Unique NASA film illustrates Earth's water journey, precipitation research initiative

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GREENBELT, MD, Jan. 23, 2014 -- A unique film illustrating water's journey and extensive impact as it cycles through Earth was recently created by NASA and will premiere this month on spherical movie screens across the country.

Titled "Water Falls," the video highlights water's role on Earth as a precious resource that impacts climate, weather, agriculture, urban sustainability, and the natural world. The film also tells the story of the ambitious Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) space-based research initiative, which will use revolutionary technology and a network of U.S. and international satellites to provide a global picture of rain and falling snow.

Designed to help measure rainstorms down to the individual drop, the GPM program can help people all over the world determine when to plant crops, when a hurricane may intensify, where it may flood, or where diseases may be more likely to spread. On Feb. 27, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch the GPM Core Observatory, providing worldwide precipitation measurements every three hours to help scientists understand how freshwater circulates on Earth.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., produced the nine-minute film specifically for the Science-On-a-Sphere media platform -- a video technology that enables moving images to be wrapped around a 50-pound, hollow, round screen. The movie was developed in partnership with the GPM mission and will be hosted by The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, N.Y., and The Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo. It will then be released to more than 100 Science-On-a-Sphere venues worldwide on Friday, Jan. 31.

Through use of animation, data visualizations and videography designed exclusively for playback on spherical screens, "Water Falls" is designed to engage science museum visitors. "For telling a story about studying our whole planet, there's a poetic logic to designing it for a spherical screen," said Michael Starobin, the film's producer at Goddard. "Considering the network of orbiting satellites in the GPM fleet, it's a great thrill to bring it to life with a seemingly endless canvas."

Created by NOAA to display educational, planet-wide data, Science-On-a-Sphere involves a six-foot-diameter carbon fiber sphere that hangs in the center of a dark theater, surrounded by four projectors. Connected to a computer system, the projectors cast images on the circular screen to produce one cohesive picture. The audience surrounds the sphere to watch as the film appears to float before their eyes. "'Water Falls' sets a new standard for spherical filmmaking, and it presents to mainstream audiences the science and substance of GPM in artistic and approachable ways," Starobin said.

Preview a trailer for the film here:

See also: "Conference considers satellite's contributions to understanding global energy, water cycle".


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