Everything that we’ve covered thus far has been about how to create an automated, in-the-can, movie-style, Sky Tonight show. We, of course, also do Live Sky Tonight shows as well. Both the Live and Auto versions of the Sky Tonight show are two very different beasts, requiring different methods of production.
If you’re in space and a huge chunk of rock zips right past you, would it make a sound? No, because there’s nothing in space to carry those sound waves. However, for years, sound designers have taken many liberties with outer space audio effects. I have to admit, I take the same liberties from time to time.
Ten computers, four projectors, and one 4K master frame sequence. How do we get all of this to play together?
At this point I have an audio track (usually still without music) and all of my scenes and photography stuff rendered and ready to be compiled within After Effects. It’s within AE that I can crossfade scenes, add any additional video or image elements, warp text or images, create complementary transitions between scenes or pictures, create a dome mask, title sequences, etc.
One thing I like doing is adding a local segment to a Sky Tonight show. What better way to do that than to show the audience an actual image or timelapse from a well-known location that they can actually go to.
When it comes to making animations for any type of show, it’s helpful to use storyboards.
Storyboards help you find a direction as opposed to staring at a blank page or screen waiting for inspiration to strike. I do storyboards for all my scenes throughout the length of the dialogue.
Getting the right voice-over and music for a planetarium show is essential. If the voice-over artist records a performance that’s too “dry” like they’re reading out of a legal journal, then you’re going to lose the audience. If the music is too “busy,” then it will distract from the show. I was very careful in who I chose to do our Sky Tonight narration and when it comes to music I’m extremely particular. The sound is vital to any type of show. And it’s this process that I found the most taxing on my patience.
The first time I ever went to a planetarium was when I was in second grade. It was on a field trip and I remember the show dealt with a private detective investigating something dealing with the stars. I remember this because I had always wanted to have a job like Sherlock Holmes. So, when I got a job at the planetarium I assumed that all the shows would revolve around a static star field and maybe a half-hour presentation on some of the planets you can find from your backyard. How wrong I was.
You’ve got your script in hand. It’s been run through the Educators and the Editor. It’s all on the up-and-up. Now you just have to have your script recorded by a voice-over artist.
When you come to the Louisiana Art & Science Museum and see a Sky Tonight show—when you see the stars on the dome, the planets in orbit, the deep sky objects far beyond our own galaxy—you’re actually looking at a 3D model of our observable universe. Every star, planet, and object is placed where they belong in space. You’re underneath a dome that operates essentially like a digital universe. Navigating through this and making a show with the enormity of space can be a little bit tricky. Well, that’s where I come in.