Hanging like a jewel in the dark, the Earth shines as depicted on NOAA's Science On a Sphere, even in a grainy cell phone snap!
Aboard that rocket is the accumulated effort of many diverse people, spanning years and miles. As it rises into space, the major engineering phase ends and the operational scientific phase begins --Photo by Bill Ingalls, NASA
A rocket very similar to this one will carry the GPM satellite into space. The whole enterprise is the product of hundreds of people, all working to do something none of them could do alone.
This blog differs from most weekly postings in that it's not so much about creativity as it is about the creativity that we do. To put it bluntly: this is our sales pitch.
Production houses come and go like seasonal blossoms. New creative teams show up with bright bursts of color, expend enormous sums of energy running around town, displaying their wares, only to fade into the background foliage as relentless entropy ultimately takes its toll. No doubt there are always a few standouts that rise and thrive, overcoming the forces of evolutionary pressure. They thrive and they continue to journey.
Let's be clear: we are not new to the scene. As the saying goes, "There's a reason for that." (Many, we like to think!)
People ask us what we do at 1AU Global Media. Here's what I like to tell them: we engage creative challenges and invent solutions.
1AU Global Media is a full service creative boutique. We produce exciting multimedia content for diverse audiences. From video production for corporate and government clients to dynamic database driven content on mobile platforms, to development of exciting live events in small conference rooms or huge performance halls, 1AU has you covered. Our team has a deep expertise in translating complex subjects to general audiences. With decades of collective experience designing content for NASA, NOAA, the Department of Energy, FEMA, and more, we understand how to turn even the most challenging material into dynamic, accessible presentations.
What if you're the one giving the presentation? Are you going to be in front of a crowd, speaking on camera, presenting something vital? We can help you there, too. 1AU offers media coaching and communications consultation services, including prep for on-camera appearances and senior level speech and presentation development.
Want to know more? Get in touch, and let us help you take your dream…and go farther.
The choreography rivals precision aerial acrobats. The teamwork reflects the forward line of a pro football team. This is the vanguard of NASA's mechanical engineering corps, and to experience them at their full operational power is to gain a profound appreciation for how much more goes into spaceflight than big, booming rockets.
Ages range from mid-twenties well into mid-sixties. A handful of women in the ranks reflects a slowly changing demographic, but it's still mostly a male crew. A visitor may have to look carefully, however. The clean room "bunny" suits everyone must wear has a way of turning human morphology into ambulatory, genderless marshmallows. They're always funny the first time someone suits up. Then they're not. Proper clean room garb includes non-static jumpsuits embedded with micro-mesh electro-diffusion wires, designed to insure that even the smallest discharge of static electricity has no chance of damaging delicate circuit boards. Face masks, hair bonnets, rubber gloves, and electrostatically inert booties complete the ensemble. Different missions have levels of "clean", necessitating nuanced differences in clean room attire, but generally speaking, wearers get used to the extra layers in no time.
The mechanical team handles physical aspects of satellite readiness. How do you move a delicate, billion dollar bird around the globe? That's mechanical's job.
Wrenches and muscle power come into play, of course, but the mechanical team needs to be knowledgable about a range of disciplines. Working closely with electrical engineers, environmental specialists, satellite designers and more, seemingly simple decisions go through rigorous analysis and consideration before they're implemented lest unintended down-stream consequences accrue.
That is, of course, the plan. When things come down to old fashioned common sense, this is the team you want to have.
Standing next to Mechanical Team Lead Jay Parker, I watch as the crew prepares to extract the satellite from it's L-frame, the mounting skeleton in which it travelled around the world in its shipping box. "See this?" he says. "There's only three inches of clearance between the satellite and the frame. We can't just lift it up and out. Too tight." The massive overhead crane can handle the weight, but the problem is a risk that part of the fragile solar array scrapes the structural girders of the frame. He tells me the plan is to simply release the satellite from it's mounting base, and slide it out of the frame horizontally. To the question about how his guys plan to keep the satellite inside it's narrow safety envelope, he deadpans, "Very carefully." The technique involves little more than horse sense, patience, superb teamwork, and a sculptor's gaze before striking chisel to stone: they're going to eyeball the situation and simply make sure the satellite doesn't swing where it shouldn't.
Twenty-minutes later the satellite hangs in space, suspended from high-tension cables. Free of its shipping skeleton, the team begins moving it slowly across the vast integration facility where it will be attached to a special articulating table. Centimeter by centimeter, the bunny suited experts make these moves look easy. On the way to space, these stately, precision maneuvers on the ground matter just as much as lighting the main engines.
The tough mathematics of orbital mechanics describes how satellites fly around a planet. But the alpha-dog engineers who get satellites into orbit are tough orbital mechanics of a different sort. Two days out of Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, I'm traveling with a no-nonsense team of engineers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on a mission to deliver a billion dollar research satellite to the spaceport that will send it up. If you're thinking that Andrews is an out-of-the-ordinary departure zone you'd be right, but then again this is no ordinary trip. When you're shipping a one-of-a-kind, school-bus sized satellite halfway around the world, you don't simply check it at the counter. That's why the team booked a ride on one of the nation's biggest beasts of the air, the legendary C5-M Galaxy Cargo plane. Way atop the cargo hold, the team tries to settle in to the windowless passenger compartment. Down below, in the airplane's cavernous belly, a massive white box surrounds our spacecraft, clearing the ceiling only by centimeters. A large flat bed truck trailer rides a'foredeck as well, just to make sure the satellite has a comfy ride from the airport to it's next destination. The mostly middle aged team mixes easily with the young Air Force crew shepherding us. A crewman offers us blankets and pillows at the start. We understand the flight is going to a be cold one, and those who accept the offer are intensely grateful. We also receive earplugs, something that turns out to be more than just a good idea. The C5 rumbles like the inside of a locomotive; it's relentless and exhausting. The cabin temperature has most of us in hats and gloves beneath our blankets, but it's our feet that scream for attention most. Just like road signs that say, "bridge freezes before road surface", the floor loses heat to the vast open cargo space below. No one complains, or at least not much. The galley is stocked with fare far better than any commercial flight, and hungry, frozen team members fill plates with chicken wings, crab cakes, sandwiches, and cheesecake. The plan is to partially circumnavigate the globe in about sixteen hours, but nine hours into the trip, we're wheels down in at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, near Anchorage. It was not supposed to go like this, but things change on one-of-a-kind itineraries. An initial plan to refuel in mid-air got scotched because of intense headwinds that threw off range calculations. Now overnight in Alaska, a cascade of logistical complexity has the team grumbling…but not for long. After all, this is a NASA mission through and through, and the "can-do" spirit that made the Space Agency the country's shining star has the team considering options with laser beam focus. Contingency plans are in the works, and the plan is to press on tomorrow for Japan. Traversing a frigid Alaskan parking lot,we find ourselves at the Elmendorf AFB bowling alley, scrounging for supper. This morning it's back to the sky. A team waits for us in Japan; there's an H2-A rocket there waiting for it's payload. After all, scientists can't think about science, let alone orbital mechanics, without orbital mechanics getting their machine up into orbit.
THE DAY IT RAINED
This week's blog post was going to be something of a fist pump, a shout-out, a cheer. But life is what happens after you make plans.
This Thursday evening at The Space Foundation in Colorado Springs was supposed to be a sparkling world premiere for our newest movie called WATER FALLS. Hands down the most complex, sophisticated spherical movie ever made, I think I speak for all those who worked on it when we say we were geeked to release it into the world.
But the government shutdown changed things. WATER FALLS was commissioned by NASA; it's a NASA project, about a NASA mission. As a part of the federal government…well, you can see where this is going. The premieres at The Space Foundation and then again two days later at The Wild Center in upstate New York have been cancelled. Cause? The government shutdown. Without a functioning government, NASA cannot engage in active release of media products, even if made by contractors.
But let's not dwell on things we cannot control. WATER FALLS is beautiful! It's the most recent in a string of spherical movies we've made, dating back to the world's first in 2006. Making movies for spheres is not like making rectangular movies just wrapped around a curved surface. Many of the fundamental rules of cinema go out the window. We've developed a substantial and rather radical list of our own photographic, animation, and production techniques, and ever time we get into one of these things there never seems to be any limit to what's possible. But that's the soul of the creative process, isn't it? There are always new vistas, new horizons, and new observations, even for the most familiar things in the world.
But you know what? Exasperated, frustrated, even (to be honest) a little MAD!…we're pros. The movie is finished, and even though it isn't going to be released with all the hoopla we hoped for, we look forward to the day when we can invite you to the show.
And hey, guess what? 1AU is a busy place these days, with new, exciting projects in the hopper and lots of dynamic, creative energy bubbling. Here on the blog you can always expect to find ideas and inspirations about the creative world, as well as news of our latest public exploits, of course. We're working on great new pieces with all sorts of exciting potential, and we look forward to sharing news as they develop.
We'd love to hear from you, too. Have questions or thoughts about WATER FALLS? Drop us a line! Have questions or ideas about media or communications projects you're thinking of pursuing? Visit our contact page or write to us at
Get in touch and let your ideas…go farther.
Twitter @michaelstarobin Facebook facebook.com/1auglobalmedia
This week we're focusing on some production news from the team at 1AU Global Media. As many of our loyal readers know, we do a lot of work for NASA, and this fall marks one of the most substantial projects we've ever designed for the Space Agency. It's called WATER FALLS, and it's coming to Science On a Sphere theaters around the world in just a couple of weeks.
If you aren't familiar with it, Science On a Sphere is a remarkable video playback technology developed by NOAA. It presents still and moving images on a completely round screen, viewable by anyone in the room. The team at 1AU is one of the world's most experienced and most successful in producing movies for this extraordinary surface. (You can see a number of examples in our demo reel.) Our first movie called FOOTPRINTS was named one of Time Magazine's best inventions of the year.
On October 10th of this year our latest film will debut. WATER FALLS opens at a world premiere party at The Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado, followed two days later by a launch event at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York. Immediately following these events, the movie moves into the public domain, released worldwide to the sphere community. NASA commissioned the movie to engage audiences with the upcoming launch of one of it's largest Earth science missions ever. Called Global Precipitation Measurement, or GPM, the multinational research initiative will study global precipitation worldwide. As precipitation is a key aspect of the world's water cycle, as well as circulation of energy in the atmosphere, GPM promises to gather vital data about major aspects of Earth's changing climate.
We're breaking ground with the release of WATER FALLS. The movie will demonstrate new live action shooting techniques, animation techniques, editing solutions, all wrapped in a muscular storytelling wrapper. The movie will also be released with a thorough set of educational materials, a robust website and more.
Want to see it? You can find a complete list of theaters on the official website, and of course there's a social media component, too. The movie's Twitter hashtag is #waterfalls, and you can keep up with the NASA mission it's about at #GPM. Expect to see more about the movie's release in this space in the next few weeks.
Spherical surfaces are striking and beautiful and useful in all sorts of compelling ways, from movies to video signage to fine art and more. But spheres are only one part of our portfolio. If you're interested in exploring how we can make something spectacular for you, get in touch, and let your ideas…go farther.
PS I tweet from time to time. You can follow me @michaelstarobin if you'd like to see what I'm thinking about.)
PPS We also have a Facebook page. Visit (and "like us") at facebook.com/1auglobalmedia
PPPS Like this whole blog thing? Like what it does for your day? Do you ever mention ideas you encounter in this blog to someone else in your life? If so, share the link! Sure, it sounds like a ploy for free, crowd-sourced advertising, and guess what: it is! If you do spread the word, we'll simply appreciate. We might even bake you a batch of your favorite cookies. (Just ask!)
We're all-systems-quiet this week, spending time with family and friends. Please visit us next week as we kick off 2013 with an important blog posting about a recent, mainstream educational initiative that threatens the creative souls of our nation. Intrigued? Bookmark us, set an alarm in your calendar, or stick a post-it note to your bicycle's handlebars. You need to read it, (See? Foreshadowing!) and you need to share it far and wide.
Until then, enjoy the final week of 2012…and next year, plan to GO FARTHER…with 1AU Global Media, LLC
The Mayan prediction of apocalypse has come to pass. What could possibly be weighing on your mind?
This time of year things simultaneously slow down and speed up. Theaters fill with expectant popcorn munchers eager for escape, while countless Lego sets rise above millions of carpeted floors, earnestly striving for architectural transcendence. Productivity in workplaces across the nation slows down unless you're in the catering business. Families spend time reacquainting themselves with others who share the same living spaces, a temporary relaxation of modern academic and occupational pressures inducing an odd temporal rift in the space time continuum.
Artists especially look back and look forward, sometimes in the same glance. Here at 1AU, we're reflecting on a great year. As a team, we've grown in ways that can only be described as exciting. Technical capabilities are razor sharp, and creative invention has never been more keenly honed. We completed some thrilling projects in 2012, expanding our roster of clients in the process, and developing relationships we're confident will have long lives ahead of them. 1AU staff appeared at numerous public speaking events, too, getting great audience reactions and a flurry of new connections. Plus (you don't mind if we boast for a moment, do you?) it's always fun to speak at events where your team's work is up for an award.
2013 promises continued growth along this path. Members of our team are already booked for several great live presentations in the coming year. More importantly we're deep in pre-production for a range of thrilling new projects, some flat, some round, some online, all inventive and engaging.
Trends in the industry suggest that the extraordinary era of change and transition in modern media will only intensify and expand. Movie ticket sales continue along a hard-to-predict curve; television as we know it is the same as it ever was, while simultaneously fresh and new, too. Mobile media clearly has become the newest solution for everyone's media needs, both upscale and down, but as everyone knows, what looks like the "new normal" may only stay that way as long as the next new thing hasn't appeared yet.
But here's the one thing we're confident will remain consistent: 1AU Global Media will be out front. For me, I continue to take great, humble satisfaction in getting to work with such a great team. I'm inspired, I'm reinvested, and I'm grateful. As we work on new pieces for a wide variety of government, corporate, and private clients, we're also developing our own projects in-house. (More on that in coming months!) As a company, I'm emboldened to dream big dreams, confident that we'll not only persevere, but create products with value, meaning, and clear voices.
We're looking forward to an exciting new year, and in this space you can expect to see more news of our exploits, as well as regular thoughts about world of creativity. We're also looking forward to hearing from you. If you're a current client, a possible client, just a fan or a friend, or perhaps you found us by happenstance on the Infinite World-spanning Interwebs, please drop us a line, either in our comments section or via email. You too…can GO FARTHER.
All the best for a great new year! ...from the team at 1AU Global Media, LLC
PS -- Next week will be pretty quiet here on the blog. Perhaps a word or two, perhaps a picture. But we're just taking a short break. Plan to make us your regular Monday check-in again starting January 7!