When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Archive for January, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week we are heading out to Denver for the Feb 3-5 2012 IMERSA Summit. This year’s theme is “Lessons from our past, Visualizing our future: Winning solutions for the digital dome.” We’re screening our new show, Solar System Odyssey, at 5:30PM on Friday and then I’ll be giving a presentation directly afterwords entitled “Domenclature” about the need to create a “film language” for the dome and what we learned producing SSO. If you’re going to be there, please stop by, see the show and say hi.

Looking to the Spring, we’ll be also screening Solar System Odyssey at the Jena Fulldome Festival in Germany in May and our short, Jeepers Creepers, at the Buenos Aires Independent International Festival of Cinema in Argentina in April.

I was recently at a non-planetarium, non-fulldome conference for science communicators called ScienceOnline. The attendees that I met, who happened to be mostly scientists, science journalists or pr people, generally didn’t know what I meant when I said I “produced fulldome video.” As many of us have experienced, saying that you make “planetarium shows” doesn’t quite work either because most adults tend to think about pre-digital shows. It’s a good thing I attended a session called “Pimp Your Elevator Pitch” and decided to use it to work on giving a definition of what fulldome is in less than 45 seconds.

Here’s what I ended up with:

Fulldome videos are primarily science documentaries that are projected onto a domed surface, typically in a planetarium. Many fulldome videos deal with astronomy, but other subjects are appropriate for the dome, especially topics or environments that are difficult to experience as a human being, such as deep underwater, inside the human body or in the future. We like to think of a flat screen video as a window into another world but with a fulldome video you can poke your head up inside that world and become immersed within it. Think of a 3D animated movie crossed with IMAX and put it in a planetarium.

Some feedback I got with my original pitch was that I started by saying that they’re “not planetarium shows,” which instantly put the idea of an analog show in people’s minds. I also originally described them as a combination of PIXAR and IMAX in a dome and was told that people in very rural areas might not know what PIXAR or IMAX are. Something to keep in mind.

Any other ideas out there? How have you described “fulldome” to others quickly?

When we started producing dome content 4 years ago, we were working on two different 3d platforms, 3ds max and Maya, and still doing a 5 camera stitch with a hemi-cube. We used the 5 camera stich to create our first two productions, “Earth Moon and Sun” and “Magic Tree House.” On our most recent production, “Solar System Odyssey,” we knew we wanted to try something different. Since we were doing a character driven piece, I took it upon myself to learn Maya. One of the greatest achievements in our recent production was the proper implementation of the DomeAFL shader for mental ray, created by Daniel Ott.

This opened up new doors for rendering and camera techniques. The reduced time of manually stitching together comps freed us up to try and tackle more challenging aspects of production. One of the new features we’d be able to render was an Ambient Occlusion pass that gave our elements new depth.

We no longer were fighting to fit disjointed pieces together before running out of time, but instead were able to refine our work from a rough state to a more polished product.

 

Recently we upgraded our software from Maya2008 to Maya2012. In that upgrade the shader stopped working. Fortunately, I was able to locate an updated version. The work these fine folks are doing is taking the shader to new dimensions by creating stereoscopic imagery (via Roberto Ziche on http://fulldome.ning.com/forum).

 

In a previous post Jim talked about doing a believable shake on the 3D camera itself. With motion blur turned on this can get a bit expensive as far as render times. Sometimes we lean on After Effects to push a shake to even greater extremes.

In this example you’ll see a 2D shake added to enhance the launch sequence. Now on the flat screen the shake doesn’t seem to be all that extreme, but on a dome it feels much more intense. In the last shot of the sequence I did a 3d Camera shake, and felt it needed to be pushed more. Rather than re-animate, we used After Effects and did a 2D wiggle on top of the existing shake to get the desired look.

I do this by using the Wiggle Expression in After Effects. [wiggle(a,b)] where a= frequency of the wiggle per second, and b= how much or amplitude.

 

I link them to sliders so I can animate how much wiggle I want. Now that I have a wiggler ready to go, I wiggle a null. The location of the  null will be the center point of the wiggle. Once you’re ready to go, parent your footage to the null.

Now depending on how comfortable you are with After Effects I might have lost you. So feel free to watch the following tutorial about wiggle, and its various uses.

We just rendered a flat screen version of the trailer for our newest show – Solar System Odyssey. Looks pretty good in a rectangular format, if I do say so myself.  Check it out below. But you’ll have to check it out on a dome to get the full effect, obviously.