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RE: Multi-Media Interludes

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  • dbeining@nmmnh.state.nm.us
    Carolyn & Ryan (as dangerous a duo as a dome will ever see) bring an interesting point to the table. At LodeStar, we explore fulldome from a wonderful
    Message 1 of 16 , Mar 27, 2003
      Carolyn & Ryan (as dangerous a duo as a dome will ever see) bring an
      interesting point to the table. At LodeStar, we explore fulldome from a
      wonderful diversity of visions, values, talents, experiences, and
      expressions brought by university students (and younger), artists, our
      in-house team, and professional animators/designers. Through these
      explorations, I've come to see three principle views of the theater/medium
      from these creators. First, there are those that see the dome as a *canvas*
      and opportunity to wrap viewers in their design/art. [A prestigious artist
      working in the L* dome declared after his first visit/orientation: "This is
      my Sistine Chapel!" He's following that mantra with incredible vigor (and
      talented support.)] Second, are those that see the dome as an *environment*
      and opportunity to place audiences inside data, models, graphics,
      mathematics, etc. A sort of virtual reality setting in the style of, if
      memory serves, the under-whelming 'Minority Report.' Third, we have the
      people who own my heart: Those that see the dome as a *time-space machine*
      and an opportunity to take the community with them on 'fantastic voyages'
      through nature (sans Rachel Welch.) This is the Ryan-espoused modality.

      Each is immersive, but each has its own design language and feel.
      Sky-Skan/NASM's "Infinity Express" employs all three modalities to great
      effect, by telling a story that utilizes the different schemata. Moreover,
      as photon-centric as this group may be, it is the sound that drives the
      picture. Without an excellent score and well-told story, none of the
      designs is going to carry a show. Listen to IE as you look for the
      different schemata and you'll see/hear what I mean.

      For me, it is the medium's flexibility to work within these different
      visions that is most exciting (and exhausting.) I think it important that
      producers consider where on the production curve they are before embarking
      on show development. The 'canvas' and 'environment' modes are more
      accessible than producing in the time-space modality. The first two allow
      theaters to keep production values high (and costs down) if you have the
      right story told and scored the right way. The third, with or without
      volumetric rendering (who cares; it's the story...), can bring glorious
      experiences to audiences, but if the productions can't carry the
      story/illusion, bring thunderous failure and immersive cheesiness.

      As I see it, the production values of fulldome shows are going to make or
      break this nascent medium. Add to that notion that fulldome theaters exist
      along a vast gradient of resources. (Case-in-point: We built and operated
      L* for two years with fewer dollars than Rose spent to produce 'Passport.'
      To beat the horse senselessly: L* collaborators have created more than 2
      hours of fulldome material-and have yet to pay a single dollar to a creator
      (the occasional pizza and beer, but not a nickel in payment.)) Accordingly,
      most of our productions fall into the 'canvas' and 'environment' categories
      as our production 'team' matures and I feverishly write grant proposals for
      resources. The current work is playful, effective and well received partly
      because the production values are great, but also because (and I think this
      is related) because the material carries both the story and the sense of
      community we strive to inject in all our programs. We'll move further into
      the 'time-space machine' mode as successes build upon themselves, but as we
      do now, we'll keep the story and the audience as the prime drivers for what
      we create and offer.

      A side bar: When we were designing our theater, we dismissed the term
      'theater' and worked out from the visitor perspective to build something-a
      time-space machine--that would take people to places and times unavailable
      in the everyday gravity-bound world. (I owe a great debt to Ben Shedd,
      Scott Niskach and Steve Savage for their thinking and design.) It is this
      third modality that really drove the design of a tilted dome and raked &
      unidirectional seating. For example, we see the tilting of the dome
      25-degrees as enhancing the sense of motion as the audiences race across the
      Red Planet's surface or dive through a nebula. (Oh man, you should have
      seen Rose's Orion sequence in our theater. I heard 150 professional
      astronomers gasp for air as they dove in during last summer's AAS meeting
      here.) Our collaborators working in the first two modalities allow seem to
      find the architecture supportive of their work.

      Basta. I've spent too many words and minutes on something many of you may
      find obvious. But I wanted to share because these are thoughts generated
      through the hard and brilliant work of many people with whom I have the
      pleasure of playing with in our 'fulldome sandbox.' If this does help, I
      encourage you to review IE as an example of working within the
      modalities-are there others?--and how they can work to great effect. If you
      want to know more about our cash-free productions, let me know.

      Bueno,
      d

      David Beining
      Director
      LodeStar Astronomy Center
      1801 Mountain Road, NW
      Albuquerque, NM 87104

      505.841.5985 (vox)
      505.841.5999 (fax)
      505.362.2614 (cel)

      dbeining@...
      www.lodestar.unm.edu
    • Mark Webb
      It s ironic that someone had to bring up slide projectors in order to get the discussion going. I think everyone s comments so far have been good. I would like
      Message 2 of 16 , Mar 27, 2003
        It's ironic that someone had to bring up slide
        projectors in order to get the discussion going.

        I think everyone's comments so far have been good.

        I would like to propose that a fulldome show with
        sections that are multi-media is not a fulldome show.
        It is, instead, a multi-media show with fulldome
        sequences in it. New theaters that have been created
        for the purpose of presenting fulldome are likely to
        have limited capability (to varying degrees) for
        reproducing the non-fulldome content. It would be a
        little embarassing to say that you can't run a
        fulldome show because you don't have enough slide
        projectors.

        On the other hand, Infinity Express, and
        demonstrations of various systems, have shown us that
        most of our old tricks can be imported to the new
        medium, and usually improved in the process. My guess
        is that if Carolyn, or anyone, made the decision to
        market a hybrid media show as "fulldome" then they
        would in the end wind up making some concession toward
        translating the multi-media content into dome masters.

        This is an intriguing idea. It meets the production
        constraints that Carolyn spoke of while keeping the
        compatibility advantages of fulldome intact. In
        essence you would be distributing a piece of all sky
        artwork. The user would need a utility that would take
        the single frame and copy it with sequential frame
        numbers. (Would you want to slice the single frame and
        then copy, or copy and then slice up the duplicated
        master frames?) This would make the hybrid show truly
        fit within a stricter definition of fulldome.

        Perhaps such a utility already exists. (Kevin?)


        =====
        Mark Webb
        Theaters Manager
        Adler Planetarium
        Chicago, Il.
      • Carolyn Sumners
        Hello all Sometimes I need to speak more clearly. I m thrilled to say good-bye to slide projectors - something that both the D3 and SkySkan s Digital Sky allow
        Message 3 of 16 , Mar 27, 2003
          Hello all

          Sometimes I need to speak more clearly. I'm thrilled to say good-bye to
          slide projectors - something that both the D3 and SkySkan's Digital Sky
          allow us to do. But, there is still a reason to have 2D segments within a 3D
          product. "Slide" collages, especially of historical images and videos, can
          be zoomed in and positioned anywhere on the dome and placed on top of
          full-dome "wall paper". This is not a volumetrically rendered scene, but is
          very effective and can be produced at a fraction of the volumetric
          rendering. These "multi-media" scenes allow us to set up a full dome piece
          so that audiences can understand what they are about the experience. We have
          done this in the full-dome "Force Five" show, for instance.

          If an old theater has lots of slide projectors and an all-sky, this effect
          can be produced with these projectors. However, the "multi-media" effect can
          be created with D3 and Digital Sky.

          What we are experimenting with in Houston is outputting the collage created
          in Digital Sky to high resolution dome masters that can be shared with other
          theaters in playback mode.

          So our final product is a continuous sequence of dome masters, but only
          about half of this sequence is real volumetric rendering (3D Studio, Light
          Wave, etc.)

          This is the form of "multi-media" I was recommending -- recognizing that 2D
          imagery artistically collaged and manipulated, including video windows - say
          in a space ship window - can work effectively and make a significant
          difference in our rendering costs.

          Back to you gang.

          Carolyn
        • J. Scott Miller
          ... Oh, I don t know. I have done it and gotten positive feedback from those who turned in written responses - noone mentioned jarring or out-of-context
          Message 4 of 16 , Mar 28, 2003
            >===== Original Message From "Mark C. Petersen" <mark@...> =====
            >If so, this is actually the same point LNP has tried to make when
            >people want to insert video (standard one-screen video) clips into
            >some of our slide-based planetarium shows. Since the show's
            >provided images are static (because they're slide-based), throwing
            >in a shot or two of video motion would be visually jarring -- very
            >out-of-context with the style of visual choreography we've conceived.
            >Certainly there wouldn't be moving music to accompany the
            >dynamism created by animated images.

            Oh, I don't know. I have done it and gotten positive feedback from those
            who turned in written responses - noone mentioned "jarring" or
            "out-of-context" that I recall. Really depends on how it is done or
            what is shown.

            J. Scott Miller, Program Coordinator Scott.Miller@...
            Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium
            University of Louisville
            http://www.louisville.edu/planetarium
          • Tom Casey
            Hi all... I have been reading the thread about the multi-media approach and thought I would toss in an angle of my own. Even though Home Run s content has
            Message 5 of 16 , Mar 28, 2003
              Hi all...

              I have been reading the thread about the multi-media approach and
              thought I would toss in an angle of my own. Even though Home Run's
              content has been heavy on 3D rendering, we have always been using 2D
              techniques and most are barely perceptible in the overall sequences
              when creatively intermixed with the general 3D stuff we do.

              Some things are just too complex to effectively render out to
              all-dome in true volume spacial context, but are desirable for scene
              creation. It is much easier to create some elements in normal video
              aspects and then "map" onto planes in the standard all-dome camera
              renders. The trick is to create the "maps" with a certain
              dimensional flare that completely fools the viewer into believing
              they are seeing in true 3 dimensional quality... and combined with
              the technical knowledge of how to constrain the planes so they do not
              give away their 2D reality is a very efficient way to produce
              dramatic sequences for the dome. In reality, it's what we are doing
              anyway, by fooling the audience into believing they are not looking
              at the surface of a dome anyway.

              As to how those 2D elements are created really doesn't matter... with
              a 3D program, from a slide or video sequence, from some other
              application that does something it does very well... they all can be
              effectively used if you do it right... and that's the key... doing it
              right.

              I would say that this is just an extension of how things have been
              done for years in planetarium shows. Combining the various
              capabilities to produce the desired storytelling. In fact, I would
              go further and say that a complete show's concept should call for the
              proper use of any of the tools available to the planetarium as a norm
              and not be restrained to any one technique.

              Tom
              --

              ...................................................................................
              H o m e R u n P i c t u r e s

              Tom Casey
              President and Creative Director
              100 First Avenue, Suite 450
              Pittsburgh, PA 15222
              412-391-8200
              412-391-1772 -fax
              mailto:tom@...
              http://www.hrpictures.com
              ...................................................................................
            • Tom Casey
              I like Ryan s comment of keeping it 3D... yes, and it s because it s our primary tools here at Home Run Pictures... but I thought I would add one more thought
              Message 6 of 16 , Mar 28, 2003
                Re: Multi-Media Interludes
                I like Ryan's comment of keeping it 3D... yes, and it's because it's our primary tools here at Home Run Pictures... but I thought I would add one more thought to the pacing concerns.

                When we were producing "Microcosm," we were stuck with the need to create a film-style-like edit because of the storytelling we were doing... this meant lots of cuts to different camera views.  Besides the technical problems we had to overcome to create some of the human body scenes in all-dome format there were the visual flow issues.  Necessary to tell a story without losing the audience.

                The dome is an amazing environment, but the challenges of creating for the format are many... when telling a story, traditional film-making rules do not always apply. All the rules about not crossing the 180 line with the next view, moving from left to right, etc. are entirely different.  To effectively tell a story in a way that audiences have learned from their experience with motion pictures and television, it is now necessary to address the audience's frameless "free" viewing of the scene and come up with ways to direct their view to communicate important storyline events. And the dome must not be treated like a circle shaped viewport or the potential of the immersive environment is lost... and the dramatic view becomes tiresome to the eye.

                So even if you stick with all 3D all the time, there are the same issues Ryan has mentioned if you want to keep your audiences awake and not confused.  So as I mentioned in the previous post, it's great to employ all the different tools in some fashion, but getting it to work together is prime, even if you stick to one tool it can be difficult.

                Tom


                --
                ......................................... >..........................................
                H o m e   R u n   P i c t u r e s

                Tom Casey
                President and Creative Director
                100 First Avenue, Suite 450
                Pittsburgh, PA 15222
                412-391-8200
                412-391-1772 -fax
                mailto:tom@...
                http://www.hrpictures.com
                ......................................... >..........................................


              • dbeining@nmmnh.state.nm.us
                ... If he hasn t already Ryan will no doubt add his voice to this thread, but let me jump back into the fray from my simplistic storytelling POV. I see (and
                Message 7 of 16 , Mar 28, 2003
                  In fulldome@yahoogroups.com, "Mark C. Petersen" wrote:

                  > At 08:13 AM 3/27/2003, Ryan ruminated:

                  > >The problem with multi-media interludes is that they can seriously
                  > >disrupt the continuity of that experience, creating aesthetic and
                  > >cognitive challenges for the viewer.

                  > Ryan, is your point that 2D still frame images or even conventional
                  > planetarium all-skies and pans "pale in comparison" when put up
                  > against/with 3D 30fps fulldome animation scenes *in the same
                  > program*? You could well be right -- I just want to understand your
                  > position.

                  If he hasn't already Ryan will no doubt add his voice to this thread, but
                  let me jump back into the fray from my simplistic storytelling POV. I see
                  (and entirely agree with) Ryan's point that mixing design schemata
                  within a show can, if one's not careful and purposeful, detract viewers
                  from their 'suspension of disbelief.'

                  If you can suffer my taxonomy of fulldome experiences a bit more, it's
                  an issue of how the audience perceives the experience; or for the
                  facility/hardware-minded crowd, how viewers see the dome/theater.
                  For example, taking an audience from a 'time-space machine'
                  experience to a 'canvas' experience is asking them to believe they're
                  'really out there' first (no dome/theater exists), then asking them
                  to return to the theater for the second experience (place yourself
                  within this images/vision.) If you're not careful working within multiple
                  schemata, you produce a 'where the hell are they taking me?' response
                  in audiences.

                  What intrigues me about IE is that is largely succeeds in moving
                  between styles in what I describe as a 'journey through space and
                  mind.' The show's story is about intellect/science (the question-info-
                  knowledge feedback loop) and the objects associated and it uses
                  the schemata--with the sounds--accordingly and with transitions other
                  than cross fades. The viewer can understand why she's seeing what
                  she is and can be comfortable with where the story is headed.
                  [Sky-Skan/NASM, I'll stop my IE deconstruction/interpretation
                  now--before the libel suits start flying!]

                  Suspension of disbelief, as far as I can see, is also intimately related
                  to production values and media employed. The classic example is
                  the starfield; we want the finest possible depiction in order to help
                  viewers believe they're under a real night sky so they can glean as
                  much enjoyment and learning from the experience as possible.
                  A dome with a few fuzzy dim stars limits the illusion/experience.

                  Similarly, Rose's impossibly stunning Orion scene wouldn't steal
                  viewers' breath if seen as a framed image covering a portion of the
                  dome. Pretty, yes. But the image's edges would impair the illusion;
                  audiences wouldn't entirely forget they're in a theater. Conversely,
                  flying an audience through a fulldome/frameless nebula that looks
                  like something from 'Tron' isn't going to suspend their disbelief.
                  (That's the case even if you do tell them-like too many shows
                  do--that it's a beautiful nebula they're seeing, but that's another
                  conversation...)

                  My point is that we (or at least the L* team) need to produce within
                  abilities and with design schemata (and the related animation/rendering
                  techniques) that carry/support the story we ready to tell--and with the
                  production values that our audiences deserve. (From my experience,
                  audiences instantly demand excellence from fulldome; once they see the
                  medium they understand the potential and want it served in generous
                  portions.) Of course, that goal holds for whatever medium one is
                  employing, but the immaturity and costs of fulldome make it paramount.

                  For what it's worth,
                  d

                  David Beining
                  Director
                  LodeStar Astronomy Center
                  1801 Mountain Road, NW
                  Albuquerque, NM 87104

                  505.841.5985 (vox)
                  505.841.5999 (fax)
                  505.362.2614 (cel)

                  dbeining@...
                  www.lodestar.unm.edu
                • Brad Thompson
                  Hello all, In response to the 2-D vs. 3-D discussion going on here, I think we may be getting a bit hung up on vocabulary. In my mind, it s not the
                  Message 8 of 16 , Mar 28, 2003
                    Hello all,

                    In response to the 2-D vs. 3-D discussion going on here, I think
                    we may be getting a bit hung up on vocabulary. In my mind, it's not
                    the technicality of whether you used 2D techniques or 3D techniques
                    or both to create your frames that creates a "jarring" impact on
                    the viewer (we use both techniques in every single scene we produce
                    here), the risk comes from breaking visual continuity.

                    I know a lot of planetarians shutter whenever anyone tries to draw a
                    comparison between a hollywood movie and a planetarium production
                    but I'm going to do it anyway. Imagine you went to your local multiplex
                    on a sunday afternoon to see __insert name of interesting film here__.
                    You're happily sitting in the dark theater really being drawn in by the grainy
                    35mm film flickering away in front you and wondering just how mr. lead
                    film hero is going to escape the clutches of the evil mastermind this time,
                    when suddenly and for no good reason, the remainder of the film is
                    presented to you in the form of an animated cartoon. Maybe the film
                    makers ran out of money to pay the actors mid way through the film and
                    decided that animation was cheaper, but this isn't explained. The point is
                    that you were ejected from the film-reality that was established in the
                    beginning. You were drawn in and immersed in the story and then ejected
                    when an unexplained visual shift occured.

                    Full-dome video, by it's very nature, creates an immersive environment
                    and lends itself best to content that emphasizes that strength. There are
                    lots of ways to break the reality of the environment that you establish in
                    the dome, whether that reality is 2.5D, 3D, or abstract. I agree with Brain
                    that hard cuts are one of those ways. So is non-purposeful or non
                    meaningful mixing of visual styles. I believe that mixing media CAN be
                    done effectively, but it's much easier to do badly by simply not paying
                    careful attention to art direction.

                    Also, this is nit-picking and I understand this this isn't a discussion list
                    only for 3D computer graphics artists, but to 3d guys like myself, the term
                    "volumetric rendering" has a very specific meaning that is very different
                    from how I've seen it used here. If you hired a 3D animator and told him
                    that you want your animation volumetrically rendered, you'd likely be
                    waiting a long loooong for your frames to come back from the render
                    farm. ;-)

                    It's nice to see some discussion on production aesthetics here!

                    Brad Thompson - bthompson@...
                    Digital Animation and Design - Spitz, Inc.
                  • Todd Slisher
                    Just to put in a comment from a dome that doesn t (YET) have a full dome video system. We ve effectively taken Carolyn s Night of the Titanic program which
                    Message 9 of 16 , Mar 29, 2003
                      Just to put in a comment from a dome that doesn't (YET) have
                      a full dome video system. We've effectively taken Carolyn's "Night
                      of the Titanic" program which contains some full dome sequences
                      and rendered out the dome master images for our dissolving
                      all sky pairs as crossfading stills. This has been very effective
                      for this type of program which does mix 'fulldome' all sky sequences
                      with other still and video imagery. We also did some pretty effective
                      work with using all sky 'frames' for square video formats, putting
                      items in windows within an all sky image. In this show, which has
                      a lot of historical content, we used some literal picture frames.
                      Although not full dome video, this has been very effective for our
                      audiences and just reiterates the point that mixed media can be
                      very effective IF DONE RIGHT! Jump cuts and hard cuts are
                      something to be avoided no matter what the media. There should
                      always be an effective transition between scenes, 3D - 2D,
                      Video - Still or any other transition, but if this transition is done well,
                      I see no problem with mixing full dome and other media.

                      In fact, audience reaction this Planetarium show is knocking the
                      socks off our IMAX Titanica show, which could tangentially be
                      considered a fully 'full dome' show as it takes place in our IMAX Dome
                      theatre. (As you might guess, we have the Titanic Artifact exhibit right
                      now). Audiences prefer the Planetarium show to the multi-million
                      dollar produced IMAX movie. (It probably doesn't hurt that this
                      certainly isn't the best IMAX film every made...)

                      Just my $0.02

                      Todd

                      Todd K. Slisher
                      Director of Theaters
                      Detroit Science Center
                      5020 John R Street
                      Detroit, MI 48202
                      Tslisher@...
                    • Aaron McEuen
                      Folks, I want to comment on volumetrics, editing and Hollywood. The Secret of the Cardboard Rocket (SCR) is now complete. In this show, we have designed cut
                      Message 10 of 16 , Mar 30, 2003
                        Folks,
                        I want to comment on volumetrics, editing and Hollywood.

                        The Secret of the Cardboard Rocket (SCR) is now complete. In
                        this show, we have designed cut edits, dissolves and wipes etc. So far,
                        not a single person has ever made a negative comment about them. In
                        fact many comments have come our way about how well they have
                        worked, much to our surprise. We felt it was a risk for us to take this
                        approach for many of the same concerns that have been mentioned
                        on this discussion(s). But we went with it and are pleased with the
                        results.

                        I find it funny that people shy away from volumetrics. I even
                        have to laugh at the folks on Newtek's listerv when they complain that
                        a 640x480 frame has taken 12 hours to render. Obviously, there is no
                        profit in that. We have built into SCR 5 major scenes at about 30-45
                        seconds each with volumetrics. We build them at 2200x2200. Many
                        of these have been re-rendered a couple of times. The rocket has
                        volumetric thrust throughout the show.

                        I find volumetrics a necessary evil. Volumetrics are useful, if
                        done right. I also think they are necessary in order to accomplish a
                        very important feel and look.

                        As for Hollywood, I really can't wait for this community to get
                        a listen to our new soundtrack. It is currently under production at
                        Skywalker Sound. The first tests have been heard and the reaction is
                        very positive. There is a totally different sound, much like anyone
                        would here at the movies. Our rocket has been graced with the sounds of
                        Buzz Lightyear's rocket pack, the helicopter sounds from AI and not to
                        mention effects that you would here in a 'Star Wars' space movie.
                        Although we know that planets don't 'Hummmm' in space, it sure adds to
                        the experience that I think our customers are after.

                        May I remind everyone that the Western Alliance Conference is
                        being held at the Clark Planetarium this October. Keep an eye out at
                        www.rmpadomes.org for all the latest. The web page isn't up yet. We are
                        opening in 1 week so give us a little bit. The hotel is selected. The
                        rooms are under $100. All the events are located in downtown SLC. We
                        look forward to you being our guests.

                        Aaron McEuen
                        Producer/Lead Animator
                        Clark Planetarium
                        SLC, UT 801 456-4934 (This number is different from my last)
                      • Michael V. Magee
                        I would like to thank everyone who responded to my inquiry about fulldome content providers several weeks ago. I had many replies both on and off list and they
                        Message 11 of 16 , Apr 7 11:49 AM
                          I would like to thank everyone who responded to my inquiry about
                          fulldome content providers several weeks ago. I had many replies both
                          on and off list and they were all very useful. A number of people
                          wanted to get copies of my compiled list of content providers once I
                          get it together and I intend to do that. I had not planned to post it
                          to the Fulldome list so if anyone else is interested please drop me a
                          note and I will add you to my list to receive "the list".

                          Right now I am in the process of clarifying some of the information I
                          received and filling in some of the blanks for vendor systems and the
                          appropriate credits for each piece of content. I had originally
                          planned to create only a list of providers but I have expanded the
                          list to include vendor name, system(s) they provide, content, and
                          format(s) (fulldome, partial dome, panoramic, etc.). I have not
                          included contact information at this point but I may choose to do
                          that before the list is done. I may also include some pricing
                          information but that seems to be somewhat more of a variable than can
                          easily fit on this type of list. I'm using an Excel spreadsheet to
                          keep it all organized and readable.

                          Thanks again for all the help.

                          Michael Magee

                          Michael V. Magee
                          Planetarium Director
                          Flandrau Science Center
                          1601 E. University Blvd
                          University of Arizona
                          Tucson, AZ 85721

                          Voice: (520) 621-3645
                          FAX: (520) 621-8451
                          email: mvmagee@...
                          http://www.flandrau.org/
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