Friday, May 10, 2013

planetarium systems review

Over the last two days, I could see two different planetariums. Interacted with the staff, saw their features, equipment. Different feature sets, different costs.

Bangalore Planetarium - single projector mirrordome system. Mitsubishi UD8400 projector gives 6500 lumens. Unidirectional seating is achieved through leaving two-thirds of the 15 m theatre empty, seating only 120 instead of 200. They have fulldome shows as well as traditional shows using the star projector, but demand is more for the former. They are making new shows with the help of an animation studio in 3DS Max.

Their website is

Calicut Planetarium - Upgraded just last week to Carl Zeiss Powerdome fulldome setup, with all the bells and whistles including a hybrid opto-mechanical system which is supposed to come in a few months. They use 9 JVC DLA-RS65 projectors with the Powerdome system featuring Uniview which can render astronomical objects in realtime, and also save sequences, and allows for show creation by dragging and dropping sequences into a timeline. They drive their HDMI ports over fiber, with the control systems in a rack in another room. They have converted their seating to unidirectional, and are able to seat 200 in their 15 m dome.

Their website is

Subjective review: I saw Dawn of the Space Age at Bangalore, and Realm of Light at Calicut. In both cases I was near the rear of the theatre. In both cases, I felt the brightness was quite adequate, though in Calicut I thought some of the dark parts were too dark - like the whale swimming part. Maybe some gamma issue. Could not make out any great improvement in clarity over the single projector setup at Bangalore, except for the area behind the audience - when we use a mirror-dome setup, the area immediately around the mirror is somewhat washed-out, distorted. When observed close to the screen, the pixelation is evident at Bangalore, as it is at our planetarium, but for most of the audience, it is not visible. This pixelation is not seen in the 9 projector setup. I could make out some boundary artifacts of the 9-projector stitch boundaries during the fade-to-black parts. The overall sharpness was probably limited by the 4k dome master, or maybe by all the realtime slicing done to send 9 separate video feeds. Our Space Opera show is quite comparable in terms of audience wow-factor :)

From the audience point of view, the 100x times more costly setup does not deliver that much extra bang for the buck. But from the planetarium executive's point of view, compelling show creation tools are a great asset. Being able to create detailed flythroughs in realtime is a great boon. But patience is a virtue, and if uniview can be licensed and used to export offline for a reasonable cost, we can get most of the advantages of that setup, too. Something like a front-end for the process intensive method of rendering using partiview described here.

No comments:

Post a Comment