Iain MacLeod, the head of Coronation Street, has glimpsed the future, and he believes it might signal the end of soap operas being filmed on constructed sets. According to him, whatever realism that needs to be established can be done using technology.
Iain and his team employed a unique piece of equipment for a special episode that will air shortly; he told us, “That’s more frequently encountered in things like The Mandalorian.” Or in a number of the Avengers films, they employ a somewhat larger version of this. It is known as a volume wall.
Iain explains how it operates. In essence, it’s similar to a more modernized version of what early talkies would’ve dubbed a green screen or back projection.
However, that essentially implies that you can place your actors anywhere you like. So in essence, you could construct a 3D world like the surface of Mars and plop Rita and Ken there reading Mr. Kipling and drinking tea if you wanted.
The team exploited the volume wall to build an epic stunt starring Gary Windass and Kelly Neelan (Millie Gibson) in the next special episode (Mikey North).
We made this amazing rooftop sequence with a sort of glowing cityscape in the background, adds Iain. “So that we can perform tasks that would be impossible to perform during a location shot.”
Without utilizing stunt performers, genuine actors can be made to appear to be in grave peril. The camera can be made to act in ways that are not possible in the real world.
“The camera can move about, swoop down, and glide in ways that you couldn’t accomplish in real life.” I’m quite excited with the sequence we devised for this week’s set piece, which is incredibly cinematic. Only having watched the rushes, it already appears spectacular.
Iain is so amazed by how the technology enabled them to create the desired effects that even if this is a one-off for this particular episode, he can see it being used more frequently in the future.
He said, “We did joke that there will be a time when we don’t need sets anymore.”
You only need a volume wall to enter the Rovers and then the Kabin; all you have to do is say, “Bang,” and you’re there. We were all making jokes about it, but a small part of me worries that in 10, or 20 years, it might not be all that far from the truth. Possessing physical sets could be out of date.
It’s astoundingly, astoundingly brilliant. And the idea that you can just click your fingers to travel to the American Savanna or, with another click, to the surface of the moon while wearing a space suit, is absolutely mind-boggling.
When they want to do something huge and spectacular, “it can be something that as a genre more and more programs come to employ because you can just make it that little extra,”
How to explain this new technology Iain is obviously very excited and acts like someone who just got a new toy. He explains, “It was all extremely exciting.”
You’ve never seen as many people make up an excuse to visit a filming location when, in reality, they have no business being there. Everyone was eager to go and look around. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen!