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Improving image on dome

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  • Jason Dorfman
    Hello all, We are close to opening our newly renovated theater and have been working hard on creating our first fulldome show. Today, we got our first chance
    Message 1 of 15 , Feb 18, 2009
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      Hello all,

      We are close to opening our newly renovated theater and have been
      working hard on creating our first fulldome show. Today, we got our
      first chance to see what our video content looks like on the dome.
      Needless to say, it wasn't what we had hoped for. Though everything
      looked great on the computer, it was all very dark inside the dome.

      We are wondering if anyone has some great suggestions for adjusting
      settings, i.e. brightness, contrast, etc, to improve the image. Is
      there some magic step that we are missing?

      I'm sure that you have all dealt with this at some point. We could
      really use your expertise.

      Many thanks!

      Jason Dorfman
      Bays Mountain Planetarium
      Kingsport, TN
    • Ron Proctor
      It always depends on your equipment, but here are some things that work for us. Hardware: Make sure your projector is properly configured. There are settings
      Message 2 of 15 , Feb 18, 2009
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        It always depends on your equipment, but here are some things that work for
        us.

        Hardware:

        Make sure your projector is properly configured. There are settings you can
        adjust to improve the image.

        Projector lamp -- new lamps tend to be brighter, with a fuller spectrum.
        Keep your lamp looking its best by cleaning the air filters in your
        projector once a month. This helps the lamp run relatively cooler and
        prolongs not only the lamp's life, but the quality of the image as well.

        Software:

        Raise the contrast and saturation a bit. Do a few tests to figure out base
        settings for your future productions.

        Humans:

        When presenting your work, try to give everyone a few minutes to get dark
        adapted.

        I start with mostly red illumination. Once everyone is seated I bring the
        lights down as I talk about where the exits are and thank our supporters.
        Then I talk briefly about tonight's sky -- I point out a few things
        (planets, the Moon's phase, etc). All this gives the crowd about 3-4
        minutes to dilate their pupils before I start the show.

        --
        Ron Proctor
        Production Director
        Ott Planetarium - Weber State University
        weber.edu/planetarium
        801.626.6871
      • Patrcik
        It might help to have a bit more information. What is the set-up you have in the theater? Can you post a still frame from the show? In the theater, depending
        Message 3 of 15 , Feb 18, 2009
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          It might help to have a bit more information. What is the set-up you
          have in the theater? Can you post a still frame from the show?

          In the theater, depending on the projectors, make sure the lamps are
          not on economy mode, as full power is not the default. Also assuming
          you have newer projectors you can try different settings such as Vivid
          or something of that sort.

          In production, there are lots of things you can try. If you want you
          can send me a frame at pmcpike@... and i will make
          some adjustments and send it back with some suggestions.

          Patrick McPike
          Senior 3D Artist/Animator
          Adler Planetarium
          pmcpike@...
          312-542-2219
        • Tom Casey
          On Feb 18, 2009, at 3:59 PM, Jason Dorfman wrote: We are wondering if anyone has some great suggestions for adjusting settings, i.e. brightness, contrast, etc,
          Message 4 of 15 , Feb 18, 2009
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            On Feb 18, 2009, at 3:59 PM, Jason Dorfman wrote:

            We are wondering if anyone has some great suggestions for adjusting
            settings, i.e. brightness, contrast, etc, to improve the image. Is
            there some magic step that we are missing?

            This is a typical issue for fulldome production... and it's more
            complex than you realize at first. Sorry, no magic.

            Years ago, when we originally produced Microcosm for E&S, as a last
            step we ran all the frames through a script that adjusted saturation
            and contrast to achieve levels that would look good on the dome
            (after lots of tests). In general, the image on the computer screen
            needs to look overly saturated and be strong in contrast... we used
            to joke about a crayola crayon look. In this case, since all the
            images were typically inside the human body, the look was similar
            through most of the show. It doesn't work the same for all images
            obviously and you may need to adjust scene by scene.

            Another issue is the overall brightness of the scene. Remember in a
            dome there is a lot of light reflecting from one side to another...
            so an image that may look good on the flat screen, may look washed
            out on the dome. It is best to create scenes with large dark areas
            and highlighted points of interest.

            Color contrast does not translate well on the dome... it helps to
            look at the image with the saturation removed (black and white) to
            see if there will be truly enough contrast after the dome does its
            thing with the image.

            Another issue is the projector, video card and dome reflection setups
            specific to a facility... they are all unfortunately very different.
            Midstream, during the Microcosm production, E&S introduced their
            upgraded D? fulldome projection system. Guess what... the entire
            show looked entirely different with the new system (same dome).

            Also, different software renderers have differing looks on the dome,
            so that is another issue to deal with.

            This is only a beginning... experience is the only sure solution to
            this issue... as with most things in life.

            Tom


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

            Tom Casey
            President & Creative Director

            100 First Avenue - Suite 450
            Pittsburgh, PA 15222
            412-391-8200
            mailto:tom@...
            http://www.homerunpictures.com
          • Michael Narlock
            Hi all, One trick I ve used in the past to bring out the details and improve the overall brightness is to adjust the high end of the tonal range using curves
            Message 5 of 15 , Feb 18, 2009
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              Hi all,

              One trick I've used in the past to bring out the details and improve the overall brightness is to adjust the high end of the tonal range using "curves" in After Effects. In most cases, for our theatre at least, a small uptick in the high end is all it takes.

              Michael J. Narlock
              Head of Astronomy/Web Coordinator

              Cranbrook Institute of Science
              39221 Woodward Avenue
              P.O. Box 801
              Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

              ph (248) 645-3235
              fx (248) 645-3050
              Email: MNarlock@...

              Cranbrook: more than 100 years of excellence in education, science and art
              >>> "Jason Dorfman" <dorfman@...> 02/18/09 3:59 PM >>>
              Hello all,

              We are close to opening our newly renovated theater and have been
              working hard on creating our first fulldome show. Today, we got our
              first chance to see what our video content looks like on the dome.
              Needless to say, it wasn't what we had hoped for. Though everything
              looked great on the computer, it was all very dark inside the dome.

              We are wondering if anyone has some great suggestions for adjusting
              settings, i.e. brightness, contrast, etc, to improve the image. Is
              there some magic step that we are missing?

              I'm sure that you have all dealt with this at some point. We could
              really use your expertise.

              Many thanks!

              Jason Dorfman
              Bays Mountain Planetarium
              Kingsport, TN



              ------------------------------------

              Yahoo! Groups Links
            • Mark C. Petersen
              Jason, I would say your lament is THE #1 disappointment I run into working in fulldome. Things looks great on your desktop monitors -- especially if you ve
              Message 6 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                Jason,

                I would say your lament is THE #1 disappointment I run into working in
                fulldome. Things looks great on your desktop monitors -- especially
                if you've been staring at the imagery for months and months working on
                it. Then you go into the dome to see how it looks "for real"...
                AAUUGGHH!! "Where's all the brightness, the crispness, the contrast,
                the color saturation? May I have the gun, please?" :-)

                As others have suggested, you can only tweak and adjust -- and swear a
                lot. You over-saturate the colors, you goose the gamma, you can bump
                the levels and curves until you can't keep your eyes open anymore.

                And that's just for *your* theater. Then when you go to show it in
                someone else's theater... all bets are off. Again.

                At Loch Ness Productions, it's gotten to the point where we basically
                declare victory if the customer simply manages to get ANY of our
                imagery up on their dome, never mind what it looks like. We can only
                work to ensure our dome masters are as good-looking as they can be
                when we make our movie encodes. On the hardware side, there are so
                many things out of our control (and out of the customer's control too)
                that to hope for improvement is... well, seemingly hopeless!

                Welcome to the club.

                >> Mark

                ____________________________________________________
                Mark C. Petersen, Loch Ness Productions
                http://www.lochnessproductions.com
                _____________________ GEODESIUM ____________________
              • Glendale College Tour Planning
                Good morning Jason. While I will assume you have a newer set of projectors, I would like to pass on a short story of what has happened in our dome. We are
                Message 7 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                  Good morning Jason.
                  While I will assume you have a newer set of projectors, I would like
                  to pass on a short story of what has happened in our dome.

                  We are currently a Barco 909 dome with 6 projectors. Lucky for us,
                  we have an unusually bright dome (909's in a 30' facility), but for
                  years we experienced exactly what you are discussing, loss of detail
                  from the 3/4 tone through the shadow.

                  After years of asking "isn't there a better balance or way to adjust
                  the color space?" and getting "...no, not really, that is a
                  limitation of the CRT's, you need LCD's to bring out that detail..."

                  Well, if you know how hard it is to get funding for new projectors,
                  this option was out of the question... So, I kept asking the original
                  question about color space...

                  Guess what, my nagging finally paid off, as Claude at SkySkan (the
                  genius that he is) came up with a way to re-balance our Barco's using
                  a numeric, instrument based method, no more, "is that better..."
                  subjectivity.

                  Once Steve Savage from SkySkan came over to perform this new
                  procedure, we suddenly had all that 3/4 - shadow detail we had NEVER
                  seen before, and this was on 6 year old projectors.

                  Now the downside: All the material we produced for the low-contrast,
                  flat picture we used to have, is now too colorful and so needs to be
                  reworked.

                  Therefore, before you start tweaking your imagery, 1) test it on
                  another dome, and 2) make sure you have the best picture your
                  projectors are capable of... My advice, ask someone other than your
                  original vendor, as there may be another process your current vendor
                  is unaware of for balancing your systems.

                  Paul Buehler
                  Glendale College Planetarium Manager
                  Glendale Ca.
                • Eric Knisley
                  Jason, After many years in the dome business, I feel your pain. 8-) Domes are in many ways a *new medium* and you have to adjust your thinking accordingly. You
                  Message 8 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                    Jason,
                    After many years in the dome business, I feel your pain. 8-) Domes are
                    in many ways a *new medium* and you have to adjust your thinking
                    accordingly.

                    You might consider investing in a small "tester" dome, so you could at
                    least get a feel for how your saturation, contrast and other image
                    values will look on the real dome. You'll have to pay a certain amount
                    of money, but you can almost certainly make up for it in saved time/effort.

                    We (the Renaissance Computing Institute) been working with the Morehead
                    Planetarium folks most of the past year to pre-flight their content on
                    our in-house dome. Their new planetarium dome has not been built yet, so
                    it's been good for them to see how things look on an actual dome, as
                    versus their computer monitors. Our dome is smaller than theirs will be,
                    and is tilted at a different angle; it's still useful in terms of
                    evaluating the image qualities mentioned above.

                    In general, I've found that upping the saturation is almost always a
                    good idea, especially in areas that have a lot of white and light blue
                    (like, you know...the sky). Also, check your hardware carefully to be
                    sure that you're getting full use of your bulbs. Good luck!

                    --ek


                    --
                    Eric Knisley
                    Visualization Researcher
                    Renaissance Computing Institute
                    211 Manning Drive
                    Campus Box # 3455, 27599 mobile: 919-491-7406
                    Chapel Hill, NC 27599 office: 919-843-8142
                    done > perfect
                  • Paul Mowbray
                    The eternal battle, if only those elusive Fulldome standards could be formalised and ratified and implemented across the board! A compromise would be to have a
                    Message 9 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                      The eternal battle, if only those elusive Fulldome standards could be
                      formalised and ratified and implemented across the board!

                      A compromise would be to have a real-time gamma correction or look up
                      table type thing being done by the playback system to compensate for
                      missing range in the projection.

                      Having to hard encode simple post processing into encoded files is an
                      incredibly inefficient part of Fulldome workflow and distribution.

                      We really need to try and come up with a way of producing content at a
                      baseline standard and getting the playback hardware to compensate as
                      much as it can.

                      It gives me nightmares thinking what our content looks like on the
                      diverse range of systems out there, I agree with Mark in that creating
                      Fulldome content is challenging enough without having to worry about
                      every potential Fulldome projector configuration.

                      If we (royal we) are to continue raising the standards of productions and
                      introduce more subtlety and realism we need to be confident that it is
                      going to be shown close to what is expected or you end up with footage
                      that looks even worse than what was being produced years ago. The
                      situation is only going to get worse as live action becomes more
                      prevalent as that is even harder to present consistently and provides
                      less latitude for excessive post correction.

                      Anyway, best get back to outputting some comps with excessive gamma
                      levels and saturation boosts which make you feel sick when you see them
                      on a monitor but still don't look quite bright enough in the dome ;)


                      Paul


                      Paul Mowbray

                      CG Supervisor - NSC creative
                      National Space Centre, Exploration Drive, Leicester, LE4 5NS, UK
                      Tel: +44 (0) 116 2582117
                      http://www.NSCcreative.com/
                    • Ty Audronis
                      Jason, I join the ranks of those that sympathize with you. I agree with everything said in this thread (adjusting the projectors, high end curve, and
                      Message 10 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                        Jason, I join the ranks of those that sympathize with you. I agree with
                        everything said in this thread (adjusting the projectors, high end curve,
                        and contrast). Not too exact, huh? Well, my only addition is the use of
                        bracketing. Playing around with these settings doesn¹t necessarily mean
                        having to run back to post every time. Render out 5 versions with bracketed
                        settings to get yourself going. Yes, this is a time suck, so what I suggest
                        in addition is weighting the cost of all the tinkering (production salaries,
                        disk space, etc) with the cost of plugging in a backup projector mirrored to
                        your dome settings. Use the projector as a second monitor, and tinker with
                        the clips real time in your studio. Unfortunately, domes aren¹t an exact
                        science (yet), and there really is no standard ³legal² set of color
                        curves... So trial and error is about all you have.

                        The good news is: Once you know the differential, you should be able to
                        save your color correction settings as a favorite, and just apply that to
                        all you clips and be good to go!

                        --
                        Ty Audronis
                        Supervising Editor
                        Visualization Studio / Morrison Planetarium
                        California Academy of Sciences

                        415.379.5130 (ph)

                        55 Music Concourse Drive
                        Visualization Studio (B1C25)
                        San Francisco, CA 94118-4503

                        taudronis@...

                        www.calacademy.org

                        Now Open!
                      • Matthew
                        Hi Jason, Well it seems you have some really good advice already, so I ll try not to repeat what has been discussed so far. A couple of things you can do is
                        Message 11 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                          Hi Jason,

                          Well it seems you have some really good advice already, so I'll try
                          not to repeat what has been discussed so far. A couple of things you
                          can do is use a monitor calibration system (like a Spyder3 Pro) and
                          create a pre-set for your monitor(s) that roughly mimic your
                          projected image along with a pre-set for a correct callibration.
                          This way you can get rough feedback fairly accurate and quickly at
                          your production station. This will also ensure that all your
                          monitors are calibrated which isn't a bad thing to have anyway.

                          One system test that you can run is, create a series of stills (the
                          same image of course) with varying gamma / level / curve settings
                          output from your production package, and run through them on your
                          dome. I believe your system doesn't require slicing and encoding, so
                          this should be a fairly quick and painless test to run. Also make
                          sure that the gamma on your production stations are all the same.
                          I've run into a situation where the gamma on a Mac was 1.8 and
                          on a PC it was 2.2. It makes a huge difference, and was a difficult
                          thing to track down.

                          If your looking to distribute your content, that is a whole nother
                          discussion.

                          Congrats on the conversion, and welcome to the world of fulldome!

                          Matt

                          --
                          Matthew Mascheri
                          Dome3D LLC - Creative Media & Technology Consulting
                          Web - www.Dome3D.com
                          Email - Matt@...
                          Skype ID - mattmascheri
                        • Andy Dolph
                          it is possible to set the mac for a 2.2 gamma but it s not by default. Andy
                          Message 12 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                            it is possible to set the mac for a 2.2 gamma but it's not by default.

                            Andy

                            On Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 6:04 PM, Matthew <MattMascheri@...> wrote:
                            > I've run into a situation where the gamma on a Mac was 1.8 and
                            > on a PC it was 2.2. It makes a huge difference, and was a difficult
                            > thing to track down.
                          • mark_cartagine
                            (And all this time I thought this was just our problem!) Like everyone else here, we ve experienced full dome issues. We bought a wonderful projector (Optoma
                            Message 13 of 15 , Feb 19, 2009
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                              (And all this time I thought this was just our problem!)

                              Like everyone else here, we've experienced full dome issues. We
                              bought a wonderful projector (Optoma HD81-LV, a DLP with Darkchip and
                              about 2500 lumens), which does OK out of the box on our 30-ft. dome.

                              I wound up tweaking the heck out of it. I goosed up the brightness
                              and color saturation, played with edge enhancement and sharpness,
                              chose "vivid" colors, and so on.

                              And that was just the projector. Since we use Paul Bourke's "tga
                              warp," we can project from a Linux PC, using mplayer. This allows us
                              to tweak contrast and brightness levels on the PC side as well with
                              just a key press.

                              I'm pretty happy with it now. It's by no means perfect, but I've
                              learned to adjust for what I think are critical sequences, and let
                              everything else fall where it may.

                              We've had no complaints from over 4,000 visitors. But that doesn't
                              stop me wishing for a 7500 or even 10,000 lumen HD projector, sigh.
                            • Paul Bourke
                              ... For those using Macs for playback, you will be pleasantly surprised if you perform a colour calibration ... see the display preferences. I suggest
                              Message 14 of 15 , Feb 20, 2009
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                                > And that was just the projector. Since we use Paul Bourke's "tga
                                > warp," we can project from a Linux PC, using mplayer. This allows us
                                > to tweak contrast and brightness levels on the PC side as well with
                                > just a key press.

                                For those using Macs for playback, you will be pleasantly surprised
                                if you perform a colour calibration ... see the display preferences.
                                I suggest resetting all projector settings first, perhaps turn off any
                                white boost, then do the colour calibration.
                              • Mark C. Petersen
                                ... be formalised and ratified and implemented across the board! A compromise would be to have a real-time gamma correction or look up table type thing being
                                Message 15 of 15 , Feb 20, 2009
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                                  --- In fulldome@yahoogroups.com, "Paul Mowbray" <paulm@...> wrote:

                                  >> The eternal battle, if only those elusive Fulldome standards could
                                  be formalised and ratified and implemented across the board! A
                                  compromise would be to have a real-time gamma correction or look up
                                  table type thing being done by the playback system to compensate for
                                  missing range in the projection. Having to hard encode simple post
                                  processing into encoded files is an incredibly inefficient part of
                                  Fulldome workflow and distribution. We really need to try and come up
                                  with a way of producing content at a baseline standard and getting the
                                  playback hardware to compensate as much as it can. <<

                                  Hi Paul and all,

                                  While "standards" are one thing, I'd say there's a more (im)practical
                                  issue at play here.

                                  We say imagery on the dome doesn't look like our monitors. Things
                                  look fine on the desktop; they look like dogmeat when projected.
                                  That's not a "standards" concern, that's a technology concern.

                                  We could adopt all the standards we want, but if the projectors simply
                                  cannot deliver the desired results, it's rather moot. Put another
                                  way, I think no one's really unhappy with the inherent quality of
                                  fulldome movies that are being produced these days. They look fine --
                                  or good enough for now. It's the projectors -- and their shortcomings
                                  in showing those movies -- that are the bane of our existence.

                                  Those shortcomings are what people are trying to over-compensate for.
                                  The obvious place to do that is in hardware, of course, not the
                                  software or show-ware. In other words, mucking with the movies --
                                  i.e., making them look "worse" in order to compensate for a lack in
                                  the projector -- is creating problem B instead of fixing problem A.

                                  But it's quite possible that "problem A" isn't fixable. You can only
                                  push the projector's adjustments so far. If that color saturation
                                  slider is full right or full left, and it's *still* not enough...
                                  well, standards won't help there either.

                                  I'm not saying the adoption of "standards" should be discouraged. But
                                  the current situation can be, umm, discouraging.

                                  >> Mark
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