05 December 2012

Letter from Museum Day - IAAPA 2012

Ford Bell, president of AAM. Photo: Judith Rubin
AAM's big tent
We visited Orlando for the IAAPA Attractions Expo and attended Museum & Science Center Day on Nov 13. IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions) has long hosted the largest trade event for the attractions industry, and in the past 10 years has expanded its reach beyond the realm of parks into educational attractions and museums. A Zoo & Aquarium Day is also part of the program. This year's Museum & Science Center Day had a completely full house. Among the attendees were designers, architects, media producers, economic analysts, event producers, exhibit fabricators, museum operators and theme park operators.

The opening address was from Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). The organization recently changed its name, swapping out Association for Alliance. Why? Bell explained that the terminology change signaled a change in the structure of the organization, retooling itself to spread a “bigger tent,” be more inclusive. The intention is not just to add more members, but to deepen relationships with other groups having similar interests and magnify the visibility and lobbying power in the face of shrunken Federal assistance. AAM has likewise changed its institutional membership tiers for inclusiveness, offering at the lowest level a “pay what you wish” membership and setting the highest at $5,000 (down from $15,000) which can be upgraded to an all-staff package. Alliances with other groups include crossover accreditation and best practices programs with AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums) and AASLH (American Association of State and Local History). Other efforts include outreach to engage other categories of stakeholders such as museum trustees. “We are fighting for a very pathetic sum of money,” he said, pointing out that Federal funds for museums total $60 million annually. AAM will make the most of its “big tent” to boost its annual Advocacy Day in Washington DC.

Ike Kwon, Guy Labine, Cynthia Sharpe (Thinkwell) and John Robinett
In a subsequent session, John Robinett of AECOM, which has done numerous attendance studies for museums and cultural institutions, showed ways to obtain meaningful stats that can be used to make peer comparisons and examine such things as the differing behavior patterns of residential markets to tourist markets, the ratio of visitation to exhibit square footage, the operations cost per square foot (most museums come in about $80-$100 per square foot) and evaluate admission prices. Robinett's fundamental graph showed the declining attendance curve of the museum that fails to reinvest on a regular basis – he maintains that museums should follow the practice of successful theme parks - reinvest yearly and take a close look at how to maximize earned income (“retail performance is a missed opportunity for a lot of museums”, enhance the perceived value to the visitor and increase per-capita spending.

Satisfying the many
Ike Kwon, director of guest operations at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences (home of the Morrison Planetarium) talked about strategies that the museum had employed in order to maintain visitor satisfaction in the enviable position of huge attendance numbers. Before the museum was rebuilt (the previous structure was damaged by earthquake), its average yearly attendance was 80,000, reported Kwon. “Now we do 8,000 in 3 weeks and are creeping up on 7 million attendance since opening [in 2008],” he said. He illustrated the problem with an example from the planetarium: the bundled ticket option covers a visit to the Morrison, but throughput in the dome wasn't sufficient to meet demand, meaning that some visitors would not get the full value of their ticket. They analyzed theload/unload p ace and created a shorter planetarium show to facilitate a 30-minute cycle. This adjustment was one of many implemented in a full-scale overhaul of operations with the goal of improving the guest experience, based on a model Kwon had learned in his days in the hospitality industry. The process relies heavily on input and suggestions from staff who deal with day-to-day issues.

Know your value
Guy Labine, CEO of Science North in Sudbury, Canada, talked about how the museum used the results of an economic impact assessment conducted 5 years ago to attract more government funding and more than double the proportion of earned income relative to total budget (from 30% to 70%). The study revealed the true extent of the museum's role in the community and of its contributions. “We found that Science North is a main driver of the city's economic tourism engine,” he said.

Tom Mehrmann
Doing things right
Ringing the leadership bell was luncheon speaker Tom Mehrmann, Chief Executive of Ocean Park Corporation. Regarding Ocean Park Hong Kong's significant recent expansion and 8 years of growth, he noted how decisions were made and strategies put in place to keep the park open during expansion, to differentiate from the competition (Disney), to empower employees and “break through the wrong kind of thinking.”

One intriguing guest services policy: There is $250 available to any employee on the property to tap in order to solve any guest issue on the spot, rather than send the issue, along with the weary guest, up through the chain of command. He remarked on how judicious the employees are with these funds.

As did previous speaker Ike Kwon, Mehrmann conjured the hospitality industry as a model. His example of gracious, empathetic service: the Ritz Carlton. He put emphasis on the value of personal, handwritten thank-you notes.

His talk was peppered with maxims such as “managers do things right; leaders do the right thing,” “not for profit is a tax status, not a business plan,” catch employees doing things right,” and “listening lavishly; responding with focus.”

Mehrmann also shared some of his favorite keys to success, with examples of how they'd been implemented at Ocean Park Hong Kong. 1) Be hungry for change. Example: When the park achieved its goal of 7 million attendance early, it was necessary to get rid of all the branded “7 million” coffeemugs. 2) Be innovative. Example: Ocean Park's very successful commercial campaign that juxtaposed human behavior with interesting counterparts in the animal world, and “changed the way our market saw and interacted with us.” 3) Be disruptive by nature. Examples: Ocean Park's “Aqua City” commercial, for which a custom song was composed that became a popular ringtone, how an Ocean Park K-pop spoof video had gone viral, and how the park's Halloween Bash and promotions had brought record attendance numbers and helped establish the holiday in Hong Kong. 4) Be genuine, not just generous. Example: Ocean Park's corporate social responsibility programs, and special discounts for locals, the disabled, seniors and low income residents.

Mehrmann's final list: the 10 qualities he looks for when grooming new leadership in the company: Curiosity, Sense of responsibility, Sense of humor, Passion, Courage of convictions, Initiative, Creativity/innovation, Sense of urgency, Persistence and Confidence.

Mehrmann began his tenure with Ocean Park in 2004. He started his career in the theme park industry in 1977 as a park attendant at Knott's Berry Farm, working his way up to the position of Vice President of Park Operations and Entertainment in 1996. He was with Six Flags Marine World as Vice President and General Manager in 1998, and was appointed VP and GM of Warner Bros. Movie World (Madrid) in 2000.

19 November 2012

Spotted at IAAPA: special venue cinema figures Huggins, Schklair, Katz, Fraser, Najar and Yellin

Some familar faces from the world of special venue cinema and 3D production were seen during the IAAPA Attractions Expo last week. I caught a few snapshots in mediocre 2D. Ammiel Najar topped me with his amazing 3D captures.

Paul Fraser of Blaze Digital Cinema Works, Steve Schklair of 3ality Technica, Charlotte Huggins of Rhythm & Hues, Mark Katz of National Geographic Cinema Ventures

Steve Schlair and Judith Rubin. Photo by Ammiel Najar
Steve Schklair and Charlotte Huggins.
These relationships date back to the 1980s. Huggins was a rising star producer with Boss Film Studio. Schklair was making some of his first 3D films with Infinity Filmworks. Katz and Fraser were both started with IMAX Corp. in the late '80s. 

Schklair and Huggins moved on to great successes in bringing 3D production and production tools to the world of feature films. Huggins produced Journey to the Center of the Earth, among others (she has been described as "the most prolific producer of 3-D motion pictures in the world"). Schklair founded 3ality Technica and catalyzed an explosion of 3D native capture for film and television. His company was named one of INC 500’s fastest growing businesses in 2011. Now, these 3D pioneers are each finding their way back to the special venue attractions industry and hence, IAAPA - where the best place to shmooze is at the booth of the Themed Entertainment Association, where these photos were taken.

Paul Fraser is a consultant to the special venue cinema industry, with a focus on educational content and digital dome presentations. He is an adviser to
IMERSA.org, which promotes digital dome formats (aka "fulldome"). Fraser and Katz are both active within the Giant Screen Cinema Association and museum cinema industry. Katz has been most visible lately as the head of theatrical distribution at National Geographic Entertainment and one of the driving forces behind National Geographic’s Museum Partnership Program. More details are in this recent article by Joe Kleiman, for InPark magazine.

I've had the honor to interview both Schklair and Huggins for InPark Magazine cover stories. Huggins appeared in issue #39, and Schklair in issue #42.
Doug Yellin of Matilda Entertainment and Steve Schklair
Ammiel Najar of Graphic Films and Steve Schklair

Schklair connected with some of his fellow alumni at the USC School of Cinema/TV, Doug Yellin and Ammiel Najar. Yellin was involved on Edmonton's Capitol Theater, a project that combined the restoration of an historic theater with a 4D cinema installation, detailed in this IPM article by Joe Kleiman and myself

Ammiel Najar is a fixture in the giant screen cinema industry, with 26 years producing for Graphic Films, including such classic titles as Africa the Serengeti, Ring of Fire, Alaska: Spirit of the Wild, and Seasons.

Judith Rubin at IAAPA 2012. Photo: Ammiel Najar.

Leafing through my back issues of World's Fair magazine, I found, in the April-June 1990 issue, the item I wrote about Infinity Filmworks back when Steve Schklair and Keith Melton were running it together (Keith is still there, at the helm). It was part of an article about Osaka Expo 90:

..."In its pavilion, Sumitomo Corporation showcases a 16-minute, ballet-fantasy film entitled 'To Dream of Roses,' starring Marianna Tcherkassky of the American Ballet Theater. The soundtrack is performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Visitors follow a path through the pavilion's outdoor rose garden to the columned entrance of the building and into the 400-seat theater. 'Roses' was produced by Infinity Filmworks, using high-definition video technology. Shot through two cameras, simultaneously matting together the images of the dancers with the fantasy backgrounds, it was then transferred to 70mm film. The finished product has a look unlike standard film, video or television, that may be a prototype of future screen entertainment..."

The film was produced in partnership with Douglas Trumbull; Steve was co-producer and DP. It is said to be the first film ever to be photographed in high-def and released on large format (70mm) film, as well as one of the first to utilize real time live compositing and real time motion control.

17 August 2012

Remembering 3D cinema artist Dominique Benicheti

Dominique Benicheti holding the rare 9.5mm Pathe-Baby movie camera
Lawrence Kaufman, president of the National Stereoscopic Association, wrote this article about the late Dominique Benicheti. I was fortunate to meet Dominique at Futuroscope in 1994 and see some of his films there. He was a brilliant, lively person who instantly engaged people in deep, fascinating conversation. --J.R.

Dominique Benicheti
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dominique Benicheti last year. I received the news very late, when a friend of a friend passed it along. Dominique had worked on "iDance Machine - Nothing Personal" with Bruce Austin. I recently saw this music video at 3D-Con, which is planned to be turned into a feature film. Director Dan Harris said Dom was a pleasure to work with. He storyboarded the entire video for 3-D. Director Harris also said that on the shoot, he had at least three stereographers, which he was likely not to do again. Dominique was always trying to get more depth and one of the other stereographers was always trying to decrease the depth. I have not been able to find too much about Dominique's life or passing. There seems to be very little information in the Internet about Dominique.

I did find out from French Film director and producer Pascal Vuong, through Olivier Cahen that Dominique died of a violent and sudden cancer. He was buried at "Pere Lachaise Cemetery" in Paris at the end of July 2011. “During the ceremony, many testimonies and tributes from all over the world have been gathered and told, all telling how great was Dominique, not only professionally but humanly.”

La Revole, French Musical, A Fairy Tale
I met Dominique Benicheti in 1999 when he visited the United States of America trying to find releasing for his 3-D short "La Revole."  Dominique was very lively, interesting, fun and excited about 3-D, so we became fast friends. I was able to see this film at a private screening at the Sunset Screening room following the Large Format Cinema Assn. (LFCA) annual conference, which Dominique was attending. He visited again in 2000 with a 5/70 mm print of "La Revole," which was shown at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre during the LFCA annual conference. La Revole is the popular term for the feast of the last day of wine harvest in the Beaujolais region. “La Revole,” was called the first French 3-D musical. Running 18 minutes, it was shot with the Stereovision lens. I had recently visited Futuroscope, Dominique had worked there and on many films. He told me to look him up when I returned, but I never did make it back. 

Bruce Austin, Eric Kurland and Ray Zone are planning a tribute to French 3-D cinema perhaps featuring "Pina" and a tribute to Dominique.

What I know about Dominique:
Dominique was a producer, writer, director and technician, he directed and/or produced more than 40 films; documentaries, scientific and animation. He may best be remembered for his very first film, a 1972 feature film "Le Cousin Jules (Cousin Jules,)" which won the Special Jury Prize and The Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival and the Interfilm Award at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) only lists that film: http://www.imdb.com/name/

He studied at the National School of Applied Arts, National Superior School of Fine Arts and High Cinematographic Studies in animation film. He had taught documentary film making at Harvard University for two years and was there for three more years as research associate in engineering at the Jefferson Laboratories for experimental physics, developing a human-appearance robot for television.

Dominique had written and directed at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, producing a 30 minute video “Light Games: 5 Experiments About the Inverse Square Law” to initiate the teaching of astronomy in US high schools and colleges. He also wrote screenplays for "Little Lady Chip," which had been planned for a 3-D feature and a treatment for a planned large format 3-D fairy tale musical "A Double." 

La Revole Photo Strip:
1) It's us, the Grape Pickers!
2) I'm Ceres, Goddess of Wine Harvests...
3) Blackberry, violet, cherry, cassis Moulin-a-Vent year eighty-six...
4) Take the cluster in your hand, but you don't crush the fruit!
5) And when the baskets are full, we have to call up "Jarlot!"
6) Oh! This Bocuse pumpkin soup!
7) I would happily give two months of my lifetime, to have this Beaujolais in my glass right now. 
8) I was holding my word, you were so impatient... 
9) Do not drink milk tonight!
10) In a pretty country, All embroidered with vines...

He went into special format films with Futuroscope (or Parc du Futuroscope,) the French theme park based on multimedia, as director, writer or consultant on 3-D movies and large format films. He wrote and directed “The Price of Freedom,” a 20 minute, 360o film about the Normandy Allied Landing of June 1944 for the 50th anniversary, shown at International Space Theatre Consortium (ISTC) in September ’94, held in Poitiers, France; it is currently at the Museum of Arromaches in Normandy.

He worked on a 20 minute double 70mm 3-D ride in pixilation about the 34,000 year old Chauvet Cave. He directed the documentary part of a 70mm 48 frames-per-second film about Poitou and he worked on the production of “Pathe-Baby,” a 3-D feature mixing fiction and reality, filming at least half of it with the Stereovision lens.

Dominique was preceded in death by his sister; Dom never married and had no children, so he left no heirs. Cedric Thomas is Dominique’s ‘spiritual’ son and is the executor of his estate.

His Special Format Films include:
  • “Safari 3D” Opticals; double 35mm 3-D, post-production
  • “Peugeot 3-D” Storyboard, stereography, post-production, opticals; 15 min., 3-D commercial
  • “Miko 3-D” post-production, opticals
  • “The Price of Freedom” Writer/Director; 20 min., 360o - Arromaches Musee du Debarguement
  • “Poitou” co-director; 20 min., 70mm 48 fps
  • “La Revole” Writer/Direcotr 3-D musical short
  • “Pathe-Baby” Writer/Direcotr; 3-D feature (completed?)
  • “La Grotte Chauvet” Writer/Director; 3-D ride, double 70mm, (completed?) 
  • "iDance Machine - Nothing Personal" stereographer, music video, planned feature.

More about the French Film “La Revole”
In the opening shot of the film, a sixty-ish traveler has fallen asleep reading a newspaper in the compartment of a train. A headline of the front page of the newspaper reads that a wind vane in the design of Ceres, ancient Greek Goddess of the grape harvest has mysteriously disappeared the night before in a famous village in Beaujolais.

While the train comes to a stop in the sunny countryside for apparently no reason, a beautiful young woman appears magically in the compartment and sits in front of the traveler. The train takes off and the traveler awakes startled. He sees the young lady, apologizes for having fallen asleep and introduces himself. He is Christian Marin, a well-known actor, invited to Beaujolais to share supper of the La Revole, prepared by Paul Paul Bocuse and presided by Bernard Pivot, his pals and very famous French figures.

He is very surprised to learn from the young woman that she is no less that Ceres, the real Goddess of harvest and that every year she comes down from her wind vane to check on the grapes and help humans to make the wine good. Charmed, the traveler invites Ceres to join him and his friends for supper of La Revole, fearing nonetheless that “They will never believe you’re a Goddess!” “Well then, we will tell them that I’m only your niece!” She answers back to him.

Meanwhile, a group of you grape-pickers are going to the vineyards, signing, laughing and having fun, as well as a young kitchen helper coming back from market, singing with his horses. Then in the kitchen of Paul Bocuse, Ceres mischievously gives a blind-tasting wine lesson to these knowledgeable older men, who are very surprised. But later she will be the one to take a lesson from Paul Bocuse himself, to prepare his famous Poularde a la Bocuse with a recipe read in verse by Bernard Pivot.

The last day of work completed, the grape[pickers come back for the famous supper. While waiting for Paul Bocuse, Christian the actor, Bernard Pivot, Ceres and others play riddles. Impatient, Bernard Pivot expresses his feelings. 

“I would have very willingly,
Given up two months of my lifetime,
To have in my glass right now
A sip, a taste of Beaujolais Nouveau!” 

Referring to Pivot’s famous TV show about books and language, Ceres takes his word for it and magically, to everyone’s surprise overnight and all by herself, she makes the Beaujolais Nouveau. 
Lawrence Kaufman

16 August 2012

Vignettes from the 2012 meeting of the International Planetarium Society in Baton Rouge

Fulldome frame from "Natural Selection"
Article by Judith Rubin. All rights reserved.
Many thanks to the International Planetarium Society and the organizers of IPS 2012, which took place in Baton Rouge July 22-26. This trade gathering takes place every 2 years and is a rich combination of sessions, exhibits, screenings and of course networking. IPS 2014 (June 23-27) will be held in Beijing. -- J.R.

Lean, Mean and Greenscreen
Robin Sip's Mirage3D is a successful business model for the industry

Founded by Robin Sip in 1999, Mirage3D, based in the Hague, Netherlands, stands today as an example of how a small, independent business can achieve success in the field of digital dome media production (aka "fulldome." The company now has 8 employees, a custom-built fulldome production studio that includes the 100-square-meter Chromakey greenscreen studio and 15-ft-diameter testing dome. At IPS 2012 Mark "State of the Dome" Petersen of Loch Ness Productions ranked Mirage3D as the second most popular fulldome distributor.

Sip entered the field in 1988, gaining experience in the Omniversum Space Theatre in the Hague, at Evans & Sutherland and the London planetarium. He's made 13 fulldome shows over the past decade, three of them self-financed Mirage3D titles and the others for third parties, including a number of popular favorites and financial successes, including Two Small Pieces of Glass, Dawn of the Space Age, Origins of Life, Natural Selection, Power of the Telescope and Supervolcanoes. The recent title Cleopatra's Universe, produced for the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium at the Milwaukee Public Museum, to accompany the eponymous traveling exhibit, earned back its investment in 3 months, according to Sip.

Sip is a creative as well as a business leader - a pioneer in the application of 3D production processes for the dome as well as a risk-taker when it comes to subject matter. He reports that Natural Selection is now in 50 theaters worldwide, since its release 2 years ago. And that contrary to expectation, it is doing very well in the southern US, with distribution in Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Florida. "It's almost doing better in the South than in the North!" says Sip. "So it's not true what people said to me - that a show about evolution won't sell in the US."

He's recently embarked on a new venture to expand the distribution of Mirage3D content by reformatting it for the giant screen cinema exhibition platform: Natural Selection will show in flatscreen 2D and 3D, at DCI-compliant 24 frames per second, at the next Giant ScreenCinema Association conference.

Mirage3D is following up Natural Selection with Dinosaurs at Dusk, which is receiving some funding from Goto and will be released in about 6 months. His signature approach, both economical and effective, composites live-action filmed characters into computer-generated environments. Everything except the sound is done in-house. While Sip can and often does turn out a show in 3-6 mos, for in-house productions he often takes 18 months to 3 years because "I like to give them time to evolve."

He starts with storyboards rather than a script. "I choose subjects that fascinate me and that I feel confident about from my background with planetariums. I don't shoehorn in astronomy if it isn't a real fit with the story." He gathers imagery and then creates a simple 3D storyboard, which becomes the basis of an animatic that helps determine speed and camera movement. "At this stage it's visual eye candy, emotion, and feeling. Music starts to come in there, too." The story grows while the backgrounds are being created. "Right now I have animators making trees full-time for Dinosaurs at Dusk. I didn't know anything about trees before." The incubation period is part of the creative process. "I start to see a thread. There's a lot of intuition in it. I love to take 3 years; to keep researching, being exposed to music & reference material. I'm really happy when it clicks."

Sip originally trained as an electrical engineer, then became an animator. He has no formal art background. "When I started working in a planetarium, I knew my future was there. I like to push the limits of technology. I don't feel like an engineer; I am a director, but only of fulldome shows. I just try to recreate reality in as much detail as possible, and to convey emotion in graphics."

Sip plans to create future Mirage3D shows to maximize the cross-platform distribution potential. "We're going to 24/48 frames per second instead of 30/60 fps in order to be DCI compliant. It was time consuming to make a good [flatscreen] conversion of Natural Selection. We ran into artifacts and had to make a new, shot-by-shot edit. At the lower frame rate, we can skip that step next time." Because of its size and amount of information, the fulldome frame is an ideal master for extraction to other formats, he points out. "Everyone should start there." http://www.mirage3d.nl/

Mark Slater conducting for film
Mark Slater - Music as a learning tool
With 20-40 minute run-times and an educational mandate, it isn't surprising that fulldome shows are sometimes considered a bit "talky." Composer Mark Slater suggests that more music and less narration could achieve the goal more powerfully.

The classically trained Slater, a native of the UK now based in Los Angeles, writes scores for movies and documentaries as well as background music for visitor attractions. He has scored several fulldome shows, including Two Small Pieces of Glass, Solar System Odyssey, Natural Selection and Planet Earth - Expedition Green.

He wants fulldome producers to see music as more of a learning tool. "It engages mind on different levels. It can improve memory of the material and focus the attention. Music can be used to change the pace of the narrative, clarify and intensify the significance of visuals and words, and provides a link between screen and audience, reaching out and enveloping all into one single experience."

Slater wants more producers to trust the power of music. "Music helps you say what can't be said in words. What scientists work to convey, music can telegraph," he says. "Music accomplishes the scientific goal - it doesn't get in the way of it." The right music, that is. He adds, "It is a challenge to find the appropriate music for a show - something that suits the voiceover and provides the right transitions without calling attention to itself."

Slater's musical pedigree includes a father who is a professor of music and conductor, a degree from the London College of Music and a background as a cathedral chorister at Oxford. He no longer sings but plays piano and cello. He is fond of many styles of music, including rock, jazz and opera. "Wagner and his peers would be writing music for film today," says Slater, who named Hans Zimmer, John Williams, and Ennio Morricone as some of his favorite film composers.

Currently, Slater is working with E&S on the music for some visitor attractions in China, and with Mirage3D on the music for Dinosaurs at Dusk. "A dome, like a cathedral - is a very special space, a place to feel connected, to sense the wonder of the natural world."

He feels that museums and institutions can harness music for good results in more ways than they currently do. It can help drive repeat visitation, making people want to see a show more than once: "The emotional resonance of music creates a positive association." It can create a sense of arrival in the facility: "Start the experience sooner in museums and planetariums, and make it more immersive. Help visitors feel they are on an adventure. That creates active engagement and excitement." http://www.markslater.net/

Turning on the kitchen light at night:
The creatives behind Jeepers Creepers

DomeFest2012, held immediately following IPS 2012, bestowed the Domie Award for Design on Jay Heinz, Peter Althoff, and Jim Kachelries for the UNC Morehead Planetarium's 2011 short subject, Jeepers Creepers. It is distributed by Sky-Skan.

JeepersCreepers also had an enthusiastic reception when screened at the 2012 IMERSA Summit in Denver. The animated, 2.5-minute show lightheartedly depicts what we all hope not to see when in the kitchen in the middle of the night - an ever-more-numerous assortment of insects and spiders, silhouetted on a light globe.

Jim Kachelries (digital artist, Morehead), who has a degree in media arts and animation and has been with Morehead about 4 years, confirmed that the lumpy critter is a caterpillar. "There's a single fly, cockroaches, spiders, caterpillars and pillbugs. They were all rendered in 3D except the fly, which is 2D." He animated the cage and its texture along with the lights, the fly and the spiders (all the same spider) and their movement cycles.

Research included consulting an entomologist about leg movements. There was also close observation. "We videotaped bugs on a translucent surface," says Heinz.Kachelries described how Peter Althoff (digital artist for Morehead) animated the pillbugs using crowd simulation. "They start at the ground, migrate toward the center, and climb on top of one another." At one point they were progressing too quickly. "We sent them along an invisible 3D plane to give them something to do."

Kachelries, Heinz and Althoff
Heinz (digital production manager at Morehead) and Kachelries report that Jeepers Creepers is a popular show at film festivals although ironically hasn't been shown many times at Morehead. According to Heinz, the idea for the show originates with Morehead Fulldome Theater Director Richard McColman. As Heinz related, McColman told a story about a past IPS meeting where someone turned a glass bowl upside down on a table over some cockroaches, shone a bright light through it and projected it onto the dome.

The output of Morehead's creative production trio includes Earth, Moon & Sun (2009); Magic Tree House Space Mission (2010) and Solar System Odyssey (2011). The goal, says Heinz - who has been with Morehead 5 years, and whose background includes a Master's in documentary journalism and work at Lucasfilm and the Washington Post - is to "keep pushing boundaries and making shows, each one different from the last one." Currently in production are a giant puppet show for the winter holidays, and a special Grossology show supported by a grant from NIH.

21 May 2012

Chariots of the Gods and other projects: Markus Beyr's new company, Attraktion!

Markus Beyr’s new company, Attraktion! 
has already landed a dozen new projects - 
including a ground-floor role in the 
production of the official 
Chariots of the Gods theme park.
Interview by Judith Rubin, published in the May 2012 issue of InPark Magazine

Markus Beyr, entrepreneur and producer of media-based attractions, is at the helm of a new company, Attraktion! Group, founded to serve the visitor attractions industry with project development services, and to selectively invest in related companies. 

Leading from Beyr’s prominence in the industry, the company has already landed a dozen new projects ranging from theme park attractions to educational exhibits - including what promises to be a very high-profile endeavor: a ground-floor role in the production of the official Chariots of the Gods theme park, based on the eponymous, 1968 book by Erich von Däniken that set forth the theory that extraterrestrial visitors, regarded as deities, brought cultures, religions and technologies to Earth in the ancient past. 

Where will the Chariots of the Gods theme park be built, and when will it open?
We are a step before that. Attraktion! will begin discussions later this year with candidate sites and operator-partners. Estimated opening is a minimum of three and a half years off.

There is no site chosen, but we favor Asia as the location because it has the best potential for the planned size. Culturally speaking, however, the park could be placed almost anywhere in the world. Chariots of the Gods is about our great mysteries, which are to be found on every continent. 

It will be a media-driven park, but also incorporate the best in roller coasters and hard rides. Together with state-of-the-art steel rides, media-based attractions, flying spaceships, 4D theaters, and other amazing adventures, the Chariots Of The Gods theme park will seek to position itself among the world’s top destination venues...

Click here to read the full interview and see more pictures. 

13 January 2012

Condolences to Chris Reyna on the passing of his father Leo

Jan 13, 2012 -- Chris Reyna wrote the following tribute to his father, Leo, who has just died. Chris has given us permission to share it so that the community can know of his loss.

"Yesterday was a sad day for me....my dear Dad, Leo died in his sleep at my sister Susan¹s home in Tallahassee. He had become increasingly frail since Thanksgiving. He was fiercely independent, and lived the past year in a little rented house on his own.  He was just down the road from Susie. On New Year¹s Day, she moved him into her home to make it easier for both of them.  Susie was his primary care giver, but he also had a stable of Hospice nurses who visited to bath, and help care for him.  His favorite was a femme fatale music therapist who came with her own electric keyboard every week to play and sing the classic song book with Leo. They had a great time singing, laughing, and telling stories together (She was on her 5th husband).
" I experienced this first hand, when I visited and cared for him last October for 10 days while Susie took a break, and went to Fort Lauderdale to organize his personal papers down there.  Dad and I had a fun time watching a Turner Classic Movies History of Hollywood Series: Moguls & Movie Stars. Every day for 7 days in a row, we would watch an episode, stop and talk about the movies, the actors and the actresses (His favorite was Joan Crawford).
He also reminisced about his doing in those decades. I heard some amazing stories about his life in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York, singing in the Catskills with Phil Silvers to earn money to go to college in Missouri, and then Graduate School at the University of Iowa for his PhD, onto South Africa for his first professorship, and then on to his life at Boston University.  Of course there were three marriages, five children, and countless stories. I was so happy to spend that time with him, and I know he felt the same way about sharing it with me. When Susie came back we celebrated his 93rd birthday.

"I am on my way to Florida today to help my sister Susie. Leo will be cremated now, but the family will decide to do a memorial sometime in the future. I am hoping that it can be in Massachusetts where our family of 5 kids grew up.

"Life of Brian" image: RottenTomatoes.com
"My Dad had a great life...he was honored in his profession of Psychology; loved by friends, and family. He died with dignity and in the loving care of my sister Susie.

"My Dad loved to sing...so I'll just end with a line from a song from the Life of Brian from which the Reynas always took an oddly ironic comfort:

'Always look on the bright side of life...'  Feel free to whistle along and think of my Dad."

We last caught up with Chris Reyna in a report about his technical work with three major film festivals in Los Angeles, Doha and Telluride. In 2012, he will again be working with the Turner Classic Movie Festival in Los Angeles April 12-15, and will also be technical director for the presentation of the Abel Gance silent classic "Napoleon" March 24, 25 and 30 and April 1 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.