The Big Announcement – “In Saturn’s Rings”

The Big Announcement is official. Outside In has a new title… “In Saturn’s Rings”

8 years ago…on July 1st, 2004….after an epic 7 year journey of over 3.5 billion kilometers (2.2 billion miles), the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft arrived at Saturn. I watched it live, in the wee hours of the morning as it completed its amazing braking maneuver right through Saturn’s Rings.

Outside In is now “In Saturn’s Rings”


That’s the moment my journey begin. I had been very discouraged by the lack of media coverage of Cassini’s mission but the perfection of its arrival followed the spectacular closeup images of Saturn’s Rings filled me with awe and excitement. My first thought was “wouldn’t it be amazing to have a film or video camera right there, taking footage of Saturn and the rings“.

The very next day, I wrote a 5 page dialog between two characters debating “why should we explore space?” using Cassini’s photographs as the point of discussion. It was too long for a local film competition, so I started it as a one act play. I called it “Outside In“.

Why “Outside In“? Here’s what my very first draft said:

“Do you what “Outside In” means?”
“It’s an actor’s term. Some actors work from the “inside out”.  In other words, they discover the character from their mental, emotional and psychological inner life. It’s a more modern way of working, more American.”
“And outside in.”
“Outside In is an older, you could say an ancient, technique. It mean an actor using a costume, a prop, an external clue to discover what the character is really about – like putting on a costume, or the beginnings of theater and just using mask. I think it’s about learning about ourselves, outside in.”

 So the dialog was really about the “Overview Effect”, a termed coined by author Frank White to describe the powerful shift in awareness that humans experience journeying to space and seeing Earth – from the Outside In.

But so much has happened since then. The one-act play turned into a 10 minute experimental film. Then the experimental film turned into a 15 minute planetarium film. The big turn was during a chance meeting with James Hyder, Editor and Publisher of LF Examiner, he said “You have to make this as a movie for IMAX theaters”. The original dialogue began to go away, replaced by narration. A brief discussion of “Outside In” and the Overview Effect remained in the film, but even that was fading. I spent years figuring how to animate photographs into motion – the biggest challenge of course was Saturn’s Rings.

Finally, in 2009, after re-watching my favorite film “2001: A Space Odyssey“, I realized the best approach for the film was without dialog, without narration, to allow audience around the world to experience the film as a pure journey, an astronaut’s journey which ends, returning home to gaze on our lovely, fragile blue planet from space.

So while “Outside In” and the Overview Effect are still very much a part of the foundation of the film, it’s no longer the best title for the film. This has become clear as a number of people still have trouble remembering the title as it has no connection to the visuals they see. More critically, each time I screen work-in-progress footage for the giant screen and IMAX theater industry, they fill out surveys that rate the films’ titles. Every year “Outside In” scored “poor” or “very poor”. So this will hurt the film’s chances of being seen as widely as possible.

I’ve wanted to change the title for a couple of years, but change is easy, improvement is hard. A great title just can’t be a cool title – it needs to be self-evident as you watch the film unfold. It needs to be connected to the deepest core meaning of the film.

Why “In Saturn’s Rings”?

This is actually pretty easy although it took a lot of brainstorming and thinking before one of those forehead slapping “duh” moments. The climax of the film occurs after the dramatic fly-through of the Saturnian system, including highlights at Enceladus and Titan. The climatic shot is the famous photograph by Cassini – and my personal favorite – of Saturn backlit by the Sun.

There is a small blue dot in the backlit rings – what is the dot? It’s us, it’s our home, it’s Earth..”In Saturn’s Rings“. That’s the emotion climax of the film and the perfect title.

Last Few Days for Team 11 signup! Don’t miss your chance!

Team 11 is the rock that has made the film possible. What is Team 11? One or more persons pledge $11 or more a month, tax-deductible, to the film. These monthly donations have been critical in helping cover computer power bills, screening fees, computer repairs and other ongoing expenses. Without them, progress would have been far slower and more erratic.
Each Team 11 gets a ton of special perks listed here only available to Team 11 members including inside secrets. THEY ALREADY KNOW WHAT THE ANNOUNCEMENT IS. But with the release of the film late next year, the window to join up closes this Sunday.
Sign your Team up today – click here!

Major Announcement about film on July 1st. Teaser Video!

On July 1st, 2004, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft arrived at Saturn, after executing an amazing precision rocket braking maneuver in Saturn’s rings. I watched this event live on NASA-TV’s streaming channel. It was at that moment that the inspiration for the film began.
On July 1st, 2012, in just a few days and in honor of that incredible achievement, there will be a major announcement about the film. Stayed tuned to the website, Facebook and/or Twitter to be the first to hear.
Watch AND share the teaser video that went live today.

Ray Bradbury remembered by Andrew Chaikin

I’ve been very fortunate with all the smart, talented and accomplished people who have endorsed and supported the film. One of those is noted space author and journalist, Andrew Chaikin. He recently was on NPR to remember Ray Bradbury and I was very moved by what he had to say.

Credit WikiMedia


Donor List Updated on Website

Finally, after long delays, the list of the donors that make this film possible has been updated, revised and edited. Most importantly, you donors have my undying gratitude for believing in and supporting so tangibly this dream of mine that is now a reality.

If you have not yet donated, please check the amazing list of the over 100 people who have donated. If you are a donor, please check the list to make sure your listing is correct and contact me if you find any errors.

And thanks again for inspiring me to make this film the best it can possibly be.



Team 11 Signup – closing in three weeks!

Team 11 is the rock that this film depends on. Individuals, families, groups of friends pool resources and contribute at least $11 a month to help the production of the film. It started off as a concept to tie to the original release date of the film, 11/11/11. Of course, if you know the history of the film, an 18-month delay waiting for software and a couple of bumps have pushed that date back to fall 2013.

But, with impressive awesomeness, the Team 11’s have stuck by the film. Some have eased back then added back in when money has been tight. But without them, the film would have struggled during the lean times.

In the last year, Team 11 has paid for failed computer parts, backup services, computer power bills, membership in Giant Screen Cinema Association, screening fees to show the film in Paris to IMAX theaters in Europe, Africa & Asia, expenses for file transfers of the many photographs used in the film and much, much more.

But your chance to be a part of the key support of the film is ending. With the release of the film coming and to be fair to the current Teams, as of July 1st, no new Team 11s. So take this opportunity to really become part of the core support of the film. Sign up your Team 11 today.


  • Your own Saturn system name (Moon, Ring, feature etc.)
  • signed DVD or Blu-Ray of the film
  • Signed 5X7 print
  • 7 free 15/70mm (IMAX™) frames
  • Special private in-progress screenings
  • 2 free tickets at any giant screen venue
  • 2 VIP premiere tickets & 2 VIP premiere party tickets.
  • Dedicated team page on the website to customize.
  • Team 11 Facebook group and email list where insider info is posted

Each team will be listed on the website and in the credits for the film, in order of their Team “ring”. Each “ring” lists teams in order of how much they donate each month.

Adventures in Data Storage, Part 2

PART 1 is here.

As I was saying, the problem began when a routine file copy locked up the main Frankenserver – which should not happen. Saturday morning, I checked and found a BIOS update for the motherboard in the Frankenserver was available. Normally, a BIOS update is very routine. This was not.

After applying the BIOS update, the main storage array (16 Terabytes) was corrupted and inaccessible. Not a great feeling. But I was not panicked yet as even if you delete files on hard drives, the files are there until they are overwritten with new data. So I knew the data was just there as the drives all appeared just fine.

But I needed a new motherboard as this one appear to have had an electrical failure. On a holiday weekend, my only solution was drive to a nearby (an hour and 45 minute drive) city to get a part before it closed. So I drove, got the board, drove back, ate, then installed the new board….

And the main storage array was still inaccessible. Now I started to get worried. Yes, the critical data was all backed up “in the cloud” but I had test restored that data before and it took over 3 weeks to download that much data. So I googled and googled  – and thankfully found others who had this problem with a solution.

However the solution is a bit heart-stopping. You delete your storage array, rebuild it with the same settings on the same drive and use a utility to restore it. In theory, you are not deleting data but just the metadata “map” to the data and this utility will recreate it – in theory. But the reports of success were strong, so away I went and –

It worked, in just a few minutes and one machine restart. Everything back online and tested by early Sunday a.m. The utility is TestDisk – I had heard of it before but never used it. Needless to say, highly recommended.

Adventures in Data Storage, Part 1

Back posting again after a holiday weekend here in the USA as well as an adventure to recover damaged data. On Saturday morning, I wanted to check up on a hard crash that had occurred on the main “Frankenserver” that stores a backup of all the Outside In and SV2 Studios files.

A Frankenserver being upgraded in 2011

Here’s a pic of secondary Frankenserver being upgraded last year – I call them that as they are built from the parts of other machines to recycle parts and keep the film’s costs as low as possible.

One question I get a lot is how I store and backup data. I’ve made a simple diagram that gives an overview of the design and process.

Dataflow in the film's storage and backup process

This diagram is simplified but all the key steps are there. I have two primary workstations – the primary is the fastest, most powerful and has a large, fast disk array for photographic storage and the secondary is used when the primary is tied up and also for freelance work as needed.

I have 3 other workstations – an audio/recording workstation and secondary render box plus two low-end boxes: a Linux machine and a Hackintosh. Then there are two Frankenservers, the primary that has 27 TB of storage and is connected to a cloud backup and the secondary provides additional utility storage (workstation backup etc.).

The primary Frankenserver is connected to cloud backup storage (CrashPlan). The overall design of this is to keep the costs of the film 1/10th of what it would normally but create a system that can recover, eventually, from even a catastrophic data loss – say an alien warship destroying my house (but not destroying earth, but then again, that will not be a big worry at that point).

This design also allows me to work on the film on multiple stations although the primary workstation is fastest for the heavy lifting. It consists of low-cost, DIY, home-built computers overclocked to provide near professional workstation speeds at 1/4 of the cost. And the storage and backup costs are a tiny fraction since it relies on the very cheapest hard drives and cloud storage that costs only $5 a month combined with a $20 month upgrade on internet service for fast upload speeds.

The bottom line is all critical files are backed up in at least two locations and 3 to 6 copies of each file. Storage costs on the film are currently 4 cents a gigabyte and offline backup costs are less than 1 cent a gigabyte. Currently I have about 6 Terabytes backed up offline but the number grows everyday.

It’s a good design especially given the cost – the only disadvantage is a slow restore process in the event of large data loss but this past weekend, it was tested.

PART TWO TOMORROW – what happens when the main server motherboard dies and corrupts the main data storage array.