NASA Projects 'Frozen' on Spherical Screen

The system uses four computer-driven projectors surrounding a suspended six-foot-diameter carbon-fiber sphere.
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NASA has developed its second film about the Earth specifically for a six-foot-diameter spherical screen system that hangs in the middle of a room.

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Glacier visualization on the sphere. Photo courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

“Frozen,” a 12-minute film about Earth's changing ice and snow cover as captured by NASA Aqua satellite and the Landsat series spacecraft, premieres at science centers and museums March 27.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., produced the film for the Science on a Sphere (SOS) projection system, a video technology developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The first of the spheres was installed at Goddard in 2006 and the spheres are now in more than 30 locations around the world.

"With 'Frozen,' we're not only breaking new ground in terms of spherical filmmaking but also transforming an otherwise technical subject into a powerful and poetic drama about the state of Earth," said Goddard's Michael Starobin, one of the film's producers, who also produced “Footprints,” the agency’s first venture into fully produced, narrated video for the system. "Science on a Sphere is a powerful and exciting new medium for telling all sorts of stories.”

The system uses four computer-driven projectors surrounding a suspended carbon-fiber sphere. A fifth computer coordinates the other four, producing a seamless image around the sphere, and a sixth has to generally be available for backup.

The details of the system vary from facility to facility, depending on space and budgetary factors, but NOAA has used projectors from Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo—3,500 lumens is the minimum—along with Dell computers and NVidia GeForce video cards.

Remote control of some SOS systems is done with the remote control and nunchuck accessory from the Nintendo Wii gaming platform.

NOAA originally conceived Science on a Sphere to help illustrate Earth science principles by showing planet-wide data. Museums and universities have created hundreds of data visualizations for the platform since it first debuted in NOAA facilities.

“’Frozen’ marks the next step in the evolution of spherical filmmaking," Starobin said. "It moves the technology of the craft to new levels and, more importantly, tackles a single subject and uses the unique shape of the screen to discuss that subject in new ways. For example, where a flat screen only provides a sense of the remote, obscure scale of polar regions, a spherical presentation shows just how vast these places are. It highlights global processes in an orientation that matches reality."

For more information about "Frozen," including a list of locations showing the film, visit www.nasa.gov/frozen

For information about the first NASA Science on a Sphere movie, "Footprints," visit www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/visitor/exhibits/footprints.html

And for a high-quality trailer of "Frozen," click here.

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