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April 23, 2024

Cosm Pushes Beyond 8K for Immersive Events

Cosm recently announced a deal to build a new planetarium in Prague and we were intrigued. With our involvement in NAB preparations, we were not able to arrange a ‘live’ interview. We are grateful to Devin Poolman, Chief Product & Technology Officer at Cosm for responding to our emailed questions.

Before we dig into some of the recent projects in the US and in the Czech Republic, a question about COSM. It may still be a new name to some of our readers, but it has illustrious roots. Can you give us a brief overview of how COSM came to be?
Cosm was founded in 2020 through the strategic acquisition of leading planetarium companies Evans & Sutherland and Spitz, Inc. as well as innovative immersive media companies Cosm Immersive (formerly LiveLike VR) and C360. Our 75+ year history in powering immersive experiences for partners around the globe laid the groundwork for our development, innovation, and investment in LED Dome Display technology. This groundbreaking work in advancing LED dome technology, coupled with our leadership team’s deep bench of expertise in both live sports and entertainment, have created a strong foundation for what we are building around our upcoming immersive entertainment venues.
Cosm companies have integrated their technology into planetariums and museums globally, with over 2000 experiences created in 50 countries supporting more than 25 million annual visitors. This is our existing business providing the technology capabilities that are foundational to Cosm venues.

Looking at your marketing material, the company is involved in all aspects of planetariums and other large screen experiences, from the content creation to design and installation. Is that correct?
As a vertically integrated technology solution, Cosm’s in-house capabilities include industry-leading immersive technology solutions across dome design and engineering, immersive software (known as CX Engine), and fulldome content production and distribution capabilities through Cosm’s Media division, which is comprised of Cosm Studios, Cosm Immersive, and C360. This vertical integration and in-house technological prowess have ushered in the transformational capabilities of CX System, Cosm’s end-to-end LED dome solution that powers immersive venues and worldwide partner experiences.

New display technologies have had a dramatic impact in recent years in extending the applications way beyond the twinkling stars of ‘traditional’ planetariums. How does COSM view this trend?
Intuitive digitally based systems like Cosm’s flexible CX Engine software suite and Digistar Planetarium system have led the charge in extending applications for “traditional” planetariums. Showcasing brighter visuals and higher resolutions, new immersive display technologies like Cosm’s LED dome solution, known as CX Display, paired with innovative immersive software and experiential production tools have significantly increased the sophistication of immersive fulldome content production beyond stars and planets. Maintaining and increasing audience engagement is more important than ever in today’s Experience Economy, and while science and astronomy education remains a core pillar of planetarium programming, Cosm is excited to see planetariums today offering endless possibilities for storytelling and engaging audiences across many disciplines like art, music, culture, history, and more to push the interdisciplinary boundaries and engage with new audiences.

The latest technologies such as direct view LED extend the scope and applications even further. What opportunities will this new wave of technology give?
Transcending audiences’ disbelief and transporting them entirely, Cosm’s LED Dome Display technology has ushered in completely new opportunities to immerse audiences in any type of media within shared, physical spaces – an experience that combines the best of the virtual and physical worlds known as Shared Reality. Offering true black levels and contrast, extremely high resolution, crisp video playback and image quality, and fantastic color depth and brightness, Cosm’s tightly integrated, end-to-end experiential LED dome solution is a complete game-changer for star field projection in planetariums and provides a level of quality that is category defining for domes and unavailable anywhere else in the market.

The opportunities do not come without cost. Direct LED is usually much more expensive than projection technologies in large areas. What advantages help to justify the larger investment?
The initial cost of LEDs compared to the premium, high-quality experiences delivered by LED Dome Display technology like Cosm’s CX Display offers fantastic value as they cannot be replicated by projection, VR headsets, or other forms of immersive experiences. Offering significant cost savings over a long-term use case, LED Dome Displays have a significantly increased lifespan, requiring less intervention and time consumed for repairs. LED Dome Display technology additionally overcomes other projection-based limitations like shadows, resolution, contrast, cross-reflections, brightness, and more for true audience immersion across expanded types of experiences and content. In addition to the general advantages of LEDs, Cosm’s industry-leading LED Dome Display solution and immersive software suite work in perfect harmony to provide even more benefits and returns, providing our partners with entirely new opportunities for fulldome content creation and acquisition and ultimately increasing audience engagement and long-term revenue generation.

In talking with other large venue operators such as MSG with its Las Vegas Sphere, we’ve heard that including live content into domes poses particular challenges. Does COSM also support live content as well as pre-rendered content?
Since delivering the world’s first immersive 8K livestream in 2022 for the Winter Games in Beijing, Cosm has been pushing the boundaries in live, high-resolution immersive production and distribution to transport fans to the world’s most sought-after spaces and moments, giving audiences front-row access to iconic global events in real-time and in 8K+ resolution. The world-class live production capabilities of Cosm Immersive and C360 paired with our major content partnerships with professional leagues including the NBA and UFC as well as with major broadcast rightsholders like TNT Sports, NBC Sports, and most recently ESPN make Cosm category-defining and unlike any other immersive, experiential offering on the market. At Cosm venues, live, original, immersive content will be core to the programming and experiences offered. Our immersive software suite and robust content ecosystem enable easy presentation of live broadcast and real-time rendering as well as video playback and immersive experiences to transport audiences to iconic events and extraordinary worlds.

Both the Prague Planetarium project and the Dorrance Planetarium of the Arizona Science Center will have 8K+ resolution displays. Does COSM have any difficulty or special challenges in creating content for this kind of resolution?
No. In fact, we can capture, process, distribute, and display content at nearly unlimited resolutions – for example, we are currently working on a project with 24K video. This is made possible by our Cosm Encoded Media pipeline, which is specialized for ultra-high resolution immersive video feeds. We’re excited to keep pushing the boundaries in high-resolution, fulldome content creation as the LED dome displays in our upcoming venues will offer 12K+.

One of our recent interviewees, Pawel Achtel, recently explained his view that 8K offered new opportunities as a genuinely new medium, with more time needed and of benefit when there was a higher level of detail. He suggests a slower cutting rhythm to allow viewers to appreciate the detail. Is this COSM’s experience?
LED Dome Displays are brand-new canvases, or mediums, for creators and producers to explore their creativity and deliver impactful narratives. At Cosm, we not only work with high resolutions, but we also work with large scale immersive displays – which ultimately connect the audience more directly with a sense of place and have a powerful effect on your sense of motion. This requires special consideration and production sensibilities that utilize the full immersive capabilities of the all-encompassing LED dome display to ensure the audience won’t be overwhelmed by motion. Meticulous attention to detail is key as large-scale, high-resolution, and immersive LED dome displays can be unforgiving if the initial production sensibilities considerations are forgone.

In terms of resolution, does COSM recommend 8K from a particular dome size or is it a question of balancing pitch and resolution for a particular space?
It’s a balancing act that relies on the physical design of the space. We design the individual LED modules to match both the minimum viewing distance of the space and the resolution requirements of the display. In many cases, 8K is only the starting point for our LED dome displays, which is a direct result of Cosm’s long history in constructing and powering immersive dome theatres in planetariums and theme parks around the world. Our strong expertise in suspending disbelief through powering experience paired with our category-defining end-to-end immersive technology solution has created a closed loop where our immersive software and hardware work in tandem to deliver unapparelled and seamless image quality across the entire display, no matter the geometry. With industry-leading image processing capabilities, our immersive software suite, CX Engine, optimizes each individual pixel on the display, completely blending away the seams between modules so it feels as if the entire display surface disappears, and you’re transported inside the content being displayed.

Are there any other technology challenges that need to be overcome to support 8K these days?
As we continue to push the boundaries in high-resolution, fulldome content delivery, there are numerous technology challenges that still need to be overcome, however, due to industry technology innovation and developments, we’re seeing that 8K, non-live experiences have become much more manageable. Since achieving the world’s first 8K live immersive feed for the Beijing Winter Games in 2022, Cosm has continued to impact and overcome challenges in data processing and distribution for ultra-high resolution immersive workflows. However, we know 8K is not the limit, and there are current challenges today around capturing and distributing live immersive content greater than 8K, with additional challenges surrounding interactive video on demand (VOD) capture including real-time graphics. We look forward to the continued technological advancements made in ultra-high-resolution workflows, camera systems, and lens technology to ultimately catch up and have the power to exceed 8K.
At Cosm, we’re thrilled to continue or work in testing and developing ultra-high-resolution immersive workflows to expand our camera system integrations into additional locations, enabling us to capture and distribute many more live events from around the world in Shared Reality. Cosm is democratizing access to the world’s best events – all in live, immersive, 8K+.

Thanks to Cosm and Devin Poolman for this update

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