Repost of First Post
- I allowed the tenth anniversary of the Fulldome Mailing List (on 21
September) to pass by without comment. But if it's not too late, I'd
like to take the presumptuous step of reposting my very first message
to the list. In reviewing what I wrote, I'm torn: I can either feel
depressed about how little has changed in ten years (cf. the line that
"we're all using technology that's in various versions of beta"), or I
can feel remarkably prescient in describing the topics that seem to
have remained compelling after a decade.
One thing has certainly changed: the initial message went out to 43
recipients, but we currently have 881 subscribers. Yeah, some of
those email addresses bounce, but still, we sure have grown.
Anyway, here goes...
I thought I would outline a few of the topics I see the group
addressing, perhaps with the net effect of inspiring a few more people
to post their thoughts...
When you get right down to it, the nuts and bolts of fulldome systems
have a very real effect on all our lives. Although I despise having
had to learn about CRT projectors, video compression, and the like, I
also know that it helps me understand the system more intimately and
use it more effectively. Since there aren't many of us out there, and
we're all using technology that's in various versions of beta, we need
to share stories, ideas, problems, and successes.
I see this covering everything from computer animation packages to
laser video projection technology to playback systems. There's a lot
I see several challenges in this arena. We are dealing with extremely
powerful technology here in terms of the impact it can have on an
audience. To maximize the impact, we need to think about what actually
takes place from the viewer's perspective. We'd all better be thinking
about the visual quality of our product... So what are we thinking.
and how are our audiences responding?
I'm particularly interested in audience responses to different events
on the dome. How do people react when an object explodes in front of
them? Off to the side? How 'bout if a spacecraft flies in from behind
the audience? Slowly? Quickly? Do audiences require a certain reaction
time to enjoy an effect or do they refer being blind-sided? Is anyone
surveying audiences on these topics?
There's a technological component to this area, too, however: for
example, all fulldome systems in use right now (that I know of) use
multiple CRT projectors and some kind of edge-blending (software or
hardware). Yet I've never heard much discussion of gammas or color
spaces that minimize the appearance of seams on the dome. Maybe the
solution lies in the edge-blending technology, certainly in the choice
of imagery, and probably in some combination of the two.
3. Programmatic Concerns
Most of us are using our systems to educate. Most of us also need to
sell tickets to survive. We need to share thoughts on what works and
what doesn't in terms of content, marketing, and finances.
I know Carolyn Sumners has presented a few papers on the effect that
fulldome video has had on attendance and income at the Houston Museum
of Natural Science. Sharing that kind of data helps the rest of us
assess what we can do to help support our institutions and our programs.
Other questions... How do you advertise your fulldome system? How do
you plan to pay from programming? Does your institution plan to
develop imagery, models, and/or sequences for the technology?
Okay, not all of "us" are the "we" and the "us" to whom I've been
referring above. So, for those who are thinking of investing in
fulldome video, or for those who've signed contracts... What's on your
mind? What concerns do you have making the leap into this new
technology? And how can those of us "in the biz" help out?
Always one of *my* favorite topics. Is fulldome technology another
tool in the planetarium arsenal or is it a paradigm shift in domed
theaters? Neither? Or is it both? Perhaps we're transitioning from one
to the other... What does the digital quality of the medium mean for
institutions using it? When we buy a program from another facility,
should we insist upon the right to tailor it to our own? In a
postmodern era, should we resolutely maintain the integrity of the
product we create, or should we allow others to modify the content as
they see fit?
Ryan Wyatt, Director
Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118