Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Notes From Espinho

The rough notes from the 2005 Immersive Theatre Conference

Participantes Fisheye-1

Ed Lantz' Intro:

Immersion environments stimulate the 'opto-vestibulator response'.

Anaheim system uses 48fps which removes jitter. Evans and Sutherland use 60fps for real-time, 30 fps for pre-rendered.

Typical tilt for domes is 10-30 degrees - usually worked out using sight line. (i.e. the heads of neighbours) 20 degrees is common.

Differing models for rendering:

Cylindrical Map: 1 pixel at top
Equidistant Polar: (de facto standard) 1 pixel at equator

Platonic: Various shapes, most common is Cubic - often used for real-time


(much simpler workflow, limited by resolution of projectors)

Elumens VisionStation, and Spitz SciDome are small scale systems possibly suitable for preview system.

Multi Channel

Onyx (or similar) pipe per projector, 5,6,7 up to 41....recently can use high-end PC. Maintenance is a big problem. DLP projectors require optical mask due to lack of 'real' black. Active blending systems exist using cameras, but some doubt that they work (Barco)

2D Image remapping, often called 'Billboarding', suitable for re-use of 2D assets. Any interlaced content will need conversion to progressive (video)

4,2,2 and 4,2,1 lead to loss of colour - 4,4,4 better

Immersive Media -

Dalsa -

More links:

Company Showcases:

Navegar: (hosts)

Wanted to learn how to produce content, then build system to fit. Produce AfterEffects plugin with Oporto Univeristy - will be going gold in October.

SEOS: Ian Dyer

Have done research into educational uses. Recommend 160x40 degrees for immersion.
SPIDER: Renders to .rgb files
SCORPION: For repurposing all media types, can project discrete channels of content over main projected image.

Prof. Nick Avis (Cardiff) - interesting guy for research


Software: DigiDome (Slide manipulation); DigiSky (Astronomy); SPICE (content authoring - from SEOS)

Hardware: Definiti - complete portable solution - inflatable dome (€400,000 + dome €6000)

"Content is Still King"

RSA Cosmos

Produced screen for Queen Mary II. Content creation tool is Linux based, as is live control software. Huge variety of projector systems - very Astro-centric

Living Globe: Harald Singer

Produced Romeo & Juliet - handle on narrative from film and television. Plans to produce LED based 'pearl' in Dubai. Announced imminent availability of 4Kx4K camera.

"Directing [dome productions] halfway between film and theatre"

35mm ARRI Camera (Sweet!!) + 6mm Nikon fisheye. One of only two in existence, and uninsurable. Equates to 220 degrees.

Scanned at 4096x3112 to Cineon - OpenEXR format (ILM) (Yafray???)

Final resolution was 3120x3120 as 24bit targa files. Don't need warp or distort for dome projection. Took 2TB to build, 0.75TB to store, 4TB including backups etc. This is for 20 minutes of video.

Found that conversations across dome were too much, better to use 3/4 of dome.

Cinematographic Techniques:

Tim Hope - Hamburg Planetarium

Talked about Francois Truffaut's 'Auteur Theory' coming into play with domes. Tested projections at Hambug with 1K, 2K and 3.2K - results were 'no perceptible difference'.

Talked about Eisenstein, Hitchcock et al - Difficulty of using differing shots from world of cinema. Reminded me of Jaques Tati's "The close-up is vulgar" preferring prefering to let viewer look at their choice.

Used to work for - good source of dome master stills. Thought concentric domes better for immersion. "Tilt means you get distracted by the dome" this was a minority view.

Mentioned Lev Kuleshov/Vsevolod Rudovkin and Alekmodr Solkerov - 2002 - zero edits/cuts - Tillman Buttner (Living Globe) Piece recorded using steadycam.

Mirage 3D

Simualation software and hardware. Cycling simulation, Driving simulations (how to save fuel)

"World Vision" - Real Time optimised database

"Origins of Life" - Photo-realism, so used Maya. DNA fly-through - in style of electron microscope (although this isn't possible) - AI for butterfly movement.

Directing Full Dome Video Show

Using thesis (degree) students as employees, takes more time and hand-holding, but worth it. Student's scenes must be indistinguishable from pro's.

Procedure (his)
  1. Story board
  2. Interviews
  3. Music
  4. Editing
  5. Keyframing + Edit - dictated by music
  6. Script comes last
Photo-realism using D-Sculpter. 40Ghz render farm was far from enough < 10 hours per frame.
Used local University's spare CPU for render farm.

Motivational visits for textues - ie went to Arian rocket.

Evans & Sutherland

Micheal Dout

Digistar 3 (same system as Thinktank in Birmingham. Ability in control software to have bespoke interface per user. Ability to show Video + 3D.

E&S were responsible for first full sphere dome

Interactivity is often social - via conversation

Provide on-site training and support if you buy their products - domes less than 10m usually don't need more than a week of support.

Just produced the SP2 (Fisheye?) capable of 1400x1400

Digistar 3 - Producer

$2500 for library access or 25% of gate takings - this gives access to 2 shows per year.

Scripts and Storyboarding:

Strengths and weaknesses - reference to McCluhan - surface area of dome far greater than even iMax.


  • immersion
  • TV Playing catchup
  • Dome finally matches 5.1
  • Only one lens. Can reproduce the effect of dome others. R&J shows difficulty of working with this
  • No live-action camera
  • One good seat
  • Audience sizes are small
  • Visible seems (not with Plaster of Paris)
"Hand them a textbook" - idea of "forced brevity"

"Show not tell"

Create 'Animatic' (animated time-accurate story board) edit to timing of scratch narration (...or music like Mirage3D?)

Remember "Process is not a checklist"


Staffan Klosier

Swedish firm, come from strong gaming background. Produce Uniview - version 1.0 is out

  • ScaleGraph - no content yet
  • Accessibility
  • No sell - more interested in partnerships

Dance interactivity

Mentioned Unreal Tournament engine which is available for $20 (?) (Quake Engine GPLed?)

Mentioned coolpix + monopod guy from '' (Spelling?)

"Machina" - video with realtime software

David MacConville

NooSpheric Research - The Elumenati - papers at

Stan Vanderbeek - dome experiments - media artist - MIT...networked dome

Subscribe to "Planetarium" - recent article about immersive video

Benefits of Virtual Environments:

  • Complex spatial concepts - "perceptualise"
  • Engagement
  • Differing spatial/temporal perspectives
  • Motivation
  • Better task performance
  • Higher satisfaction
  • Presence (Marvin Minsky) telepresence
  • Increased Attention
  • Increased pervasiveness
  • Improved reflection and memory
  • Potentially increase the effectiveness of any material
Why Domes?

Millennia looking at the dome of the sky. Carnival/Collaborative

"Communal ego-centric perspective"
"How do I see things" - can't zoom etc when filming/making things. Matching unaided eye.

Henri Poincare - "Language of New Media"

Temporal vs Spatial
Montage vs Compositing

Willheim Nestle "From myths to logos"
Ben..." Exploring the Frame"

Skiss - Part II - Uniview

Development experience of UniView

OpenGL Graphics should be on par with Playstation to compete with game culture.

"Halo Surfaces" - bump map/Normal map - Zero impact due to GPU

Specular Map (B&W map of reflectivity)
Ambient light (City lights)

Uniview not only planets. ScaleGraph, using local co-ordinate systems.

"Flight Assist" - Usability. "No Magic" - inertia, extensible via pretty easy OO language - (afterward talked of being let under the bonnet in return for Mac OS X interface)

Working relationship between David and Staffan - interested in help with admin tasks on

NVidia interested in dome functions on card. Talk to David.

SEOS - Ian Dyer

Contrast & Media Storage...Audio

Resolution - Preferred measurement is the Arc-minute - this is independent of resolution.

  • 1 arc-minute = 100m pixels
  • 3 arc-minutes = 10m pixels
  • 6 arc-minutes = 6m pixels (common for large theatres)
Genlock/Snaplock/Framelock - important for multi-channel domes - NVidia are best at this.

Media Server

RAID (High end SCSI - SATA doesn't cut it)

60fps - 1280x1024

Dual Xeon 3Ghz


Screen gain of 2 means traditional technologies don't work in domes. SEOS have developed "Infotech" which add controllable grid (bit like CMYK?)

Navegar - AE Plugin

Cinema4D - Stitching - Rendered with 5 camera setup with 90 degrees FOV for each.

  • Up = 90 deg. Altitude, 90 deg Azimuth + Hard contour
  • Right = 0 deg. Altitude, 90 deg. Azimuth

Video - can stitch video or video array as easily as stills. Also create dome master from assets in usual AE manner. Mac compatible.

Micheal Dout - E&S

Audio for dome productions.

Invest in:

Acoustic treatment behind dome - perforations allow sound to hit insulation behind dome.

"Contact" - free software, act like sampler.

"Fletcher Munsen Curve"


Start with stereo, route to sides (ie music)
Send music to rear, add reverb and delay, 5-10ms to avoid phase cancellation.

"Domes Colour Sound!"

Digistar III has SMPTE so can be controlled by audio software.