Swinburne astrophysical research is delivering the universe to movie audiences throughout the world.
Swinburne Astronomy Productions' films have been screened in Australia, UK, USA, Canada, China, Thailand, Germany and Italy.
The Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing is a research group that also produces astronomy 3D animations and films, including a successful IMAX movie. These films are not just about astronomy. They use real astronomical data to produce scientifically accurate images that allow moviegoers to explore the wonder of astronomy and the achievements of astronomers.
The centre was established in 1998, along with a national supercomputing facility that provides computational infrastructure to researchers at Swinburne and astronomers from across Australia.
Almost from its beginnings, the centre set out to use the supercomputing facility to create quality public education and outreach in astronomy.
In support of the centre’s ambition, in 1999, Swinburne funded the development of a virtual reality theatre. The centre set up a dedicated production group with a full-time non-academic animation and programming team to expand the movie portfolio and its audiences.
We went 3D
Swinburne Astronomy Productions has produced 12 short 3D films since the first in 2001 – Our Sun: What a Star! To produce the movies, new research and accepted astronomy concepts have been synthesised, interpreted and communicated. Each film features high-resolution 3D animations using astronomical datasets and is presented using 3D projection techniques. Several of the animation sequences have used visualisation techniques developed by Swinburne researchers.
The films are screened regularly in Swinburne’s virtual reality theatre as part of the centre’s AstroTour outreach program. AstroTours are presented to schools, astronomical societies, special community groups and the general public, reaching around 3000 people each year.
The films are also screened in a network of 3D theatres across Australia and internationally:
- The Parkes Observatory Visitors Centre has screened the films for about 12,000 visitors each year for more than 15 years.
- Sydney Observatory screened the films for around 20,000 visitors each year from 2002 to mid-2015.
- The Ballarat Municipal Observatory and Museum and the University of Western Sydney screen the films for more than 3900 visitors each year.
The films have also been shown at schools, museums and observatories in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, China, Thailand, Germany and Italy.
We got bigger than big
The most successful and popular film is Bigger Than Big, which continues to be screened at many venues. It is the only Swinburne astrophysics film to have screened on Australian national television, appearing on SBS on Tuesday 31 May 2011 to around 253,000 viewers around the country.
Then we went global
Swinburne’s move into IMAX moviemaking, in partnership with December Media, took the team’s established approach and commitment to visual and educational quality to a global scale in 2013. Narrated by British actor Miranda Richardson, Hidden Universe is a 45-minute IMAX movie featuring high-resolution computergenerated images of the earliest galaxies, stars being born, the surface of Mars and distant celestial structures.