Archive for February, 2009


Research continues

February 20, 2009

I’m going to have a TON of research to do on this show before starting the script, and it’s actually a little intimidating.

There’s going to be lots of constellations in this program, and I want to hightlight them visually as well as historically, but I’m struggling to break out of “list” mode—I don’t want the show to just be a monotonous list of the constellations and their features.  I’ve tried that, and the results were embarassing.

Orion bash!

Orion bash!

A big aspect of these constellation featurettes in the show will be whether they’re an ancient or modern constellation.  The majority of the 88 official constellations we have today come from two sources: The Almagest, by Ptolemy, circa 2nd Century; and Uranometria, by Johann Bayer, published in 1603. Later, in the 1760s, a book by a French astronomer named Nicolas Louis de Lacaille added a handful of new southerly constellations.

And yes, the constellations set up by Bayer in the early 1600s are considered “modern.”  Modern-er than the 2nd Century, at least.

Ptolemy’s list contains most of what people in the Northern Hemisphere think of as the “normal” constellations—Ursa Major, Orion, the Zodiac, etc.  They’re mostly Greek and Babylonian in origin, and typically have mythological stories surrounding them.

The newer images are distinctly more modern, and contain things like a microscope (Microscopium), a furnace (Fornax), a clock (Horologium), an easel (Pictor), etc.  They’re also mostly southish patterns; those lazy Greeks and Babylonians couldn’t be expected to travel so far south of the Equator just to see the stars over the far side of the world now, could they?  But by the 1600s colonization had worked its way into the southern latitudes, and knowing the stars and constellations definitely helps sailors find their way around.

Anyway, I want to keep away from dry, boring, information-overload as much as possible in this script, so I’m kicking around some gimmicky ideas that may sort of bring it all together into more of an experience and less of a lecture.  I’ll start outlining a script next week, and start in on a first draft as soon as I’m comfortable with the flow.


Show production starts this week

February 16, 2009

Well, meetings concerning grant funding and sizable donations that will help renovate my theater have been pushed back to mid-spring, and therefore we’re going forward with production for an original show at the Blank Blank Planetarium.

I thought it would be neat to outline the production process here at BS, from start to finish.

I’ll be keeping with my mysterious (and probably unnecessary) habit of not referring to the proper name of my employers or my institution, so this actually may not be very easy…  I’ll try to give as much detail about what I’m doing as I can, without giving away anything notifiable.

This show will actually be a tie-in with an exhibit that’s (probably) coming to Blank Blank for the summer, and I’m guessing that opening day for the both of them will be somewhere around Memorial Day.  I can say that it’s a constellation show, and has an interesting overarcing theme that I’ll discuss later.

Tuesday I’ll go into full-on research mode, finding trustworthy sources and royalty-free or Creative Commons licensed images.  In addition to the usual public-domain NASA/ESA images that make up a big part of any planetarium show, I’m going to be commissioning some original artwork for this work.

Once I’ve got enough base material, I’ll start on a show outline and rough script.

I’ll keep posting updates, following my production progress.  Production is one of my favorite things to do, and I’m excited to get back into.

More to come!


The 3-D Post

February 7, 2009

I’m a little behind on this, but I’ve been wanting to write about 3-D, and an NBC ad during the Superbowl got me to thinking about it.  Watch:

1-D?  1-D!?

Guh. Where to start.

Lots of kids, when they come into the planetarium, will ask me if it’s 3-D.  I say, “Yes, but not like you’re thinking.”  (An equal number ask where they pick up their glasses—their 3-D glasses.)

Because most planetaria’s screens are projection domes, the images that are shown on them are always 3-D.  Instead of a flat image being projected on a flat screen, you have a flat image being projected on a rounded screen, so indeed, some parts of the image are physically closer to you and some parts are physically farther from you.

That is real, actual, three-dimensions—height, width, and depth.  But as I said, not how people usually think of it.

When you’re watching TV, the images are 2-D—height and width.  Always.  It may look like someone is walking away from you (getting smaller on the screen) or walking behind something (disappearing), but it’s all an optical illusion.  TV and film images are 2-D.

But ignoring that, the Chuck promo is still wrong, because when they’re flat, they’re ostensibly two-dimensional (height and width), NOT one-dimensional.  In actuality, they’re still being presented as three-dimensional, because when they turn to the side, you can still see them.  If they were truly two-dimensional, they’d have no depth, and disappear from the side—but I digress.

When people say 3-D, typically they’re thinking of “stuff protruding out at you.”  Horror movies tried to capitalize on this, naturally, with a modicum of success depending on how high your cheese-squelch is set.

(By the way, the Chuck show that was 3-D was not protrusion, it was layering—the illusion of depth within the TV—so you had what looked like people standing in front of things.  Neat, but gimmicky.  I did read that the ratings were up, so maybe it worked.)

Now here’s where I get nitpicky.  What we call 3-D entertainment, and really any kind of entertainment that is “3-D” (and I’m including things like stage theatre here) is not actually done in three dimensions!

It’s four dimensions!  Time is a dimension!  Height, width, depth, and length, if you will.

Is time standing still when you watch it?  Probably not—I guess it could be said that still images are lengthless, but that’s a different argument.

So I maintain that we’re missing a dimension.  What people commonly refer to as 2-D should actually 3-D, and 3-D should actually be 4-D.

Regardless, the promotions people that had a hand in that Chuck spot should have known better—the show’s target audience is nerds (IG-88 anyone?), yours truly included, so they should have thought twice.