Archives for posts with tag: xRez

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.

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.

Eric Hanson and Greg Downing from xRez will be in New Mexico in July 2011 to share their first of its kind techniques for  gigapixel 360° panoramas in the fulldome environment.

xRez specializes in “creative imaging and visual effects practice which explores the intersection of high-end computer graphics and advances in digital photography.” During this workshop, Eric and Greg will show us how to create similar effects as in their fulldome show, Crossing Worlds (as seen below). The techniques includes “new technologies arising in computational photography such as multi-spectral imaging, photogrammetry, terrain modeling, photo-clouds, [and] polynomial texture mapping.”

From the Digital Dome @ IAIA, Ethan Bach and Carlos Peinado along with students will participate in this dynamic hands on three day training. From UNM ARTSLab, David Beining, Hugh Walker, and John Strawn will be in attendance. Each will be trained as trainers in this technique in order to pass the skills along to students, fulldome producers, computer scientists, animators, and artists.