Sony has introduced two new Crystal LED Display modules for professional applications shortly before the start of CES 2021 - of particular interest to filmmakers is the possibility of combining several such modules to create huge LED walls for dynamic backgrounds in virtual film sets.
Virtual Filmset with Sony Crystal LED Display
Sony&s Crystal LED Displays have already been used for this purpose (together with laser projections) in the production of the space western series "The Mandalorian" set in the Star Wars universe and in George Clooney&s science fiction film "Midnight Sky".
Sony presented two types of Crystal LED display modules, each with 2 models with different pixel densities and resolutions: the C-series with a particularly high contrast of 1,000,000:1 and the B-series with a particularly high brightness of 1,800 nits. The latter was developed in collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment to specifically meet the needs of virtual movie productions.
It therefore has an anti-reflective coating with a matte finish, for example. The two new series are scheduled to hit the market in summer 2021 - both model series support a wide color gamut, cover 140% of the sRGB color space, and can display 10-bit HDR, as well as HFR (with up to 120Hz) and 3D content. Sony has not yet named prices for the new models, but so far a 320x360 pixel module has cost around ,000.
The individual frameless display modules, with resolutions of 480x270 pixels (B12A/C12A) and 384x216 pixels (B15A/C15A), respectively, and a size of 60.8 x 34.1 x 7.5cm, offer a wide viewing angle of nearly 180° and are said by Sony to be easy to install - they plug together seamlessly and then transfer power and image information between each other. The individual modules can be combined in almost any size, format and resolution to create a display wall. Each individual pixel is represented by three R,G and B micro-LEDs, which provides for the very good color reproduction, high brightness and deep black levels.
What is a virtual film set? With the help of high-resolution LED displays, either a live rendered virtual or a previously shot scene - such as a desert or mountain landscape - can be displayed in the background on a film set. And in such high resolution that it can be filmed and at the same time also provide a complex realistic illumination of the scene (including coherent reflections) including actors on set.
Do MicroLED displays replace green screens? The dynamic virtual backgrounds provided by the MicroLED wall bring a whole range of changes and advantages for traditional film production: a lot of work is shifted from post-production to pre-production, because even at this stage 3D models of the scenes can be used to plan the shooting of individual scenes exactly and visualize them as they will later look in the film.
During the shoot itself, the production designer, DOP and director can make basic aesthetic decisions quickly and try out new ideas right away, and do not have to wait for hours of renderings in post-production if something needs to be changed in the design of the (virtual) set.
Filming CGI scenes becomes much more natural for the entire film crew and the shoot is independent of outdoor conditions - so the magic hour can last a whole day, the color mood can be changed at will and there are no more gray clouds threatening scenes for which bright blue skies are intended. Backgrounds can be digitally manipulated live as well as virtual rendered objects on set.
Virtual film set of The Mandalorian
Another advantage comes from cost savings: for many scenes, for example, one camera is enough to capture images of backgrounds on location, saving a trip by the entire film crew. This real footage can be combined with virtual objects as well. The production is also totally transformed by the fact that the virtual set can be changed extremely quickly from scene to scene and hardly requires any more rebuilding. Also the actors profit, because they get a better feeling for the environment they are playing in, in contrast to the otherwise used green screens, because of the backgrounds that are also visible to them.
In the future, effects-heavy films with lower budgets could also benefit from the new technology, as it allows for significantly cheaper VFX in films (and reduced production time). For now, however, the technology is still limited to relatively high-budget productions due to its high price, but that will likely change quickly as more and more such virtual film sets become available for rent at more and more studios.
Other applications for large MicroLED walls Other applications are large LED walls for showrooms or corporate lobbies. Sony had already designed a 16K display in an early model in 2014 and, for example, 2019 installed a 19.2 x 5.4 meter MicroLED wall with a resolution of 16K (15,360 x 4,320 pixels) for the Japanese cosmetics company Shiseideo and produced smaller versions for the living rooms of millionaires. But it will take some time until every living room will have such a MicroLED wall due to the still very high prices.