A while back I wrote about this huge video project we’ve undertaken at the company my husband and I run. Basically it all stems from the planetarium world changing from a realm of starballs and slide projectors to a realm where digital video also paints the dome. The change represents a huge leap from making slides and figuring out how to move them around the dome (using mirrors to reflect images, etc.) to learning video production tools and being worried about resolution and rendering times. All this before you put a single image on the dome or a single word down on tape for the soundtrack. (Tape? What’s tape? These days it’s all digital audio!).
Most of us grew up going to see a planetarium instrument that looked something like the ones below.
Lots of memories around those lovely projectors! I first learned to work one at Fiske Planetarium in Boulder, Colorado. There is NOTHING like taking the controls of a star instrument and literally making the universe do what you want it to!
Now, mind you, those instruments aren’t going away, even in this new realm of fulldome video. Some theaters are replacing their opto-mechanical systems with video, but some are opting to have BOTH types of projection systems under one dome.
So, next time you walk into your local planetarium, you might see one of those instruments above, but there might also be something that looks like a box with a huge lens on top of it, all controlled by a computer (maybe even a laptop).
How does this affect us? Well, now we get to be video production types, taking the shows we used to do with slides and mirrors, and applying all the latest techniques to fulldome video production. It’s a huge paradigm shift, to be sure. But it’s also challenging and fun and stimulating.