Fulldome Production Ca. 25 minutes Script & direction: Tobias Wiethoff
Suddenly it was there, all at once. That day in the summer of 1924, in a room whose dimensions seemed immeasurable, a small group of engineers and craftsmen gazed silently, accompanied only by the noise of a ventilation system, into the deep black of a starry firmament which seemed to reflect the splendor of eternity.
After a construction process that lasted more than a decade and was interrupted by a world war, the projection planetarium was created. Its effect completely surprised even those who directly contributed to its development, such as the Jena engineer Walther Bauersfeld. It was the answer to a task set by Oskar von Miller, the founder of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, for the technical realization of a Ptolemaic planetarium with moving planets, an answer that at first had seemed impossible and grew over a long period of time.
A combination of new optical processes and a revolutionary approach to building a suitable projection dome as an integral part of the concept finally resulted in a construction that far surpassed its initial function as a didactic instrument. In every respect, it was far more than the sum of its glass and metal parts.
Soon after, when hundreds of people lined up on the roof of the Zeiss plant in Jena to take part in one of the first public presentations of this invention, it seemed to some afterwards that they had witnessed a miracle. The machine in the middle of the room, mysteriously operating in the dark, brought back the view of the cloudless starry sky, which after a century of incomparable discoveries, fast industrial development and rapidly growing cities had, even at that time, disappeared in many places behind a grayish veil. The artificial sky demonstrated the course of the planets and was of such an enchanting appearance that a deeply felt experience of nature set in, like a memory long past and almost forgotten.
Cities competed to open such a planetarium as soon as possible. The idea went around the world, so that planetariums could be found in many parts of the world after just a few years. “The Heavens Praise in Glory of the Eternal” – Beethoven’s music set the scene from the gramophones, introducing lectures by astronomers and scientists, who, like artists of all disciplines, soon discovered the star theater and its possibilities for themselves.
A hundred years later, this fascination is unbroken. Many millions of people visit planetariums every year, new planetariums are being built. Projection planetariums are now usually equipped with full dome digital projection systems. However, this technological development has not changed their essence but has revealed facets that were already present in the invention and whose origins reach back deeply into human history.
About the production
Along high-resolution 360˚ imagery and immersive animations, the audience in the production “100 Years of Eternity” embarks on a cultural and historical journey, the individual paths of which converge a century ago in Jena. The production can optionally be presented with digital stars or in combination with an opto-mechanical star projector. “100 Years of Eternity” is easy to follow and converts the fascinating idea of the projection planetarium into a sensual experience.
The production can be used as a complement to the “Kira” production made by the Society of German-speaking planetariums which is supported by a donation of the Carl Zeiss Foundation.
Tobias Wiethoff is the producer of several planetarium programs. He initiated and produced the “DIVE – Festival of Immersive Arts” and other projects in the field of immersion as a shared experience. His professional stations include Jena, Hamburg, and Bochum Planetarium. The production “100 Years of Eternity” is based on his 360˚ lecture project “Planetariums – a history of the star theater”.