When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Archive for the ‘ Production ’ Category

We just found out that Jeepers Creepers won an Honorable Mention at the Jena Fulldome Festival in Jena, Germany last weekend. Thanks to Volkmar Schorcht and the rest of the crew that put that festival together.


Here’s the full list of winners:

Winners in the “VisuaLiszt” category:
“Liszt from Space” by Stefan Berke and Jan Zehn, Ten Art Communications,
Jena. (independent media artists), endowed with 3,000 Euro (approx.
“How to disappear” by Merlin Fluegel, Offenbach Academy of Art and Design
(students’ work), endowed with 2,000 Euro (approx. $2,900),
“The Metalliszt – Road to Victory”, by Robert Sawallisch, Samuel Klemke and
Hannes Wagner, Weimar Bauhaus University (students’ work), endowed with
1,000 Euro (approx. $1,400),
“Nanocam. A trip into biodiversity” by Laura Alonso, Producciones El Exilio
S.L., Madrid, Spain (professional media production), special prize of the
jury, endowed with 500 Euro (approx. $700),
“Hysteria” by Pedro Zaz and United VJs, Sao Paulo, Brazil (independent
artists), special prize of the jury, endowed with 500 Euro,
“Lisztrausch” (Liszt Rapture) by Adrian Woldt, Weimar Bauhaus University
(students’ work), endowed with 500 Euro.

Winners of the FullDome Awards:
“The Royal Pea” by Helena Doyle and Rob Bidder, University of Westminster,
London (students’ work), Creative Fulldome Award, endowed with 500 Euro,
“No 217″ by Julia Wiesner, Lea Weber-Schaefer, Phil Schoell, Potsdam
University of Applied Sciences (students’ work), Performance FullDome
Award, endowed with 500 Euro,
“Schwimmende Einhoerner” (Floating Unicorns) by Stephanie Kaysz, Offenbach
Academy of Art and Design (students’ work), Audience FullDome Award,
endowed with 500 Euro.

Honorable Mentions have been presented to:
“Mephisto Cubic” by Philip Mayer and Bruno Mathez, GaiaNova Productions,
London (independent media artists),
“All We Are” by Norrkoepping Visualization Center, Sweden (professional
media production),
“Jeepers Creepers” by Morehead Planetarium & Science Center, Chapel Hill,
North Carolina, USA (professional media production),
“Dynamic Earth – Marine Biosphere” by Spitz Creative Media, Chadds Ford,
USA (professional media production),
“Tale of Stars” by Kagaya Studios, Tokyo, Japan (professional media

We just found out that Morehead’s fulldome short Jeepers Creepers won “Best Soundtrack” at the Immersive Film Festival last weekend in Espinho, Portugal. Additionally, our artist in residence, David Colagiovanni, won “Best Immersion” for his short, Charting Course for the Unknown. Next stop for both shorts is the Jena Fulldome Festival, which takes place May 12-14 in Jena, Germany.

We’ve got a pretty amazing After School program here at Morehead. Kids from Kindergarten to 5th grade come over here after the school day is over and do all kinds of cool hands on science activities and field trips. We brought a few of them over to our studio to show them how planetarium shows are made. We even gave them a Wacom tablet and let them have at it. Better than being on the street, looting and pillaging or whatever it is kids do these days. Anyway, I was told it was their favorite field trip of the year. If they’d only just teach Maya in 4th grade, we’d have our next slew of interns. Here’s a few photos:

Well, we’re in the last phase of production for our latest show – Solar System Odyssey. We’ll be doing evaluations with students on a rough cut of the show in our dome during the first couple weeks of May and then we’ve got 3 months left to put on the final polish.

In the meantime, we were asked to put together a new trailer for our first show, Earth, Moon & Sun. Full disclosure – when we originally put together a trailer for the show, we thought our target audience would be kids and their parents who would see the trailers being played before other shows, much like they would during a typical film in a movie theater. Turns out that’s not the case.

The audience for planetarium show trailers are science center and planetarium directors and educators – the people that are actually going to lease the shows and bring them to their planetaria. So we added more science content from the show and more explanatory voice over to give a better idea of the focus of the show. This will let the directors and educators know that we’re hitting specific curriculum points for children in the 8-11 range. Keep all that in mind if you’re making a trailer.

We also found out that Earth, Moon & Sun was the best selling show of 2010 from our distributor! I might have mentioned that in a previous post but we’re pretty psyched so I’m leaving it up.

Here’s the new trailer in domemaster format:

NewScientist.com, the online version of the pop science mag New Scientist posted a short article on their blog called “Beware: It’s raining creepy crawlies” about our latest dome short Jeepers Creepers. There’s also a small, flat video dome-master version of the short at the top of their blog post. The short was just premiered over the weekend at the 2011 Fulldome UK festival and hopefully will be showing next month at the Immersive Film Festival in Espinho, Portugal.

Jeepers Creepers is also blogged about on SyFy Channel’s blog – DVICE. The best part is that the title for their post starts with the word, “Ew.” As is Ewwwwww…bugs.

We’ve been absolutely buried working on our new show so none of us has gotten the chance to post anything on the blog lately. Recently, however, I was purusing the Dome-L listserv and came across an interesting post by Jim Sweitzer from Science Communications Consultants, a firm that consults on planetarium planning and programming. He was responding to a question by Mr. Huseynov at the new planetarium in the city of Baku (Azerbaijan?) and gave some good tips for new fulldome system owners:

1. Don’t invest in a major in-house production team. You should be cautious in launching into major full-dome video productions. They can be quite expensive produce at times and assembling a production team is challenging and difficult to sustain. Even the most well funded planetariums have difficulties keeping production teams going. If you really need a show that you can’t purchase from a vendor, then hire an experienced producer who has a good track record. It will be cheaper in the long run.

2. Invest in good pre-rendered shows: We are in a better place than we were years ago because there are numerous excellent, pre-rendered full-dome shows available. You couldn’t afford to produce any of them for any where near what they cost to lease. If you choose wisely, you will be able to use them for a long time.

3. Invest in your operating and presenting staff: Rather than try and develop a production team, I might suggest that you develop the skills of yourin-house staff to really be able to use the real time software that came with your system. All the vendors’ software is now quite mature and sophisticated. Mastering it well and also making sure your presenters are well versed in the science will be the best “production” path you can take. This means making sure they attend the vendors trainings and also get to visit good analog planetariums around the world. Make sure they can also talk about the latest subjects your audiences see in the news too.

4. Couple pre-rendered shows with live, real-time session: I continue to find the most effective and lively planetarium offerings. I see around the world are ones that join a great pre-rendered show with a live session. Give your audiences a one-hour experience that includes contact with a knowledgeable presenter and you will please your audiences.

5. Work hard on marketing your new planetarium. This cannot be neglected if you want to be successful, especially with a new and innovative theater. “Framing” is a term used in America to characterize, in this case, your planetarium. I’m not sure what is appealing in Baku, but one “frame” that I think can work well with new digital planetariums is to characterize them as “space exploration simulators.” They are ultimately based upon flight simulator technology. Make your audiences think that you are going to fly them around outer space. This type of approach is much better than characterizing them as “visualization theaters” or “immersive experiences.” I might get in trouble with some with this opinion, but I feel that the latter two frames are too abstract and un-engaging for typical audiences. Whatever you do, make sure people understand it’s not simply a big round cinema.

I think Jim’s made some excellent points. (However, if Morehead listened to the first point, I’d be out of a job right now) I especially agree with point number four – coupling pre-rendered shows with live shows. As great as the pre-rendered shows are, you can really get a crowd excited and engaged with a view of the night sky and a short hop through the universe with real-time software such as DigitalSky or Uniview.

What I’m curious about is characterizing new fulldome theaters as “space exploration simulators” as opposed to “immersive experiences.” Has anyone else tried this?

Our first fulldome short, “Jeepers Creepers,” will have its world premiere at the Fulldome UK 2011 festival in mid-March. We’re pretty psyched because it will be the first time anyone will see the short outside of folks from Morehead. I won’t give away the premise, suffice to say that if you’re not yet afraid of insects, you might be after it’s over. Pete wrote a short blog post about it when we were in the development phase to give you a little sense of the plot.

Fulldome UK 2011 is being held at the Thinktank Science Museum in Birmingham and has some interesting dome content lined up and some great looking sessions such as shooting with a RED for the dome by a pro steadicam operator, “Storytelling in the Dome” by NSC Creative and “Adventures in Fulldome cinemetography” by Phil Mayer from GaiaNova.  Who wants to buy me a plane ticket?

We’re looking for a local (North Carolina – Triangle area) Maya character animator for a 3 month freelance gig starting January 15th. We’d like someone who is/has:

  • fluent in Autodesk Maya
  • facial animation and lip sync skills
  • solid understanding of animation principals (Arcs, Anticipation, Timing, etc.)
  • open to changes in direction when needed
  • team player
  • detail oriented
  • If you have all that and rigging experience, it’ll put you over the top.

    If you’re interested, please email me at jayheinz@unc.edu with a copy of your resume and a link to your portfolio.  You’ll need to work on-site in our secret lair, so brush up on your ninja skills.

    With each production we learn a little more about the trends in the industry. One thing that has made itself clear is that tilted domes require consideration when picking the sweet spot for viewing fulldome video. You want the bulk of your content to show up in or around this sweet spot. If something is produced for a flat dome, the sweet spot would be about 45 degrees up from the spring line, and the horizon just visible around 5 degrees. This works nicely to create a natural feeling as viewers sit back and experience the content in a flat dome.

    However, if you take that same content and place it in a tilted dome the audience feels as though they’re perpetually looking down a hill, and creates a kind of mental confusion that breaks the immersion.

    In order to resolve this problem, we shift everything up about 15-20 degrees. This creates a natural feeling for most tilted domes, and doesn’t disrupt the viewing experience of flat dome viewers when they sit back in tilted chairs.

    To help us keep this in mind we created an overlay to use while viewing our animatics to make sure we don’t stray too far from the ideal sweet spot and framing of content.

    Check out the new trailer for our newest fulldome show Magic Tree House®: Space Mission. We’ll be debuting it at the Imiloa Film Festival in Hawaii in October.

    Since its debut, the beloved Magic Tree House® book series has been a perennial best-seller. Published in 32 countries and 28 languages, the series focusing on the exploits of the brother-sister team of Jack and Annie has sold more than 64 million books in North America alone.

    Now, UNC Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, in partnership with authors Will and Mary Pope Osborne, brings the blockbuster Magic Tree House® franchise to fulldome theaters for the first time ever.

    In Magic Tree House® Space Mission, a mysterious “M” sends the intrepid Jack and Annie on a fun-filled journey to discover the secrets of the Sun, Moon, planets, space travel and more. Aligned with early elementary information skills learning objectives, this beautifully-produced show is a winner with Magic Tree House® fans of all ages and school audiences alike. Audiences age 5-10. Running Time: 30 minutes.

    An original UNC Morehead Planetarium and Science Center production, written by Will Osborne, co-author of Space, the non-fiction companion and research guide to the Magic Tree House® book Midnight on the Moon.