October 20, 2020. With a history in film, TV, VFX and production, Sydney-based Spectre Studios strengthened its virtual production (VP) toolset whilst working on the Hollywood Blockbuster X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The company used real-time engines and virtual production to help visualise complicated stunt and VFX shots for the film, a technique that has been mastered by the team at Proxi and successfully replicated on Triple Frontier. In the true spirit of creative company collaboration, Spectre Studios joined forces with NEP Studios and Big Picture to create ICVFX: Australia’s first full-service LED virtual production solution for local and international content creators, bringing the future of in-camera VFX under one roof. Brompton Technology’s Tessera SX40 4K LED processor was chosen as the driving power for the studio’s LED virtual production workflow.
The facility demonstrates a fully functioning LED wall volume and dynamic 3D environments for VP, as well as motion & facial capture all in one facility, and all with remote access.
“It made sense for us to approach NEP and Big Picture to see where we could help leverage their extensive experience and technical capability to help bring our concepts and research into a reality. NEP had been developing an offering of its own and it seemed like the perfect storm to join forces to see what could come out of this partnership,” says Spectre Studios’ Technical Director, Rick Pearce.
The team decided to fully demonstrate the capabilities of their LED screen by developing a wide range of content – from SimTrav [simulated travel], interior and exterior locations, as well as a range of sci-fi environments that they staged in order to demonstrate what shooting a production on LED would be like. “We were lucky enough to have our friends at Arri and VA Hire provide some great camera and production gear to create a dream combination of concept, tech, production, and talent,” continues Pearce.
In their testing of different products, Pearce and the team at Spectre quickly found that the solution that Josh Moffat, Business Development at Big Picture, developed for ICVFX was perfectly aligned with what the team was trying to achieve in terms of production workflow. The team chose four of Brompton’s cutting-edge 4K Tessera SX40 LED processing system along with eight Tessera XD 10G data distribution units to drive 13.5 by 4.5 metres of ROE Black Onyx 2.8mm HD-LED displays for the wall, as well as 46 square metres of ROE CB5 LED panels for the ceiling, and additional 20 square metres of ROE CB3 panels for ambient lighting and as reflection screens.
“Choosing Brompton was a no-brainer for us,” says Moffat. “The company has been our loyal partner and a perfect LED processing solution for years, with its Tessera processors offering exceptional colour control and comprehensive image manipulation, coupled with quick easy tools like the OSCA seam correction feature. The advanced remote control options have also been a particular benefit to us in this workflow, given the current situation.”
The feedback about the virtual production facility has been really positive. “The opportunities for use keep growing each week,” shares Pearce. “ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) chose to visit us to hold an information session and facilitate a hands-on creative session with some of the country’s best DOP’s to provide them a playground as they explored the edges of what was possible.”
As the team continues to educate Australian production companies and studios looking for solutions in VP, and in a broader COVID production world, Spectre Studios team are having a lot of conversations as to how they can put the technology to use at scale.
“We hope the LED Volume with Brompton processing will have a permanent location here, as we see versions of Virtual Production becoming a mainstay in many film production workflows,” Pearce adds. “With all the many benefits it provides creatively, and the added bonus of being post-pandemic friendly, we’re confident ICVFX will be home of many exciting new projects.”
With many projects already in the pipeline, the team knows it would not be possible without the technical capabilities of Brompton’s system and support from the Brompton team.
“The high quality of Brompton processing is an integral part of our entire VP [virtual production] workflow,” concludes Pearce. “We are one of Australia’s most prominent studios utilising tools like Unreal Engine 4 for everything from animation, VR development, and now LED Volume virtual production. The Brompton Tessera SX40 processor is really helping us bring the content to life by offering ultra realistic visual backgrounds that produce astounding results. The fact that the Australian Cinematographers Society wanted to use our facility for its creative session speaks volumes, and that’s in no small part thanks to the amazing visual performance and true-to-life colour accuracy delivered by Brompton processing.”