Don’t call me Hurl-ey

June 8, 2009

I’ve been working on a scene in our new production Magic Tree House, and experimented with some camera movements. I’ve learned from the great Eric Knisley that you need to be very careful with motions of the camera, since sickness and disorientation can come very quickly in the dome environment. When I asked how you can prevent nausea from occurring in camera moves, Eric would explain it with one word: Stately. The classic entrance of the couple or girl coming down those large ballroom steps in those old movies was what came to mind after hearing that. Time to put it into practice! Here are two different approaches I took to this scene where we enter the treehouse for the first time. The first test was imagining the camera was attached to the head of the person. I thought that perhaps the reason why people would get sick was the combination of both rotation and positional translation of the camera.

Although I didn’t get very sick with it, the people I showed it too here did get sick while watching it. Maybe it was all those FPS games that I played for long hours that allowed me to get used to it. Also that I was the one who actually made it so I knew when motions were going to happen. Either way it wasn’t very successful for a larger audience. It may seem like its not so bad in the video while watching it on a flat screen, everyone really seemed to notice it in the dome.

So knowing that I was needing to tone it down a lot, I abandoned the idea that the camera was attached to the head of a person ascending the ladder. I made the camera move a smooth motion that was floating through space. Even though I miss the idea of making the motion more organic, everyone who was sick from the first example were much happier with this new one.

If anyone has any insight to their own experiences with camera moves in dome space, please feel free to share what you know by either leaving a comment or dropping me an email!

“Magic Tree House: Space Mission” in the works

May 7, 2009


We just started production on a new project, Magic Tree House: Space Mission. Based on the popular children’s book series, MTH is a show that we’ve been showing in analogue form since 2004 at Morehead.

We’re now working with the writer of the show, Will Osborne to convert the show to a digital format, spruce up some of the graphics and update the content so it reflects our current understanding of the Solar System (like reclassifying Pluto as a dwarf planet). The project is due to wrap in early September.

Thinking in 360 Degrees.

April 29, 2009

Seeing as 3d software is designed classically for the flat screen, there has yet to be much adaptation to working with 3d in a Fisheye view. So to help us understand what we’re looking at we use a rig that points 5 cameras in different directions. Generally focusing on what happens in the front, left, right and Up cameras. We do think about what should be happening behind the viewer, but it should never be there for very long, as we can’t see through the backs of our heads.

3dMax Workspace


The Magic Tree House & Tree

April 15, 2009

When I started to model the tree and its magical house for the upcoming digital conversion of Magic Tree House: Space Mission,  I did some research on the internets and found that some of the best-looking trees where going through the ZBrush pipeline.  ZBrush is a powerful sculpting program which works well for organic objects; I’ve seen many great things come out of ZBrush with a level of artistic detail that isn’t so easily or efficiently achieved in Maya.

zspheres Sculpted tree

Read More →

Our First Digital Fulldome Show – Earth, Moon & Sun!

April 13, 2009
Check out the trailer from Morehead’s first digital fulldome planetarium show – Earth, Moon and Sun. It’s targeted at 3rd graders and tackles their misconceptions about those three solar bodies. We’re planning on distrubuting it in this Spring’s through SkySkan and also traveling it across the state of North Carolina and showing it in a 20ft portable dome.

Earth, Moon and Sun Planetarium Show Trailer from moreheadplanetarium on Vimeo.

Let’s go Storyboardin’

April 9, 2009


Creating storyboards in the dome setting is challenging to say the least. Traditional boards can’t quite make the grade in visualizing what the audience will see.

In the first image we see a extreme close-up of our rover traversing the surface of Mars.  I first thought to just board the sweet spot of the dome, where our attention will likely be focused too.  We’re missing a lot of what is seen outside the frame, which can cause many surprises when the animatic phase is reached. To prevent this from happening, it seemed to make most sense to storyboard in the dome medium. Much like using correct aspect ratios for tv or film storyboards, dome boards should be made to reflect the environment they’re presented in. Easier said than done of course. It’s a bit unnatural to draw a fisheye image and takes some time getting used too. It was made easier by having our own test dome to throw Photoshop on and start scribbling away.

Our second image highlights the sweet spot, while the third is without.

NewSweetSpot New

The Chamber

April 6, 2009

Where Awesome has been known to happen.  We welcome you to join us in “The Chamber”.

No dome Studio should be without a dome. The Chamber was built by our own Richard McColman using pre-fabricated Fiberglass dome panels, and some good old hard work.  Its roughly 8′ in diameter and 9′ high.  Using a rather standard projection unit with a not so standard Fisheye Lens projection mount we are able to preview and discuss shot composition for our full dome shows. We’ve even taken to doing story boards using Photoshop drawing directly on the dome surface.

Its equipped with 5.1 surround, has a screen resolution of 1024X768, and sports a wonderful set of sleek gaming chairs.  This dome is even equipped with its own ventilation system to draw out the heat from the projector lens.


April 2, 2009

Looks like SkySkan and PMW Creative just got together to build a timelapse motion control rig for 4K dome use. Seems to use a Canon 5D MK1 camera with a fisheye lens. The vid looks like something straight out of Baraka.