Randall O. Peters
For some people their career path is laser straight, mine was more like the feather in the movie “Forrest Gump” adrift on the winds of chance. After graduating from Texas Tech University, I fluttered from job to job until I landed at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s Noble Planetarium. Starting as a volunteer with a keen interest in astronomy within a month I became a fledgling Console Operator, back when running a planetarium was more than pushing a button, finding the flightpath for the rest of my life. Back in the day, all we had to work with was a Sptiz A3P, a dome full of slide projectors and a few special effects but that was enough to take our visitors on flights of imagination that opened their eyes to the wonders of the universe.
Over the next ten years I learned the ins and outs of planetarium operations and production. During this time advances in technology brought affordable video projectors, computers and software that progressed planetarium productions and presentations. Along the way I discovered an aptitude for writing planetarium shows. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as watching the spark of understanding in someone’s eye resulting from words I have crafted. By the time I had worked my way up to Planetarium Manager the winds of change began to blow.
The University of North Texas had just opened a new planetarium, the UNT Sky Theater, and was in need of staff to get things started. I flew at the opportunity to be part of building a planetarium program from the ground up and excepted a position as Planetarium Production Specialist. It was there I was introduced to Digistar 2 and a new way of getting images on the dome. It was a bit of an adjustment going from a star ball, with all of its colored stars, to a digital sky of only green but I managed to wing it. This also brought a chance to address a new audience. The museum productions had been focused on shows for the general public and school children. These groups were still an important part of the Sky Theater’s mission but its major goal was supporting the university’s astronomy program. A lack of commercially available content geared toward academic programming meant we had to produce our own. I spent the next 18 years building that program producing shows for the public, schools and the university also advancing to Planetarium Manager and eventually Planetarium Director. During this time the advent of full dome video came about bringing an end to mounting and masking slides, actually cutting and pasting audio tape and reliance on special effect projectors. The introduction of Digistar 3 brought the entire production and presentation process into the digital realm with all of the challenges and advances that entails. The one thing that hasn’t changed, and my never change, are the words fashioned to bring the curiosities of the cosmos down to earth. With that goal in mind I soared off in a new direction.
I started my own production company, Sirius Productions, with the aspiration of bring what I have discovered creating academic content to a wider audience. While I can come up with the concepts and words the rest of the production process was beyond my limited resources. A partner was needed. Of all the people I have worked with in the past 30 years the only real choice was Aaron McEuen and Starlight Productions. With Aaron’s extensive expertise at hand we began a new endeavor, Starlight Academic Solutions, with the mission of providing universities, colleges and other educational venues with productions that utilize the unique environment of the planetarium to convey information to students with an engaging approach.
Like a feather in the wind my path to planetarium professional would have been difficult to predict. To this very day I count my lucky stars that I took flight on my migration of meaning. I’m a living example of the saying; if you love your job you will never have to work a day in your life.