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Re: Glass Half Full

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  • Ed Lantz
    ... If you are open to the public, charging for tickets, and want to offer a unique experience that can take your audiences beyond the night sky and into the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 16, 2002
      Michael Magee asks:

      > Should Full-dome video be included in the
      > planetarium? (I, of course, am strongly
      > urging YES!)

      If you are open to the public, charging for tickets, and want to offer a
      unique experience that can take your audiences beyond the night sky and into
      the world of astrophysics, cosmology, SETI and related topics, then you
      should definitely consider it. Make sure you do a 5-year business plan that
      includes realistic attendence numbers, shows production costs or licensing
      fees, and equipment maintenance/expendables (purchasing new CRT tubes, for
      instance). You should also look at a fully digital planetarium option.

      > Should large format film (such as IMAX) be included within the
      planetarium?

      Some manage to pull it off, but the economic model of IMAX films requires
      that the theater operate quite a lot to pay off the prints and license fees.
      If you add a fulldome theater in the same room you will have yet more show
      license fees, but not the additional capacity to recoup your losses.

      > Is large format film needed if full-dome video is part of the
      >planetarium or are they better if separate?

      The films available for IMAX are world class and numerous. Many of these
      films are now available on 8/70 as well - probably a better choice for all
      but the largest venues. Large-format film images are bright and very high
      resolution.

      Fulldome video is an emerging medium with largely computer graphic generated
      shows and a relatively dim image (the Hayden in NYC is around 0.1-0.2
      foot-Lamberts in brightness - IMAX Dome is 3-4 fL - your neighborhood film
      theater is closer to 12 fL). Dim seems to work in a planetarium
      environment, fortunately, where we want the theater to disappear and love
      the effect of objects floating against black or a starry sky. The two are
      different media, yet similar, which could lead to confusion ("this is
      nothing like the last movie I saw here").

      Having two theaters with similar capacity allows you to shuffle audiences
      back and forth, too. It worked great in Cocoa.

      > Would domed format or flat screen format film be better if in a
      >separate theater from the planetarium?

      Roughly half of all large-format theaters are domed, half are flat screen.
      If you already have one dome venue, then.... (opinion witheld out of respect
      for my employer, a major dome screen manufacturer).

      > Will full-dome video eventually replace large format film? And,
      >will existing large format film properties be converted to video for
      >showing on full-dome systems?

      Yes - eventually. But not using a CRT-based fulldome system. Most film
      producers will not stand for their material being shown on a 0.1 fL
      brightness medium. The color saturation is too poor, and contrast is also
      poor with film-related material unless the dome reflectivity is dropped way
      down (making the image dimmer yet). Plus it costs over $100k to
      scan/digitize a large-format film (only have to do it once, though). We're
      now approaching the resolution required to faithfully represent large-format
      film (4k x 4k frame) - provided the technician aligned the system properly.
      Don't hold your breath for large-format film releases...

      > Are the giant screen theater vendors making plans to convert to
      >video and how will this affect full-dome in the future? (I have
      >heard that several digital video large format theaters already exist)

      Video is being used in large-format theaters, but not to show large-format
      films as far as I know. They show HDTV programming. Imax Corp. announced
      some time back that they were working on it, but they have since sold off
      Digital Projection (their Digital Cinema projection company) and have let go
      of quite a lot of tech staff (so I heard). At least there are less politics
      involved in the large screen market, which has been a factor in holding up
      digital cinema in the 35mm film market.

      > Should we try to include full-dome production capability into our
      >plan (at what costs) or will other vendors provide enough product to
      >keep our system useful?

      Regarding product availability, it depends on how broad your content needs
      are (for instance, strict night-sky astronomy vs. general
      astronomy/astrophysics related topics and stories) and how often your
      business model has you changing out shows (for instance, once a quarter or
      once a year). I suggest you shop around at IPS for content and judge for
      yourself. Same with fulldome projection systems.

      I would caution you regarding making your own productions. Get the inside
      scoop from producers doing quality work. While multi-terabytes of hard
      drive space and lightning fast PC's can be had for relatively low cost these
      days, producing a good fulldome show is infinitely more complex than buying
      the right equipment... it requires a business plan of its own.

      Good luck with your project.

      Ed Lantz
      Product Development Manager
      Spitz, Inc.
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