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Tim Parsons
AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 27, 2012 at 3:29:44 pm

A client wants me to make a specific animation for a very different venue: a planetarium. You know, a dome screen with multiple projectors. So my question is one of effects, then of workflow.

First, effect. The desired result is to have the camera flying through the tops of the clouds towards the setting sun. Here is the rough concept:



The photo shows the dome from below. The bottom of the pic is the front of the planetarium theatre. I want the camera flying through the tops of the clouds towards the setting sun with empty sky above. This is easy with a camera looking in one direction, but not so straightforward when viewing a 180 degree dome..

I have read much about making a 180 degree lens in AE, but I have also heard of very expensive softwares and plugins that will do it, so I'm not so sure the simple 180 degree AE camera lens will work. I've also heard talk of using CC Sphere, but no one has ever explained how that would actually work...

I have an idea to make 4 or 5 cameras, one pointing in every direction, each pointing up at about a 45ish degree angle, so that the clouds are at the bottom, empty sky on top (possibly one pointing up). Then I would take the 4 (5) comps I would make out of that and warp, distort, and stitch them together to make one video. The final result of which will look similar to my example pic above.

My question is, is that even possible? I mean, there's pricey software that does that... is AE capable of doing so? if so, how?

To put it more simply, I have no idea how to create motion graphics for a dome screen. What do i do, without a budget for new plugins and software, using AE CS5?


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Jeff Brown
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 27, 2012 at 4:15:37 pm

Here's one shared tool from Spitz, Inc., a manufacturer of domes and related gear and programming: "Glom"
http://extranet.spitzinc.com/download/

You'll need to know the system used for projection (how many & what type of projector, etc.). Your client should actually be the one to provide you with specs, or a resource to contact. Another approach is to do the dome in true 3D space, of course.

hope it helps a bit,
Jeff


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Tim Parsons
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 27, 2012 at 5:18:28 pm

Well, they have batch software for taking the image and slicing it up and distributing to their projectors. That's not my issue. I need to know how to create dome-looking animations. Not 2D video that I want to wrap around a domed surface, but actually creating a domed video in virtual 3D space.

Hence my ideas about creating various angles of the same 3D fly-through and stitching them together to look like a domed video.

I already know their desired format, fps, ration, and resolution. I simply need to know how to create animations that can be properly projected onto a dome.


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 28, 2012 at 3:32:51 am

It sounds like you're wanting to create the warp and then flythrough the warped image(s). I would have thought that creating the fly through first and then warping thereafter would be an easier solution.

FWIW, when working with unusual projections, I find it best to create a grid and then displaying it on the system. After studying the projected image, you will have a much better idea how to prepare your images. Hopefully, this is a viable option for you.

Good Luck!
RoRK

Intensive AE & Mocha Training in Singapore and Malaysia
Adobe ACE/ACI (version 7) & Imagineer Systems Inc Approved Mocha Trainer


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Tim Parsons
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 30, 2012 at 2:37:25 pm

@Roland, Actually, I'm trying to figure out which way is best. I think creating the fly-through would be easier, but I just don't know. I'm not familiar enough with AE's capabilities in dome projection, and I don't know a workflow that will work. That's what I'm looking for: how-to with a workflow. Because I don't know how. That's why I'm asking the COW.

Fact is, I have seen plenty of their planetarium projects, I have a basic grid idea (hence the grid in my OP), have studied what dome projections look like, and even help out with the occasional After Effects troubleshoot, but most of their graphics are individual elements placed around the screen. Not immersive digital 3D worlds created solely in AE. So this one is new to all of us who work on the planetarium shows.

I tried creating a camera with a 180 degree lens so that I could just fly a single camera through a single digital world. As expected, the 180 degree camera lens didn't work as planned.

The clouds are all 2D images of clouds, placed randomly throughout 3D space. Here is what they look like with a standard 35mm camera:





Then I tilt that same camera 90 degrees upward and change it to these settings:





The result is this:





The lens horribly distorts anything that is nearby that goes above its field of vision. If i try to move the camera upwards, I can't see the clouds anymore.

Am I doing something wrong? Any other ideas?


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Juan Manuel
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 30, 2012 at 8:36:37 pm

Isn't Maya or any other 3d software better for this?


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Tim Parsons
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 30, 2012 at 8:52:10 pm

Quite possibly... But I have two things working against me: 1) budget. We have AE, but can't afford a bunch else. 2) Workflow. I know AE. I can make it look good in AE (see pics above). I don't know 3D software, and I don't know if I could get it to look as good in Blender, which is what I would end up using, since it's free.

But again, we run into the HOW. The 3D vs the 2.5D isn't the issue, it's how to set up a virtual camera, or set of virtual cameras to do the job. Even if I knew 3D software, I would be asking the same question: How can I set up a camera or group of cameras+stitching to make dome projection motion graphics work?

I'm pretty sure AE can do what I want, but I can't figure it out.


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Tim Parsons
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 31, 2012 at 2:17:55 pm

My question is not one of "macro" workflow, but "micro workflow. Not projection systems, but of AE technique.

I know how a dome projection affects an image. I know what my image needs to look like. See my OP. That's how it affects it and that's what it needs to look like, only moving.

I just don't know how to get my image to look like it!

So my question remains: How can I set up a camera or group of cameras+stitching to make a 3D environment flatten to a 2D video, so that when projected on the dome it will look 3D again (not stereoscopic, but rather "immersive")??????

I'm looking for an answer like, "In After Effects, click this, then change this, then rotate this, then run this process, etc."


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 31, 2012 at 2:32:49 pm

Sorry I can't help out further than what I have suggested. My tried and tested way when working with unusual projection systems has always been to have a good understanding of the macro aspects. Once that's sorted out, I am always able to find how to piece things together to make it work well.

You will want to try other AE-related or even 3D forums to see if someone else has worked on a similar project and is able to provide a more refined solution.

Cheers
RoRK

Intensive AE & Mocha Training in Singapore and Malaysia
Adobe ACE/ACI (version 7) & Imagineer Systems Inc Approved Mocha Trainer


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Kevin Fitzpatrick
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:55:33 am

Tim,

Did you ever figure this out? I'm currently in the same situation.

After searching I found this plugin being released soon, but I don't know the price yet.

http://satdomeport.com/CamSphere/indexeng.html

Any assistance you could lend would help out a lot. Thanks so much.

-Kevin


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Jesse Brady
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:53:51 pm

We've been in the middle of a big Planetarium Dome project right now actually. We've been using several strategies that have been really effective.

There are Stitcher apps that can take 5 images (top, left, right, front, back) and fuse them together into a circular image that can be displayed on the dome correctly. If you set up five cameras in at the same point in space, rotated 90 degrees from each other with a 90 degree view angle, creating a perfect box of camera view, the cameras will record all the information around them in a way that the stitcher can interpret correctly. You would render out 5 image sequences, and stitch the matching frames together...not as bad as it sounds...get yourself a free batch-renaming app to handle renaming lots of files at once to simplify things.

This will be perfect for recording animations that surround the viewer, but if you have a flat, video that you want to wrap around the dome...that could be trickier. Here's some tips though:

Use the Affter effects "Polar Coordinates" effect to "unwrap" or "Wrap" the video or image in a circular way. This will not be perfect...particularly for the top areas of the dome...but there are planetarium dome templates that show a circular grid which corresponds to locations on the dome screen, download one and use it as a guide to finesse your distortion... We actually have an After Effects comp set up that unfolds circular video from the dome using Polar Coordinates...we can use it to create graphics displayed right in front of the viewer with very little distortion (graphics toward the top of the dome are tougher this way)...in the main comp, the polar coordinates effect is not active, so it just bends the footage back into a circle.

...or you could try projecting your video onto an actual 3D Dome and using the 5 camera method to capture it...this could be a more exact approach, but I haven't tested it.


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Tim Parsons
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:53:52 pm

Jesse, care to elaborate on some of the effects and their parameters? perhaps screen grabs?


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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Apr 29, 2015 at 6:56:08 pm

If Chris Bobotis can pitch in maybe he can give you some details on a new Mettle plugin that can possibly work like a charm for projects like this.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Chris Bobotis
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:11:21 pm

Pictures are better than words ;-)

Please see: http://www.mettle.com/mettle-skybox-sneek-peek-free-sample/

Feel free to reach out to me at chris at mettle dot com

We are launching this very soon. Instructional videos etc. in the works.

This is great for use with all 3D plugins that support reflection mapping and environment mapping. we create Cubic, Spherical and Equirectangular formats.

I can see Mettle SkyBox output used with all 3D plugins that support reflection mapping or environment or for use with 3D apps like C4D Maya etc. Game engine like the Unreal engine, Unity 3D... webGL... Dome projections or for VR.

Ae plugins like FreeFormn Pro, ShapeShifter, Element 3D, Zaxwerks, Boris 3D should benefit from this offering.

Cheers,
Chris
mettle.com


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: AE dome screen motion graphics
on Jan 31, 2012 at 12:57:17 am

If a 3D app can do this then so can AE. IT's not so much the app used but the technique required. As I suggested earlier, prep a grid image and used it on the projector to get an idea what a normal image will look like. Ideally, bring a computer along so that you can make amendments as and when required.

I foresee, two test sessions with the first allowing you to see the results using stills. This test is crucial as you should known how an image is affected by the system. Then a second test to run through an animated sequence. The second test should be completed without any technical issues, thus, allowing you to deliver a usable sequence.

HTH
RoRK

Intensive AE & Mocha Training in Singapore and Malaysia
Adobe ACE/ACI (version 7) & Imagineer Systems Inc Approved Mocha Trainer


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