IPS Conference 2016 - Extending the Language of Fulldome Space

IPS Conference 2016 – Extending the Language of Fulldome Space

FDRG attended the International Planetarium Society Conference 2016 in Warsaw in June to present a series of papers to generate a discussion among the IPS community about the exploration of new forms of content within fulldome space. FDRG members presented their recent practice-based research which investigates how the creative, artistic and communicative possibilities of fulldome projection can extend the language of moving image and immersive experiences. 

With an emphasis on artistic research methods, the presentation examined how creative process and design can be applied to fulldome space to identify and develop the language of the fulldome environment. The discussion was informed by the Fulldome Research Group’s knowledge and experience in graphic design, architecture, filmmaking and sound design, as well as their ongoing collaboration with the astronomers at the Peter Harrison Planetarium in Greenwich, London.

Artist and RCA PhD candidate Michaela French refers to presence theory in examining the relationship between the individual and infinity within fulldome space. Michaela proposed four primary spaces which define the fulldome experience: the physical space of the theatre, the mediated space of the content, the perceptual space of the viewer, and the apparent infinite space of the dome. In fulldome space, states of presence can be initiated when the mediated content becomes the primary perceptual influence. This occurs as awareness of the physical space falls away and the locus of attention shifts to the content projected in the dome. This shift also initiates a perceived merging of boundaries between the individual and infinite space. Drawing on examples of work from the RCA Fulldome Research Group, Michaela showed how the key factors in creating states of presence, such as locus of attention, opto-kinetic perception, immersion, and emotional engagement in the content can be used to design meaningful audience experiences whilst also extending the language of fulldome space.

Architect and recent RCA PhD candidate, Kelly Spanou began by discussing the history of the dome as an experiential space where architecture and narrative merge to mediate our perception. She discussed the ways in which the topology of the dome, the absence of the frame, and the position of the viewer combined with augmented attention and the activation of peripheral vision all contribute to the immersion of the viewer. Kelly screened her film Apeiron (Infinite) to illustrate how the experience of expanding and contracting space can alter the viewer’s perception of the dome. At times the dome acs as an enclosure and at other times appears as an expansive infinite space. Kelly’s creative practice within the dome allowed the audience to experience a range of evolving perceptual spaces that challenge the relationship between the observer and the object of observation.


Book designer and RCA PhD candidate Tom Howey, considered the use of typography in the fulldome environment. He focused on how the conventional square block of text doesn’t sit easily in the curved, frameless, infinite blackness of the dome: it appears distorted and as though it is floating in space, failing to convey meaning due to a lack of hierarchy. Tom proposed new conventions are needed for typography in the dome space. He suggested that the animated, immersive nature of fulldome offers an opportunity for a new, dynamic, physical relationship between text, space and the reader. He pointed out that words in the darkened dome present us with a curious situation: they illuminate our minds with their meaning, while literally illuminating the space we are in.

There was a clear agreement amongst the panelists and the audience that the fulldome environment is an extraordinary space with an untapped potential for innovative creative possibilities. The panel initiated a discussion about the value of the approaches artists, designers and researchers can bring to creating enriching and enlightening experiences in fulldome space. These included expanding the boundaries of visual representation, developing new methods of storytelling and exploring the architectural nature of the medium and its complex relationship with the viewer. The discussion also highlighted the ways in which practice-based research can be used to identify and develop the language of the fulldome environment in order to create new forms of experience within the immersive space of the dome.

The interest in this subject resided with a small but enthusiastic group within the IPS community. There is a definite interest in sharing experience and new creative approaches to designing and developing content for fulldome space. Whilst intuitively we understand how to make content for the dome, there are few opportunities for the dissemination of knowledge about the more formal aspects of designing and creating meaningful content for fulldome spaces. This panel presentation provided an opportunity to establish networks of interest which enable potential ongoing dialogue in this area.

There was time to enjoy a bus tour of Warsaw when the work was done.