Return of the Blog: Where the film is today

The blog has been offline for some time because it just seemed like too much work for me to maintain with everything else. However, we now have a great group of volunteers handling social media updates as well as website updates and that has been working very well. But sometimes a short Facebook post or 140 character Twitter update just does not give enough time to explain things.

I won’t be posting daily, more like once to a few times a week and links to posts will be on social media.

So, where is the film today? Sometimes a picture is worth a thousands words 🙂 Here’s a graphic, with the amounts of colors visually corresponding to how things stand. Be sure to click the image for the full resolution.

December 2014 Status

On the one hand, you can clearly see most of the work is complete. But on the other hand remember this is over an 8 year process, so for every 6 months, the film only gets about 6.25% done. And if I am just 10% wrong about how long the film will take, that’s a 9 month error!

Right now, there are two primary reasons the film is not yet complete and one simple reason why it’s so hard to figure out exactly how much time is left.

  1. The opening section of the film (“Big Bang to Milky Way” in the chart above) is proving to be the most challenging part of the film. We started behind as we lost key volunteers at the beginning of 2014 that started the work on this section. And now there are enormous challenges taking 350,000 images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), cutting them up to 5,500,000 (5.5 Million) images of galaxies and re-assembling as photographic model of the observed universe.
  2. Health challenges – beginning with bad ankle injury (February), continuing with major ankle surgery (July) with rehab still ongoing and concluding with kidney stones and hospital stays (December).

The good news is my ankle surgery is finally healed enough to ease back into normal activity and the kidney stone was hopefully a one-time event due to dehydration likely related to working too-long hours in a hot basement filled with computers and not going upstairs enough (ankle) to drink water.

Also, the volunteers have been making good progress on the opening section and work on the film is resuming. When exactly will be film be done? The truthful answer is “soon”.

That brings me to why it is so hard to estimate a finish date. Almost every aspect of the film has never been done before, by me or anyone else. Photoanimations in other films have been limited from a few seconds to a couple of minutes at longest and made from one to several photographs (multiplane). The multiplane photoanimations in In Saturn’s Rings range from dozens to tens of thousands or in the case of the opening section 500,000 or more photographic layers in a single view!

So we hope and plan and aim to be done soon but we are pioneering through unexplored places in filmmaking. Stayed tuned here for more in-depth posts on the making of the film.


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