News Archive

IMERSA News - June 2012


IMERSA participation at IPS 2012 will include:
  • Fulldome Standards Update presentation and discussion led by Ryan Wyatt and Ed Lantz with the IMERSA Fulldome Standards Committee. This ongoing project is documented and discussed online at - please visit the site to view the current document, provide input and/or join the committee. Date of session TBD, so please keep an eye on the IPS program schedule. (Please see "IMERSA Business" below for more information about the IMERSA Fulldome Standards initiative.)
  • The Fulldome/Giant Screen Cinema Convergence panel discussion chaired by Ed Lantz. Details to come.
  • IMERSA Membership meeting - exact date and time TBD.
  • IMERSA leadership attending IPS will include Founding Board members Dan Neafus, Ryan Wyatt & Ed Lantz, IMERSA Advisers Paul Fraser, Michael Daut & John Jacobsen, and Judy Rubin, IMERSA Communications.

DomeFest 2012 - 27-28 July, Baton Rouge (following IPS)

Organized by David Beining, and held Immediately following IPS at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum's Irene W. Pennington Planetarium and ExxonMobil Space Theater in Baton Rouge, DomeFest encourages and celebrates creative experimentation in the digital dome, and is a must-attend for anyone involved in the form, whether artist, producer, distributor, exhibitor or enthusiast. The event includes The Domies juried awards. The Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is hosting the jurying sessions in late June, with Ryan Wyatt as jury foreman. We encourage you to attend DomeFest - we've heard reports that there were plentiful submissions, and of good quality.

3rd International Festival of Scientific Visualization, 1 August - 30 September in Japan

The Festival includes a Dome Festa, 22-26 September at Sofia Sakai in Osaka
Entry deadline: July 20

SIGGRAPH 2012 - 5-9 August, Los Angeles, USA
Conference 5–9 August; Exhibition 7–9 August.  


From fulldome, large-format and 3-D programming, to exhibit installations and interactive media, social networking and public outreach, museums and cultural institutions present rich opportunities for collaboration with broadcasters and filmmakers. The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival's Symposium 2012 brings together players from these overlapping fields and disciplines for productive dialogue. Attendees can expect to be challenged and inspired. IMERSA facilitated the fulldome competition and will offer special Fulldome presentations. Thanks to receiving a healthy number of eligible entries, Symposium 2012 created a separate judging category for Fulldome this year in its Science Media Awards. Click here to read IMERSA's report on Symposium 2010.
Conference 18-20 September, Sacramento, Calif. USA
Dome Day, 21 September, The Tech museum, San Jose
IMERSA will participate - details to come - if you're an IMERSA member and would like to contribute to our presence at GSCA, please contactThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." style="line-height: 19px; color: rgb(51, 102, 153); cursor: pointer; "> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." data-mce-href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
It has been announced that filmmaker James Cameron will keynote the GSCA conference in Sacramento.
SATE (Storytelling, ArchitectAnnual Experience Design conference hosted by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). Theme: "Cultural Diversity: Obstacle or Opportunity?" SATE conference chairs are Yves Pépin and Joe Rohde. IMERSA has an affiliate relationship with TEA and there has been a lot of productive cross-pollination - between the associations and the members, but also in terms of actual projects where the digital dome has been used as part of an experiential attraction. The SATE conference promises to be a fruitful, international dialogue and networking opportunity for designers, producers, operators and related industry members.
f2: Futurefest featuring State of the Arts Symposium & IMERSA Fulldome Film Showcase 22 September in Los Angeles. Curated screenings of the world’s best immersive films and interactive experiences on the 360 degree Vortex Dome, sponsored by IMERSA. Includes an immersive media workshop and vendor exhibits.
The third edition of the Immersive Film Festival will be a joint event with the Workhop in Immersive Cinema - WIC12. Navegar Foundation invites the community - producers, animators, filmmakers, artists, students, teachers and planetarium professionals - to participate. Each year's program differs from the previous year in order to broaden the planetarium screening spectrum, promoting the latest premieres and fulldome productions. The competitive section will award the best in fulldome productions, in a juried selection taking into account direction, artwork, soundtrack, best use of the dome and narrative.

13-16 October, Columbus Ohio, USA. There will be fulldome related exhibitors, screenings and events.
IMERSA Fulldome Summit 2013
February 2013 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Details TBD.
If you are interested in being involved in Summit 2013 in any way (sponsor, speaker, organizing committee, volunteer) please send an email toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." style="line-height: 19px; color: rgb(51, 102, 153); cursor: pointer; "> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." data-mce-href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


IMERSA Fulldome Standards Committee to present at IPS - are you involved?

As you may know if you are a regular reader of this newsletter, IMERSA's Fulldome Standards initiative has been moving forward at a steady pace. Early this year there was a call for participation and a formal committee was created, headed by Ryan Wyatt and Ed Lantz. Participants reviewed and helped improve a working standards document posted online at The committee met at the IMERSA Fulldome Summit in February. We received a vote of confidence from the Great Lakes Planetarium Association.

The process continues... Do you want to get involved?

At the end of June, in preparation for a standards discussion at IPS 2012 in Baton Rouge, the IMERSA Fulldome Standards Committee will close out comments on the current standards specification. To view the document and be part of the dialog, visit, sign up and create your profile, then join the Fulldome Standards group. Even if you can't be present for real-world meetings, you can participate virtually through this online forum.

Ryan Wyatt says, "This effort is a professional service to the fulldome community conducted by IMERSA members and volunteers. The process will be designed to exclude bias and include all relevant points of view, with the goal of synthesizing a document specifying Dome Master / Fulldome Master Show File Standards document that is ratified by IMERSA and other affiliate organizations."

IMERSA industry survey in preliminary stages

A committee has been formed to plan and oversee the execution of an industry survey that will be of value to fulldome theater operators, producers, distributors and the support community. Survey Committee co-chairs will be IMERSA Advisers Paul Fraser of Blaze Digital Cinema Works and John Jacobsen of White Oak Associates. IMERSA will be looking to synchronize with other industry associations and groups that have overlapping interests and data collection, and for companies to sponsor the survey. Updates will be posted, and there will be opportunities for IMERSA membership to weigh in on the content and the process. Watch for communications from IMERSA on this soon, and please plan to share your thoughts and suggestions.

IMERSA Fulldome Summit 2012 recap
The successful IMERSA Fulldome Summit took place Feb 3-5 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and was attended by 120 delegates from around the world. The goal of the Summit was to promote "conversations of convergence" among overlapping and complementary business sectors. Four featured presenters were recruited to that end: George Wiktor of the GW Group (Themed Entertainment Association), Jeffrey Kirsch of the Reuben H Fleet Space Center (Giant Screen Cinema Association), independent producer Valerie Johnson-Redrow (Producers Guild of America) and veteran industry consultant Ian McLennan, a Founding Member of IMERSA and IPS Official Canadian Representative (CASC).
Some other well-known faces from IPS attended, including Antonio Pedrosa (IPS Fulldome chair), Daniel Tell (GLPA), Mike Bruno (Spitz Inc), Michael Daut (E&S), Mike Murray (Clark Planetarium), Annette Sotheran Barnett (Sky-Skan), Matt Mascheri (Dome 3d), Laura Misajet (ZEISS), Mark Perkins (Ash Enterprises), Mark and Carolyn Petersen (Loch Ness Productions), Alan Caskey (Global Immersion), Doug Roberts and Mark Paternostro (Adler), Glenn Smith (Sky-Skan Europe) and quite a few more.
Roughly a third of Summit attendees represented the giant screen cinema or themed entertainment sectors; the rest were planetarium/fulldome people, and the conversation was lively and positive. Coverage and conference photos can be found at and on the IMERSA Facebook page. IMERSA is now in planning stages for Summit 2013 in mid-February; exact dates to be announced soon. Anyone interested in participating on any level (planning, presenting, screening, sponsorship, logistics, etc. - or simply attending) please query This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.." data-mce-href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Cosmix gathers STEAM
Creative cross-pollination was ever-present at the 5th annual Cosmix festival, April 13 &14 hosted by Ringling College of Art & Design, Riverview High School and the Bishop Planetarium at the South Florida Museum, in Sarasota FL, USA. A featured screening was a sneak preview of "Stars to Starfish," the product of collaboration between Ringling College, FulldomeFX, and Riverview, which recently installed its own 40 ft digital dome classroom, thanks to a $1.3 M grant. This community event ties in with fulldome-related curriculum headed up by Claudia Cumbie-Jones, faculty in the Fine Arts Department at Ringling.
As the keynote speaker for Cosmix this year, IMERSA founding board member Dan Neafus of the Gates Planetarium presented "The Language of Immersive Cinema" prior to screenings held at Riverview and Bishop. Dan also held afternoon sessions with Riverview students and teachers in their planetarium, and provided valuable feedback to the Ringling students on their fulldome productions.
The synergy with Riverview is important for creative joint ventures like Cosmix. “We are working on developing programming and integrating it into their STEM curriculum - with an added 'A' for Art - in other words, STEAM. We're really just getting started on this collaboration," says Cumbie-Jones. “It's a 2-way street with lots of potential." Riverview recently received another grant to build an Aquaculture center and greenhouse, and to complete their first in-house fulldome production, "Stars to Starfish."
"Immersive Media Studio is an open elective at Ringling," notes Cumbie-Jones, "and student work is approached from a variety of relevant disciplines, including Fine Arts, Illustration, Computer Animation, Motion Design, Photography, and Digital Filmmaking.” One factor that helped to quickly and efficiently create media for fulldome this year was the ability to preview the work-in-progress on the “Cosmix Dome,” a one-person, 60-inch diameter, miniature dome.
What are the Ringling students bringing to fulldome? "They're exploring the potential of how to create artwork and tell stories in an immersive medium," says Cumbie-Jones. "We see all kinds of integration with Ringling curriculum; our majors are well connected to the entertainment industry. Our students explore alternative ways of thinking about the dome. We had an introspective piece by a Fine Arts student about the nature of narcissism, for which he used the dome to immerse us in the mind of another person. We also had a couple of Digital Filmmaking students do a trip through a haunted house." Cumbie-Jones envisions this energy being harnessed to develop market share for planetariums. "I would like to see this indie spirit draw an alternative audience - nighttime entertainment in the tradition of Laserium, creating a new kind of excitement." For more information about the Cosmix Initiative,
Art/Science collaboration in the dome at IAIA event
Also on April 13-14, in the Southwestern US, The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and the Santa Fe Complex hostedDOME2012, a two-day immersive video experience featuring the world premier of new experimental video art in the Digital Dome @ IAIA.DOME2012 was the first artist-in-residence show at the Digital Dome @ IAIA and was curated by Ethan Bach, Digital Dome Manager at IAIA and Orlando Leibovitz, Art Director at the Santa Fe Complex. This collaboration featured video art created for the Dome by local and national artists, including Mariannah Amster, Suzanna Carlisle, Bruce Hamilton, Craig Tompkins, Charles Veasey, Ethan Bach, Robert Drummond, Andrew Elijah Edwards, Meghan Tomeo, and Surabhi Saraf.
The mission of IAIA is to empower creativity and leadership in Native arts and cultures through higher education, lifelong learning and outreach. IAIA is the only four-year fine arts degree institution in the nation devoted to contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts. The mission of the Complex is to create a collaborative workspace that fosters applied complexity science through interdisciplinary education, outreach, and development of innovative technologies to address real-world problems, enable social cooperation, and create economic opportunities. The Santa Fe Complex encourages collaboration among artists, scientists, and technologists, allowing new ways of thinking and creating to emerge. The event was partially funded by a grant from the Santa Fe Arts Commission.
Non-astronomy content in planetariums: three case studies by Judith Rubin

What kinds of diverse content are planetariums embracing in their digital domes? IMERSA put out the call to find out and came up with three intriguing and distinct examples. We had wondered if non-astronomy programming might sometimes engender a crisis of conscience at a facility in terms of programming and mission. What we found was simply wide-eyed interest and enthusiasm. Coincidentally the institutions we heard from are all in the US and are running Digistar systems.
SpaceQuest investigates the "A" in NASA
The SpaceQuest Planetarium at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis recently premiered its first in-house, fulldome production: Flight Adventures, which ties in with an array of experiences at the museum called Curious Scientific Investigators: Flight Adventures. Planetarium manager Deb Lawson reported that the production was supported by NASA grant NNX10AK16G, awarded through the Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums. "The focus is on aeronautics - the second letter in NASA’s acronym - and not astronomy," explained Lawson, who will be attending IPS 2012 and marketing Flight Adventures there. "Specifically, the content is focused on model aircraft. Not only is flying model aircraft a hobby, but NASA has used models for testing since the beginning. Our team worked together with NASA-designated partners to develop and build this show. We decided to do something a little different."
The story of "Flight Adventures" involves a 10-year-old girl whose grandfather is a model aircraft hobbyist as they discover the fascinating world of aeronautics. Along the way, they visit the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), take a journey back in time to learn about the history of flight, observe NASA flight experiments, and share the joy of a first plane ride. The pair steps back in time to learn about historical figures in aeronautics such as Leonardo da Vinci, the Wright brothers, Samuel Langley and Chuck Yeager. They go inside a spin tunnel and find out how NASA test planes to make them safer and viewers get to ride along as a glider drifts through the atmosphere on Mars. The show runs 24 minutes on a Digistar 4 system in the 40-foot, 130-seat SpaceQuest dome that uses 2 projectors and a concentric seating configuration.
Although it is SpaceQuest’s first in-house production in fulldome technology, Flight Adventures is not the planetarium’s first non-astronomy show. “We’ve ventured out of the box on several occasions,” says Lawson, mentioning a chemistry show and a show celebrating the art of Dale Chihuly (both productions pre-dated the museum's fulldome system). The museum works hard to supplement all of its exhibits and offerings with programs that satisfy national core standards in curriculum. "This multimedia show demonstrates ways children and families can learn valuable STEM concepts (science, technology, engineering, and math) together in an engaging and hands-on way," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. "Several academic studies suggest that skills in these disciplines are valuable components in enabling the next generation of innovators. We are thrilled to partner with NASA and the AMA to help families enjoy the dynamics of flight and serve as a catalyst to inspire them to explore opportunities in science and technology."
The NASA grant allows The Children’s Museum to distribute Flight Adventures to other planetariums free of charge (except for the cost of shipping and handling). The show will be distributed as Dome Masters (high-resolution .PNG sequence with 5.1 surround sound (.wav files).
Cleopatra's Universe
According to Robert Bonadurer, director of the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium & Imax at the Milwaukee Public Museum, the impetus for the in-house produced, 25-minute fulldome show, "Cleopatra's Universe," was the need for a media tie-in with the Cleopatra exhibit. The museum's 72-foot, 260-seat, stadium-style dome theater with 30-degree tilt houses both a Digistar 3 system and Imax film projection.
"Our best theater shows are the ones related to our exhibits," explains Bonadurer. "It was the first time we had an exhibit for which there was no giant screen film tie-in. There are plenty of Cleopatra movies but nothing created for the big dome, so we decided to make our own. We took some of the artifacts in the exhibit and modeled them in 3d animation. We green-screened a couple of actresses to play Cleopatra as a child and an adult. It's basically a bio of her life and then as we tell her story, we specifically relate to some of the artifacts. It was a great chance to recreate her life and surroundings: we recreated the Alexandria library, Pharoah's lighthouse, her palace, the Alexandrian harbor. Cleopatra was Greek, so we also did a tour of the Parthenon, and for her Rome connections, we recreated the Theater of Pompeii, which was built when she was queen."
The show contains about 5 percent astronomy, but is primarily focused on history and as the first show of its kind for the theater it raised some branding issues. "We couldn't call it an Imax show," says Bonadurer, "and we didn't want to create a third definition so marketing-wise we had to call it a planetarium show; hence the title. We also modeled the temple of Hathor in Egypt, which has this zodiac ceiling. The other astronomical connection was the story of Eratosthenes, a famous 2nd Century BC mathematician who measured the circumference of the earth. Cleopatra was a smart attentive student and would have learned that. We do a live sky talk before the show," he adds. "People aren't always expecting it but they love it."
Robin Sip of Mirage 3D was a consultant on the $250k production, which is distributed by the museum. And "Cleopatra's Universe" has been successful enough that its successor, "Space: It's a Whole New Ballgame," is already underway. "It uses sports to teach physics," says Bonadurer. "We have our own Red camera and will use that and computer graphics." When asked about taking on topics outside conventional star shows, his immediate answer was, "You study... that's what I did with Cleopatra and it was a joy. I'll learn almost anything. As informal educators that's our job: to make learning fun. Planetarium fulldome systems often get sold specifically because they can offer non-astronomy content," he added. "It helps the funding when principals, university faculty and others find out they can get a system that offers the capability to do other kinds of shows."
Wells planetarium casts a wide net
"Because we aim to cast a wide net, we do a lot of programming above and beyond fulldome planetarium shows, live star talks and star parties," says Shanil Virani, director of the John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. "We do monthly public science talks and podcast each of these presentations. We also host 'bad science' movie nights where we show bad science movies on the dome (The Core, 2012, etc) and then spend 15 minutes afterwards debunking some of the bad science just presented. In addition, I work with local campus groups to host various events in our facility, such as our 'Valentine's Day Movie Under the Stars" night."
The Wells planetarium system is a $1.3 M hybrid facility that pairs a Digistar 3 with a GOTO Chronos starball in its 75-seat, 30-foot dome. Much of the programming - all of it free of charge - is conventional, family oriented planetarium fare. But since coming on board in February 2011, Virani has energetically worked to cast a wide net and create interest and activities for community groups and church groups in addition to K-12 groups and university students. "We have a lot of classes that meet in the planetarium, and we develop our own teaching guides," he says. "I want people to have multiple reasons for wanting to come here."
Virani promotes his programming with a passion and an awareness that he's competing with many other leisure activities, in-home and out-of-home. He makes extensive use of social media (@jmuplanetarium on Twitter) to reach his target audiences, and has had some notable successes. "Bad Science" nights have been a hit, with the standard format movies projected on a portion of the dome. "It's brought in people who wouldn't otherwise think of coming here and lets us debunk some of the bad science that often gets propagated in our pop culture," he says. He explains the premise of "The Core," a recent movie starring Hilary Swank. "The Earth's core has stopped rotating; its magnetic field has ceased, and the solution presented is to drill and then detonate nukes." (This reminded us of "A Crack in the World" which starred Dana Andrews - anyone remember it?) What really bugs Virani about The Core is that the writers unnecessarily made up the bad science. "They could have reasonably extrapolated a scientifically believable outcome that would also have been compelling."
To further engage people, the planetarium hosts undergrads for club nights, not just dealing with straight astronomy but also futuristic TV shows and movies such as Big Bang Theory, Star Trek and Star Wars, working with the university program board. For Valentine's night they used the starfield as a backdrop to present a "movie under the stars" - two sold-out showings of "Ten Things I Hate about You." A large fraction of the people who attended hadn't previously known about the planetarium, indicated Virani.
He also keeps an eye out for good content wherever it may be. "We had screenings of 'The City Dark,' which premiered at the SXSW film festival. I learned of it this past January when I saw conversations on Twitter about a special screening for the American Astronomical Society. Fortunately, the Dept. of Physics & Astronomy graciously agreed to pay the screening rights fee so that I could show it in the planetarium for free. We showed it on multiple Saturday nights at 7:00 pm. It's asking a lot for people to dedicate their Saturday night to watching a documentary about light pollution, but we had just over 300 come out, with full houses for the last three screenings."
There are also monthly science talks featuring university faculty and guest speakers, that are later podcast (at All this, explained Virani, furthers the cause of science education. "We have a lot of young kids getting turned off science. In middle school, girls are turning off science. We're trying to demonstrate to them that science is fun, cool and worthy of interest - that even though we know a lot, there is so much out there yet to discover, and that if they continue with science in high school and college, they can be part of that adventure. The only prerequisite is to be curious. What's good about shows like "Big Bang Theory" making headway is the positive image of characters who want to understand why things are the way they are."

IMERSA News June 2012.
Material may be excerpted if credit is given to IMERSA and a hyperlink is included.
Edited by Judith Rubin. Copyright 2012 IMERSA.
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