Fulldome Production News – Issue 3

Hello,
Today I will look at the Fulldome industry, where it came from, and perhaps where we might be going.
I will refer to several industry resources and providers also.

But first, a short history lesson, sadly leaving many innovators unmentioned out of my desire for brevity.
Planetariums have had a long history of experimenting with new technology, combining not only the star projector, but projectors that were custom made for the dome environment, as well as multiple slide projectors.
This was back in the 80’s when the term “Multi-Media” was coined, and in the corporate world it generally meant not today’s definition of presentations on a computer screen, since computers were still pretty scarce back then, but multiple slide projectors. A very wide panorama could be created with 3 slide projectors fitted with wide lenses. A soft edge on the sides smoothly blended the images together. By utilizing additional projectors a logo or other graphic could be made to float over the background. This was a very cost effective method to create presentations with a LOT of impact. Electronic system were created specifically to program and control multiple slide projectors.
Planetariums and electronic venders were quick to adopt and to innovate in this field. Planetariums started experimenting with video projectors in the late 1980s, as soon as video projectors were available. From a single video image to a multiple projector system was quite a natural leap, but it was not without difficulty. Alignment, synchronization, brightness and contrast matching were all areas that had to be controlled, and they still can cause problems.
Innovator Terrance Murtaugh at the Armagh Planetarium and his staff were pioneers in this area, and soon flight simulator/computer graphics engineers at Evans and Sutherland and planetarium designer Steve Savage at Sky-Skan developed dome covering video presentations.
Terrance is no longer at Armagh, now he works with a front runner in the Fulldome world: Evans and Sutherland.

Terrance-early video

Terrance Murtaugh

star_projector and video
Early video projector at the Armagh Planetarium

Soon many of the larger planetariums began utilizing video in at least part of their shows.
IMAX developed in parallel to Fulldome, and experienced film companies created many amazing shows. A robust IMAX projector and a high powered lamp created a bright and stable picture.
Video could not compete in the early days due to the minimal resolution, low brightness, and technical issues. Eventually, higher resolution and brighter images allowed multiple or even single projectors to cover a large area.

So where are we today?
Well in 1998 this is where planetarium Director Jim Manning THOUGHT we would be:

The Planetarium of the FUTURE!
Not too far off, Mr. Manning!

Currently multiple venders are selling Fulldome systems, often using off the shelf equipment. Entertainment venues are popping up that utilize this technology.
Though still primarily seen in museums and planetariums, the immersive dome environment is being recognized as an amazing place to experience something.
The Giant Screen Association, formerly concerned only with film, has become very interested in Fulldome and is looking at one of its major drawbacks: the lack of standards.
The GSCA is currently working on that issue, just as had both IMERSA and the International Planetarium Association.

Mark Peterson of Loch Ness Productions has created an excellent summery he calls The 2012 State of the Dome Address.

This is an excellent survey of where we are now by an experienced individual.
http://www.lochnessproductions.com/reference/2012state/2012stateofthedome.html

To summarize his summery – a risky proposition but one I will tackle none the less – each year around 52 million people see a show inside a dome.
However Mark’s totals are vague if not impossible to verify as more and more home made systems and portable domes are utilized. I’d suggest (rather obviously) that number is valid only for the reporting institutions.
Dropping prices on video projectors, new venders, the “maker” phenomenon that inspires technically capable and creative types to build their own domes and projection systems will continue to add to the uncounted numbers.
The vast majority of presentations are astronomically oriented. This is quite understandable given that most are in planetariums! But even planetaria are known to branch into other topics.
Cultural presentations, entertainment, and scientific visualizations of MANY kinds are also being created.
Video producers from other genres are introduced regularly at venues such a SIGGRAPH where Sky-Skan has set up a dome for many years. Domefest by David Beining is an amazing event and the show reel travels to other locations regularly. We presented the majority of the 2013 domefest reel here recently. For a complete list I will refer you to the links section at the end of this document.

We recently screened the finals for the SDSU film composition class of Dr. Joeseph Waters. In 2014 we will screen material from UCSD computer graphic students.
It was suggested that there might be a collaboration between the SDSU music students who had to search for full dome materials to compose their music to, and the UCSD students who are creating original videos.
This is an exciting period, an on-going time of creative and technical flux. While the Fleet was the proud owners of the second IMAX projector ever built and the first tilted dome for 40 years, we can no longer count on operating the same equipment for long periods of time. Fulldome technology is an on-going process of innovation and creativity and we are right in the middle of it.
Thank you for sharing the journey!

Links:
Sign up for the Fulldome Yahoo Group in the digest mode to receive regular postings on all sorts of Fulldome topics.
A discussion on wide-screen to Fulldome conversion is on-going.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fulldome/

Innovator Terrance Murtaugh at the Armagh Planetarium
http://www.armaghplanet.com/pdf/historical_panels/APL_Panel_06%20V2.pdf

Wikipedia Fulldome article
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulldome

Research Links:

The scientists at the Allosphere at UC Santa Barbara are busy imagining uses for dome and immersive visualizations.
http://www.allosphere.ucsb.edu/research.php

Calit2 and other academics are interested
http://www.calit2.net/research/index.php

particularly the electronic visualization laboratory
http://www.evl.uic.edu/

Industry Links:

IMERSA
http://www.imersa.org/

Giant Screen Cinema Association Digital specifications
http://www.giantscreencinema.com/MemberCenter/DIGSS.asp

Domefest
http://www.domefest.org

Giant Screen Cinema Association Digital specifications
http://www.giantscreencinema.com/MemberCenter/DIGSS.aspx

The Full Dome Database is an excellent reference for shows and Fulldome events
http://www.fddb.org/

Mark Peterson of the Loch Ness productions company provides wonderful services – Here is their Show Compendium
http://www.lochnessproductions.com/lfsc/lfsc.html

And their Fulldome theater compendium
http://www.lochnessproductions.com/lfco/lfco.html

As well as their EXHAUSTIVE resource page. From laser shows to space artists, this page has it all.
http://www.lochnessproductions.com/reference/dome_resources.html

Fulldome Venders:


Evans and Sutherland

Sky-Skan

Spitz

Global Immersion

Digitalis

—————————————————
Fulldome Events:

October 23rd. 2013 – rerun of Domefest 2012 and introduction to dome production for University students and professors.

March 17th 2014 – 6 to 10 PM- CALIT at UCSD finals – Professor Brett Stalbaum
March 23, 2014 – 6 PM to 11 PM NWEAMO music festival SDSU Professor Joseph Waters
June 10th, 2014 – 6 to 10 PM CALIT at UCSD finals – Professor Brett Stalbaum
April 30, 2014 – 6 PM to 11PM SDSU Composition finals Professor Joseph Waters

John Young

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
(619) 685-5731
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