RIT to partner with Synapse VP for exclusive virtual production immersion in LA next month

In-person training program offers hands-on experience in the latest VP techniques

Sebastian Nazario-Colon

Virtual production allows filmmakers to make movies with actors, lighting, and visual effects all shot live, in-camera using LED walls. At left, Sullivan Slentz ’14 (film and animation) experiments with camera angles for a virtual production video made in MAGIC Spell Studios on RIT’s campus in 2020. RIT and Synapse VP are partnering on a VP immersion in Los Angeles next month.

Rochester Institute of Technology is partnering with Synapse Virtual Production on an in-person immersion in Los Angeles next month that will provide creatives, technologists, and classically trained filmmakers with the latest training in experiential elements for virtual production (VP).

The RIT Certified Mastery Certificate in Virtual Production course will take place over two weeks (Jan. 8-12 and Jan. 15-19), including a number of sessions at Synapse VP Flagship Volume at LA Center Studios. Synapse is widely recognized as a leader in VP for its vast experience across the film and entertainment industry.

The course is designed for early-career film, animation, and production professionals seeking to learn the latest skills needed for VP as well current undergraduate students in film, animation, gaming, and other related majors looking to enhance their VP experience.

RIT Certified, the university’s professional training and workforce development division, is teaming up with expert faculty at RIT’s MAGIC Center, a world-class digital media research and production facility, and Synapse for the immersion.

VP blends filmmaking, 3D graphics, computational photography, and real-time game engine rendering to produce in-camera visual effects similar to those seen in the groundbreaking work on Disney’s The Mandalorian and Marvel’s Avenger films among other innovative filmmaking and television productions today that use computer-generated imagery (CGI), augmented reality, and motion capture to create realistic environments and effects on a virtual set.

“RIT has a unique niche in virtual production, which sits squarely within the intersection of the creative arts and technology,” said David Long, MAGIC Center’s director who will be co-teaching the course from RIT along with Flip Phillips and Mark Reisch in the College of Art and Design’s School of Film and Animation.

“The combination of the university’s educational strengths, together with the commercial expertise of our partner, Synapse VP, will enable participants to claim the skills and knowledge learned in this immersion on their résumés and, more importantly, better position them to earn a spot on a virtual production crew,” he added.

A grant that Long co-wrote with Shaun Foster in RIT’s School of Design for the development of a multi-departmental virtual production curriculum at RIT (using Unreal Engine) was funded by Epic Games back in 2020. The curriculum has enabled RIT students to learn and research state-of-the-art VP techniques at MAGIC Center for the past two years.

“One of the greatest challenges of virtual production currently is truly qualified talent,” said Aaron Gordon ’13 (film and animation), COO of Synapse VP. “As a proud alumnus of RIT and a partner in a company whose mission it is to set a sustainable gold standard for the VP space, I couldn’t be more excited about this collaboration.”

Gordon noted that a number of experts from Synapse VP will speak during the immersion, including Emily Haldeman ’19 (film and animation), VP supervisor; Christopher Probst, CIO and author of Cine Lens Manual; and Rich Lee, CCO and veteran director, Previz/VFX supervisor, and artist.

Dennis Di Lorenzo, RIT Certified’s executive director, said RIT is distinctively positioned to offer such an immersion with Synapse VP, including “the university’s ties to major studios and being home to the first imaging science program in the U.S.—currently the only formal program in the country.”

“This immersion, set in the entertainment capital of the world, reflects the university’s commitment to make an impact on the national and regional workforce, training the next generation of production professionals,” he added.

After the 10-day immersion, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate professional proficiency in on-set virtual production (OSVP) and relevant creative and technical workflows.
  • Become familiar with all of the latest tools and techniques employed with VP.
  • Participate in artistic workflows for processes such as 3D previsualization, virtual asset development, virtual scouting, and OSVP cinematography.
  • Participate in technical workflows for various processes, including LED volume architecture, systems engineering, LED spatial and color characterization, on-set camera and optics systems, and motion tracking systems.

While RIT has many alumni working throughout the entertainment industry, the university currently is targeting efforts to increase its presence on the West Coast. Tom Connor, former vice president of creative marketing at Walt Disney Co., was appointed assistant provost in October. In his new role, Connor will be charged with enhancing the university’s presence in Los Angeles, with an initial focus on the entertainment industry.

RIT and Synapse VP are planning to offer the VP immersion again over 10 days in June 2024 (June 10-14 and June 17-21).

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