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Concept Design

Synthesis is an optimistic science fiction television series being developed by Trembling Void Studios. In the summer of 2021, that journey took an important step forward, as the team produced and shot a proof-of-concept trailer on a virtual stage built by Showmax and realized by Arc VFX. It was one of the first virtual productions ever shot in Vancouver.

As the concept artist on Synthesis, I designed a number of assets for the show, from faction logos to computer interface graphics, to entire starships. And the most important of these assets was undoubtedly the hero vessel of the show, the Starling.


Concept Artist



The producers wanted technology to be futuristic, but deeply grounded in physical reality. In their words, the Starling is to modern spacecraft what Tesla is to a Model T. This created an opportunity to take current spacecraft technology and stretch it to its limit.

The ultimate direction for the design was heavily inspired by the starship Leonora Christine from Poul Anderson’s novel ‘Tau Zero’. With a signature dart-like silhouette, the Starling began to take form in early concept art.

Early key art for Synthesis featuring the Starling.

Once the overall form was approved, it was time to drill down into the details. The Starling is a modular design, with discrete sections mounted on a central ‘spine’. Near the middle of the ship, a pair of counter-rotating habitats provide the crew with artificial gravity.

A cutaway view shows how the thin outer shell of the nose-cone protects a spacious, but mostly hollow, interior.

Once the design had been approved, I worked with the modeller to finesse the look of the ship, a task which involved creating detailed texture reference sheets…

The shooting model for the trailer was built by Jocque Butler for Arc VFX. The production used Unreal Engine to lookdev assets as part of their virtual production pipeline.

The shooting model, however, was built on a very tight budget and timeline, and for just a few quick shots in the proof-of-concept trailer. So when I was approached to design a poster for the show, I had the opportunity to up-rez and remaster the design so that it could really shine:

The team at Trembling Void have been avidly documenting their process in bringing Synthesis to life, and you can follow along on the journey on Instagram and Facebook.

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