When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Balancing the scale

by Peter Althoff

June 22, 2010 | No comments | When in Dome

By the term scale, I am referring to the relative size of objects as they’re perceived on the dome in relation to each other.

Recently, while constructing the office of our stories instigator, we noticed an interesting optical illusion. Though the two spaces were a rough test to try and sell the idea that this characters office was massive, they didn’t feel very large once we looked at them on the dome. There were two versions of the space in question. The images better illustrate the difference in size. The objects in the center are to represent a person 6 ft tall next to a shorter person standing behind a desk.

The following videos are indeed two different versions of the room, but due to the uniform scale on the environment, and the lack of visual cues, you’re unable to determine the scale of the space.



After this discovery, we went back to the drawing board. The issue is that we needed to establish scale, and big part of that is incorporating more information.

We broke up the scene a bit more, and added the guardrail element to give us an reference for our eyes, and mind to fill in the missing details.  In a traditional flat screen format, we can use distorted perspective to help sell distance, and depth.  In photography there are ways to blur the focal range, or different lenses can be used to elongate a space. In the dome world that type of visual trickery isn’t as simple, as the perspective is already distorted to work on a curved surface.

This is by no means a new invention. Traditional painting, and photography often times work a person or some other reference object into an environment to help people establish a sense of scale.


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