About creating Planetarium shows...


I’ve started a few threads over the past few days and I feel like I should post a better description of who I am and what I’m doing so that I can at least refer to it if people ask me some questions.

My name is Lisa Evans and I’ve been working as an animator at a company called Raging Pixel Productions in Perth, Western Australia for the past couple of years. We mostly use 3DS Max for all our 3D animation work, and I also teach animation students how to use that program from time to time. I have about three years of experience in Max, although I trained in Maya five years ago, and I’ve also used Softimage XSI, Houdini, Cinema4D, Rhino, Animation: Master, Silo, and a bunch of other things. But I started off in Blender in about 1999! That’s how the animation bug bit me.

Earlier this year we were commissioned by Scitech to create graphics for a Planetarium show, using Sky Skan’s full dome video system, called SkyVision. This is one of the latest systems for Planetariums and there are maybe 70 domes in the world with this system, more coming online all the time. It uses 5 digital projectors connected to networked PCs, so it’s a very cheap system to use compared to some of the older film based ones. The show had been created originally in 2000 for an older system based in Melbourne, so what they wanted was for us to use the concepts and soundtrack, and create all new 3D rendered graphics for it.

That show is now screening and over 4000 people have seen it already :). Now we’re raising funds for a second show, which we are going to create completely from scratch. We’re well on our way to raising that budget, which is very exciting!

The main technical hurdle we came up against with the first show was rendering time. The clients provided us with one render farm of 5 nodes, and we hacked together our own farm with between 5 and 8 nodes depending on how many computers we were using for work. We still had to wait a very long time for renders. The final resolution of every frame in one of these shows is 3200x3200. We created these frames by rendering a cubic map from 5 orthogonal cameras, with each face having a resolution of 1600x1600.

So this time around we will be using the services of a super computer facility, which contacted us after hearing about our first show! It’s a linux based system with 160 processors. Needless to say this will make everything a lot easier. However, we needed to find some way of rendering all our content under Linux, without having to pay huge license fees for all the copies of the renderer we would need.

Blender is the obvious solution, and over the past week or more I’ve been re-acquainting myself with it and trying to re-create one of the scenes from our first show. It hasn’t been amazingly easy, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much Blender has progressed since 1999 :smiley:

Anyway, if anyone has any questions about us and the whole Planetarium show issue, post them here.

Very cool story! Odly enough, you’re not the only blender users involved with planetariums. Waystar (nickname) also does planetarium shows that are rendered with blender. Might be interesting to hookup and share stories :slight_smile:


Oh, excellent!! I hope he posts here. Where is he from?

SHE is from Champaign, Illinois: https://blenderartists.org/forum/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=215

Lol. After looking at the poll results for the number of women on the board, I thought we were so few and far between that assuming “he” would be safe.

How cool that there’s another woman on this forum with an interest in astronomy :slight_smile:

I looked up the planetarium in Champaign, Illinois and it’s using an old Zeiss system which uses lasers, so it doesn’t do the type of video the SkyVision system does. It’s interesting how the technology has evolved.


Believe it or not i live about 2 mins walking distance from scienceworks in melbourne(spotswood) where the new planetarium is!Whats your show called i might have a look see when the numbers off kids is low.I remember what my class acted like when we went to see a show back when the planetarium was in melbourne museum.Ive been intrested in doing an animation for projection onto a ceiling and side walls,but i was thinking dance floor rave scenario to some wicked music.how hard is it to get the computers to sync the video?


The show is called Launch Pad, but actually it was created by Melbourne but the revamp we did on it was commissioned by the Perth planetarium. They’re intending to sell it back to Melbourne now that they’ve installed the new system :slight_smile:

I really don’t know anything about the way the system is set up, so I can’t help you with syncing the video. Sorry!

Nice to hear from another Australian :slight_smile: