The Jena FullDome Festival

In 2007, a group of committed students and university teachers met in the Jena Planetarium to experience their first own works for the new 360-degree medium. The FullDome Festival was born. It is now the oldest and the only fulldome festival with an unbroken continuity. In eleven years, the festival has matured. But we are still in the volunteer stage with just three to four persons dedicating their time to organize and perform the FullDome Festival.


Short overview

With about 800 contributions from 30 nations and more than 500 visitors per year, the FullDome Festival is most probably the biggest international festival of its kind.

Visitors do not only see and evaluate a great variety of international fulldome films, they meet professional, student and independent producers and take part in paper sessions, workshops, diverse presentations and expert talks.

Festival curators, an international jury and the festival directors evaluate the submitted works and select the most interesting and innovative productions for the festival from these submissions and determine the works for one of the festival’s awards.

The most desirable trophy is the “JANUS” award, which is presented in a maximum of ten categories. We hope not to exaggerate when we say that among Fulldome producers, the award is compared with the Academies famous “Oscar”.

In the second year the first short films (only a very small number at that time) were shown. Now we get more submissions than we can show.


So what are we doing?

We present the latest international fulldome productions. All films and works submitted must be produced in the current or previous year.

We offer a unique platform to promote the 360-degree medium. To achieve this we organize panels, lectures, workshops, discussion rounds, demonstrations and much more with experts in the different fields of visualizing, sound design, communicating, applied techniques and marketing. We want to continue the „Frameless Forums“ of 5 to 10 minute short contributions, a format successfully introduced in 2016, so as to offer a platform for still more players in the fulldome community.

We know that participants appreciate the personal contacts during the sessions and breaks. The development and expansion of personal networks is a key element of the festival. Getting kindred spirits into contact, inspiring new ideas and promoting collaboration is one of the strengths of the Jena FullDome Festival. If you are looking for talents the Jena Festival is a really good choice. A number of the students who contributed to the festival in previous years are now employed in planetariums and elsewhere in the field of immersive media.

We especially focus on artistic experiments in the 360-degree dome and student short films. A core mission of the FullDome Festival has always been to encourage students to stretch the envelope of what’s possible in the dome. It is amazing to see completely new approaches to the medium at each festival. Many are really creative, some even can compete with professional works. For most students, the FullDome Festival not only offers an introduction to the medium, it is often the only way to present, and is one of the few public venues.


How is the Festival characterized?

The Festival is open to participants from all over the world. It acts independently from producers, manufacturers and institutions. We have established very good relationships with German universities and we are pleased about the increasing participation of students from abroad. Submissions come from Germany, the United States, Poland, China, England, Canada, UK, and other countries.

With “Bauhaus in the Stars” we have set the first festival motto in 2009. We had “VisualLiszt” for the Franz Liszt year 2011, “Dissolving Space” in 2012, “Ornamental Dances” in 2013, “Ahead in the Curve” 2014 and “Frameless Frenzy” in 2015. The motto in this year is “The Power of Twelve”.

Another specialty of the FullDome Festival are the late night activities. In 2017 J Walt presented his Lucid Dreamscapes. We had a wonderful night with Roman Zavada playing piano under (virtual) northern lights the other year. Percussionist James Hood performed live in the big Jena dome.

For a couple of years Festival Director Micky Remann is organizing and directing opening performances in the dome. These are theatrical events involving all kind of media.


What about full-length feature films?

Since 2010 feature shows are regularly part of the program. We tried to show as many as possible. Two years ago we decided to nominate feature films for the FullDome Festival and to limit the number for two reasons. One is the presence of other film festivals. In the last years many new festivals have been created, some of them have passed. Nearly all of the other festivals just present films. That is good for all people in the market for films for their theaters.

The second and more important reason is to better serve producers. Presenting their shows will help to market them. What we are missing in the fulldome film business are professional reviews and evaluations. Even though they cannot replace watching the films before licensing, the reviews can help in the decision process and shall give producers a professional feedback.

Nominated feature films therefore are curated for the FullDome Festival screenings and the reviews are published. Moreover, the festival audience has the possibility to assess the contributions by uniform criteria.



Where are we heading?

For us, the development of Festivals in the world was and still is, an opportunity to rethink the festival’s structure and program. How to serve the community best? What are the expectations of producers, planetarium people and the public?

We believe that we shall organize a program which let participants experience how and where the immersive medium develops. The FullDome Festival stands for educational content, primarily in the astronomical and scientific context, but also for media dome projects, as well as for entertaining and cultural topics.

The Jena FullDome Festival wants to encourage people from planetariums, fulldome theatres, universities, museums, creative artists, pioneers and vendors to explore and embrace fulldome as an educational tool, as an immersive art form, and as mind-altering experience also in the future.


So what is the future of the FullDome Festival?

We have quite many ideas and plans to develop the Festival even further and we are open to suggestions and feedback of the community.

For the first time the Fulldome Festival Foundation awards non-refundable grants to support the production budget of student fulldome films. The purpose of the Grants is to encourage creative ideas for fulldome shows and help financing the production process.

There will be a major add-on to the FullDome Festival in 2018. IMERSA and FullDome Festival want to support their respective activities and combine networks in order to strengthen and streamline their agenda and discuss effective strategies for creative productions and future-oriented marketing. For the first time in its 12 year history, the Jena FullDome Festival will be hosting an “IMERSA Day” on May 27, 2018. The development of technologies, production and distribution will be discussed by international representatives of the fulldome community. Both organizations, IMERSA and Full Dome Festival, hope to increase the involvement of European partners to the benefit of all parties.

Financing the Festival is a major question. We rely on the support of the industry and partners. We are looking for sponsors to support the festival and to endow awards. We are looking for curators to preview and review submitted films and we are looking for all kind of support. If you are interested, please contact us.

(from a presentation at IMERSA summit 2018 in Columbus, Ohio by Volkmar Schorcht)