I just got the go-ahead to share a secret I’ve been dying to
tell for quite a while: Morehead Planetarium and Science Center has just started production of a fulldome planetarium show based on the popular
children’s book “Grossology and You!”

Many children and teachers are already familiar with the
“Grossology” book series
–- I know I used these books in my classroom. The concept is brilliant. The books’ author, Sylvia Branzei-Velasquez, a teacher
herself, takes all the gross stuff that kids just love — snot, blood, poop and
more –- and turns them into teachable moments. For example, scrapes and scabs become an opportunity to teach about how the body fights infection. Snot becomes an opportunity to introduce the vital role of mucus in our lungs and throughout our bodies. Jack Keely’s fun illustrations keep it all from getting too gross for anyone.

We’ve been wanting to do a human body and health planetarium show for
quite a while, and this project just seemed like the right opportunity at the
right time. With the change in our planetarium technology to fulldome digital,
the opportunity to branch out beyond astronomy and space science is now
possible. In fact, with fulldome technology we can use the dome to immerse
people in any environment that has some space to it.

Expect that the new show will involve some travel inside human body organs. This gives new meaning to “learning from the inside out!”

This project is made possible through generous support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) SEPA (Science Education
Partnership Award) program
. NIH has long been a supporter of innovative science education programs.

We will be working with Sylvia, Jack and several others to produce this show. UNC researchers Dr. Rich Superfine, Dr. Kay Lund, Dr. Alisa Wolberg, Dr. Ric Boucher and Dr. Sam Lai will provide scientific oversight. Educators from North Carolina and beyond will help ensure that the show and curriculum
materials we develop will really appeal to students and align to national
curriculum standards. And, of course, our award-winning production department
will bring it all together to create a one-of-a-kind educational experience!

Several of the other educational shows we’ve produced,
including Earth, Moon and Sun, Magic Tree House Space Mission and Solar System
, have been leased by planetariums throughout the US and around the
world. Grossology and You is sure to be another favorite. We look forward to
sharing it with you in early 2014.

Denise Young is Morehead’s director of education and planning.

Check out the trailer for our newest show – Solar System Odyssey. This show is a character-driven adventure set in the future, in a time when humans have depleted the resources of their home planet. A business tycoon recruits our hero, Jack Larson, on a mission to discover a new home for humans to colonize.

Join Jack Larson and stowaway, Ashley Trout, on a wild ride through our Solar System as they look for answers to these questions: How are the worlds of our Solar System alike? How are they different? What must those worlds have in order for humans to live there?

The journey takes the audience on an exciting exploration of our cosmic neighborhood, including the icy rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s volcano-ridden moon IO and the sub-zero methane lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan.

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

The production department here at Morehead has been hard at work the last year and a half putting together our newest fulldome show – Solar System Odyssey. The show is meant for audiences 10 and up and will open sometime in the fall.

The story takes place far in the future with an Earth on the verge of environmental collapse. Billionaire Warren Trout thinks he can make a fortune colonizing the rest of the solar system and sends space pilot Jack Larson to find out where. But there’s one thing he didn’t count on – Ashley, Trout’s daughter, has stowed away on board the ship and has her own ideas. You’ll learn about the solar system, moons, space junk and have a fun time while you’re at it.

Check out the teaser trailer:

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

Now you can watch the latest Science 360 from the comfort of your own computer screen (although it’s much more fun to come in to see it and check out a Planetarium or laser show while you’re at it). But right now you’re probably sitting on your couch and wondering, “Why do plants have flowers? How do flowers develop? What secrets are hidden in their genes, and how could those secrets affect our lives?” I know you are – don’t lie to me. Watch the vid below and find out the answers. When you’re done, check out some of our other videos on our youtube and vimeo channels.

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager. He is ready for lunch. No, seriously.

The production team is hard at work putting the finishing touches on the new digital version of one of Morehead’s most popular planetarium shows, “Magic Tree House: Space Mission.” We’re set to wrap our seven month production at the end of September when it will be mixed in 5.1 surround sound. The story and even the audio from the original show is almost exactly the same, except for one change – the voice of Jack. We worked with new voice over actor Blake Pierce (seen here with writer Will Osborne) to record a slightly older sounding Jack voice.

But the majority of our time has been spent using 3D animation and modeling to create more realistic and immersive environments for Jack and Annie to explore. Check out this still from a reimagined scene below!

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

11 Aug 2008

The students who work here at MPSC Production don’t just get us coffee and do our dry cleaning. That does take up most of their time, but when they have a spare moment, they get a little animating done as well.

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Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

What fuels our Morehead animators? Coffee? Jolt? Taser shots to the head? Nope. Turns out it’s lettuce. Iceberg lettuce, to be exact. That’s what Jim brought in for lunch today. That’s it. Just lettuce. This is a troubling sign. I give him until Friday until he’s collapsing on the floor and seeing rainbow animals dancing around the room. Maybe this is how they came up with Fantasia over at Disney…

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

22 Jul 2008

I know what you’re thinking, “uhhhh, aren’t coyotes normally naked, Jay? Duh.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re freakin’ hilarious. But check this out. For those of you new to the fabulous world of 3D animation, this is what we call a wire frame. This wire frame is of the coyote in front of a chalkboard – the same as you can see in the previous blog post.

A wireframe is somewhat like a wire mesh that is squished, extruded, twisted and pulled to create models that will eventually be skinned or “textured” so that they look solid. Typically, a default gray texture is wrapped around the object so that the designer can get a better sense of what the object looks like. After the objects are modeled, they then have to be textured, animated, lit and finally rendered. But more about that next time…

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

15 Jul 2008

This is an early render of “Coyote,” Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s first 3D character created for our first full dome planetarium show by Morehead Digital Artist, Jim Kachelries.

Coyote is a know-it-all when it comes to science, but the truth is, he’s always wrong. In this show, we take the opportunity to correct Coyote’s misconceptions about the Earth, the Moon and the Sun and let you know the facts. Especially if you’re a third grader and think the sun is on fire. Which it is not. Or so I’ve heard.

Stay tuned for more photos from the new show and maybe even some short videos.

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

domefest 2008Denise (our Director of Education), Peter and Jim (two of our digital animators) and I met up with Richard (our Star Theater Director) and Mickey Jo (our theater manager) out in Chicago at the Adler Planetarium to attend the International Planetarium Society conference as well as DomeFest 2008 last week.
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Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

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