When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Author Archive | Jim Kachelries

A blog I have scoured through and read fairly frequently is updated by John Kricfalusi, who is known most for Ren and Stimpy. His blog is very informative, and he gives very good opinion on a lot of different things involving animation. What’s really great is he’ll throw up clips from different segments of cartoons, breaking down all the key poses and analyzing different aspects of the actions. He’ll talk about things like anticipation, follow-through, secondary motion, etc. what are some good things to keep in mind and what are some not so good things. Certain pitfalls animators can easily fall into, not excluding other sides of the dice like character design, background layouts, color use, and much more.

Even though he mostly focuses on 2d flat-screen animation, a lot of concepts can and should be applied to 3d, and by extension of that also applied to the dome setting. Things can be a lot tougher for animating characters in domes, such as having strong silhouettes, staging, and subtleties and perception of close ups.  Enough of my rambling though, here’s the link:

John K. Stuff

I should also probably note that even though we share the same first and last initials, and both have tough last names to pronounce (his probably more than mine I think); its not the only reason I read and enjoy his blog!

I’ve been working on a scene in our new production Magic Tree House, and experimented with some camera movements. I’ve learned from the great Eric Knisley that you need to be very careful with motions of the camera, since sickness and disorientation can come very quickly in the dome environment. When I asked how you can prevent nausea from occurring in camera moves, Eric would explain it with one word: Stately. The classic entrance of the couple or girl coming down those large ballroom steps in those old movies was what came to mind after hearing that. Time to put it into practice! Here are two different approaches I took to this scene where we enter the treehouse for the first time. The first test was imagining the camera was attached to the head of the person. I thought that perhaps the reason why people would get sick was the combination of both rotation and positional translation of the camera.

Although I didn’t get very sick with it, the people I showed it too here did get sick while watching it. Maybe it was all those FPS games that I played for long hours that allowed me to get used to it. Also that I was the one who actually made it so I knew when motions were going to happen. Either way it wasn’t very successful for a larger audience. It may seem like its not so bad in the video while watching it on a flat screen, everyone really seemed to notice it in the dome.

So knowing that I was needing to tone it down a lot, I abandoned the idea that the camera was attached to the head of a person ascending the ladder. I made the camera move a smooth motion that was floating through space. Even though I miss the idea of making the motion more organic, everyone who was sick from the first example were much happier with this new one.

If anyone has any insight to their own experiences with camera moves in dome space, please feel free to share what you know by either leaving a comment or dropping me an email!


Creating storyboards in the dome setting is challenging to say the least. Traditional boards can’t quite make the grade in visualizing what the audience will see.

In the first image we see a extreme close-up of our rover traversing the surface of Mars.  I first thought to just board the sweet spot of the dome, where our attention will likely be focused too.  We’re missing a lot of what is seen outside the frame, which can cause many surprises when the animatic phase is reached. To prevent this from happening, it seemed to make most sense to storyboard in the dome medium. Much like using correct aspect ratios for tv or film storyboards, dome boards should be made to reflect the environment they’re presented in. Easier said than done of course. It’s a bit unnatural to draw a fisheye image and takes some time getting used too. It was made easier by having our own test dome to throw Photoshop on and start scribbling away.

Our second image highlights the sweet spot, while the third is without.

NewSweetSpot New