By Carolyn Collins Petersen, Vice-president, Loch Ness Productions
There is nothing wrong with this blend of education and entertainment: it’s perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about, even at a time when the technology of the domed theater is changing. The star projectors of the past are not necessarily going the way of the dinosaur; in some places, planetarium instruments are being joined or replaced by digital video systems that project stars and animated content onto the dome.
In a very real sense, technological changes have led to a schism of thinking in the planetarium community. Some people fear that fulldome facilities are becoming movie theaters where attendants just press the PLAY button (a skeptical, highly critical view). For others, technology is allowing audiences to explore the universe, using pre-rendered content and databases as dictated by audience and producer needs. This is my preferred, optimistic viewpoint.
As content producers, we at Loch Ness Productions follow the debates about fulldome’s effects quite closely. We got our start during the good old “slide projector” multi-image days, and have been creating content for domed theaters for nearly three decades. Recently we’ve converted much of our older “classic” content to fulldome. It has been an interesting project, spurred by demand from the largely educational segment of our market.
How could our older classic shows be in demand? Simply put, they’re well-produced stories – always popular. Many are “evergreen” in their topical treatment of astronomical themes. Just as importantly, they have become enshrined in school schedules and curricula. When we began the transition to fulldome, Loch Ness Productions had a built-in market of people who needed – and asked for — our shows in their new theaters.
To satisfy that demand, we animated the shows, adding visual nuances and motions to exploit as much of the fulldome feel as we could, working with the classic material as our starting point. Currently, seven shows from our classic catalog are available as digital fulldome presentations. Two more are in the rendering farm, and one of our new releases—the Seasonal Stargazing show set—is our first all-fulldome foray. It takes the old familiar “green arrow show” nicely into the digital realm.
Of course, Loch Ness Productions has storyboards for new created-specifically-for-fulldome shows, but while we’re searching for production funds to create them, our field-tested and repurposed content is doing quite nicely for the educational market. (You can see a “one-minute blast” demo of some of our shows at: Fulldome demo )
Image: Seasonal Stargazing is a fulldome video “star talk” series created by Loch Ness Productions.
Trends in Fulldome Production and Distribution: The Paper