“Starlight” and Fulldome Storytelling

Tell Your Personal Story and Captivate Fulldome Audiences

Writing a fulldome planetarium show — or indeed, any documentary about science — is a complex task. You find all the facts you want to present, figure out ways to illustrate them, get a narrator, find music, and then assemble it all into a show. However, even before the visualizations and soundtracks and dome masters, you start with the story.

As a scriptwriter, I’ve always kept the mantra “It’s the story” foremost in my mind. Hence, the story of a little cat who goes to the Moon becomes a way for kids to learn about the Moon in Larry Cat in Space. Or, the idea of stargazing through the eyes of a cowboy is the central tenet of The Cowboy Astronomer.

A scene from the fulldome show "Starlight".I thought about “story” when we picked up the fulldome show Starlight from Melbourne Planetarium for distribution. It tells a lovely story of a young girl who learns to love the stars from her father.

After watching the show in the Pixeldome here at Loch Ness Productions, I wrote to Dr. Tanya Hill to find out what spurred the tale she told in her script. Tanya told me that the story of “Margaret” is based on her own experiences as a child being afraid of the dark and having her father show her the stars in the night sky.

“One of the things we always try to do with our documentary shows is to bring some element of story/narrative to break away from presenting only ‘facts’,” Tanya told me. “By doing that, our aim is to capture as wide an audience as possible. Beyond the traditional science buffs who love planetariums, we want to enthuse ordinary Jo Public — what’s the emotional hook that would have them investing time to see/enjoy the show?”

She’s right on about the story having an emotional hook. People remember that which moves their emotions, and a well-told story can help them retain knowledge we want them to recall. It’s the essence of being a good storyteller — and a teacher.

I’ll be sharing these and other thoughts about scriptwriting during the upcoming IMERSA Summit in March at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I recently finished the script for Evans & Sutherland’s Edge of Darkness show, and as always, it came down to telling a story and working through the challenges of weaving very recent events about Pluto and Ceres and Comet 67P into something to capture an audience’s attention.

Over the years I’ve taught script courses at IPS meetings and regionals, and even at Women in Science Day at UMASS-Lowell and other schools. Each time, I taught the very simple idea that we’re all storytellers. LNP once advertised ourselves as “Storytellers of the Universe”, and we are among good company with people like Tanya and others who write for the dome. Whether we’re creating new shows or helping a colleague license their shows out to the fulldome community, I like to think that we’re continuing a wonderful storytelling tradition that unites us under the dome in a love of the stars.

Posted in Fulldome, Fulldome shows, Scriptwriting | 2 Comments

FULLDOME OnDemand Goes International

FULLDOME OnDemand screen grab

Now that we have most of the fulldome shows in our distribution catalog available for rent on FULLDOME OnDemand, we’re turning our focus to the requests we’ve gotten from our international customers for shows in their languages.

There are currently more than 40 fulldome titles on our service. For each one, we make the show and the trailer available, in both prewarped and fisheye formats. When you start to consider other languages, some titles have ten or more translations. In all the formats and versions, well… it’s a ton of movies to encode and upload! For now, we’re asking FULLDOME OnDemand users to help us prioritize what we work on first.

When you select any show page on FULLDOMEOnDemand.com, you now see two choices below the “RENT NOW” button: “US ENGLISH” and “OTHER LANGUAGES”. Selecting either one gets you the menu of the shows we have posted already. If you see the language you want, great! Rent and stream it!

If not, select “Don’t see the language you want? Ask for it!” for a quick fill-in form to let us know you are interested in renting it. If the show exists in the language you want (and we can get it), we will post it as soon as we can and send an email letting you know it’s ready to rent. It really is Fulldome On Demand!

We’re just starting out with this service, of course. We always planned on expanding the repertoire to include international titles, as well as some shows from producers we don’t already distribute.

Thanks for your support!

Posted in Fulldome, Fulldome OnDemand, Fulldome shows | Leave a comment

Introducing FULLDOME OnDemand

Fulldome Joins the Streaming Revolution!

FULLDOME OnDemand page

All fulldome theater professionals know there’s a world of marvelous content available to share with their audiences — wonderful videos on wide-ranging topics from astronomy and space science to marine biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, music, and much more. Until now, they’ve only been available via traditional licensing structures requiring 1- to 50-year licenses, at a commensurate cost. Fine for those theaters that can make long-term commitments in time and cost, but not all can.

What if we came up with a new way to access all this great available content, with prices even the smallest theater can afford?

FULLDOME OnDemand is our answer. It provides short-term streaming rentals at astoundingly affordable prices.

FULLDOME OnDemand began when we found out about a new streaming video service provider. “I got an e-mail blast from an indie filmmaker, wanting me to buy his video online through VHX.TV,” says Mark C. Petersen, Loch Ness Productions president. “I investigated, and found out the hosting company also does rentals of HD videos. Gee, 1080p videos are what we use with our spherical mirror setup… Aha!”

Here was a way to respond to the many requests we get for lower license fees and shorter-term licenses. For much of the summer, we worked to encode shows for streaming, and to create the Web pages for our FULLDOME OnDemand site. We tested the idea with selected planetarians, and the feedback was very encouraging.

The result is an initial offering of 40+ shows from our catalog, now available for online streaming, with more on the way.

Who Can Use FULLDOME OnDemand?

Definiti PDe-Planetarium Newtonian

To start off, we expect the two prime market demographics for FULLDOME OnDemand are the theaters with spherical mirror systems, and the “1K” fisheye-lens projectors. The 1080p movie sizes are what make streaming practical.

Mark says he expects that larger theaters will eventually want to jump in on the streaming revolution too. “Of course, we all have a thirst for ever-higher resolution. Yet in many areas today, it’s still a challenge to access enough Internet bandwidth for smooth 1080p video streaming, let alone 2K or 4K. So for now, our streaming infrastructure is in place at HD resolution. But we know the future holds more promise, and when the pipeline capacity is available, we’ll all be looking to upgrade our capabilities. Moreover, 1080p may be enough resolution for some purposes, such as previewing shows for administrators.”

Fulldome shows for the cost of an average pizza…

$10 billCertainly the FULLDOME OnDemand price point is intriguing: for most shows, it’s $30 for a 3-day rental period — basically $10/day. It’s actually based on deep analysis of current licensing fees. “It turns out that’s what many people are paying already,” Mark says, “but they’re currently paying it all up front when they order licenses.”

He did some math, using the prices set by producers for the most common license, the 10-year variety. You can see them on each show’s License Prices page. “For the smaller theaters, the prime demographic for FULLDOME OnDemand, licenses cost about $5,000 on average,” Mark pointed out. “Let’s say someone buys a license and plays the show once a week over that 10 years. 500 plays for $5,000 is $10 per play.”

Based on that analysis, we used that price as our starting point, and added the bonus of being able to play the show as often as desired during the 72-hour rental period.

Affordable? Absolutely!

But, as Mark points out, there are more philosophical advantages to FULLDOME OnDemand. “This service opens up a portal to a vast universe of possibilities for theaters, especially the smaller ones,” said Mark. “It used to be that, in the past, they would have needed to save up their budgets for years just to get only one show. Now they can afford dozens of shows, all right now! We’ve turned the whole content acquisition model upside down for them. With streaming, little theaters suddenly have access to more affordable content than even big theaters have. The smallest ones used to be the poorest, content-wise, and now they can be the richest!”

“This could be the start of something big!”

pizza“With access to as many shows as they want, whenever they want, for the cost of a pizza — what creative planetarian could NOT figure out a way to do great things with this new capability?” asked Mark.

He points out the biggest effect FULLDOME OnDemand may have on the field is still to be seen. “Theaters could run their own fulldome festivals. They could program ‘Audience Choice’ nights. They could use short-term rentals to preview shows for their administrators and test audiences, as they figure out which long-term licenses to buy. On the entertainment side, ‘Dome Club’ nights become more practical, both for theaters and producers. We could take a cue from the cinema world, and offer special day-and-date releases and premieres for new fulldome features. I look forward to seeing what our colleagues are inspired to do using FULLDOME OnDemand!”

In the long run, streaming video for fulldome enables theater operators, empowering them to take chances, expand their role in the community, to add more and different shows in addition to their time-honored astronomy outreach titles. No longer are fulldome theaters limited to their astronomy mission — the sky is MORE than the limit!

We invite you to visit FULLDOME OnDemand to try out this new service!

Posted in Fulldome, Fulldome OnDemand, Fulldome shows, General | 2 Comments