Two of your more recent projects involved domes with very different purposes – the Adler Planetarium and FlyOver Canada. What similarities and differences did you find between the two projects?
They are two very different kinds of experiences and applications of dome technology. With the Adler, the dome was a fulldome application, with the viewer orientation being from a flat floor, so the principal immersive experience is above and around the viewer. With FlyOver Canada, the dome is a truncated, vertical half-dome, with the view orientation being from a ride seat that suspends the guest directly in front of the dome, providing an immersive experience in front, below and around the viewer.
The Adler image is provided with over 20 projectors, tiled together creating the perfect system for extremely high contrast (ultra-black) playback, which is perfect for a deep-space planetarium experience. The FlyOver image is provided with a single projector, avoiding all of the tiling issues, given that it is used to project real world daylight and nighttime images of natural settings, where variation of color, even subtle, that results from tiling would be extremely disruptive to the experience.
They really are two very different experiences driven by fundamentally different creative needs. Mostly different, with the exception they both use spherical projection surface to immerse the guests.
How do domes, anamorphic screens, and 360 cinema systems affect the public’s perception of a film?
First of all, I view these kind of spaces as experiences, rather than films in a traditional sense. Films traditionally can be used to tell lengthy dialogue or narrative intensive stories. The experiences I spend much of my time developing are way less dialog/narrative intensive “stories.” So, with the understanding of that central difference, it is my hope that the with the use of the variety of technologies, the guest can reach a point in their experience when they lose all sense of disbelief and become fully “immersed” in the experience. Clearly, the opportunity of much higher projection and capture frame rate stands out as a most important element in helping to produce this immersive effect with dome experiences that I don’t think are as necessary for much of traditional film/video storytelling. In many cases, having a dome experience without the use of 3D can provide an even more immersive experience than with it.
Can you give an example where the immersive technology didn’t work by being detached from the story?
I’m not one to publicly criticize others’ work. I will say that there are examples out there where the lack of appropriate coordination and programming of the various technologies used to create immersive experiences aren’t well done, such that there is incongruity between various elements (say motion of a vehicle and motion in the media) that continually disrupts and takes you out of the “reality” of the experience you hope to enjoy. Other elements such as low resolution and dim, low-contrast image will also detract from the experience. The whole trick, if you will, with what we hopefully do in creating immersive stories and experiences is to transport the guest into the created reality we are presenting.
How has projection mapping changed the entertainment industry?
Mapping is a great tool. It allows us to place images within larger environments and context. It started out being as a novelty, with clever use of large textural surfaces becoming canvases for projected motion graphics and animation. The audiences have become somewhat accustomed now to the “basics”; they aren’t as awed by what the technology can do, which creates both challenge and opportunity to use the ability and technology to create some real “magic.”
How do you see immersive media changing the way stories are told in the future?
Technology in all forms provides artists the opportunity to bring their dreams to reality… the more sophisticated and accessible the technology, the more the creative spirit and mind can find opportunity to bring their dreams to reality. So to me, that isn’t necessarily the core question… the question is really what dreams do I have as a designer/storyteller that will be fun, meaningful, emotionally impacting to an audience, knowing that the tools we have just keep providing us more and more opportunity to create magical solutions to telling those stories and revealing those dreams.
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