When in Dome…

The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center Production Blog

Archive for the ‘ Shows ’ Category

A few months ago I had the pleasure of going to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. The Simpsons Ride had recently taken the place of the old Back to the Future ride. Although it was sad to see Marty and Doc gone, The Simpsons Ride was a worthy replacement, and a great example of a fun dome show.

The animation was spectacular, paying good attention to make character actions and poses clear despite being a dome show. If you’re ever visiting Universal Studios, be sure to hop on this ride!

When we started this project over a year ago, I had a very limited knowledge of Autodesk Maya, and was primarily a 3ds Max user. We made the commitment to do a character driven show so I had to learn this new tool, and I don’t think I could have if it hadn’t been for the training materials we got from Digital Tutors.


I started with their intro to maya DVD set and then moved on from there into more complex and production specific tutorials.


In Solar System Odyssey I had to make a space ship, terrains, eruptions, rocket exhaust, explosions, and even a futuristic Mega City full of flying traffic.

I hope to address how most of these effects were created in the coming weeks with more blog posts. For the mean time if you haven’t checked out www.digitaltutors.com I would highly recommend them. They offer training on a variety of software platforms.

Now that we’re almost finished with our most recent show, Solar System Odyssey, we’re getting things lined up to start work on our next show. We’ve now produced a science documentary, a cartoon, a horror short and a show based on a best selling children’s book. Now we’re going to make a show featuring…giant puppets. Yeah, we like to keep things interesting.

We’re teaming up with the Paperhand Puppet Intervention, a local giant puppet group, to create a winter season show. Paperhand has a great following in North Carolina and their history began in 1998, when artists Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger, working out of an abandoned old gym in Saxapahaw, NC created the group to entertain and engage audiences by animating ancient fables and modern allegories with intricate shadow figures, larger than life creatures and everything in between.

To get a sense of what they’re really about, you’d need to see one of their shows (or hopefully, this planetarium show), but you can get an idea from the trailer to a documentary made about them called “A Puppet Intervention”:

What exactly we’re going to do is a secret, but we’ll be shooting lots of puppets on green screens and creating really amazing environments for them to play in. It’s going to be an interesting show…

We’re finishing up our latest show, Solar System Odyssey, and we’ve just released a teaser trailer on YouTube. Here’s a description of the show and the video:

Our story takes place far in the future with an Earth on the verge of environmental collapse. Billionaire Warren Trout thinks he can make a fortune colonizing the rest of the solar system and sends space pilot Jack Larson to find out where. But there’s one thing he didn’t count on – Ashley, Trout’s daughter, has stowed away on board the ship and has her own ideas. Learn about the solar system and the potential for human life on other planets and moons in a fun and exciting way. Ages 10 and Up. Produced with grant funding from NASA. Running time: 27 minutes

We’ve been really busy cranking away on our latest show, Solar System Odyssey, which we’re due to finish in 2 weeks. So we’ve been neglecting When in Dome a bit. But we’re almost there. Just putting some finishing touches on the visuals and working with master composer Mark Slater to finish up the score (which I’m really excited about). It’s been a year and a half long journey, but we’re finally seeing the light (and a much deserved break)!

Both Solar System Odyssey and our previous show, Magic Tree House: Space Mission are now available from Sky-Skan so go check them out. You can see a trailer and preview of Magic Tree House on Sky-Skan’s site or check out this post.

Stay tuned for a teaser trailer from Solar System Odyssey. I’ll be uploading it soon…

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.

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.

Earth, Moon & Sun picked up the silver medal at the Astro Projection International Film Festival hosted by the Gwacheon National Science Museum in Gwacheondong, South Korea. More than 10,000 people in Seoul attended the festival, so we figure they got a pretty good sample group. Unfortunately, we didn’t place in either the Synchronized Swimming or Curling events, but we’re pretty happy nonetheless.

Gwacheon National Science Museum also decided to lease the show, which makes EMS the best selling show of 2010 in the Sky-Skan catalog! Woohoo!

We’re smack dab in the middle of storyboarding out our new Solar System show so that means it’s time to start on the audio.  Which is good because I’m tired of sitting back, lighting cigars with flaming $100 bills and laughing manically. First step is to get some scratch tracks of our characters down so when we move on to animatics we can have some idea of timing. It’s also proving to be helpful for us to have an idea of how things will sound and how they should be acted when we get the real voice actors in on the job. In the meantime, we grabbed some great amateur voice over actors from Morehead and let ‘em loose on the script:

Jonathan Frederick as Space Captain Jack Larson

Peter Althoff as Billionaire Warren Trout

Carly Apple as Ashley Trout

Jim Kachelries as Beemer the Robot

Laura Walters as Capcom