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Rose Center, SGI, and Standards

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  • Ryan Wyatt
    Mickey correctly identified the need for standards. In the process ... First off, we don t have an SGI system per se. In addition, I d say the Rose Center
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 9, 2002
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      Mickey correctly identified the need for standards. In the process
      of describing the need for such standards, he wrote:

      >My understanding is that Spitz, Sky Skan, and Evans & Sutherland
      >have some compatability. I understand that SGI systems (in the Rose
      >Center and soon to be in Denver) are not compatible with the
      >aforementioned products.

      First off, we don't have an "SGI system" per se. In addition, I'd
      say the Rose Center has managed a fair degree of compatibility with
      other systems so far.

      To the first point... We have an SGI Onyx that is used as one source
      (among many) feeding an array of seven SeOS projectors with geometric
      correction and edge-blending done in real time. The integration work
      was not done by SGI, to the best of my knowledge; instead, much of
      the effort that went into creating a coherent system has been done
      in-house and by the folks at Trimension. Also, the SGI is not used
      to run shows. It *is* used for astronomical research, for content
      creation, and as a real-time feed running software created by NCSA
      and other collaborators.

      The fulldome system (software plus hardware) we have in place here is
      as unique as the Rose Center. I can't speak to Denver's situation,
      but I know that their approach differs from ours not insignificantly.

      Secondly -- and more importantly -- the system here is "compatible"
      with others' insofar as we could easily take an
      appropriately-formatted playback program created for Sky-Skan's or
      Spitz's or E&S's system and convert it to run on ours. We haven't
      done this explicitly, but we have done effectively the same thing,
      using "dome masters" to create a program that runs in our theater.
      We have obviously done the reverse, taking portions of "Passport to
      the Universe" and "The Search for Life" and adapting them to run on
      Sky-Skan's SkyVision system in Albuquerque (see my posting from 20
      June, "Fulldome at the American Astronomical Society Meeting").

      So to what degree is that "not compatible"? Not significantly, in
      the quotidian sense. Unless you want to do flexible, real-time
      activities with software based on NCSA's CAVE libraries... Then you
      need an SGI or something similar. :)

      Anyway, dome masters are the closest thing to a standard we have at
      this point. A dome master is simply a circular fisheye-ish view of
      the entire dome. I think Spitz, Sky-Skan, and E&S can all deal with
      dome masters; I know we can.

      >I cannot speak to Minolta, Goto or other systems at this time.

      Minolta's system is theoretically compatible with the others
      mentioned so far -- the MediaGlobe should be able to take dome
      masters and create a program that will run on the system. At this
      juncture, however, we should discuss theory versus practice!

      In mid-June, Minolta kindly set up a MediaGlobe on the sixth floor of
      the Rose Center, and we used the opportunity to try creating a few
      movies for the MediaGlobe to play. With a brief period of
      experimentation, we weren't able to create appropriately-formatted
      files to run on the MediaGlobe. More time would have helped, and we
      hope to try something out soon. The folks at STScI have created
      sequences that run just dandy on the MediaGlobe, so I don't think
      this is a serious problem -- just a snag.

      In our experiments with SkyVision, we've had a few problems with file
      formats for the dome masters: currently, each image requires an
      additional conversion step before it can be read by the SkyVision
      software.

      So, what works fine in theory always requires practice to work out the bugs...

      >Or at least how much image rectification must be dome to move
      >between the various systems.

      Here are some of the challenges, off the top of my head...

      + recommended resolutions
      + compression codecs
      + color preservation
      + gamma tests / black levels
      + frame rate
      + file format for dome masters

      I'm sure there are many more! And Mickey's absolutely correct in
      saying that we need to start discussing standards with some
      seriousness.

      Thanks for reading!


      Ryan Wyatt, Science Visualizer
      Rose Center for Earth & Space
      American Museum of Natural History
      79th Street & Central Park West
      New York, NY 10024
      212.313.7903 vox
      212.313.7868 fax
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