Sunday, October 1, 2023

5 Questions With Michael Daut

MichaelDautMichael Daut, Director of Show Production/Marketing at Evans & Sutherland, is an award winning writer/producer/director of fulldome videos, theatrical productions, music videos, live concert videos, commercials, documentaries, corporate videos, and trade show presentations.

In 1998, he produced the world’s first show in the fulldome digital format. This show was the centerpiece of E&S’ participation in SIGGRAPH ’99. Since late 1999, as the Director or Show Production/Marketing at Evans & Sutherland, Michael has been the producer/director and co-writer of fulldome features for E&S, many of which have also won industry awards.  He has created a number of 3D films for giant flat screen display and has done pioneering work incorporating 3D technology in fulldome theaters.

He also helped create the world’s first digital fulldome transfer of a giant screen film, “Africa the Serengeti” in 2007, and introduced giant screen films to the fulldome market.  As a result of this groundbreaking first step, there are now more than 25 films that have been converted to fulldome.

Michael is a member of the ASIFA-Hollywood International Animated Film Society, a member of the Telly Awards’ Silver Council, a member of the Producer’s Guild of America, and a Board member of (Immersive Media Entertainment, Research, Science and Arts).  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Communications with a Film/Video emphasis from Webster University where he also served as an Adjunct Professor.  Michael resides in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and three children.

Prior to the 2013 IMERSA Summit, which took place in Denver, CO, USA Feb 14 – 17, InPark’s News Editor Joe Kleiman asked him 5 questions.  Here’s what he had to say:

1. The Digistar 5 was featured at the recent Sundance Film Festival.  What does it mean to have a fulldome presence at a leading film festival?

It was an incredible opportunity to introduce fulldome to a prestigious international community of artists and filmmakers. The reactions to the dome were thrilling.  In the New Frontier venue, many were experiencing fulldome for the first time, and there was a palpable excitement about the demos we shared and of course Lynette Walworth’s beautiful art film, “CORAL: Rekindling Venus.”  The Digistar 5 system looked gorgeous on the 5 meter dome, and performed flawlessly for all 48 shows plus nearly a dozen demos.  It is the potential of fulldome as a new and future medium that resounded with the creative community, and all of the folks from the Sundance Film Festival that we talked to said the dome was a huge success, and had created a big buzz at the festival.  We’re excited to see how this introduction will ripple through the industry in the next few years and continue to raise the visibility of fulldome as a transformative medium.

2. E&S and Spitz were involved in a number of high profile theme park attractions in 2012.  How do you see the future for immersive projection technology and themed attractions?

Themed Entertainment at its best is all about immersion in an experience, and immersion is what fulldome does naturally. I believe there is incredible potential to see more domes incorporated into theme park attractions, either as a dome with a film or interactive experience, or as a dome that enhances a larger audience experience.  We’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible, and combining fulldome with 3D takes this potential even further.

3. Digistar turns 30 this year and you’ve been with E&S for 15 of those years?  What improvements in projection technology and screens have you seen in your time there?

Wow!  Great question. In a couple words, a LOT!  The first Digistar, revolutionary as it was when it was introduced in 1983, never sought to be a fulldome video system. It was created as a digital star projector that for the first time could allow audiences to leave the surface of Earth and fly through the stars.  This was an extraordinary paradigm shift in an audience’s ability to explore the universe.  In 2002, when Digistar 3 combined real time astronomy with fulldome video playback in one integrated system, the fulldome medium was born. Yes, there were some systems, including our own, that did part of what Digistar 3 did a few years earlier, but D3 was the watershed moment when everything changed.  In 2002, nearly every projection system was based on 6 or more CRT projectors that offered great blacks, but not a lot of brightness.  Resolution per projector was 1600×1200 pixels, which created about 3K x 3K resolution on the dome.  Dome screens were typically made from panels of perforated aluminum that overlapped both horizontally and vertically, creating seams in both directions.  Since light levels on the dome were relatively low, the seams were never much of a problem. Fast forward to 2013, and now the standard fulldome resolution is 4K x 4K, projectors are either DLP, SXRD, or D-ILA, with much brighter output. Giant Dome screens now can exceed 1 fL of brightness, and smaller domes can be much, much brighter. Dome screen technology still uses perforated aluminum panels, but they can now be edge matched horizontally and vertically with the Spitz NanoSeam dome, for virtually no visible seams.  Auto alignment and auto blending/auto color matching technologies can now eliminate blend lines between projectors, and keep a system beautifully aligned at the touch of a button.  The technology has really matured, and this reality contributed greatly to our success at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

4. As a member of the IMERSA board, what can we look forward to with both the Summit and the organization this year?

The Summit is going to be a fantastic place for creative professionals to share their experiences and pass along tips to the next generation of fulldome producers. We will also have the opportunity to see the latest innovations in the field, and participants will have lots of time to meet the innovators and share ideas and build connections. IMERSA is committed to advance the medium to its next stage of development, and hopes to shepherd the medium into a more mainstream position in the marketplace. We also hope to be a resource for theater operators to go to for advice, success stories, and ideas for how to best make use of the incredible fulldome theaters at their facilities.

5. One of the highlights of this year’s Summit will be when representatives of various organizations talk about dome convergence.  What role will E&S play in this facet of the industry going forward?

E&S has led the way for dome convergence since 2007 when we released the world’s first digital transfer of a giant screen 70 mm film, “Africa the Serengeti” bringing giant screen real world photography to the dome. Since that time, we have brought more than 25 films to digital fulldome theaters.  Now the GSCA members have largely embraced fulldome as a viable distribution medium for their content. There are of course challenges with business models as the industry shifts from film to digital, but E&S plans to be a vital part of facilitating this transition/convergence with our clients and our producing partners. We will continue to bring the best content to the fulldome market and along with IMERSA help pave the way for new filmmakers to embrace this amazing medium.

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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