When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Archive for January, 2010

We’re putting the finishing touches on converting our theater to a 4K digital fulldome system from SkySkan. As far as I know, we’re now the largest fulldome theater in the Southeast US. We’ve been waiting for this day since I started working here three years ago. And it’s been talked about for over 10 years! In fact, it’s been so long that the guy who started talking about 10 years ago, Holden Thorp, was then the director of the Planetarium. Now he’s the Chancelor of the entire school of UNC-Chapel Hill.


Our official reopening is going to be February 5th. On the docket is “Astronaut” from NSC and “Black Holes: Journey into the Unknown” from Museum Victoria. We’ll also be playing our own homegrown show, “Earth, Moon and Sun” and a live show called Carolina Skies. We’ve also got the Domefest 2009 shorts that we’re going to play during special occasions AND we’re weeks away from finishing our second show, “Magic Tree House: Space Mission” and a domefest short entitled “Jeepers Creepers.”  Yeah, it’s a bit busy, but we’re pretty psyched.

Starting on our new show, we begin with our most favorite (mine anyways) portion of the production process:


Pre-Production!


With our script getting a coat of finishing wax, our characters have been essentially locked down. With no major changes to be made to them, we can begin our character sketches! The following are some examples of our rough character concepts. The next step would be to make more locked down turn-arounds when we move onto the modeling in our 3d program of choice.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

41pBhfgzCoL._SL500_AA240_Because dome shows are mostly 3D animation, making planetarium shows is closer to creating cartoons or video games than live action films. Therefore, most of the sound effects have to be added in after the visuals are created. The arrangement and layering of these sounds is called sound design.

I was looking to get a little more education on doing sound design for film, whether it be from a class, books or some old sound guru who lives on a mountain top somewhere. It’s not easy to find info out there. And I work on a University campus, so you’d think there’d be some resource available. Nada. Nothing. If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions, lay it on me. I’m not talking the basics of audio editing, I’m talking full-on film sound design.

One book I did find that was interesting, however, is “Sound design & Science Fiction” by William Whittington. It basically talks about the evolution of sound design and how the 70s sci-fi movies such as THX-1138, Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner revolutionized the business. And pretty much the leader in the revolution was Lucasfilm’s Ben Burtt. Thirty years later, he continues to be the leader in the biz – he did the sound for Wall•E. If you’re interested more in the sound design and foley work that was done for that film, check out this talk he gave about it as well as this website – Ben Burtt Interviews.

The following is a wonderful source for after effects ideas, and production assets. If you’re making full dome content chances are you’re using Adobe after Effects because of its support for 4k compositing, and because its fairly easy to use. Andrew Kramer has a quirky sense of humor in all of his tutorials, but also does a great job explaining process, and some excellent design ideas and procedures. Anyone who’s asked me questions about understanding the program I usually point them to this link.

and for good measure, http://videocopilot.net/

The tutorials have been free, but some of his production bundles are worth taking a look at. For someone new to After Effects there are some great starter tutorials, and for some of us more advanced types he’s always coming out with some new and challenging material.