Planetarium Animation

Hemispherical image creation and manipulation

Photo: Donald Pass 2008 '58 ALL' has been involved with Harfiyah Haleem in the attempt at producing a short animation of Donald Pass' her father's paintings. In 1969 Donald had a "Vision of the Ressurection" whilst painting in a church at Cuckfield. Since then, and until he passed away in December 2010, he endeavoured to share this vision through his art.

I had the privilege of first meeting Donald and his wife Jacqueline back in March 2008, and have worked from time to time on getting this project off the ground - and am still keen to see this happen.

The project involved taking the Paintings by Donald Pass and reproducing them within a Planetarium.

The problem being, the paintings where rectangular and a planetarium is a little less then hemispherical. First of all I had to visit the local planetarium, Greenwich Planetarium and my choice of shows was "The secret of the cardboard rocket", a simple animation that gave me ideas of the effects Planetarium Animation can have on the mind.

The Greenwich Plantarium runs a state-of-the-art projection system called Digistar by Evans & Sutherland. This system is a multi PC system, controlling multiple projectors. The annimation to be supplied pre-rendered as a series of TIFF images 6000x6000px 30fps. This is alot of images for a 5 minute demo!

Photo: Hemispherical Interior of the O2 As a photographer of fully immersive imagery I understand the distortion that each TIFF file had to have to accomplish a perfect image once projected within a planetarium ie a 180° fisheye image.

So, the challenge was to take the rectangular painting images and re-present them as dramatically as possible within a dome environment. A sample if this is Gabriel in a dome (Quicktime) and Angels in a cylinder (Quicktime) which should give an idea of the effect you would get if this was projected within a Planetarium dome.

The animation that I aim to create is NOT a complex solution involving putting the images onto wire frames to make wings flap etc., but to simply animate by fading in and out, enlarging, rotating, morphing, colour changing.

Photo: Great Hall cube

Image: Panoramic Cube

The method is quite crude - having had experience at 180° fisheye photography and manipulating these within a cube, the same approach was used. Half a cube converting to a hemisphere within a TIFF frame. The flat images where applied to the top wall of a cube, and then various levels of Barrel Distortion applied to get the best reproduction once projected within a Planetarium.

This method allowed for a top side image, and then this cube could then be tilted various degrees within panoramic manipulation software.

The images could be morphed or had special effects applied in other photo manipulating software to give a range of effects to the animation.

The top half of each of the walls of the cube can also have images imposed upon them, and then the cube imported into software that will allow you to export as 2 hemispherical images - the image representing the bottom half of the sphere should be blank - if it isn't then you've done something wrong!

Photo: Hemisphere demo grid

This process has to be repeated for each frame but life can be made easier with ImageMagick for Perl programmers. This software allows you to script image manipulation activities so repeat tasks will take seconds rather then minutes to repeat (or minutes rather then hours if you have a slow PC!)

The series of TIFFs are number sequentially and copied to an external hard drive. This can then be presented to the Plantarium projection team to render upon their multiple PCs. All that is left to do is add sound!

Software used for this project included :

  • Paint Shop Pro v9 & X3
  • Abrosoft FantaMorph 4
  • Smith Micro Anime Studio Pro
  • ActivePerl 5.10
  • ImageMagick 6
  • Garden Gnome Software Pan2VR
  • EasyPano Panoweaver 6 Professional Edition

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