In February, our Digital Dome Director, Ethan Bach will present a workshop at IMERSA Summit in Denver, Colorado. The session is entitled, “Fulldome 101″ and will focus on examples and methods for creating in the spherical fulldome theater. Ethan will be joined by UNM ARTS Lab’s Hue Walker and others who bring years of experience and various methods to explore for the digital dome.

The 2012 IMERSA Summit is set to take place 3-5 February 2012 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS). “Learning from our past, Visualizing our future – Winning solutions for the digital dome” is the theme. The two-and-a-half-day Summit is organized by IMERSA (Immersive Media, Entertainment, Research, Science & Arts) – a nonprofit trade group formed in 2008 to boost the adoption and creative application of the digital dome and other immersive media formats.

In the visitor attractions business, digital dome, aka “fulldome,” is getting attention from museums, science centers and theme parks as they transition from film-based systems to digital projection and seek to provide ever-more immersive experiences. Fulldome cinema already boasts a network of more than 1200 permanent and portable domes around the world with the potential for many more. This inherently immersive, medium is being widely adopted in Europe and Asia as well as the US to create great story- based guest experiences, and to leverage trans-media opportunities for entertainment and education in 2D, 3D and 4D.

Within the planetarium community and educational institutions, it is anticipated that virtually all dome theaters will eventually upgrade to digital dome technology. The tendency is either to integrate a fulldome system together with an opto-mechanical starball projector, or to replace the starball altogether. Depending on the size of the theater, the number of projectors in a fulldome system can range from a single fisheye unit to a series of 6, 8 or more, linked and edge-blended.

Digital dome theaters are central to prominent visitor attractions around the world such as City of Dreams in Macau (“Dragons Treasure”); the Adler Planetarium in Chicago (“Deep Space Adventure”); the American Museum of Natural History (Rose Planetarium), Madame Tussauds London (“Marvel Superheroes 3D), Futuroscope in Poitiers, France (“Arthur”) and Universal Studios (“The Simpsons Ride” and “Harry Potter: The Forbidden Journey”) and Griffith Observatory (Centered in the Universe) in Los Angeles to name a few examples. The growing library of fulldome shows includes original custom productions from exhibitors and system providers as well as independent producers. Major special venue distributors such as nWave Pictures, SK Films and National Geographic are also getting into the act and starting to make titles available for digital dome exhibition.

“Because of digital technology, multiple industry sectors are converging, and we have a lot to talk about on the creative side, technology side and the business side,” says IMERSA co-founder Dan Neafus, who is director of the Gates Planetarium. “We’re working to develop standards and specifications and deal with what is called ‘pixel envy.’ Fulldome is pretty far along in terms of animation content, but mainstream filmmakers are eager to see better options for live action photography. When it comes to image acquisition, there are tricks for capturing material in a way that not only optimizes the special projection environment in the dome, but that can maximize the opportunities for cross-platform distribution. Everyone wants to see more viable business models for production, distribution and exhibition and not repeat previous mistakes.

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