Jim Manning Weighs in on Standards and IPS
- Jim's having trouble posting to the listserve, so...
Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2003 17:27:44 -0600
From: Jim Manning <manning@...>
Regarding Ed Lantz's and Ryan Waytt's and Jack Dunn's
discussion of standards vis-a-vis IPS involvement . . .
In no way at all do I speak for IPS, but I've had a lot of
past experience with IPS, and I think that the best role for
IPS is one of facilitating the discussion by way of its
organs of communication and infrastructure.
It seems to me (and this is solely my opinion--not that of
any IPS officials) that IPS has been somewhat circumspect
about establishing official committees with vendor members
from the standpoint that vendors are also competitors, and
it could be tricky trying to referee competitors and to
balance vendor influence to avoid charges that the
organization favors any vendor or product line over
another--especially given IPS's need to accommodate
international perspectives and standards--not just American
perspectives and standards. My own experience, however, is
that this has never discouraged (or been meant to
discourage) vendor input on issues of any sort.
So go ahead and ask the IPS hierarchy; it may be that IPS
could help to facilitiate the discussion in appropriate
ways. In this sense, the creation of a task force designed
to solicit input from the IPS membership (rather than the
creation of an official IPS ad hoc committee as if IPS is
supposed to decide standards for this or any industry) might
be the best route to take advantage of IPS standing and
infrastructure in helping the industry to establish
well-communicated norms of full-dome production, format and
configuration. I fully agree that any ultimate compilation
of standards and best practices must come from the industry
itself (read vendors) with very significant input from its
potential clientele. Insofar as IPS can assist its
membership by facilitating such discussion, I think an
appropriate role can be found. If the idea is to create a
node or focal point for such discussion and effort, IPS
sponsorship of such a node or focal point could be a very
Again, I don't speak for IPS, but from my perspective, this
sort of approach might be the most useful way to involve IPS
in the discussion--as desired.
A few other points on another discussion thread that seems
done for now--but I'll throw in my tardy two cents anyway,
as a mere observer . . .
I understood from the first exactly what Carolyn Sumners and
Mark Petersen and those of like mind were saying in the
discussion about the usefulness of incorporating still
imagery and other tried-and-true techniques in full-dome
productions. As many have pointed out, it does indeed come
down to not what can be done, but how effectively the story
can be told.
Much of what I've seen so far of full-dome presentations has
been wonderful and dazzling--and effective. But . . .
although it's all great from a technological and (usually)
esthetic perspective, not all of it has been uniformly
effective in telling a story. I can recall sitting through
one "Lawrence of Arabia" sequence after another (by this I
mean a constant stream of sweeping vistas with no let-up),
wondering if it wouldn't be better to keep the audience more
alert by breaking these up with some good old-fashioned
multi-media sorts of approaches. Then the technology
advanced to provide all sorts of multi-media approaches with
virtual screens doing acrobatics about the dome, showing
stills and streaming video, etc., and in some cases, I found
my mind so busy and distracted trying to sort out the visual
cues that I lost the thread of the narration and what these
sequences were supposed to support. And I've watched
similarly distracted audiences thumb buttons and giggle as
they repeatedly ram some computer-generated craft into the
side of a virtual cliff, while I wondered if the program had
become a big video game rather than an enlightening
This is not to criticize, but to offer observations. The
technology (as a planetarium technology, at least) is still
new, and I think we're still in the "look Ma--no hands!"
phase as we play with the new toys in new environments to
see what they can do. And that's fine. That's exactly what
I would expect, and that's exactly where we ought to be
right now. But once we figure out and demonstrate what these
babies can do, then it's time for the show producers of our
industry to apply these tools in the most effective and
appropriate ways to support the messages they want to send.
And that will also involve storytelling and pacing and
audience psychology and all the "old" tools people have used
since we were sitting around those campfires shivering
against the dark.
To me, that's the most exciting aspect of the full-dome
revolution: watching as we get better, as we meld the new
tools with the old tools to tell our stories in new and
effective ways, and--as my old friend Bill Gutsch says, make
the universe as exciting as it really is.
Keep up the good work, everyone. It's wonderful to see the
progress you've already made in so short a time!
P.S. We also ought to be surveying audiences to assess what
they're getting out these new full-dome approaches--and if
it's what we expect or want them to get out of these
experiences. Perhaps some who may have already started this
process can share what they've learned so far.
* James G. Manning - Director | /\ MOR | *
* Taylor Planetarium | / \ /\ | *
* Museum of the Rockies | / / /\ | *
* Bozeman, MT 59717 | / / / \ | *
* manning@... |/____/__/____\| *