DOME-L Post: The Revolution
- In response to Ryan's request, here is my posting from
Dome-L. It is a few days behind.
Now is the time! Time for dreams and time for reality. About
2 weeks ago, my dream became reality, and now I can show
people what I dream. Thanks to Evans & Sutherland Digital
Theater, most of my issues in regards to the "planetarium"
experience have been resolved. I say most, because I will
always dream; and my expectations will continue to grow. But
today, my list of planetarium pros is no longer dwarfed by
my list of cons. What I've always dreamed I could do in a
domed theater has become what I can do, to a degree that I
wasn't expecting. In my opinion, Digistar3 offers the most
complete All-Dome Theater environment to date. I truly didn't
think it was possible this soon, but it is as real as the words
you are reading.
The Star Projector! Let's start at the basics. Imagine a
star field. Yes, in color. Let's say about 4,000 stars, nope
check that, 8,000, or maybe 42,000. Oh never mind. You pick
what you want, when you want. Full-color, bright, pinpoint,
high resolution stars? Oh, OK. How about even larger color
stars, for the kids? Bright colors? Sure! True color?
What, you'd expect GREEN? No matter which shade, shape,
size, count, resolution, you have a choice--at the touch of
a button. That is what makes me so excited, the flexibility.
A 3D tour of the database is the most impressive. I am used
to about 9,000 stars with Digistar II. They showed the much
anticipated 3D tour to me. It was all I can do to stay
standing. It had been a long time since my balance had
shifted watching something on the dome.
Planetary data. Comet data. Asteroid Data. Constellations -
outlines or images or however you want. No problem! Wire
frame? Sure, this still works really well for those darker
parts of the show. How about fully rendered, real-time
textured planets, complete with orbital data, actual
locations, sizes, rotations, date control, phase control,
precession, proper motion, all the bells and whistles that
you'd ever want in a single astronomical tool? All accounted
for. (Did I miss any?)
The thing is, the Digistar3 is what I consider the most
complete Star Projector ever built.
Many of you will challenge my opinion. I suspect that some
will come forward and want to discuss the 'Star Projector'
issues. I supposed we will have those discussions and I look
forward to them.
Star Projector and then some - this is where the fun begins!
Here are a few other things I have seen this system do:
<sum> Real-time, interactive components being tied in with
an audience voter responder system. <sum> Playback Digistar
I/II files and data. <sum> High Definition linear playback
video sequences. <sum> Streaming MPEG-2 files as textures
applied to polygons, in real-time. Laser disc, DVD, Cable,
Video signals being mapped onto a polygon(s), being
displayed on the dome, at the same time any or all of the
above are happening. <sum> Combinations of all the above.
<sum> Virtual projectors! Oooooh, these are way cool. L-C-R,
All Sky, Panoramas, Pan/Tilt Video, Slew/Zoom Slide
Any or all previously needed or used equipment can be
replaced and mimicked with a Digistar3. You could (if you
really wanted to) use this system to show a standard slide
projection type show.
Resolution? Projector seams? Image quality? Most of you know
limitations in regards to these variables, and that they
come from many directions. Projectors, video drivers,
compression, playback rates and software are all a part of
the limitations. I am not about to go into a long drawn out
battle about these issues. All I know is what I saw and
experienced and that experience, my friends, is what it is
I have seen Digistar3 twice now. The first time, I was
skeptical. I know that with a trained set of eyes, there
are things to look for. I can see
that it is a video system. I can see that there are very
slight variances between projectors. But, keep in mind; I
have been looking at the E&S systems for some time now, all
the while, with the same set of video projectors. The first
time I saw Digistar3 I was under the impression that they
had installed new projectors. This was not the case.
Sure, we can pick a system like this apart. We all do it, to
all the equipment from all the companies out there.
Sometimes I feel that our mad rush to prove that some
corporation's equipment is obsolete or is lacking in quality
blinds us, and at times keeps us from focusing on the
real issue: our audiences. With that in mind, what I wanted
to do was to go back and see it again, but, this time, with
the eyes of a person about to experience it for the first time.
On my second visit, I was along for the ride. And I got the
ride I was looking for. I didn't care whether there were
8,000 stars or 42,000. I didn't care if it was real-time, or
playback, or even if Digistar 3 could do all of it. What I
saw, nope, what I experienced was total exhilaration.
As planetarians, we have spent millions, perhaps billions of
dollars trying to do what this system does. There comes a
time when dreams become reality. With respect to
hemispherical screen projection systems,
(tip of the iceberg here) I believe the reality is now and
that the dream is alive!