Tuesday, 10 October 2023
USA – Based in Los Angeles, Synapse Virtual Production is an immersive entertainment collective composed of industry-leading creatives and technicians across film and television, advertising, music videos, live events, broadcast, esports, and more. Blending their artistic instincts and technical expertise, the Synapse team specialises in virtual production with a creative-first approach, using their hard-won knowledge so that clients can have true creative freedom on set.
From the company’s inception, Synapse has relied on Brompton Technology’s LED video processors to help facilitate their virtual production projects. Synapse’s chief technology officer, Geoff Knight, explained: “Coming from a background in live events, I’ve been very familiar with Brompton for years, and know first-hand how excellent and reliable their processors are. Virtual production is so exciting right now because the talent pool is converging from all these different areas, and there’s a robust shared knowledge base for Brompton that we can utilise.”
The Synapse team constructed a temporary pop-up LED volume in early 2023 for hands-on R&D and production work while planning and building out their permanent facility, set to open this October at Los Angeles Centre Studios. The pop-up space utilised nine Brompton Tessera SX40 processors, powering the 60ft wide LED volume at 4K and 60 frames per second.
One of the most enlightening projects that Synapse worked on during this time was the music video for Jackson Wang’s Cruel, directed by Synapse’s chief creative officer and music video director and VFX artist Rich Lee. Known for his award-winning work with artists such as Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey, Rihanna, and Eminem, Lee is no stranger to high concept productions and pushing the boundaries of visual effects. But utilising virtual production for Cruel surpassed the team’s high expectations, allowing them to create and capture a digital dystopian world all in-camera.
“The concept for Cruel was incredibly ambitious and it turned out to be a very impressive effort in terms of execution and scope, especially with tight timelines for prep and shooting,” shared Christopher Probst, ASC, chief innovation officer at Synapse. “Rich and I had worked on a music video a few years ago with a similar post-apocalyptic look, which we shot on location with a lot of practical elements augmented with VFX, and it was a huge challenge.
“For Cruel, we were able to capture everything in the LED volume over just two 10-hour days of shooting – a timeframe that’s virtually unheard of for a music video. The shoot went flawlessly and it was such an eye-opening experience for Rich and I – we couldn’t believe the quality of the visuals we were getting in-camera.”
To set the scene for the video shoot, the Synapse team created virtual environments in Unreal Engine and integrated them with practical foreground elements on the LED stage. The Brompton processors were particularly advantageous in two areas: the ability to facilitate multi-camera shooting via the Tessera’s frame remapping feature and maximising the panel bit depth via Dark Magic to ensure the best possible colour quality even in low light.
Probst commented: “This environment in particular was at the lower end of the lumen value, so having Brompton’s video processing be able to articulate all those nuances in the grayscale and capture that level of detail was really impressive. What Brompton is doing to improve low light performance is really exciting and expands the possibilities for what can be filmed using virtual production.”
Knight concluded: “It’s incredible what we’ve been able to achieve with the existing technology, so once we get our hands on Brompton’s new G1 receiver cards and the next-generation LED panels, I think it will blow everything we’ve done so far out of the water. I can’t wait to look back in a few years and see how much things have evolved.”