As some of you may know I spent the month of May in Hong Kong and China working on various projects, among them a few related to dome work. In my travels this included visits to three very similar planetariums: Hong Kong, Macau, and Beijing. While I’ve met with the Hong Kong director and staff in the past, on this trip I was also fortunate to meet with the directors of the Macau and Beijing planetariums.
While some of the points below will sound negative let me say in advance that these are wonderful planatariums, each housing “lots” of Sony 4K projectors. The first two (Hong Kong and Macau) capable of stereoscopic 3D projection (using Infitech technology) and all three “rated” at 8K resolution.
– Saw the development rig for a 8K filming system being developed (or should I say tested). It consists of up to 7 Red Epic cameras. As per some of the other projects I was working on the hardware is easy (given the $), the magic is in the post production. The camera distance from the projection center is perhaps 400mm so there will be serious parallax issues to deal with. I have 1 minute of raw footage on a 1TB drive that I’ll be trying my hand at … when I have the time.
– Beijing host a very respectable production environment and have produced a number of shows inhouse. They showed me their rendering cluster that would be the envey of most Australian Universities (WA and iVECs machine excepted), from memory their new cluster was 30 blades each with 2 x 12 core processors. Their older cluster which is still operating was a similar size. Maya seems to be their modelling/animation software.
– The Sony projectors, at least the ones of the vintage in these planetariums go through their globes every 1000 hours (or so), a rather small number if one is running an active planetarium. This is a rather large recurring budget item if you have 6 to 12 projectors, each of which has with two globes by the way.
– As anyone in the data projection business knows, the “rated” resolution is very different to the “perceived” resolution. Pixels in data projectors coupled with lenses means that a pixel is rarely independent of its neighbours once it arrives on the projection surface. Couple that with edgeblending and the fact that they are running some style of mpeg compression (really can’t believe that is still done!) means that calling those projection systems 8K is highly misleading. Beijing who have an content production suite are producing things in 4K since they realise there is little or nothing to gain visually going to 8K production, and certainly lots of disadvantages in terms of rendering times and storage.
– Some of you may have seen my rant in the fulldome group about the non-fisheye material “stretched” to dome. I don’t back away from any of that, I saw some more of that material since and really it’s awful, doubly so in stereo. Much of the natural 3D effects are largely lost. Fine if you want to turn domes into a large screen surface and want to restrict viewers to looking towards a small center point, but what’s the point. Planetarium operators with any self respect should be resisting this. 🙂
So all together a useful month away with some interesting fulldome content based projects to manage in the next few weeks. Happy to answer any questions on the above by email, or through this forum.
ps: Seems Beijing may be hosting the 2014 IPS.