Star Wars model and miniatures aficionados: prepare to lose your minds

Something very cool was shown at a panel for ‘The Mandalorian’.

At Star Wars Celebration in Chicago over the weekend, anyone who is obsessed with the models and miniatures used in Star Wars films over the years will likely flip at the news presented during The Mandalorian panel there.

Two key members of the show’s production team, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, showed off an ILM reel that revealed how a new ship called the Razorcrest appearing in the Disney+ TV series was brought to life as a miniature with motion control shooting.


It’s true.

Favreau mentioned that, initially, they were considering making a miniature for “lighting reference,” joking that Guillermo del Toro has done the same on his films as a way of ending up with a collectible keepsake (“for your desk,” noted Filoni).

“You can’t hang a QuickTime up in your office,” Favreau said.

A screenshot from The Mandalorian
A screenshot from The Mandalorian Panel stream at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. This shows the engine assembly of the ship, with LED lighting.

Filoni commented that he noticed during production that once that miniature idea came to light, more and more people would ‘pop up’ in ILM meetings, including animation supervisor Hal Hickel and ILM Chief Creative Officer & Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll.

“Then we started hearing John’s making something in his garage,” said Filoni. This turned out to be a milled motion control rig that held a digital SLR camera enabling it to shoot multiple passes of the model.

The miniature itself, meanwhile, came to life care of designs from people such as Doug Chiang and Ryan Church, as well as 3D printed parts orchestrated by Landis Fields. In footage shown during the panel, model maker John Goodson was also shown sculpting Razorcrest parts (“kit bashing,” Filoni called it), including with LED lights for the engines. Hickel, too, was part of the footage, and it was mentioned that he had researched exactly how miniature ships ‘moved’ in mo-co shots in past Star Wars films, along with the way starfields appeared. No doubt many other ILMers are also involved.

A screenshot from The Mandalorian Panel stream
A screenshot from The Mandalorian Panel stream at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. This is the motion control rig built by John Knoll.

Possibly the coolest part of the footage involved watching the multiple passes being shot. “It already feels like Luke’s X-Wing, right?’ observed Filoni.

Of course, the crowd went wild over this, and it certainly taps into what seems to be a desire for more practical filmmaking in big-budget productions. Favreau even finished up by commenting, “Whenever I’ve worked on something, they’re like, ‘You can’t shoot a model!’” Luckily this time they did, and he added that the work, “really reminds us of the old behind the scenes footage. Most people won’t even know, but we thought you’d appreciate that.”

Audiences of The Mandalorian, which airs in November, certainly will.

Watch the full panel below (with the Razorcrest discussion starting 45min in).


3 Replies to “Star Wars model and miniatures aficionados: prepare to lose your minds

  1. Years ago we recreated the asteroid sequence in real time in Cryengine. Here is an “Escape” version we did. We did this in just a few weeks with two artists. We even researched the colors of the actual models and yes…how the Star fields move which is different than if it were a 360 environment because the original plates were flat painting that shifted. We also added jitter to the frames to accurately match the discrepencies in each frame being that it is film. Check out out behind the scenes video on it.

  2. I also did some Star Wars motion control shots for fun a couple years ago… check it out here:

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