Tutorial: Making the Fulldome Frame Border in After Effects

A tutorial! Finally!

In my efforts to put up a video podcast tutorial – my first – I’ve so far discovered that I talk too much. Or at least, I wrote too much for me to easily speak without making more voice stumbles than I’m comfortable with. Further, my ability to read and talk and point and click at the same time is severely limited. I never got more than five minutes into a take before realizing how much editing I’d have to do just to get it presentable, and – long story short – many months of procrastination ensued.

So instead I’ll be putting all the details in text, and below you’ll find a quick bare-bones video that just gives you the step-by-step process. One of these days maybe I’ll find my voice for smooth off-the-cuff podcasting. It will take some practice. I’ll even one day record an introduction that doesn’t include an apology for the overall roughness of the finished product. Am I overthinking all of this? Yup. – Drew

Fulldome Frame Border

So it’s not all that exciting an effect, but I’d like to share the first thing I do whenever I start a new fulldome project in After Effects, which is create the dome frame – the border that defines the circular shape of the fulldome image. (I suppose the word ‘frame’ could be a little confusing because it could also refer to a single frame of animation, but I’m sticking with it anyway. If there’s an ‘official’ name for this thing I’d be curious to know. I looked in the draft specs of the IMERSA standards document and didn’t see it specifically referenced, so maybe there isn’t yet a name.)

The dome frame is the topmost layer in any fulldome project. It helps us determine where the edge of scene is while we’re animating, and masks out anything that falls beyond. Plus, without it, you risk having a little bit of video data spilling over the edge of your dome, if your projectors aren’t perfectly masked off.

The dome frame also happens to provide a handy place to put some metadata about the show: the frame number and time code, the name of the show, your logo, and so on. Added bonus: if you put all of these layers together into one comp along with your audio track, you won’t have to worry about syncing audio with your time code again. Trim or move the dome frame comp around all you like – it won’t matter, your time code and your audio stay together.