Kathryn McAvoy had the vision to show how the arts overcome any issue of race. Kathryn, the Executive Director of The Performers Academy explains, “We don’t see color – we see talent! The performers all work side by side without regard to color, race, gender, socio-economic background or any other typical qualifier.” When MOSH approached her to complement the RACE: Are We So Different exhibit with live performances, she thought, “Let’s make a movie! We’ll show it in the Planetarium!” Little did Kathryn know how big a feat that was! The production of “The Arts Unite Us” launched a unique 360-degree project that brings the museum’s current exhibit, RACE: Are We So Different?, to life across the canopy of their stargazers dome.
“The Performers Academy has all the performers to make the movie, and I had a friend I had worked with who was fabulous at writing. I had a vision, so we just plowed ahead,” Kathryn says.
MOSH planetarium director, Tom Webber, warned her that it was no small deal to make a movie that would play in the planetarium’s full dome and not look distorted. 3D video projection in a dome is a very niche field of videography, and they were presented with the unique challenge of using 2D video equipment for it. This would require a lot of post production manipulation and geometric calculation. Not to be dissuaded, Kathryn conveyed her idea to The Performers Academy team, and it all started happening. According to Kathryn, “My writer friend started working on the script, the departments provided the talent, the acting director starting planning the production, and our technical geniuses started figuring it all out.”
Once Kathryn was satisfied with the script, Joanna Horton, Director of Acting at The Performers Academy took the helm, and there were two days of shooting the talent. “We had to shoot all the actors in front of a green screen with no portion of their body cut off, and because we were creating an entire environment the actors were on the screen continuously. This meant the timing of their lines had to be exact.”
Then the baton was passed to the technical team, led by Josh Cross, Director of FTS Creations, a multi-media company housed at The Performers Academy. This was definitely the most difficult part of the project. Josh, along with assistant Matt Simons, took all the individual videos of the actors, removed the background, then matched up their timing so their actions made them appear as if they were communicating fluidly. Once they were all matched up and the movie made sense, they had to manipulate the video to correctly project onto a spherical screen. This required some handy geometry and a bit of trial and error. Simply stated, the video was converted from rectangular coordinates to polar coordinates and then the height stretched to account for the additional vertical length of each pixel.
While there are some imperfections in the film (sounds that aren’t perfect or pauses that are too long) the accomplishment is still extremely impressive. Not many videographers can boast of a film being played on a dome in a planetarium!
“It was a unique undertaking that I am proud to be a part of,” says technical director, Josh Cross. “It’s a project that will help to distinguish my portfolio. I also need to mention how crucial it was to have the help of Tom Webber and the MOSH planetarium staff in providing technical guidance and being patient with all of our trial and error experiments.”
“The Arts Unite Us” will play during MOSH’s Family Cultural Day for the RACE exhibit, April 27th. The Performers Academy will also have live performances throughout the day. Furthermore, performers from the film will be dancing during One Spark along the riverwalk. Be sure to stop by and the enjoy their shows. For more information, go to www.themosh.org and theperformersacademy.com.