Catch a widely marketed new planetarium show making its local premiere this summer, and you might see a familiar name among the credits: Parkland College's own Waylena McCully.
McCully, production designer for the William M. Staerkel Planetarium, created original imagery used in a segment of the new fulldome feature Cosmic Colors: An Adventure Along the Spectrum
, which opens Friday, July 13 at 8 p.m. at the planetarium and plays Fridays through the summer. Cosmic Colors
takes audiences on a wondrous adventure across the electromagnetic spectrum to discover the many reasons for color, like why the sky is blue, grass is green, and Mars is red. Under a rainbow of visible and invisible cosmic light, viewers travel within a plant leaf and inside the human eye; investigate X-rays by voyaging to a monstrous black hole and back; examine the Northern Lights; and even find out what may have been the actual color of a dinosaur, based on recent scientific evidence. The first fulldome program written and produced by the Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA), of which the Staerkel Planetarium is a member, the show is being distributed internationally.
Photographers, animators, and production specialists from around the world collaborated to produce Cosmic Colors
, ultimately converting hundreds of single images into fulldome digital video. The majority of the production work took place at the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. McCully's visual content, contributing 3-1/2 minutes to the 33-minute feature, helped depict scenes that illustrate how different light wavelengths behave as they reach us from the sun. Tapping into her years of experience with Blender digital graphics software and video editing, McCully was able to create 2D and 3D images, models, and special effects that combined with actual images and movies from solar observatories. The segment took several months to complete because she had to work remotely with other production staff, sending samples and receiving critiques and instructions electronically.
"It was exciting to see how the work I created here at Staerkel fit into the broader theme of the show," McCully said. "The William M. Staerkel Planetarium continues to provide great planetarium experiences to folks all across central Illinois, and now we are helping other planetariums across the United States and beyond."
GLPA show producers were familiar with McCully's valuable experience in both older slide-based programming and the new fulldome digital technology when they asked her to join the Cosmic Colors
production team. A University of Toledo geography graduate who has worked at Parkland since 2000, McCully had already coproduced more than 30 original pre-recorded planetarium shows, both for Parkland and the Sudekum Planetarium in Nashville. "It was at Sudekum that I gained my love of production work: scriptwriting, audio production, photography, and planetarium automation system programming," she said. "But knowing that we would eventually be changing to digital presentation methods, I took as many Parkland classes as I could to prepare: computer programming, networking, operating systems, hardware maintenance and digital media classes. Parkland has one of the best Digital Media programs anywhere, and I consider such programs to be ideal for anyone looking to work in planetarium production.
"While my name has appeared in credits for other widely distributed productions, this one feels particularly special," McCully said. "I'm super excited to know that Cosmic Colors
will play in my hometown next year, so my parents will get to see it."
Tickets for Cosmic Colors
, sold at the door, are $5 for adults and $4 for students, senior citizens, and children. The show is targeted for audiences 5th grade and above. For a full schedule of planetarium programming, call the show hotline at 217/351-2446 or see www.parkland.edu/planetarium