47574777_1918360128262270_2952541960163819520_o.jpgHello Aqua Dome participants, friends, and supporters!

I just wanted to write and sum up our Aqua Dome premiere last night. We hosted a great event, with five successful screenings of Aqua Dome. The event was sold out on Eventbrite – and despite the rainy weather, people still turned out. Students (one dressed as a fish!) guided people to the planetarium in Smith Hall, checked peoples’ tickets, and passed out baggies of Swedish fish to the audience, keeping with our aquatic theme.

People of all ages came from across campus and from the greater Baltimore community. There were students from a variety of majors who learned about Aqua Dome from Zoe Friedman’s class’ creative marketing efforts. Students from the EMF and Art courses who worked on the project brought friends and family. I saw parents and students from the Baltimore School for the Arts; families with young children; TU faculty and staff; and local artists who had learned about the project online.

The wonderful audio track in four movements created by Elsa Lankford’s Sound Creation and Design class immersed the audience in watery sounds and created an emotional arc for the piece. Aqua Dome’s visuals were a lively combination of quirky cut-outs and pixilation, fluid hand-drawn and rotoscoped animation, and digital visual effects, created in animation and VFX classes taught by Zoe Friedman and Lynn Tomlinson at Towson and Kat Navarro at Baltimore School for the Arts. Kat expertly composited everything into a cohesive whole.

Most attendees had never been to the Watson-King planetarium before, and were excited to learn about this great space and resource on campus. Students were excited to learn that there are Interdisciplinary Fine Arts Courses that make projects like this. People said Aqua Dome was inspiring, beautiful, and very cool. Parents were proud and students were excited. It was a wonderful shared immersive experience all around, and we creators appreciate everyone’s help in bringing this to life.

Here’s a little background information: having experimented in the planetarium when I was an TU Studio Art MFA student, I was excited by the creative possibilities of the space, which has much in common with VR, but unlike that solitary activity (with goggles, etc.) watching a dome film is a communal experience. The spark for this specific project began with a Ruby’s grant proposal I wrote. When I didn’t receive that grant to make a dome-film of my own, I decided it would be fun to try something similar with students, so I adapted my proposal to fit COFAC’s new CoLab grant, and we were fortunate to receive funding. I reached out to my colleague and collaborator Elsa Lankford to see if her class might be interested in creating sound, and Elsa was enthusiastic. Zoe Friedman and I had been talking about a working on a collaboration between our students since early last spring, and we were able to build our syllabi together so our classes could meet at the same time over several weeks during the semester. The Theatre department kindly allowed us to use two large spaces so 38 IDFA and EMF students could work together. Sarah Gilchrist in the library led a research activity so our students could explore their marine ecosystems. The CoLab grant supported the purchase of art and tech supplies, and allowed us to bring Kat Navarro on board as our editor. In addition to guiding her students at BSFA to create animated elements, Kat understood our kaleidoscopic, DIY approach to making the video fit the dome format. She took our creative ideas and materials and ran with it.

We are also so grateful to Alex Storrs, who was generous with his time and allowed us to experiment and try out versions of the project all through the semester. The administrative staff in the Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences were very kind to let us into the planetarium numerous times this past semester.

We would like to stage more screenings of Aqua Dome in the future –  next semester in the Watson-King Planetarium, and hopefully in other planetariums in science centers and other college campuses. We also plan to enter the project in festivals like the FullDome Festival in Brno, Czech Republic:

Thank you to everyone for supporting and working on this project,
Lynn Tomlinson, Assistant Professor, Electronic Media and Film

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