When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Archive for March, 2010

We here at Morehead have been working with a local talented artist who’s been exploring the notion of projecting art onto surfaces. Where from my understanding his goal is to take two things that were incomplete on their own, and combine them. This process changes both pieces and creates something new. Now as a compositor who takes many things and figures out how to make them work together, its definitely something I can relate to.

Working with him and helping him figure out how images translate from flat to full dome has been a journey for us both. He’s been taking concepts that have become somewhat standard in our productions and wanted to create real footage equivalents. The images that have been generated are certainly abstract. The visual interests of taking seemingly simple concepts like capturing food coloring in water, have produced vivid images with very natural and somewhat unexpected movements.

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As he progressed in his visual experiments the compositions and staging became a bit more deliberate, but still contained the organic nature of the subject matter.

The final piece is scheduled to be shown April 17th as a repeating 10-15 minute  presentation for viewers to experience at their leisure.

mth2

We just finished up our second full dome show called Magic Tree House: Space Mission. The show is based on the popular children’s book series Magic Tree House and is written by Will Osborne. We’ve been showing an analog version of MTH at Morehead since 2004 but it’s so popular that we decided to convert it to digital.

The audio track remains similar, although we added a few new SFXs, switched out one of the main character’s V.O.s and mixed it in 5.1 surround. But we didn’t do a typical digital conversion for the visuals. We essentially rethought the visuals from scratch, making the show much more interesting to watch and utilizing the full capacity of fulldome video.  The trailer is coming soon!


The brand new projection system is installed, and now we’re ready to take some content and test it on the venue its intended for. I’ve got my 4k dome masters that I’ve so painstakingly slaved over, and I can’t wait to see them projected across a 60 ft surface… … … now what?!

Dome_Master copy

The Process for preparing a “dome master”  for the dome is called ” slicing”. This takes a large 4k image breaks it apart for your particular projection system.  For example we’ve got two projectors, some people have 4, an I think they go up in even numbers from there. What ever the Configuration you’ll need to feed each projector with its own specially distorted version of the original dome master.

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For us, even though we have 2 projectors, each projector needs 4 feeds. So this results in 8 individual feeds of images. The software provided by our full dome facilitator will take our image sequence of the dome masters and cut it up into 8 individual image sequences.  Then those sequences get put into an mpeg video with appropriate audio to be synced with a master Audio Track.  This process is fairly lengthy as the slicer can process 1000 frames per hour. Though luckily you can use multiple computers to do the slice, but when it comes to processing the mpegs you’ll become limited to 8 individual machines.

eightfeeds

After that, then you can take your 8 video files and push them to the slaves that run the projectors, get them all synced up, and finally watch your full dome content… Its amazing, its fantastic, its got an odd flicker happening on some geometry about 30 frames in and lasts the rest of the shot.  On a 4k system you can see any technical blemish you may have missed. At that point you go back to your desk, cry a little, and start all over.