Archives for category: Fulldome Tools

When I first started working in the fulldome environment, one of my biggest frustrations in the dome was the inevitable washing out of images. At IAIA, our 24′ digital dome currently has 6 – PLUS U7 projectors. Each of these projectors has 3500 ANSI with a contract ratio of 2000:1. Add this low contrast ratio to the photon splash that occurs in a spherical theater and images that look gorgeous on a monitor become lifeless on the dome. High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques solve the problem.

The average human eye sees at about 10,000:1 contrast ratio. A high end DSLR camera shoots a single image at around 2000:1 contrast ratio. Place this images in the dome with a projection system of 2000:1 and add photon splash and the image washes out to about 500:1 (just a guess, not an actual measurement). The details of the images are simply lost in translation. My first approach in attempts to solve this problem was to increase the contrast and the saturation of the image. Although this would help, it still left me completely frustrated.

While reviewing the materials for the highly anticipated xRez training session, I began to review the techniques they would be teaching. High Dynamic Resolution immediately caught my eye. While in Portland’s Powell’s Books, I picked up two books; Practical HDR by Jack Howard and Practical HDR by David Nightingale. Through these two texts I began to see the world and the images I shoot in a completely different light. Not only has this process saved my photographs for the dome, it has enhanced my overall photographic skills for all mediums.

After learning about HDR, I immediately began to shoot bracketed photos with my Canon x3i using the automated settings in the menu. I tried Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro with fair results. Then I downloaded a trial of Photomatrix Pro. Within 10 minutes I purchased the full version and was hooked.

My first HDR photo. Bagby Hot Springs, Oregon.

Some people say that HDR is just a fad technique and things look to fake and overly illustrated, but take this image and place it on a digital dome and it is an excellent solution. There are many variations within HDR tonemapping techniques from illustrative to realistic. My tastes tend towards more realistic results, but I find some images call for the more grungy illustrated look.

Single shot

HDR photo

Fall 2011, the first assignment my students tackled in the Digital Dome Production I course was shooting HDR photos using a Canon x3i and a Sunex 5.6mm f/5.6 Super Fisheye lens. The assignment taught students to begin to visual the sphere and understand placement of images on the dome. They experimented with angles, perspectives, and various subjects. At the same time, they were learning HDR and creating stunning images that popped on the dome.
IAIA Tutorial on shooting HDR

Student Images

IAIA Dorms by Bryan Akipa

Railyard by Fernando Charley

Bridge by Jessie Bennett

Wood by Louva Hartwell

Duck Pond by Joseph "Seph" Turnipseed

From this foundation, my student developed skills in 360° spherical panos and 360° horizontal panos all using the HDR process. I am very interested in exploring HDR video processes and am currently developing ways to increase contrast in video for the digital dome. Look for more posts in the future with these tests.

For more information on HDR, check out
Wikipedia
A Versatile HDR Video Production System
And you know a web search will find all kinds of wonderful information.

Here at the Institute of American Indian Arts, our students work on Macintosh work stations to create their art. When creating the Digital Dome Production course we ran into a major obstacle, how to run PC based software on a Mac. In the dome we run Sky-Skan’s DigitalSky 2 software, but Sky-Skan does not offer support for running the software on a Macintosh.

We had our trusty student intern, Joseph “Seph” Turnipseed at the helm of this task. After several attempts, Seph was able to successfully install Windows 95 using Bootcamp and install DigitalSky 2. A couple of tweaks later and now our students can preview their files before going into the dome to test. It’s a great way to get to know the software and learn scripting.

To access the how to document click here.

Stay tuned for more blog entries outlining specifics on how we access the Mac partition and Mac formatted drives from Window and techniques we use to create for the dome.

We are preparing for the much anticipated three day fulldome production workshop with xRez. xRez are the creators of the spectacular dome show, Crossing Worlds
This workshop is a collaborative effort between xRez, IAIA, and UNM ARTSLab.

Using high resolution panoramic imagery integrated into 3D software allowed them to take advantage of it’s powerful flexibility while presenting real-world imagery. They developed a method utilizing a stitched panoramic HD capture, where they can far exceed even the highest resolution of emerging digital cinema solutions. Their first dome film format film, “Crossing Worlds” won a coveted “Domie” for Best Design in a Dome at DomeFest 09 in Albuquerque, NM and was later shown in the world’s highest resolution dome theater at Dome Day Asia. A visual tone poem designed for the emerging fulldome planetarium format, “Crossing Worlds” utilizes spherical photography from the American desert west to immerse the viewer in a transcendent spectrum of austere landscapes.

This hands-on workshop will cover basic approaches to capture and integration of real- world locations and CGI elements for fulldome production. The initial focus will be on photographic techniques, such as spherical panoramic background photography, HDRI capture, and photogrammetry for set reconstruction. Site survey techniques will be demonstrated as well as a brand new technique for 3d point cloud data capture based on Microsoft Photosynth software. Later classroom study will include formatting the content shot and integrating in Autodesk Maya for fulldome production.

We will have 2 components to the workshop, first a one-day field session to capture a nearby location (Pecos National Monument) covering spherical panoramic shooting, HDRI capture, gigapixel capture, and shooting for photogrammetry. The participants will perform most of the techniques illustrated w/ shooting rigs. The second phase will be a 2-day classroom session that will consist of software demonstrations in Photoshop, PTGui, Autopano, HDRShop, Maya, and Nuke to illustrate post-production workflow methodology. Integration of CGI elements within an image-based panoramic digital set will be the goal, and several completed works will be shown.

In preparation for this workshop to include purchasing new equipment to create four dome production kits and working on our shooting skills. Our kits include: Gigipan Epic Pro, Canon 600D, Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 IS lens, Sunex SuperFisheye lens, and supportive gear.

Digital Dome @ IAIA fulldome kit

We will use these new skills to teach students at the Institute of American Indian Arts digital dome production courses. More to come on this workshop.

Digital Dome @ IAIA has recently had the pleasure of meeting Klaus Dufke who is teaching Motion Graphics at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam in the Design Department. Our Dome Director, Ethan Bach, discovered this program through the call for work for the Currents @ the Digital Dome 2011 show, which took place on June 11. Two students projects were submitted from the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) and both projects were accepted into the show. Impressed by the work, Ethan contacted the professor, Klaus Dufke, who was more than willing to share his information. Turns out that UAS not only turns out interesting student work, but they have created a virtual dome testing software rightly named, DomeTester.

The DomeTester is a previsualization tool that takes flat images and places them on a three dimensional dome object that can navigate various perspectives of the virtual dome. This tool is amazing and will be a great help in creating work, teaching about the dome, and working with artists who do not have direct access to a dome. Before even looking at the software, Ethan was warned to “handle with care” as the DomeTester is still in development and has a hard time handling the computer memory.

This tool is easy to use, extremely helpful and accurate, and will become a staple in teaching courses here at the Digital Dome @ IAIA. As we were warned, the application is a bit RAM intensive. Our computer’s fan ran high while the software was running. I would recommend using this software for short intervals until the processing issue is handled. This should by no means keep anyone from using this tool to its full extent.

DomeTester is a freeware for Mac, Windows, and Linux. More information on DomeTester can be found on this translated link.