Three years in the making, during Filmart 2013 we will finally reveal one of the most innovative projects we worked on so far: Fulldome live action high resolution immersive entertainment!
Following, some Q&A to gain a better understanding of the topic:
What is Fulldome and why is doing it in live action such a big deal?
The Fulldome format is a half sphere (360 degree plus top) projection onto a screen inside a copula venue. Usually space or science museums have such a special venue and offer educational programs about astronomy and nature. Those special cinemas and their shows have been around for a long time, ever since the early 1980s. In order to be able to project into a spherical shaped screen the video content needs to be rendered into the so called Fulldome Master, which holds a square aspect ratio with a circular image in the middle and blacked out corners. This Fulldome Master will be split into a certain number of separate video streams during projection and a software blends together all edges of each projector’s image.
The nature of this format has it that the resolution of the entire Fulldome Master image is 4K at best (depending on the projection system) but not coherent within the image itself. The sides of the round Fulldome image usually hold up on the original resolution while the number of pixels dramatically decreases towards the top (center) point. Hence, a full resolution is not guaranteed.
The market for Fulldome is comparatively small and the number of productions very limited, new productions are in fact almost stalling. Most Fulldome shows are full animations, primarily targeting a school class audience or short lived family entertainment on weekends. The few live action productions were mostly done by the use of one single camera fitted with an extreme fish-eye lens shooting upwards. Besides the strong distortion effect, most the image content is occupied by the sky and hence less attractive. Now, everyone who has been to a Fulldome show will attest that the factor of immersiveness is far greater than any other media out there, only the content that is presented is anything but enticing. And that’s where our project started.
What is the project about?
Geographically, in terms of Fulldome, HK is located in a very prestige spot. Three of the world’s four only 8K projection enabled Fulldome venues are in “close” neighborhood: The HK Space Museum, the Macau Science Centre and the Beijing Planetarium. All three venues are technically equipped but got no high resolution content to display.
On top, four years ago the Chinese government set up a development scheme in which it subsidizes the building of new Digital Dome theaters all over the country. A great number of smaller Domes are already completed, many others in the pipeline.
The simple challenge is, that the market lacks content while the amount of screens steadily rises within the Greater China region. Content is key, hence we came up with the idea to serve the gap with live action high resolution productions. At this moment, our strategy is to shoot with seven RED Epic cameras, each on a resolution of 5K. We developed a special back end pipeline to process those seven video streams separately as well as project them without the usual stitching into the Fulldome format. This guarantees a far higher end result. The nominal resolution is estimated roughly at around 12k+. Of course, this cannot be technically handled by the venues yet, thus a down convert to facilitate the full 8k by 8k resolution will be necessary.
The downside and primarily the reason why live action Fulldome has not been established as a viable production model is the comparatively increased costs as well as technical challenges. A 20 minute Fulldome feature can cost as much as a medium feature length cinema movie. This, of course, is in respect to the budget situation in HK, not to US or Europe! Hence, we see a fundamental advantage for financing this type of production in China as costs can be controlled within a lower segment.
Content-wise there are no limitations. Fulldome already works with 3D and real time interactions which elevates the immersiveness factor. Fiction formats work as good as documentaries or educational and instruction videos. Dome setups are widely used as simulation environments as they offer a great deal of realism. One of the most viable scenarios are concert and music formats.
Who is participating in this project?
Headed by Salon Films, the project was jointly developed in close collaboration with domeprojection.com, a German company specialized on dome projection and auto-alignment technology, that also developed the camera rig for the live action shoot. Also, as operator of the HK Space Museum and the Macau Science Centre, PCCW functions as supporter in terms of venue and subsequent distribution partner. RED Cameras is supporting the prototyping with their RED Epic cameras. Haexagon Concepts participates in business as well as project development.
What will happen at Filmart 2013?
Salon Films will install a Fulldome tent inside the HKTDC’s booth and project certain test video to showcase the technology. This will be the first time ever, HK Filmart is hosting a Fulldome projection. Interested parties can receive an invite and get access to the industry market in order to visit the booth and discuss future opportunities. Salon Films will have information material on site as well as a representative. We from Haexagon Concepts will also be assisting and giving insight in this project. Please contact us for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Salon Films Filmart invitation: http://www.salonmedia.com/wp-content/gallery/events/filmart2013_salonfilms_dome_invitation.jpg