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).