When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Archive for June, 2009

David Benning over at the ARTS Lab at University of New Mexico just announced that DomeFest 2009, which had been postponed from June to an undetermined date, will happen after all. The dates set are September 25-27 2009 and it will be located at UNM in Albuquerque. Similar to previous years, there will a Juried Show, full show screenings, technical and production talks.

Here are some dates to keep in mind:
+ 06 July: Registration opens
+ 24 July: Papers, Talks & “Making of…” Proposals Due
+ 04 August: Juried Show Submissions Due
+ 18 August: Accepted “Making of…” content due

We’re hoping to go, but with the current North Carolina state gov budget cuts, it’s not looking so good…

We recently had a discussion on what lends itself to a dome. Seeing as Star projectors are no longer the center piece of the technology,we have an entire surface to expose and fill with content.
Space science has typically been the focus of Planetariums and is a primary focus even today. A dome offers itself to be a simulation of the sky above. Though as the technology gets more sophisticated it has become a way to illustrate space with a little “s”. We can deal with space inside a cell, or explore the volume of a dense molecule.

Some Visual devices we know work on a dome are as follows:
Moving to a large open area from a some what cramped one.
Moving through tunnels.
Flying along the surface of any object. (Moon, Mars, a really long line of text)
Flipping the horizon
Moving through objects
Shifting Perspective

Though a characteristic that seems to be prevalent in our continued exploration of the medium is motion. Still sequences seem to be a thing of the past. Even a slight rotation or scale is better than a static shots. I’m sure this list will continue to grow as we develop new ways to exploit the unique environment of the dome, and we define a visual language for how a dome is used.

I’ve been working on a scene in our new production Magic Tree House, and experimented with some camera movements. I’ve learned from the great Eric Knisley that you need to be very careful with motions of the camera, since sickness and disorientation can come very quickly in the dome environment. When I asked how you can prevent nausea from occurring in camera moves, Eric would explain it with one word: Stately. The classic entrance of the couple or girl coming down those large ballroom steps in those old movies was what came to mind after hearing that. Time to put it into practice! Here are two different approaches I took to this scene where we enter the treehouse for the first time. The first test was imagining the camera was attached to the head of the person. I thought that perhaps the reason why people would get sick was the combination of both rotation and positional translation of the camera.

Although I didn’t get very sick with it, the people I showed it too here did get sick while watching it. Maybe it was all those FPS games that I played for long hours that allowed me to get used to it. Also that I was the one who actually made it so I knew when motions were going to happen. Either way it wasn’t very successful for a larger audience. It may seem like its not so bad in the video while watching it on a flat screen, everyone really seemed to notice it in the dome.

So knowing that I was needing to tone it down a lot, I abandoned the idea that the camera was attached to the head of a person ascending the ladder. I made the camera move a smooth motion that was floating through space. Even though I miss the idea of making the motion more organic, everyone who was sick from the first example were much happier with this new one.

If anyone has any insight to their own experiences with camera moves in dome space, please feel free to share what you know by either leaving a comment or dropping me an email!