Black Holes

Black Holes: 10th Anniversary Edition

Clark Planetarium, Salt Lake City, USA

Film review by Volkmar Schorcht

An audience success in the new look

After ten years and on the occasion of 100th anniversary of the Theory of General Relativity, the Clark Planetarium has once again presented one of its most successful shows. Now in 4k resolution, with improved graphics, an excellent soundtrack and a wealth of knowledge about the most mysterious objects in the universe. While losing nothing the show has visibly increased in quality and will fascinate many planetarium visitors.

The beginning features increased drama. A planet breaks apart under the influence of a Black Hole. The music and sound effects are a delicacy for the ears, perfectly synchronized with what is presented to us visually. We learn of stars of varying masses, their respective balances between nuclear fusion and gravity, and how differently they meet their doom. Yes, even stars die. In the chapters that follow, the film walks us through how we have arrived at the theory of Black Holes. From our observational evidence of these objects, their effects on space and time in the universe lead us to the super massive Black Hole in the center of our own Milky Way and finally let some science fiction emerge. Consistently interesting and varied, in total, much food for thought for the interested layperson.

»Black Holes« is an in-house production from the Clark Planetarium so appropriate standards should be considered. The visualizations are classes better than in the first version. Regarding the quality of the film, we do not need to shy away from a direct comparison with the quality coming out of professional production studios even if it cannot, understandably, outperform on all levels. The visual language is based on 3D and 2D animations, often alternating with didactic graphics and mixing the two. The changing in graphic styles does not always have the most ideal outcome, but is quite pragmatic. The subtlety of modeling and textures could have been improved upon. The visualization of the Black Holes themselves should amaze the layperson. What especially stands out is the Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way with the swirling stars, which even exhibit quite classic points. The representation of the fusing of massive Black Holes is probably also unique in the fulldome world. And the sound rocks! Less convincing are the flat black and white images from the history of exploration, which are placed somewhat carelessly in virtual space. Less of these images would be better. The authors are also not afraid to present the audience with formulas which few will understand. But these formulas belong to the world of science and it is not wrong to remember this fact. Excessive demand on the audience may occur from time to time, for example, when the Hubble telescope is brought to the visual stage as a matter of course without giving any explanation. Can any visitor understand that the animation into the Hubble leads him or her to one of its most important images, which shows us the effects of gravitational lensing, but requires corresponding comprehension?

The “spaghettification” of an astronaut, already impressive in the first version, is painfully impressive here, especially with the sounds of a medieval rack. Not only for science fiction fans, the conclusion offers open questions into the physics of the Black Holes and still leaves room for curiosity.

The voice of US actor John de Lancie as a reporter in the background is a spot on. His quiet and clear pronunciation is excellently guided by the topic, which can be truly described as deep. The soundtrack by Joe Stohel is simply too good to characterize as a background music. The last whistle goes to the sound effects which make the most beautiful scenes in the film all the more affective.

Definitely recommended, the show will find its audience. Because what you always wanted to know about Black Holes can be found here!

11th Fulldomen Festival, May 18, 2017