Sony has announced that it will start selling a series of modular monitors that can be used to create digital movie sets (via The Hollywood Reporter). If this type of technology seems familiar, it may be because Industrial Light & Magic and Epic Games built similar sets to help create Mandalorianen.
The displays are part of Sony’s Crystal LED line, which are modular panels that use MicroLED, and which were previously marketed as signage. Display technology and modularity mean you can create huge screens using a bunch of panels connected to a controller. This is useful if you are trying to create a virtual set of screens.
The ones announced today are part of the new B-Series, and are marketed as useful for film production: they have an anti-reflective coating, and they are bright. Sony says they can operate at 1
An advantage of building your backdrop from screens is that the light they emit makes it easier to convince the audience that your actors are in fact there. With traditional green screen sets, the background is a flat, solid color, and you have to light up your actors as if the background actually exists. When you use screens, however, the background is already there and provides light.
As a completely composite example, let’s imagine a sign sitting in a desert at sunset. If you shoot this on a green screen, you need to have a bunch of lights set up to simulate what the actor would look like if they were actually outside. However, if you use monitors, you can mostly rely on them to generate that light for you, making it easier to get a realistic look (you can see that happen in this behind-the-scenes video).
Using screens can also mean more realistic reflections. If our hypothetical character in the example was wearing, for example, a slightly reflective helmet, and we shot at a green screen, it would reflect the green color. Visual effects artists had to come back later and make it look like the helmet actually reflected the desert. With the screens, however, the helmet can reflect the images displayed around it, without finishing work required. When I made short films at school, we used ordinary old TVs to get reflections and avoid doing post-production, but you can imagine that these panels would give slightly better results.
Sony says that these monitors are capable of high frame rates and 3D, so there is a lot of flexibility in what kind of signal you can feed them. It plans to make them available “in the summer”, but has not released a price yet. Given that these are professional products (the B-series was “developed in collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment,” Sony’s film production), it is probably a “if you have to ask, you can not afford”. But even if you do not want to buy one yourself, you can soon see movies and shows produced with them.