Sony announced that it will start selling a range of modular displays that can be used to create digital film sets (about The Hollywood Reporter). If this type of technology seems familiar, it may be due to Industrial Light & Magic and Epic Games built similar sets to help create The Mandalorian.
These displays are part of Sony’s Crystal LED range, which are modular panels that use MicroLEDs and that were previously marketed as signage products. The screen technology and modularity means you can Create huge displays with a series of panels attached to a controller. This is useful when trying to create a virtual set of ads.
The ones announced today are part of the new B-Series and are being marketed as useful for film production: they have an anti-reflective coating and are bright. Sony says they can work at 1,800 nits. Apple’s Pro Display XDR reaches 1,600 nits and It’s an incredibly bright screen. (The “XDR” in Apple’s Pro Display XDR actually stands for “Extended Dynamic Range,” a function of how bright it can get.)
One benefit of creating your background from displays is that the light they emit makes it easier to convince the audience that your actors are indeed There. With traditional green screen sets, the background is flat and one color, and you need to light your actors as if the background were actually there. However, if you are using screens, the background is already there and provides light.
As a completely made-up example, consider a figure sitting in a desert at sunset. If you shot this on a green screenYou would have to set up a series of lights to simulate what the actor would look like if he were actually outside. However, if you are using screens the main thing you can rely on is that these will produce the light for you, making it easier to get a realistic looking shot (you can see this happen) This behind the scenes video).
Using displays can also mean more realistic reflections. For example, if our hypothetical character in the example was wearing a slightly reflective helmet and we were taking photos on a green screen, it would reflect that green color. Artists with visual effects would have to come back later and make it look like the helmet actually reflects the desert. However, the screens allow the helmet to reflect the images that are displayed around it without the need for any rework. When I was making short films in school we used regular old TVs to get reflections and avoid rework, but you can imagine that these panels would give slightly better results.
According to Sony, these displays are capable of high frame rates and 3D, so the type of signal you can feed them with is very flexible. It is planned to make it available “in the summer” but has not yet published a price. Given that these are professional products (the B-series was “developed in collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment,” Sony’s film production arm), it’s likely a situation you can’t afford if you have to ask. But even if you don’t buy one yourself, you might soon find yourself watching movies and shows made with them.