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> Morrison Planetarium
Ken Miller
post Jan 25 2014, 10:47 AM
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Yesterday and today I am participating in a behind the scenes open house and workshop at Morrison Planetarium. I have gained new appreciation for what goes into world class video program production for planetariums. They have a very impressive group of talented video graphics designers, state of the arts tools and software, and a small server farm to support their work.

I"ll post more info when I can get to a real computer instead of trying to type all this on my phone!
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Ron Walker
post Jan 25 2014, 11:18 AM
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With enough money you can do most anything. Must be nice.
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Ken Miller
post Jan 26 2014, 10:51 PM
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QUOTE(Ron Walker @ Jan 25 2014, 09:18 AM) *
With enough money you can do most anything. Must be nice.

Money would be great. I was participating with a group of planetarium and astronomy professionals, and everybody but me seemed to have the funding to do great things. I talked to a Spitz representative while I was there, and she told me it would cost $200K to $300K to install a Spitz SciDome upgrade in the Hopkins Planetarium.

I asked what they do with the old setup when they do the upgrades. I had heard about how Spitz threw the old projectors in the nearest dumpster, but she said that the planetariums make the decision about what to do with the old equipment. That info, along with what we know happened to the projector at Brigham Young College of Idaho kind of tells me more of the story. The installers have are not not necessarily inclined to be careful with tearing out the old equipment, and if the institution is not interested in keeping the equipment, it goes in the dumpster. I don't think Spitz as an organization is on a mission to do away with the old machines, but they will not make a point of preserving and caring for them.
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Ken Miller
post Jan 26 2014, 11:31 PM
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It was a long day on Friday. We ended up seeing four full length planetarium productions in the dome. The best was the new show from Hayden Planetarium about dark matter. A very good one was a Morrison production about the origin of life in the universe. Another Morrison production about earthquakes had nothing to do with the sky, but was interesting, especially to those of us who live on top of the fault. Finally, we saw a very impressive use of Worldwide Telescope to produce a packaged show with all the sky and terrestrial data streaming live directly off the internet. That one was created by people at Adler Planetarium.

I have to tried to use Worldwide telescope myself for planetarium presentations, but have not had good luck with it. It tends to crash on me. It apparently makes a difference to have a bank of servers and a really good internet connection.

The highlight of the Saturday session was a Worldwide Telescope workshop. I had hoped to gain some proficiency and learn how to avoid crashing the software. First we had to pitch projects, and get others to join in a collaboration to make it happen. I pitched a tour of the moons and dwarf planets in the solar system, and got four people to join me in the effort. Unfortunately, none of us had enough expertise to get it working, and the instructor was too busy to give us enough help. My first disappointment was that once I found models for the moons of mars, they had the surface texture mapped onto spherical globes, not the more accurate potato shapes. I'm a little farther along on knowing what goes into Worldwide Telescope, but I still need to do a lot more studying. It's never ever easy!!!

Worldwide Telescope can do amazing things. I've seen the technical presentations, and seen it in action in the dome. Maybe I'll get there someday.

All in all, I had a great two days at Morrison and the Academy of Science.
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moonmagic
post Jan 31 2014, 09:04 PM
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Ken- Glad you enjoyed your trip to the Morrison. There is a great deal that goes into producing shows for digital domes these days, which is why they cost so much, and why only a hand-full of places can even afford to produce them.

Once a new digital theatre has run through the 1/2 dozen shows they acquire as a part of their initial package deal from what-ever vendor, they are left with needing a big pot of money in order to continue buying additional shows. Another issue is that most of the digital shows last less than a half hour. In places where they only have the planetarium theatre without other attractions/venues schools are more hard-pressed to justify the expense of the field trip. While naturally one can add extended question and answer periods to shows, so many of the digital shows do not articulate with the scope and sequence of science programs. Eventually, if the school group attendance begins to drop off many more facilities will close.




If the A3P at Hopkins is not in the best of shape, it should not be that difficult to snag one of the many newer projectors (512) or other makes (Goto/Minolta/etc.), IF you can find the funding to a least go and pick one up. Watch the dome-L listings for systems that are being upgraded, or subscribe to several of the nearby regional planetarium organizations so you can keep up with which facilities are planning upgrades. If you just limit it to facilities that are within say 400-500 miles driving distance, you should be able to come up with something within 6 months to a year. As has been discussed at length on this forum, there are both good and bad points to the newer technology. Many facilities have no intention of going the "dome movie" route. There is still much to be said for a "traditional" planetarium presentation.

Another issue with the newer digital installations is they are only good for about 10 years before both hardware and software upgrades are necessary and therefore for a second time in a decade an additional 250-500k in additional cost. In fact, the digital units have now been around long enough that a number of them are already requiring total upgrades, thus while they first appeared cheaper than purchases of optical/mechanical machines, in the long-run some facilities will wind up spending several million dollars over the same time period the old machines have lasted. Perhaps that is just the wave of technology, however many small museums, planetariums, and schools seldom have such recurring funding.

As usual the thoughts are all over the map. My main point is that if you need a newer or better machine, many are becoming available and in many cases just for the cost of going and removing one. mm




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