Surrounded by a rich musical and southern culture, the Macon Film Festival has had a thirteen year history of celebrating independent films while promoting filmmaking for entertainment, inspiration, education, and economic development. This year’s festival, which happened this past weekend (Aug. 9-12), integrated fulldome films into its lineup for the first time allowing festival-goers the chance to experience immersive films at the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MAS). Audiences had the opportunity to experience some of the most innovative, creative, and dynamic fulldome films from artists and producers around the world.
Integrating fulldome films into an independent film festival is a unique concept conceived of by Diana Reichenbach, fulldome artist and professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, and Susan Welsh, Executive Director of MAS. The idea for doing this came after the 2017 festival at which an original fulldome art film by Diana was screened during the opening event at MAS. After that experience Diana and Susan co-organized the fulldome festival for 2018. One of the goals for including fulldome in the traditional festival is to expose traditional filmmakers to the immersive medium and encourage them to create in this immersive format themselves.
According to Susan, the MAS has a desire to integrate artistic experiences in their dome, which historically focused mainly on astronomy topics, in order to encourage new audiences to engage with the museum. To make this a possibility the museum realized that they needed to provide a space for artists to learn about the medium. Hosting the festival was one way they thought of to support this creativity.
Susan and Diana invited myself, Ben Gondrez, director of the Otterbox Digital Dome Theater in Fort Collins, and Sean Caruso, director of video projects at the Society of Arts and Technology (SAT) in Montreal, to help juror the festival. Sean and I both, through our roles at each of our institutions, work to promote the use of domes for artistic purposes and also train artists in how to do that.
During the festival, Sean and I also provided workshops to help introduce festival attendees to the fulldome medium. Sean’s workshop, “The Language of Immersion”, discussed the fundamental principles of immersion related to the fulldome medium. This discussion covered the production elements needed for a person to experience true immersion including not only physical stimulation, in the form of the images and sound being presented, but also the emotive and intellectual aspects necessary for immersion. Sean also discussed how SAT is pushing the boundaries of immersion with some exciting updates to their dome including things like haptic feedback and large-scale audience interaction.
My workshop, “Practical Filmmaking for Fulldome”, focused on the tools and techniques that a traditional filmmaker needs to know to transfer their skills to the dome. We discussed the domemaster format, the export format for video to fulldome, image composition for fulldome, various ways to capture images and video for the dome, as well as production and post-production techniques that might be different from traditional productions. Finally, I provided a short demonstration using Adobe After Effects CC 2018 to create dome content.
A highlight of the festival was a live performance during the opening party by Diana and percussionist Thad Anderson. The performance included the screening of three of Diana’s previous fulldome art pieces as well as a brand new piece created just for the festival called Sononlumin, all with live music accompaniment. The newest piece, Sonolumin, is a stop-frame animated fulldome film exploring the relationship of light, sound, and space. It blew everyone away with it’s creative use of light painting, a technique using long exposure photography to create light streaks and trails.
In addition to the submitted films for the festival the fulldome screenings also included a block of short films from SAT Fest, the Society of Art and Technology’s annual fulldome festival, as well as a collection from the Jena Fulldome Festival, one of the first fulldome festivals having just completed its 12th year, held in Jena, Germany every spring. These films connected the festival in Macon with some of the other fulldome festivals that happen around the world and showcased some of the best works from those festivals.
Overall the audience reaction to the fulldome screenings was very enthusiastic. Every screening in the dome, whether it was a full-length educational film or a block of short artistic films, left audiences amazed and inspired by what they had just seen. It seems that the future of fulldome in central Georgia has a promising future!
The winners of the Macon Film Festival's first fulldome festival are:
Fulldome - Best Immersive Experience: Kyma: Power of Waves
Fulldome - Educational Film: Expedition Reef
Fulldome - Artistic Film: Liminality
Fulldome - Student Film: Nachtmahr
Fulldome - Use of Sound: Beat
Fulldome - Juror's Choice: Intensional Particle Dome Installation
Fulldome - Audience Choice Award: Aurora: Lights of Wonder