Top 5 FAQs...

A. To paraphrase Stephen Hawking: there is no preferred place in the universe. Or, to put it another way, 99 percent of our clients are affiliated with some kind of governmental bureaucracy or educational institution. So in that context, you get the governmental and educational prices already.

We realize budgets can be tight. But please understand: we do the same amount of work on a project no matter who the customer is.

A. Rarely. We can count on two fingers the numbers of show scripts we've ever brought in from the outside in more than 30 years of doing this crazy business. There are many reasons for this, but they all boil down to the following two statements: 1) we have an in-house script writer, who is an expert at the medium and knows our needs; 2) most scripts that fall our way do not fit what we consider the Loch Ness Productions "type."

Judging by the number of times we get asked this question, there are a LOT of people out there who want to write scripts for us and/or want us to publish their shows. It is flattering to us that so many people see us as a publishing house for their shows and we appreciate the sentiment. Sometimes it feels like we're commanding the starship Enterprise and everybody's angling for a chance to serve aboard her.

Now, that is not to say that we aren't interested in suggestions for shows. Our popular show The Cowboy Astronomer came about as a result of a suggestion (commission, actually) by a colleague.

We do distribute selected fulldome shows from outside producers, so if that's what you have — let's talk!

A. If you're a computer graphics artist already experienced in fulldome video production, 3D rendering, and the astronomical planetarium software we use — well, we don't know how you slipped our notice, since such specialized skills would have you in such demand that our fulldome planetarium colleagues would have tried to hire you already. Unlikely, but let us know if that's the case. We are on the lookout for such a person.

If you're not in the profession already and you want to get into this crazy dome stuff, we advise you visit your nearest planetarium and talk to them. That's how we got started. Also, it will be informative to visit many other facilities — they're definitely not all alike.

A. Here on the Web site, each of our Shows pages contains all the information we make available including content descriptions, audience levels, prices, licensing terms, ordering information, full-length show previews and trailers.

Our Software and Star*Lines for Digital Theaters products pages have sample views, prices and ordering information.

On our Geodesium pages, we provide music samples for you to enjoy, in addition to album prices and ordering instructions.

We realize that not everyone has a speedy Internet connection, or access isn't always available. Often, your administrators want a piece of paper to hold. So, in lieu of a catalog, we've made Acrobat PDFs that contain all the information you need to order a show: prices, running times, show descriptions, license terms and more. You can find these on each product page, as well as a collection of them here on our Catalog Downloads page. They're sized to be print-friendly, so go for it.

A. It stems from an old high school nickname, if you must know the truth. You take Petersen, spell it backwards, you get Nesretep — which got shortened to "Nes", and lengthened to "Nessie". Sorry, reality is sometimes less than entertaining.

Actually, we started out as Loch Ness Monster Productions. But many of our planetarium customers have to work through large bureaucracies, with purchasing departments run by humorless people named Ralph and Dottie. These are the ones who call us at 9:01 AM precisely, to ask us how many minorities we have employed and what our drug-testing policies for them are, in order for them to send us their purchase orders. Anyway, they would freak out upon receiving an invoice from "some monster company", then refuse to pay it until the buyer would vouch for our veracity.

So we dropped the word "Monster" from the name, but kept the logo. It's worked for us for more than 30 years now!

About our shows, specifically

A. "From infant to infinity..."

People often ask what age or grade level our scripts are written for. We usually answer "the general public", which is sometimes equated to a 5th- or 6th-grade level. Just preview any of our shows or trailers and you'll quickly discern the show level from the vocabulary used.

Of course, astute observers of all ages will learn much from any of our programs. You can see both pre-schoolers and their grandparents enthralled during a typical Loch Ness Productions show presentation.

We figure if they're capable of comprehending a television show, they'll do all right with one of our shows too.

A. As Lazarus Long once said, "Free tail is invariably worth what you pay for it."

Not only do we have fulldome show trailers on our show pages, we also provide preview versions of each presentation in its entirety, in streaming video form. There's nothing hidden; what you see is what you get (albeit at low Web resolution). Administrators, reviewers, anyone who wants to know any and every thing that's in the show can simply watch and listen.

For classic show users, every visual is also on the Web site in thumbnail form so you know what slides you'll need to be making, along with more soundtrack samples, and about a quarter of the script pages from each classic show package are reproduced.

We feel any reasonable planetarium professional can decide whether our shows are appropriate for their theater from all this.

A. You've done the right thing by asking permission. Thank you — it's required.

In general, yes. We do allow customers to use the Web graphics and sound clips we created for our shows — to promote those shows when they are running in their theaters. And a reciprocal link to us would be most welcome, something along the lines of "This show created by Loch Ness Productions. Check out their Web site." Here are the specifics about how to do that.

But yes, you do have to ask — and in general, you receive. See, we're reasonable people!

About shows and theaters, generally

SHORT ANSWER: Their agents.

LONG ANSWER: Every celebrity has an agent or manager who handles booking and negotiations. These are the people you want to contact.

There are a couple of ways to find out who represents a celebrity. The first is relatively easy: simply point your browser to WhoRepresents.com. Register (it's free). Then use their search form to find the agency information (usually agent name, address, and phone number).

The other way is to contact a regional or national office of SAG-AFTRA.

A. "A monk, a clone, and a Ferengi walk into a bar..."

Creating a fulldome show budget is kind of like going nightclubbing with odd companions. If you don't have any idea where you're going or what you're going to do when you get there, it could be disastrous to your budget and your sanity.

Here's another way to think of a media production — as a construction project. The architect draws up the plans, but has to know the size of the lot, the availability of materials, the design the client wants, and the planned usage of the building. However, it always comes down to the guy with the backhoe who starts out by asking, "How big of a hole do you want to dig?"

While we here at Loch Ness Productions do a variety of multimedia productions, we'll focus here on fulldome shows. You may have heard stories of fulldome productions that cost as little as $10,000 or as much as a quarter million smackers. They're all true. How much they cost to produce depends on lots of factors. Here's what we ask of every grant-writer who calls — they help define the size of the "production hole." Once you have answers to those, we can help you come up with serious and realistic cost numbers.

  • What's the show about? Your choice of topic does influence how it looks, sounds, etc.
  • Who's writing it? Budget in a writer's fee.
  • How long is it? Length of show determines how much visualization (animation, location shooting, etc.) you need to commission, how much music you will need to license, how much studio time to book for voice-over work, etc.
  • What kind of visualization will you be doing? Whether it's animations or location, there are specific costs for doing each type. All visual production costs money and it can get very expensive very fast.
  • What's the source of visualizations? NASA (or some other agency)? Commissioned animations? If you're considering doing video animations, where are you getting the material? Is it available for distribution? Are the visuals (video or stills) all copyright-cleared? Who will do your clearances? Unless you are using visualizations that you know are copyright-cleared, you will need to set aside money for usage fees, phone calls and/or letters asking permission to use images or video for your show. We've seen permission fees ranging from a low of $100.00 to well in excess of a few thousand dollars per usage. Don't forget that after you get the materials, you have to spend some time and money making them ready for fulldome.
  • How many narrators? Do you want a celebrity narrator? If you want a well-known voice, be prepared to pay some money for his/her services, as well as "plus-plus" fees to his/her agency, and union-required pension fund. How much the talent charges depends on his/her fame and availability.
  • What about music? Will it be produced for this show specifically? Using library music? Are all permissions cleared?
  • What resolution will you be creating your dome masters in? This affects render times, compositing times, and other production issues.
  • If you want to distribute the show, who's going to do the distribution? Are you going to charge for the show? What fee structure do you plan to use? Does your granting organization allow you to charge fees for materials produced with their money? If so, how is the fee split between the distributor and the grantee?
  • Does your parent institution charge an "overhead" fee against every grant you bring in? How much? What rules does your granting organization and/or your parent institution have about working with outside, for-profit production companies?

In summary, there's not an easy answer to the question of show budgeting. There is no standard "per-minute" fee structure for fulldome show production. But we've gone through the process dozens of times, and learned some interesting lessons in budget forecasting and cost management. That's expertise we're happy to put to work for you, if you contract with us to work on your project.

A. As James T. Kirk once said in Star Trek IV, "May fortune favor the foolish."

Get a knowledgeable consultant to talk over all the possibilities with you before you get too far down the planning path. We have worked in many different facilities over the years and have gained a lot of experience about what works and what doesn't. We can and do work as consultants to those who are in the planning stages of new facilities. Since we don't sell hardware, we have no vested interest in promoting one manufacturer or hardware vendor over another.

If you follow our advice, you'll end up with a theater capable of presenting professional quality presentations — not only for our shows, but anyone's.

Please feel free to contact us to see how we can work together with you on your project.