Moonbase: The Next Step was produced by Emmy award-winning visual effects studio, Moonraker VFX, which specialises in TV, film and immersive video for visitor attractions. The studio has extensive experience in Natural History programming including for National Geographic and the BBC.
Moonbase is an immersive 4K Fulldome feature film that demonstrates innovation in storytelling in a number of ways. Firstly, Moonraker brought the full weight of its industry leading VFX talent to bear on the film, creating stunning photoreal CGI and raising the bar for production quality for the Fulldome edutainment genre.
Moonbase is a story of human endeavour exploring a not too distant future where humanity has made a permanent base on the Moon. The narrative centres around the search for valuable frozen water in the permanently dark craters on the Moon’s south pole, which is crucial for the base’s continued existence, as it can be used for both human consumption and also, when split into hydrogen and oxygen, as rocket fuel for a refuelling station in lunar orbit.
The hostile environment presents a series of challenges and Moonbase shows how they might be overcome with science and engineering, from mining water and powering the base with solar energy to avoiding solar radiation storms.
Perhaps the most innovative and unique aspect of Moonbase’s production was being the first studio to use new film reviewing software, Festoon, co-created by Moonbase’s Executive Producer, Ruth Coalson.
Designed for content producers working in immersive video formats, Festoon allows film review in a virtual cinema environment. The groundbreaking software allows creators to review films with a VR headset without having to visit a real Fulldome theatre, saving time and money.
With Moonbase developed during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Festoon became a vital part of the company’s workflow, during a time when in person reviewing of content was impossible. It also allowed collaboration with VFX freelancers across the globe. Being the first studio to use the software, Moonbase’s team were also able to provide vital early stage feedback and bug testing to Festoon’s developers.
Moonraker originally chose to tell the story in Fulldome because of the synergy of content and form that it offered. In Fulldome audiences can witness a spectacle on a simulated field trip to the Moon in immersive 360-degree video—the next best thing to actually being there! The experience is memorable, entertaining and educational, so Fulldome has proven to be the perfect vehicle for the project’s storytelling goals.
To open up the Moonbase experience to more audiences it has subsequently been released in similarly immersive IMAX and Giant Screen formats.
Fulldome created many challenges and required techniques unique to the format. In traditional filmmaking different shot sizes are a common language, but in Fulldome, sound effects in surround sound as well as visual cues were used to guide the audiences’ attention to the area of the screen where, for example, a rocket ship would soon be appearing.
Right down to the tiniest detail Moonraker used experts to ensure the film was scientifically accurate.
To add to the film’s sense of realism NASA astronaut, Nicole Stott, was chosen to be the narrator, which she did excellently, bringing to the production a voice of informed authority and gravitas earned during her 27 years working at NASA.
Finally Moonbase is also an example of Moonraker’s own innovation, because it is the company’s first original intellectual property available for licensing—part of Moonraker’s long term growth strategy—and the first time it has produced a film in the Fulldome format.
Moonbase has evidenced an original and innovative approach to storytelling, from the future focused content, experiential screen formats and choice of narrator to utilising groundbreaking film review software to communicate with our global team during the difficult COVID-19 lockdowns.