clamping, and can be operated with just a few hours of training.”
It’s not just about length and width, either — molding and other flourishes on the stairs can make complex cuts necessary that would be impractical or at the very least extremely time-consuming to attempt manually.
Examples of complex cuts made by the ShapeMeasure machine.
The result is that the installation process from start to finish is about four times faster, they determined. If this seems a bit optimistic, know that it isn’t just armchair theorizing — they were careful to back up these numbers from the start.
“We take our speedup data really seriously,” said Blumer. “This is our top metric! One of the first purchases I made for the company was a dozen stopwatches. We’ve done installations in the ShapeMeasure lab and on real, messy construction sites — filming, timing and logging every moment.”
Interestingly, the precut lumber made other improvements possible — the team designed a bucket to accommodate the increased rate at which the installer uses glue and other parts. It’s a bit like if you improved painting speed so much that your new bottleneck was mixing and pouring the paint into roller trays fast enough.
Currently the company is working on establishing standard practices and packaging so that a ShapeMeasure “microfactory” can be set up easily anywhere in the country on short notice. And they’re “considering” raising money before then to accelerate the process. Blumer built the prototype with his own money and they pulled in a bit from HAX and then a small pre-seed round to get things started.
With luck and a bit of elbow grease, ShapeMeasure could turn out to be a real differentiator in the contractor space — every hour counts, as does every dollar in an estimate.
Tempo wants to be the Peloton of barbells. It’s a 42-inch tall screen with 3D machine vision that tracks and teaches you as you workout. The giant upright HD display makes it feel like your personal trainer is right there with you while you compete with others in live and on-demand classes.
Tempo’s Microsoft Kinect-esque motion sensors scan you 30 times per second and notify you if your form is wrong. It’s all housed in a sleekly designed free-standing cabinet that neatly stores the included barbells, dumbbells, attachable weights, workout mat, recovery foam roller, and heartrate monitor.
“Every single product in the market took a piece of equipment out of a gym and slapped a screen on it” says Tempo CEO and co-founder Moawia Eldeeb. “You need to be able to see a user to actually be able to give them guidance so they can work out safely. We wanted to build a fitness experience from the ground up with training and form feedback at the core of it.”
I demo’d Tempo this week and found the in-home convenience, motivational on-screen personal trainers, and the real-time posture corrections gave me the confidence to lift weights without the fear of injury. It might not feel quite as fun and addictive as Peloton, but it offers a facsimile of personal training that’s more affordable than in-person classes that cost $100 or more.
The idea of democratizing access to trainers is what convinced Eldeeb and the Tempo team to stretch its initial $1.8 million in seed funding for four years. While collecting data from its SmartSpot in-gym weight lifting assessment device, Tempo survived long enough to build this prototype.
“Most investors had given up on us. We built this product and had just $700,000 left” Eldeeb recalls. But once people could try Tempo, “we pitched 10 investors and got 9 term sheets. It got very competitive.” The startup recently walked away with a $17.5 million Series A round from Founders Fund, DCM, and Khosla Ventures. Now Tempo will pour that cash into marketing, retail distribution, R&D, and content production.
A founder’s journey out of homelessness
Tempo’s mission is to change people’s lives for the better like personal training did for Eldeeb. “Training is what took me out of a homeless shelter and got me to where I am I today” he reflects.
Tempo co-founder, CEO, and CPO Moawia Eldeeb
Eldeeb’s family immigrated to the US from Egypt when he was nine. But after an explosion leveled their building, they wound up in a homeless shelter. Eldeeb eventually dropped out of middle school to work in a pizza parlor and help pay the bills. But personal trainers at a local YMCA took him under their wing. He eventually paid his way through a computer science degree at Columbia University by working as a personal trainer to his eventual co-founder and CTO Josh Augustin. “Having trainers say you’re getting stronger taught me I could do something for myself.”
While at school, Eldeeb was developing an idea for a physical therapy wearable while Augustin was building 3D sensors for guiding robot perception. They soon realized that a combination of these ideas “offered us the possibility to deliver on the promise of guiding your form and tracking your progress accurately.”
In 2015, they started a company called Pivot to build SmartSpot — a similar looking upright screen that was designed for gyms. It could track users, but only output raw data about their form, like how bent a user’s knees were during a squat. It then worked with trainers to annotate the data to determine what movement patterns were safe and which were dangerous.
Gym owners bought in because it let them track which trainers were actually helping customers improve. “It held trainers accountable. If you weren’t delivering results, it’d be obvious” Eldeeb tells me. The company built up a dataset of over from over 1 million 3D tagged workouts, from hundreds of gyms, overseen by thousands of trainers. That formed the basis of the artificial intelligence that would let Pivot pivot into Tempo.
Pumping Iron With Tempo
At first, Tempo’s giant screen and black or white armoire can feel a bit daunting. The thing is about six feet tall, though it only takes up as much room as a large chair. It makes efficient use of space, with the barbell and dumbbells racked on the back, an internal shelf for the foam roller and mat, and a soft-closing cabinet on the front with the rubber-coated weight set. Keeping everything together means you won’t have to go digging in your closet to start a work out.
Tempo walks users through an initial computer-vision fitness assessment to understand your strength and flexibility so it can set base levels for its exercises. If you have an injury it needs to nurse, Tempo connects you to a human personal trainer that helps customize your workout plan. Otherwise, it uses your goals and data to set out a progressive regimen that gets a little tougher each day. It even blocks you from jumping into later classes so you don’t strain yourself.
Your workout plan begins with tutorial sessions that teach you to do the exercises with safe and proper form. When I was hunching forward during my squats, Tempo’s computer vision would ding me with instant feedback to keep my knees back and chest up. Then once I’d corrected the issue, it congratulated me with little green checkmarks. “Any product that doesn’t offer that is no better than a DVD or YouTube videos” Eldeeb remarks.
From there I could choose between a variety of class styles and lengths, ranging from high intensity interval training circuits to isolated sessions focused on particular muscle groups. In each, you watch a near life-size personal trainer doing the routines right in front of you while they demonstrate form and drop inspirational quotes.
Tempo is producing seven live classes per day from its San Francisco studio which you can also watch on-demand. You can compete against friends or strangers, and Tempo compares you rep for rep so it’s more about perfect form than reckless speed or weight. The live trainers can actually see all your data and your mistakes on a dashboard as they lead classes, and can call you out for screwing up (though you can deactivate this shame mode). Eldeeb says “knowing the trainer can possibly see your numbers will motivate you to actually do this right.”
The class selection interface is suspiciously similar to Peloton’s, though that at least will make it familiar for some. Over time, you build up an immense collection of data on your performance in each work out, excercise, and muscle. Unlike hitting the gym by yourself, you’ll never struggle to remember how much weight to use or whether you’re improving. Classes are soundtracked with dancey remixes sourced from a partnership with Feed.fm to avoid the royalty issues with original songs that slapped Peloton.
Tempo gives feedback when you’re doing exercises wrong, and when you correct yourself
For a 14-person startup, Tempo is trying to do a ton and that can leave some rough edges. The bluetooth armband heartrate monitor can have connectivity issues and the computer vision doesn’t always register every rep, especially if your posture is off. Classes also fail to include enough stretching to prevent strains, instead devoting the start of classes to warmups that ease you in but might not protect your muscles well enough. My quads were destroyed after my demo.
Tempo still achieves its primary objective: it makes weight lifting accessible. No need to drag yourself to the gym or be beholden to a trainer’s schedule, where I’d always end up arriving late and wasting 25% of my session. The form feedback fixes my core complaint about remote personal training app Future I’ve been using for nine months, which can’t see you. That’s led to minor injuries from bad sit-up posture and other incorrect movements. Tempo can’t catch everything, but it can nip some of the most common mistakes in the bud.
“The biggest problem with Tonal is two-fold. Cables and motors do not last. I want this product to be in your house for 10-plus years. [Tempo] is in gyms running 24/7 in for 3 years and it’s still working. The second biggest thing is just feedback.” While Tonal does include a camera and microphone it might employ in the future, it’s not scanning you to detect when you’re lifting weights crooked like Tempo.
As for Mirror, “What is the difference between ClassPass Live and Mirror? It doesn’t come with any equipment, and there’s no training. It’s just a two-way mirror and a Samsung LED panel behind it with an arduino board” Eldeeb rails. He claims it can’t actually monitor your workouts and that his team’s tests found Mirror would say they’d burned 500 calories when they were literally just sitting on their couch in front of it.
Eldeeb demos Tempo
If the software proves to have high retention so people actually recommend Tempo to friends, the biggest hurdle will be its price. You can buy a couple dumbbells for $50 or get a barbell weight bench for a few hundred. Even if Tempo’s $55 per month financing option plus $39 subscription makes it cheaper than a single personal training session or on-par with a gym membership, it could still seem like a serious commitment.
That feeling is magnified by how all of its equipment and classes and data can feel a bit overwhelming. The startup might have to spend a fortune on retail establishments that can guide users through their first Tempo experience. There’s also no mobile version yet, so you can’t bring the work outs on the road with you.
Eldeeb seems guinely motivated to keep improving the product so it’s better than commuting to work out. “Getting to the gym or class is often half the battle. By bringing the gym to you and structuring the classes to be as efficient as possible, Tempo not only makes improving your health more convenient, but it gives you back your most precious resource: time.”
For those comfortable lifting the cheap weights they have at home or hitting up a budget gym, Tempo might seem needlessly overwrought and expensive. But for anyone who needs more instruction or wants to get a Barry’s Bootcamp-worthy workout at home, Tempo might be just their speed.
The coronavirus outbreak could result in at least a 3.3% drop — and as high as a 9% dip — in the volume of PCs that will ship globally this year, research firm Canalys reported Thursday evening in its revised projections to clients.
PC shipments will be down between 10.1% to 20.6% in Q1 2020, the firm estimated. The impact will remain visible in Q2, when the shipments are expected to drop between 8.9% (best-case scenario, per Canalys) and 23.4% (worst-case scenario), it said.
In the best-case scenario, the outbreak would mean 382 million units will ship in 2020, down 3.4% from 396 million last year.
The worst case makes a deeper dent, stating that about 362 million units will ship this year, down 8.5% from last year.
“In the best-case scenario, production levels are expected to revert to full capacity by April 2020, hence the biggest hit will be to sell-in shipments in the first two quarters, with the market recovering in Q3 and Q4,” the firm said.
“Thus, worldwide PC market shipments are expected to decline 3.4% year on year in 2020, with Q1 2020 down by 10% and Q2 2020 by 9%. PC market supply will normalize by Q3 2020. On a yearly basis, Canalys expects the worldwide PC market will slowly begin its recovery starting in 2021.”
The worst-case scenario assumes that production levels will not return to their full capacity by June 2020. “Under the assumptions of this scenario, production and demand levels in China will take even longer to recover and Q2 will suffer a decline on a par with Q1 as a consequence. It will be as late as Q4 2020 until we see a market recovery.”
In either of the scenarios, China, one of the world’s largest PC markets, will be most impacted. In worst-case scenarios, “the Chinese market will suffer heavily in 2020 under this scenario, with a 12% year-on-year decline over 2019, and subsequent stabilization taking even longer, with 2021 forecast shipments lagging 6 million behind the best-case scenario. The expected CAGR between 2021 and 2024 in China is 6.3%,” Canalys stated.
China, the global hub for production and supply chain, moved to contain the impact of coronavirus by first extending the official Lunar New Year holidays, which was followed by stringent travel restrictions to keep citizens safe. “This resulted in a significant drop in offline retail traffic and a dramatic fall in consumer purchases,” Canalys analysts said.
The outbreak has also resulted in supply shortages of components, such as PCBs and memory in China and other markets. “Likewise, channel partners have received notifications from key PC vendors over the last two weeks that their PC shipments and replacement parts can be expected to arrive in up to 14 weeks – over three times the usual delivery time – depending on where partners are located,” the firm said.
“Technology vendors and channel partners in the Asia Pacific region face the unexpected challenge of coping with the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The crisis was largely unforeseen, even in mid-January. Most leaders this year were anticipating disruption from political instability and natural disasters, not an epidemic,” wrote Sharon Hiu, an analyst at Canalys in a separate report.
The outbreak has impacted several more industries, including smartphones, automobiles, television, smart speakers and video game consoles.
Foxconn, a key manufacturer for Apple, said on Thursday that its 2020 revenue will be impacted by Wuhan coronavirus. The firm said its factories in India, Vietnam and Mexico are fully loaded and it is planning to expand overseas.
The U.S. giant is expected to miss its schedule for mass producing a widely rumored affordable iPhone, while inventories for existing models could remain low until April or longer, Nikkei Asian Review reported on Wednesday.
“The Mandalorian” was a pretty good show. On that most people seem to agree. But while a successful live-action Star Wars TV series is important in its own right, the way this particular show was made represents a far greater change, perhaps the most important since the green screen. The cutting edge tech (literally) behind “The Mandalorian” creates a new standard and paradigm for media — and the audience will be none the wiser.
What is this magical new technology? It’s an evolution of a technique that’s been in use for nearly a century in one form or another: displaying a live image behind the actors. The advance is not in the idea but the execution: a confluence of technologies that redefines “virtual production” and will empower a new generation of creators.
As detailed in an extensive report in American Cinematographer Magazine (I’ve been chasing this story for some time, but suspected this venerable trade publication would get the drop on me), the production process of “The Mandalorian” is completely unlike any before, and it’s hard to imagine any major film production not using the technology going forward.
“So what the hell is it?” I hear you asking.
Meet “the Volume.”
Formally called Stagecraft, it’s 20 feet tall, 270 degrees around, and 75 feet across — the largest and most sophisticated virtual filmmaking environment yet made. ILM just today publicly released a behind-the-scenes video of the system in use, as well as a number of new details about it.
It’s not easy being green
In filmmaking terms, a “volume” generally refers to a space where motion capture and compositing take place. Some volumes are big and built into sets, as you might have seen in behind-the-scenes footage of Marvel or Star Wars movies. Some are smaller, plainer affairs, where the motions of the actors behind CG characters play out their roles.
But they generally have one thing in common: They’re static. Giant, bright green, blank expanses.
Does that look like fun to shoot in?
One of the most difficult things for an actor in modern filmmaking is getting into character while surrounded by green walls, foam blocks indicating obstacles to be painted in later and people with mocap dots on their face and suits with ping-pong balls attached. Not to mention everything has green reflections that need to be lit or colored out.
Advances some time ago (think prequels-era Star Wars) enabled cameras to display a rough pre-visualization of what the final film would look like, instantly substituting CG backgrounds and characters onto monitors. Sure, that helps with composition and camera movement, but the world of the film isn’t there, the way it is with practical sets and on-site shoots.
Practical effects were a deliberate choice for “The Child” (AKA Baby Yoda) as well.
What’s more, because of the limitations in rendering CG content, the movements of the camera are often restricted to a dolly track or a few pre-selected shots for which the content (and lighting, as we’ll see) has been prepared.
This particular volume, called Stagecraft by ILM, the company that put it together, is not static. The background is a set of enormous LED screens such as you might have seen onstage at conferences and concerts. The Stagecraft volume is bigger than any of those — but more importantly, it’s smarter.
See, it’s not enough to just show an image behind the actors. Filmmakers have been doing that with projected backgrounds since the silent era! And that’s fine if you just want to have a fake view out of a studio window or fake a location behind a static shot. The problem arises when you want to do anything more fancy than that, like move the camera. Because when the camera moves, it immediately becomes clear that the background is a flat image.
The innovation in Stagecraft and other, smaller LED walls (the more general term for these backgrounds) is not only that the image shown is generated live in photorealistic 3D by powerful GPUs, but that 3D scene is directly affected by the movements and settings of the camera. If the camera moves to the right, the image alters just as if it were a real scene.
This is remarkably hard to achieve. In order for it to work, the camera must send its real-time position and orientation to, essentially, a beast of a gaming PC, because this and other setups like it generally run on the Unreal engine (Epic does its own breakdown of the process here). This must take that movement and render it exactly in the 3D environment, with attendant changes to perspective, lighting, distortion, depth of field and so on — all fast enough so that those changes can be shown on the giant wall nearly instantly. After all, if the movement of the background lagged the camera by more than a handful frames it would be noticeable to even the most naive viewer.
Yet fully half of the scenes in “The Mandalorian” were shot within Stagecraft, and my guess is no one had any idea. Interior, exterior, alien worlds or spaceship cockpits, all used this giant volume for one purpose or another.
There are innumerable technological advances that have contributed to this; “The Mandalorian” could not have been made as it was five years ago. The walls weren’t ready; the rendering tech wasn’t ready; the tracking wasn’t ready — nothing was ready. But it’s ready now.
It must be mentioned that Jon Favreau has been a driving force behind this filmmaking method for years now; films like the remake of “The Lion King” were in some ways tech tryouts for “The Mandalorian.” Combined with advances made by James Cameron in virtual filmmaking, and, of course, the indefatigable Andy Serkis’s work in motion capture, this kind of production is only just now becoming realistic due to a confluence of circumstances.
Not just for SFX
Of course Stagecraft is probably also the most expensive and complex production environments ever used. But what it adds in technological overhead (and there’s a lot) it more than pays back in all kinds of benefits.
For one thing, it nearly eliminates on-location shooting, which is phenomenally expensive and time-consuming. Instead of going to Tunisia to get those wide-open desert shots, you can build a sandy set and put a photorealistic desert behind the actors. You can even combine these ideas for the best of both worlds: Send a team to scout locations in Tunisia and capture them in high-definition 3D to be used as a virtual background.
This last option produces an amazing secondary benefit: Reshoots are way easier. If you filmed at a bar in Santa Monica and changes to the dialogue mean you have to shoot the scene over again, no need to wrangle permits and painstakingly light the bar again. Instead, the first time you’re there, you carefully capture the whole scene with the exact lighting and props you had there the first time and use that as a virtual background for the reshoots.
The fact that many effects and backgrounds can be rendered ahead of time and shot in-camera rather than composited in later saves a lot of time and money. It also streamlines the creative process, with decisions able to be made on the spot by the filmmakers and actors, since the volume is reactive to their needs, not vice versa.
Lighting is another thing that is vastly simplified, in some ways at least, by something like Stagecraft. The bright LED wall can provide a ton of illumination, and because it actually represents the scene, that illumination is accurate to the needs of that scene. A red-lit interior of a space station, and the usual falling sparks and so on, shows red on the faces and of course the highly reflective helmet of the Mandalorian himself. Yet the team can also tweak it, for instance sticking a bright white line high on the LED wall out of sight of the camera but which creates a pleasing highlight on the helmet.
Naturally there are some trade-offs. At 20 feet tall, the volume is large but not so large that wide shots won’t capture the top of it, above which you’d see cameras and a different type of LED (the ceiling is also a display, though not as powerful). This necessitates some rotoscoping and post-production, or limits the angles and lenses one can shoot with — but that’s true of any soundstage or volume.
A shot like this would need a little massaging in post, obviously.
The size of the LEDs, that is of the pixels themselves, also limits how close the camera can get to them, and of course you can’t zoom in on an object for closer inspection. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with Moiré patterns, those stripes you often see on images of screens.
Stagecraft is not the first application of LED walls — they’ve been used for years at smaller scales — but it is certainly by far the most high-profile, and “The Mandalorian” is the first real demonstration of what’s possible using this technology. And believe me, it’s not a one-off.
I’ve been told that nearly every production house is building or experimenting with LED walls of various sizes and types — the benefits are that obvious. TV productions can save money but look just as good. Movies can be shot on more flexible schedules. Actors who hate working in front of green screens may find this more palatable. And you better believe commercials are going to find a way to use these as well.
In short, a few years from now it’s going to be uncommon to find a production that doesn’t use an LED wall in some form or another. This is the new standard.
This is only a general overview of the technology that ILM, Disney and their many partners and suppliers are working on. In a follow-up article I’ll be sharing more detailed technical information directly from the production team and technologists who created Stagecraft and its attendant systems.