In my last post I wrote…

Some observations on live action shooting for dome and/or immersive media… first the ideas along a technical vein, and/or camera related…

Today I plan to write a bit about the less tangible ideas that struck me during and after the ANAT domeLab workshop in Perth late last year.

I want to begin by saying I don’t believe in putting forth rules about the “correct” way to produce, design, present or view immersive media. I really do consider any  perceived successes, and/or failures to be challenges. These “observations” can be simply a call to understand the medium’s “added values”  and to better understand how to more skillfully manipulate the immersive experience.

When we first began showing folks how to do fulldome, we had a growing set of “dos & don’ts” such as no close-ups, no straight cuts, no shooting with the camera level (always tilt,) always include “carnival rides,” no solid color “skies,” (especially in the light blue range)… etc.etc.etc… but as the medium has matured, and more folks have tried their hand at it, we have time and again seen these rules beautifully broken!

So now I almost never say never… I am more likely to say “be aware of and use creatively…” find the “added value” in this or that element…

For instance, we know that viewing either an immersive environment or a 3D projection requires a longer time to mentally process the perception. There is simply another layer of positional info which we need to process and it takes our eye-brain mechanism (much) longer to make sense of it all. This is the reason behind the perception of dome content as somehow “slower.” A one second crossfade, for instance, can be perceived as a simple straight cut. To get the transition we are used to seeing requires (at least) 3 seconds! I believe this has to do with the fact that a scene change, especially a transition to a different location or environment, requires us to deal with both focused and ambient information simultaneously. The extra information stimulates a broader selection of our perceptual system, offering a bigger chunk of data, and it simply takes more effort and time to deal with it all. More brain cells at work.

So now, how can we think of this as an “added value?” It’s easy to see there are added pitfalls and complications. But how can we learn to work around these “limitations” or even better, turn them into an advantage?

The best “work arounds” are, of course, the creative ones which actual add rather than simply hiding, such as creating an interesting construction through which we move into a different scene, such as a pseudo window from one scene into another. Or making use of the differences between focused and ambient attention, we can give the viewer a constant element on which to focus while the ambient scene transitions around us.

But if we push this a bit farther and ask how we can turn it to our advantage, we can begin to delve deeper into the whys and “so whats?”… how can understanding the difference between focus and ambience inform and enhance our content/ message/ story/ data viz? And at the very least, the challenge to more creative transitioning is just great exercise for our creative mind and work!

So on the subject of the altered time sensation in a fulldome (and I suspect any immersive media), what can we do to “make use?” Of course, if we want the viewer to be sure to catch something, to focus on a particular element in order to “get” the story, we have to give them clues as to where to look, and time to get there, and time to see it when they do find it. If we drop an important clue in while they are looking around at the environment, or focusing in a different direction, they will be totally lost.

Similarly, if we want them to be disoriented or to “feel creepy,” or to surprise them, it’s actually a bit easier in the dome than on a flat focus screen. We can play with their sense of space, tilt, elevation, jump at them, creep up behind them, “jerk them around!” The pace and the camera positioning are great tools, or even characters at our command!

More on camera position next.