Big Sky camera system offers 40x resolution increase over 4K cameras
Later this year, a new live performance and entertainment venue will open in Las Vegas, a huge geodesic dome that's home to the world's highest-resolution LED display. Burbank, California-based Sphere Studios has been set up to develop immersive content and the technologies to produce it, starting with an ultra-high-res camera called the Big Sky.
Back in 2016, the Madison Square Garden Company and Las Vegas Sands Corp announced that an enormous dome-shaped live music and entertainment venue was being planned for Sands Avenue in Las Vegas. Construction began in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress and pushed back the original 2021 opening to this year.
When complete, the venue will reportedly be the world's largest spherical structure at 516 ft wide and 366 ft tall (157 x 111.5 m), and its exterior will host a 580,000-sq-ft (53,883-sq-m) programmable LED display area. Inside, there'll be seating for 17,600 guests and standing room for another 20,000.
The main space will feature an immersive IMAX-like 16K x 16K LED screen that "wraps up, over and around the audience," some 10,000 seats will include Infrasound haptics, the experience will be enhanced by environmental effects such as temperature changes, moving air and "familiar smells," and the "world's largest beamforming audio system" will deliver engaging audio to guests.
The latest development from the newly-named Sphere Entertainment Company is the launch of an immersive content studio for creating "multi-sensory live entertainment experiences exclusively for Sphere" along with the technologies needed to produce them – and its first innovation, the Big Sky camera system.
In development since 2021, and designed to effectively replace the 10 to 15 cinematic cameras previously needed to produce the kind of ultra-high-res content necessary for the Sphere screen, the camera features a single 316-megapixel, 3 x 3-inch HDR image sensor that can capture imagery at up to 120 frames per second in 18K square format, or higher frame rates at lower resolutions.
This is paired with a single-lens setup sporting "the world's sharpest cinematic lenses" – with Petapixel reporting that there are two prime lenses at the moment, one offering a 150-degree field of view and the other bumping that up to 165 degrees. Sphere also says that "underwater and other lenses" are in development.
Such captured content will be too large for storage on CD or CFexpress media, so the Big Sky comes with its own media recorder capable of storing full-resolution, 60-fps uncompressed RAW footage at 30 gigabytes per second. Sphere reports that the media recorder is also capable of network connectivity up to 600 gigabits per second, in addition to sporting built-in media duplication "to accelerate and simplify on-set and post-production workflows." Frame rates of 120 fps at 50 gigabytes per second are also possible, but will necessitate capture to the system's custom 32-TB media magazines.
The studio has also developed its own image processing software called SphereLab, which makes use of "GPU-accelerated RAW processing to make workflow of capturing and delivering content to the Sphere's ultra-high-resolution screen practical and efficient."
Though designed specifically for filmmakers, artists and collaborators producing content for the immersive Sphere screen, we've no word on when – or if – the Big Sky system will go on general sale.
The first live performance at the new venue will see U2 take the stage for a short run of Achtung Baby Live shows from September 29. The first Sphere Experience, titled Postcard from Earth, is scheduled to premiere on October 16.
Source: Sphere Entertainment Co.