When you’re creating a planetarium show, it’s imperative that you regularly view how shots will look on the curvature of the dome. It helps guide your creative decisions and detect whether or not the camera movements may cause motion sickness. Ultimately, I’m looking to recreate that experience in a VR headset remotely, but for Signs of Life, we installed a 15-foot miniature dome manufactured by Astro Tech with a single projector in the center for our review process. The mini-dome has enough space to seat about eight people in small beach chairs, as we try to get as low to the ground as possible to create the same viewing experience as in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Within the mini-dome, Oneal Douglin, our Render Wrangler, used RV to drive the playback during dailies so our production manager, Carolyn Manning, could take real-time notes in context.
Throughout production, it was important for us to visit the Observatory for weeklies in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, but also to interact with the public — that is who the show is made for! We would also invite some staffers on shift that day to sit in on our weeklies session, and we’d gauge their reaction to shots in progress. My beginnings are rooted in live theatre, it is when the lights go down, the audience goes silent, and you hear that first musical note, that’s when the magic begins. And sharing that sense of real time energy with nearly 300 people as an immersive experience is what makes all of the challenges of production worth it.