Film students in Canberra learn to use technology used in high-budget productions like The Mandalorian

Film students at Canberra Institute of Interactive Education (AIE) can now use technology seen in titles such as The Mandalorian and Thor: Love and Thunder.

The nonprofit vocational education provider has begun offering a world-first course using an immersive visual effects technology called StageCraft, which is an alternative to green screens.

Virtual production techniques are becoming more common in high-budget filmmaking, allowing filmmakers to create virtual 3D spaces – like a video game setup.

Actors perform in real scenes with props, but their backgrounds are made in a game engine and displayed on a curved screen.

The virtual setup can then be recorded in the lens background, moving like a camera as if it were a real setup.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also used to capture the movements of actors in motion-controlled environments.

‘Not at this level’

Maggie Callinan is the director of AIE’s student program and one of the first students to try new technology.

“I’ve been working on personal projects, movies and other stuff since I was in high school, but it didn’t get to this level,” Ms Callinan said.

A woman in a gray shirt smiles.
Film student Maggie Callinan said the technology makes it easier to shoot in environments such as space.(ABC News: Donal Scheer)

“It’s cool, we have actual fixed bills and stuff. It’s like a low-budget Hollywood [film].

“I’m grateful that I’m able to use these things so that if I’m going to get a job in this industry later, I know what I’m doing.”

Her current project, Ace of Spades, is about two astronaut cadets getting bored on a spaceship and having a friendly but dramatic card fight.

She said that using StageCraft makes it easier to tell stories set in space.

“We don’t have to build a whole set, we just stick the back plate up and it moves with the camera,” she said.

“We just need a few extras — some tables, sets, things like that.”

Students learn ‘industry standard’ technology in capital

A man in a black sweater smiles.
AIE chief executive John de Margheriti said the course was designed to allow students to practice high-quality industry skills.(ABC News: Donal Scheer)

Interactive Entertainment Academy chief executive John de Margheriti said the technology was becoming more common in the film industry, most recently being used to film Thor: Love and Thunder in Sydney.

“The Mandalorian TV series that Disney makes, and all the other TV series that are related to the Star Wars universe, use the same technology,” he said.

“It’s widely used now, it’s almost an industry standard, and what we’re doing is we’re training students on how to basically make a standard-compliant film [at a] Very high production level. “

AIE has four campuses – in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra – but its full virtual production technology is only in Canberra.

Mr Margheriti said they trained students to use it at other campuses, so when they came to the capital to shoot, they knew how it worked.

Set inside a movie studio.
Of all the Interactive Entertainment Academy campuses, Canberra has the largest film studio.(ABC News: Donal Scheer)

“What we’ve done is we’ve created smaller capacity across our Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide campuses where students can experiment with the technology,” Mr Margheriti said.

“It’s only here that they can really see it in its full glory in a studio setting.”

Filmmaking and virtual production teacher Dan Sanguineti said that when designing the curriculum, the focus was on giving students the opportunity to experience professional equipment firsthand.

“We want students to be able to make films that they have the opportunity to be a part of, have access to equipment and make films that really matter to them,” he said.

“It’s not just about understanding or theory, it’s about having the opportunity to touch the camera, set the lights, or put the props in the right place and how important that is to the story.”

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