When Mike Day steps into the Omnitheater at Science Museum of Minnesota, he can't help but reminisce about what it took to produce the film "Tornado Alley."
"The job is to get in the path of a tornado, secure the 16,000-pound vehicle to the ground and hope you get hit. That's kind of a fun day of work, isn't it?" said Day, executive vice president of the St. Paul museum.
He's had a lot of fun days at work.
"I love the nomadic lifestyle, the chase, the adrenaline, not knowing where you're going to spend the night every morning when you get up," he said.
Day, who will retire in March, arrived at the museum in the late 1970s to oversee the theater, a big new investment for the museum.
"The Omnitheater concept was new," he said. "There was only one theater like it in existence, which was in San Diego, so the Science Museum of Minnesota built the second Omnitheater in the world."
Crediting the support of the museum's board, Day would go on to produce 15 films, including "Ring of Fire" and "National Parks Adventure." Production for those and others has taken him to the forests of Tanzania, volcanoes all around the Pacific Ocean — as well as into the path of tornadoes.
Dave Duszynski, vice president of featured experiences at the Cincinnati Museum Center, said Day helped the museum experience evolve.
"Whenever somebody sees one of these films around the world, in IMAX or Omnitheater environments, to some degree they're seeing the groundwork that Mike helped lay down in this industry in making these wonderful films," Duszynski said.
As Day walks through the museum, he points to each exhibit, giving the detailed history of each.
"The [Science Museum of Minnesota] is not a passive participant in the museum world," he said. "We're very much an active participant. We design and develop exhibits that go on tour, we do exhibit work for museums around the country."
Ellen O'Connor, the director of public operations at the museum, said Day influenced the museum's culture.
"In 2006 we brought Body Worlds in for the first time," O'Connor said. "Mike was part of that planning team that said 'yes, we should take a risk, take a chance, bring this exhibition in.' And it changed our world, and it made us realize that we could do really big things here and take some risk."
Day will continue to head a consortium of seven science museums to produce more premium large format movies. Day said the industry's shift to digital will make production much less cumbersome. The smaller, quieter cameras are more travel-friendly and can even fly on drones. He's overseeing the Minnesota museum's conversion to a digital project at the theater.
"So it's a very exciting thing transferring to this film world that we've lived in for many decades now into this really high-resolution digital capture and projection world," Day said.
Day is working on a film about ancient caves and what they can tell us about the history of the Earth's climates.
When asked what he'll miss most about his job in retirement, he does not hesitate.
"The travel — especially in the production of Omnitheater films. It's taken me all over the world. I don't know how many people can tell what their favorite volcano in the world is," he said, adding, "I can."
The Science Museum will show four of Day's movies during Omnifest that runs through Feb. 28.