When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

If there is one thing we’ve learned in the past, it’s that particles can be expensive in terms of development, implementation, and hardware resources. Though there are many effects that call for particles, and sometimes using them is unavoidable. A workflow we’ve come to use is a process where we generate a particle system in After Effects using the Trapcode Particular Plugin, then map that image sequence to a plane in 3d to get the look we need without spending hours tweaking a fluid or particle system in Maya.

You could even use the same principle with stock footage of bullet hits and explosions. This process is best for systems that have limited interaction with their environment, and that the camera sees them from a distance. Typically we’ve used this for bursts and explosions, and a few eruptions.

Now for the flat screen this concept of using 2d effects layered over your comps isn’t very new. Applying the idea to the dome world requires you match it by hand using one of the dome plugins for After effects, or map it to Geometry in a 3d Scene and render it with a 5cam stitch or fisheye. These passes generally take little to no time even at a 4k resolution because you’re essentially rendering a simple piece of geometry with a single image texture. The texture files are generally 2k, unless the situation calls for more resolution.

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