Full Dome Production News – issue 2

In this issue I would like to mention some resources.
I lean heavily toward free resources because I have a lot of students on this list, and who doesn’t like free? I will refer to some actual spending possibilities too.

First: The Electronic Music Marathon on April 11th was a success! 

50 student creations were shown. There were 18 full dome and 32 flat screen presentations and all were highly imaginative. This was the final for Dr. Joseph Water’s SDSU film composition class, so the visuals were primarily there to inspire and drive the musical creative process. Creative they certainly were! The students and staff, as well as several members of our board of directors were all very pleased.
I love inspiring students and this project is dear to my heart!
We even had the opportunity to present 2 of the students works on UT-TV during the Roger Hedgecock show, and will return there this Friday.

This event will be held here again!

We learned a LOT during the process of getting the students material ready – What exactly did we learn? 

1. Lesson one – Drive formatting. BORING – I know you are tempted to skip this right away, but it’s important if you ever want to put something on the dome here: Fat32. All of the work done in Dr. Waters classes was done on Macs and had to be MOVED onto a drive that was formatted so that it could be read on my PC workstation.  This was VERY time consuming. So please, use Fat32 even if you are on a Mac.

2. Lesson 2 – Eliminate invisible (or hidden) system files. This problem was also provided by the Macs.  See & eliminate them all with the Tinker Tool linked below. Hidden files actually prevented my slicing tool from seeing the .PNG image files I need to work with.
It also doubled the length of time to copy the files in lesson 1. This was also very time consuming.
The problem files all started with a period as in this example –  “.showfile0001.png”. They were copies of the graphics files – the same size too!

Tinker Tool

But why are there hidden files? Here is why, in gruesome detail.

Other lessons learned involved the conversion of rectangular formatted images onto the dome and I think everyone will have to experience this with their own material as it is a very visual thing.

On April 26th and 27th Dr Waters work with his group Swarmius will be presented at the interestingly named New West Electric Arts and Music Organization festival.  Many other talented artists will be performing there also.
Don’t let this be one of those events you kick yourself for missing.
We are  holding this this event here at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center next year on March 23rd !

NWEAMO in the Reader

Neuroscientist Dr. Jaak Panksepp will lecture on affective neuroscience, and the many musical presentations are sure to tickle your brain.
Times, dates, schedule are all here:

Brett Stalbaum of UCSD isplanning to present their finals here for the department of Visual Arts.

Audio tools
Reaper is not free, but it is available as a trial that is ridiculously long. If you like it and want to buy, it is only $60.00. It compares favorably to Pro-Tools, the high end software used commercially.
“REAPER is digital audio workstation software: a complete multi-track audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing, and mastering environment.”









C-Sound Is something of a throwback, because at it’s heart it is a text based audio programming language.  It is worth the effort to learn in my opinion, but then one of my hobbies is programming. The audio quality is amazing, and it never fails to impress. There are many examples, and a good community with support.

“Csound is a sound design, audio synthesis, and signal processing system, providing facilities for music composition and performance on all major operating systems and platforms.  Its use is not restricted to any style of music, having been employed for many years in the creation of classical, pop, techno, ambient, experimental, and (of course) computer music, as well as music for film and television.”

Pure Data
Not a Star Trek character, Pure Data (PD to it’s users) has a simple graphic user interface that hides it’s power. From simply oscillator patches that start a person understanding electronic music to fiendishly complex time modulated interactive creations, it shines. The extended version incorporates visuals as well, making this one hard to categorize. It is Object oriented programming, so audio and control information is routed by literally drawing lines from one object to another. The objects are things like oscillators, filters, envelope generators and other things for generating and modifying sound. This is great fun, and reminds me (old timer warning) of when each box of code  was a literal metal box in a rack, and the audio was an actual cable.
“Pd is a real-time graphical programming environment for audio, video, and graphical processing… The core of Pd is written and maintained by Miller Puckette and includes the work of many developers, making the whole package very much a community effort.”

Miller Puckette teachs at UCSD so if you like PD you can learn directly from its creator.







Other Visual tools
Processing is a fascinating visual language and helps you learn computer programming and express your creative flair. A few lines of code can create 4K frames.

Java gives immediate access on-line to a LARGE number of already created processing “sketches” so you can get an immediate idea of what processing is all about. Learn from whats been done before, change it, and expand your visual lexicon.

Blender is a 3/D design and animation platform. It has an advanced GUI and an excellent community with a large body of work.


You can do amazing work with Blender as shown in the gallery.
Forum specifically for using Blender in a planetarium
Classes in using Blender in a dome environment

“Mandelbulber is an easy to use, handy but experimental application designed to help you render 3D Mandelbrot fractals called Mandelbulb and some other kinds of 3D fractals like Mandelbox, Bulbbox, Juliabulb, Menger Sponges, and more!”





Source code:

Documentation, presets, everything you need to get started exploring the world of fractals that include depth.
A new algorithm has changed the fractal world quite a bit and this tool allows you to experience this.
These are much easier to render than they used to be especially with the faster computers we have now.


A biology visualization package that makes is fairly simple to use the MANY models in the Protein Data Base.
There is a Fulldome plug-in available for this.



Semliki forest virus. The bowl of smoke is a 9 angstrom resolution density map from electron cryo-microscopy. The density map is sliced in half with colors from red to blue showing low to high density values on the cut surface. A capsid protein forming a shell inside this enveloped virus is shown in blue, green and pink. The virus structure is described in Mancini EJ, et al., Cryo-electron microscopy reveals the functional organization of an enveloped virus, Semliki Forest virus. Mol Cell. 2000 Feb;5(2):255-66.

The density map is EMD-1015 from the Macromolecular Structure Database. The Protein Data Bank model of the capsid is 1dyl.





Astronomy software that is top rate. A fulldome version is available also.
“Nightshade Astronomy Simulation is free, open source astronomy simulation and visualization software for teaching and exploring astronomy, Earth science, and related topics. Nightshade is a fork of the award-winning Stellarium software, but tailored for planetarium and educator use.”

Have YOU even needed to e-number a few thousand files?

Tinker Tool


Thank you,

John Young


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