This post will describe a means of creating fulldome domemaster images using Modo.
What is a Domemaster?
The interchange format for digital planetarium movies is a Domemaster (or Dome Master). Since planetaria require extremely high resolution (4k at least, some are using 8k), these are often delivered as a hard disk full of individual, numbered PNG files.
The format of each image is a disk, where the center of the image is projected to the top of the planetarium dome. Here’s a calibration image I found somewhere…
This is an “equal-azimuthal projection”; radius from the center corresponds directly to latitude. A nice attribute of this projection is that it looks quite natural even when it is flat. In this image, the audience would be facing South.
What Modo Provides
Modo’s camera has several projection modes, including “Spherical”. This renders a full sphere of imagery from a single camera point. It draws this into a projection known as “equirectangular”. You have probably seen a world map like this:
I grew up with one in the hallway. It fascinated me how Antarctica was smeared across the entire bottom edge. In this projection, latitude goes vertically from -90° South to +90° North, and longitude goes horizontally from -180° East to +180° West. To make the gridlines square, the width is generally twice the height.
I did some experiments with Modo’s spherical camera. The model is a closed sphere, with the axes labeled. Modo’s standard axes are Y-up, X-right, and Z-towards-you.
And here is Modo’s rendering, using Modo’s Spherical Projection Mode.
Things to notice:
- The center of the render is from exactly behind the camera.
- We only need the center square for our dome master (half the spherical scene).
- The image is inverted (the “y” is backwards).
To address the first two, in Modo we point the camera exactly away from our center of interest, and we use the Frame Properties’ Render Region, to skip rendering parts of the scene we won’t need. The saved files will still be twice as wide needed, though.
And here is what what gets rendered!
Making the Domemaster
That’s better, but still inverted, and not a dome master. I wrote a command-line tool, which reads in a JPG or PNG spherical-projection file as Modo produces, and writes out a domemaster JPG or PNG file. You use it like so, from a terminal session:
poly@omino-8999 domework: om_sphere2dome --infile=sphereImage1.jpg --outfile=dome.jpg
infile: sphereImage1.jpg (1024 x 512)
outfile: dome.jpg (512 x 512)
write result: ok
Running it on the last render, we get (“ta da!”):
This is a correctly formatted domemaster image. (Excepting that it’s only 512 pixels across, which will be singularly disappointing on a 75 foot dome screen. But you get the idea.)
As of today, the tool is in primitive form, and has limited image quality, and only for Mac OS X at the moment. But if you come across this and need it for Linux or Windows or have a feature request, or want the source code, please email me, email@example.com. It’s a living work. As it is, it’s just barely sufficient for my needs, and no more.
Also, just to reiterate, this is a command line tool; you’ll need to be comfortable with shell scripting to make full use of it. You might even need to chmod it after downloading. If that hasn’t warned you away…
For Photoshop — Andrew Hazelden maintains this set of installable actions which can also do this transformation. For converting a whole Modo movie render, you’ll need to do a bit more scripting on top of it, and it will run fairly slowly… but it’s great to have options! His action set has many other tools as well.