In recent years, the 3D industry went from very little support of fisheye rendering and now every modern render engine fully embraces it. I think we can thank the rise of VR for helping to shine a light on immersive production.
We recently had a chance to upgrade the render engine that we use in Maya for producing our fulldome shows. We were also able to add some computers to our old 10-node render farm. Many thanks to the Charles Hayden Foundation for the grant that made this vital tech leap possible.
With the recent introduction of GPU render engines, things are a bit more convoluted when considered alongside CPU render engines. Yet each render engine is unique and excels at different aspects, so it makes comparing them tricky work.
And so I thought it would be useful to hear from the fulldome community…
We recently traveled to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to gather reference imagery for our planetarium show production about human spaceflight to Mars. What an epic trip!
It was surreal to walk inside of the Vehicle Assembly Building and travel up to the 37th floor of this incredibly huge single-story building. Currently the VAB is being retrofitted so that the SLS rocket can be vertically assembled within. This retrofit includes special motorized platforms which can be moved into place according to the needs of the project at hand.
What an intense year! We threw a huge amount of unique and challenging special events and learned a ton in the process. Currently we are deep in production of our new fulldome show about human spaceflight to Mars, which we received a NASA grant to create. But before jumping into this new year I’d like to look back at 2017 and share what we’ve been up to.
During the 2017 Spring semester at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, students explored the topics of memory, transformation, and the outsider. In less than 5 months these students collaborated on all aspects of storytelling, concept development, video shoots, surround sound design, and 4k fulldome production.
In January 2016, Allan Adams and Keith Ellenbogen took a group of MIT students scuba diving in Belize as part of a college course on underwater conservation photography. Coral reefs worldwide are deteriorating due to changes in our climate and so it’s important to document both the beauty of our oceans and what’s happening to them. Capturing this moment in time is important for future generations to learn from, be immersed in, and be inspired from.
Lately I’ve been shooting with the Kodak PIXPRO SP360 4k camera for both VR and the planetarium dome. Shooting with dual cameras is great for capturing 360°, but shooting with a single camera is sometimes easier since the footage doesn’t need to be stitched. Also a single camera captures 235° which is a surprisingly huge FOV. Yet it’s necessary to warp the footage from fisheye to spherical so that it can be experienced in VR or Youtube 360.
The ‘Pixpro SP360 4k’ software is actually capable of warping a single camera from fisheye to spherical. But it’s not intuitive (here is a tutorial) and the Kodak software can only export footage to MP4… And seeing as how the raw camera footage is an already heavily compressed MP4, I wasn’t thrilled about this added lossy step. So I figured out a simple technqiue.
NASA Grant: Planetarium Show
A while back we applied for a NASA grant and we’ve been patiently waiting to hear the results… And we are thrilled to announce that we have been selected! We are one of nine organizations chosen from 73 applications through a peer-reviewed process.
The two-year NASA grant will enable us to capture the excitement of the next generation’s moonshot — the human journey to Mars and back. We will create two educational experiences that will bring to life the engineering skills and team spirit fueling this historic pioneering endeavor. So stay tuned…
Image Source: NASA Project Apollo Archive
It’s been fascinating to see IMERSA evolve and mature over the last few years. And since things are moving so fast, I wanted to document the challenges being faced in the immersive community with a series of interviews.
Last year at IMERSA there were nervous murmurings of VR, but this year there is clear excitement. It’s particularly interesting to see fulldome producers realize that they already possess the tools, skills, and ultra high resolution workflows to create polished VR experiences.
An interview with the man that needs no introduction! Andrew Hazelden and I discuss the many vital production tools that he has been creating for fulldome and VR. We discuss in-depth tools such as: Domemaster3D, PlayblastVR, RocketComp, Domemaster Fusion Macros.
All too often I need to precisely convert between timecode and frames. Or I’ll want a rough time estimate of a render job on the farm. Yet I needed a utility that could allow for intuitive interactivity, GUI creation, and be instantly editable. So I’m using a simple open source solution: Pure Data
Pure Data (aka Pd) is a realtime graphical programming environment which is mainly used in live music performances. But its realtime aspect makes it ideal for my needs. So with some careful planning I applied the math nodes to create tools which automate the conversion process. Basically I’ve created a calculator tailored for animators and filmmakers.
collection of Pd patches
— Requires Pure Data to be installed. (supports: Windows, Mac, Linux)
— It’s easy to use. Just click and drag on the number boxes to input your timecode or frames.