Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Global Immersion Transforms Fleet’s IMAX Dome Into Fulldome Digital Cinema

Courtesy Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

San Diego, CA, USA — The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center has announced that final preparations are underway following installation of a new, state-of-the-art, giant dome screen digital GSX™ system from Global Immersion. The GSX system will augment the existing IMAX® projector in the Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Dome Theater with one of the most comprehensive and powerful fulldome experiences available today. The system will open to the public on Wednesday, February 1.

At the heart of GSX is a combination of technologies called ImageFusion™ which combine the power and resolution of four of the latest Sony® 4K resolution cinema grade projectors to offer audiences an entirely digital, truly immersive and pixel-perfect giant screen experience. The Heikoff Dome Theater (76-feet in diameter) provides a 168° (vertical) by 360° (horizontal) field-of-view immersive experience which envelops the audience in the 314 seats in the house.

The GSX system at the Fleet uses four powerful Sony® SRX-T420 digital cinema projectors, adapted by Global Immersion to project a single-displayed image onto the specialized surface of the hemispherical, curved dome screen. Each projector offers 4096 x 2160 pixel resolution that, when combined as the GSX system, converts a total of 84,000 lumens and over 32 million pixels into a full screen image to offer audiences a stunning immersive visual experience.

Each of the four digital cinema projectors is the size of a small refrigerator and produces a significant amount of heat and noise. Combined as one GSX system in the heart of the Heikoff Dome Theater, the projectors are specially mounted inside an insulated steel enclosure, fitted within the existing instrument floor space near Dome center. This enclosure, supported by a custom engineered precision projector mounting solution, has been designed by Global Immersion as part of the GSX system to precisely monitor and maintain the temperature of 20 °C/ 68 °F and provide acoustic insulation.

Also housed inside the projector system is a proprietary combination of GSX components each required to seamlessly integrate the system and deliver the best possible performance. The ImageFusion™ for GSX features a range of hardware and software technologies including custom lenses, image processing and optimization tools, geometric laser alignment systems and performance monitoring and diagnostics. A total of eight high performance servers power the GSX system, which delivers lucid, high resolution and superior quality digital video.

The new fulldome digital GSX system is an indicator of the evolution of giant screen cinemas and the need to provide improved content to audiences. The Fleet is delighted that their state-of-the-art system will set a new quality benchmark for digital dome video, with the flexibility to present a wide range of media and show experiences. Innovative planetarium shows from all over the world and other high-definition multimedia productions will enable Fleet visitors to enjoy incredibly bright, colorful and high contrast images on the Fleet’s iconic 76-foot tilted dome NanoSeam™ screen.

Conventional dome theaters, with their application-specific, hemispherical shape, have mainly been used throughout the world to teach astronomy. The Fleet continues to offer informative and educational sky-based experiences, but now has the flexibility to extend programming to a wider range of formats and subject matters. GSX is designed as an ‘open’ format with the emerging DIGSS / Digital Immersive Giant Screen Specifications in mind; allowing the widest possible programming, including live streamed events and musical experiences.

Digital experiences in the Heikoff Dome Theater will set the stage for an inclusive visitor experience, expanding upon hands-on exhibit content found in the galleries. Creative visualizations can take audiences on a tour of the universe, or probe inside a human cell. The new digital system in the Heikoff Dome Theatre will offer the power and flexibility to reflect and expand on content and concepts found on the exhibit floor and galleries. The Fleet also looks forward to partnering with local scientists, musicians and artists in innovative projects. The installation of the GSX system will advance the non-profit organization’s mission to inspire lifelong learning by furthering the public understanding and enjoyment of science and technology.

The $5 million project, led by Fleet Science Center executive director Dr. Jeffrey Kirsch, has been under development for more than five years; installation of the new seamless Dome screen marked Phase 1 of the project, along with the sound system and the interior refurbishment. Supporting the efforts of the Fleet Science Center, a dedicated team of volunteer expert technical advisors – including Tei Iki, William Bleha, Robert Hardacker, Jack Schmidt and Dave Eccles – carried out a comprehensive search for the highest quality immersive theater system suppliers and established the overall specifications for the system.

The installation of the digital dome signals the completion of the Fleet’s five-year capital campaign, “Creating Possibility, Inspiring Tomorrow.”

Looking forward, the Fleet has plans to introduce a digital production studio that will develop educational content in cooperation with multiple institutions, including the San Diego Supercomputer Center, UCSD’s CALIT2, and others. Shows produced will use scientific data collected and interpreted from partner institutions to take the public on astonishing immersive journeys from inside the theater into a human stem cell, an atomic nucleus or virtually any environment imaginable. Moreover, local scientists, students and artists will be invited to use the Fleet Science Center’s digital projection technology to present data and other visualizations on the giant tilted-dome screen.

Dr Jeffrey W. Kirsch, Ph. D., Executive Director, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center commented “We are delighted to have worked so closely with our technical experts and with Global Immersion on premiering the new digital fulldome GSX system in the Heikoff Dome Theater. It will launch a new era for the Fleet, not only enhancing our planetarium capabilities but expanding the possibilities for sustainable institutional programming that could include evening programming with cultural content of various kinds. We will be the first Giant Dome Theater in the country to share a digital planetarium with an IMAX Dome theater. In a sense it is reminiscent of our beginnings in 1973 when we introduced the world to a tilted dome (analog) planetarium system and IMAX in a shared venue (the original Space Theater).”

Martin Howe: Chief Executive, Global Immersion “Working in close collaboration with the Fleet, Global Immersion has developed GSX specifically to meet and exceed the high standards and performance demands that exist among the world’s giant screen theater network. This project has provided us with a fantastic and highly knowledgeable customer to work and consult with; ultimately ensuring the new GSX™ Digital Giant Screen Theater range would exceed expectations and offer giant screen theatres a digital system which fully realizes the demands of such a theater in the modern age. It is hugely exciting for us to have the Fleet as the premiere venue for the showcasing of our new giant screen solution, GSX.”

Alan Caskey: Director for the Americas, Global Immersion “We are delighted to be working with the team at the Fleet on such a unique, energized and ambitious project. This visionary digital giant screen theater follows months of design, innovation and planning – we are very excited by the prospects of a continued partnership with the Fleet, and ultimately the public premiere of the new GSX experience.”

With exhibits to touch, IMAX films to experience and planetarium shows to watch, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (“the Fleet”) offers an educational, entertaining experience for visitors of all ages. Located at 1875 El Prado, two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo on Park Blvd, the Fleet is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the public understanding and enjoyment of science and technology.
Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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