11 - Lessons Learned

Two occasional volunteers from game companies, a day a week each from one staff artist with 2D skills, and one project manager: this was the extent of personnel devoted to the project. Staffing was determined by the limits of the startup grant and the project schedule.

Our goal - to create the simplest, cheapest possible workflow for animated dome productions - was not entirely achieved. We discovered some of the reasons that animated films and planetarium productions require many people and large budgets to produce. That said, we have successfully jump started our own dome production unit, created enthusiasm among our students, and found useful and affordable tools and workflows for small dome production.

Two conclusions were reached early on: the 2D artist, who creates all the graphic and promotional artwork for the Girls Club, would need more than one day a week to come up to speed on 3D modeling; and volunteers could advise and occasionally provide useful digital assets, but had limited availability. The project manager devoted more than the anticipated one day a week to the project, in order to keep up with software developments in the field and begin building an appropriate workflow.

This sense of the labor-intensive nature of our effort was a useful finding. Other small dome production staff would likely face similar limitations in available personnel and budget. This sparked increased efforts to find ways to repurpose existing assets - archival, musical, textual, and photographic materials - in addition to the expected original 3D characters and sets.

From the "Trends in Fulldome Production" pdf linked below:

A typical average of what most are spending for a 24-minute 3D animated program (4k x 4k resolution) is probably somewhere in the middle, between $300,000 and $600,000, or from $15,000 to $25,000 per finished minute. 

Using Unity as our platform, we still anticipate being able to devise a lean, agile production method that will allow us to create appealing local programming, for approximately 1/10 the costs in the above budgets. For our purposes, the Unity method provides a useful learning process for our youth production classes, introducing STEM and media concepts in a rapid way, with quick feedback.