“I feel lucky to be one of the few people in the world currently working in live-action fulldome formats: as an independent artist with a background in documentary storytelling, it’s becoming clear that I have a chance to occupy a special niche in this field.”

Jonathan VanBallenberghe is a recipient of a 2015 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Artist Research and Development Grants are designed to support the advancement of artistic research, aid in the development of artistic work and recognize the contributions individual artists make to Arizona’s communities. For more information about the Artist Research & Development Grant, click here.

VanBallenberghe_Stilts1_aFulldome cinema– the art of making films for 360-degree, dome-shaped screens– is a new art form which offers the viewer an immersive experience of a place or a performance that almost compares to being there live. Traditionally, such screens have only been common in planetariums, which have mostly produced presentations composed entirely of computer graphics and animation due to inherent difficulties with capturing live-action video for fulldome display. Only in the last few years has technology, specialty cameras and complex rigging, made it possible to produce live-action presentations for this format.
VanBallenberghe_aTucson artist Jonathan VanBellenberghe is building on previous experience in fulldome documentary video production to create local content for the University of Arizona’s brand new fulldome system at their Flandrau Planetarium. His short films will screen before regular programming. Excited to extend his fulldome filmmaking in a more artistic direction, VanBellenberghe is developing innovative and experimental techniques and aims to record a variety of local subjects: native wildlife, monsoon weather and signature city events such as the All Soul’s Procession. As well, he is eager to share his knowledge, and his enthusiasm, with film students and other local filmmakers through talks in film classes and presentations at the Flandrau fulldome theater.

Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Jonathan VanBallenberghe has lived in Tucson, Arizona, since 1999. He received an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona in 2001, and for the next four years taught high school English at the original BASIS charter school. In 2005 he and his wife, Sharon Wahl, created Open Lens Productions, which has produced independent documentaries, wildlife films, commercials, website videos and fulldome planetarium shows. Jonathan’s passion for documentary filmmaking carries over into his commercial work. The videos he makes for businesses, performers, universities and non-profit organizations feature an engaging documentary style and employ a range of cinematic techniques, including time-lapse cinematography, creative color-grading and the use of small HD point-of-view cameras.

VanBallenberghe HeadshotJonathan VanBallenberghe’s documentary films have screened at festivals including SXSW, Tribeca (Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary Short), the American Conservation Film Festival and the Arizona International Film Festival (where he is a three-time winner of Best of Arizona). The topics of these films range from ostrich farming to gambling addiction to the troubled private life of a self-help guru. Other honors include an Artists Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts (2004), an Artists New Work Grant from the Tucson/Pima Arts Council (2012), two Gold Addy Awards and the listing of two films (Guru and The Ostrich Testimonies) in the book AZ100 Indie Film: A State of Arizona Centennial Celebration (2012).

Perspectives: Jonathan VanBallenberghe

"The biggest challenge is training your brain how to see in the 360, because there's no viewfinder for that. You can only see what you recorded when you bring it back to the computer and input it into the sphere. You train your brain by experience-- by repeatedly filming, stitching, and projecting."

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