The approach Abrams arrived at was to go back to the techniques Lucas used the first time around, the time that really mattered, all the way back in 1977. Abrams almost literally devolved the entire production of The Force Awakens technologically to an earlier era of filmmaking. He shot on film. Wherever possible, he abandoned CGI in favor of models and practical effects, and green screens in favor of actual sets and physical locations. “I wanted to feel that thing that I’d felt when I was a kid watching this movie, which was that this was actually happening,” Abrams says. “So the decision was made very early on to build as much as we can and actually film it. And what that would do is obviate the need to try to make people believe it was actually happening. Because it simply would be happening.
Lev Grossman, “A New New Hope: How J.J. Abrams Brought Back Star Wars Using Puppets, Greebles and Yak Hair”, Time (14 December 2015), 62-63.