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May 14, 2021

LED Dome Ready for 8K Content

by Chris Chinnock

Evans & Sutherland (E&S), best known for offering planetarium solutions, has developed what they call DomeX. The 20-meter screen is the first commercially launched LED-based domed solution.  It features 29.5 M LEDs with 8192 horizontal pixels spread over a 180 x 112.5-degree field of view.  We spoke with Scott Huggins, Director of Business development at Evans and Sutherland to learn more about the screen and 8K content creation.  The video interview also includes a wonderful overview of the DomeX technology.

DomeX is a fully-functional platform that is operational in Salt Lake City.  It has been set up to allow potential partners to come and see for themselves what such a solution looks and sounds like, but to also envision the new possibilities the format creates for content producers, operators and audiences.

Debuted at the recent Giant Screen Cinema Association event, the Cosm Experience Center DomeX consists of 7970 LED panels covering 4700 Sq. feet of LED surface area – and these LED tiles are also perforated allow a 30.4 channel speaker solution to be placed behind the LED dome.  Peak luminance is speced at 500 nits.

In the wide-ranging interview we talked about how a clear trend is emerging to move beyond flat entertainment to immersive experiences – experiences that audiences cannot replicate at home.  MSG is already building two LED-based spherical theaters while Illuminarium is developing immersive experiences.

Huggins says they are already engaging with potential customers in the planetarium and dome theater segments, as well as new organizations like museums, arts and cultural centers.  Bringing events and special scientific visualizations and more to this new environment are the applications being discussed.  And, the dome supports 3D presentation via active shutter glasses as the LEDs can be refreshed at 60 fps per eye. “When using projectors we can only achieve maybe 10:1 or 20:1 contrast ratio when showing a black and white checkboard pattern, because of cross talk and elevated gray levels,” noted Huggins in the interview.  “With the LEDs, black is off and there is no cross contamination of light so our contrast is more like 1M:1.  And, the wide color gamut of the LEDs opens the possibility to bring high dynamic range viewing to dome venues.  This has never been possible before.”

As for content creation, Huggins noted they definitely want 8K content in a flat format or as a 180-degree or 360-degree spherical format.  “We have very powerful image processing tools that can take these formats and make them look amazing on the LED screen with images that are just blowing people away,” continued Huggins.  “We can also display real-time content from the E&S simulation engine, Unreal and Unity game engines allowing photorealistic images to be displayed.”

Huggins said that their demonstration dome rotates the traditional dome configuration 90 degrees so a viewer’s eye line at the dome’s vertical center is more in the middle of the dome creating a more immersive – and comfortable viewing experience.

E&S invites interested content creators and operators to come to Salt Lake City and see for themselves what this new format can offer.