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Sphere Entertainment to launch immersive content studio in Hollywood

Sphere Entertainment is rolling out Sphere Studios with its newly developed ultra-high-resolution camera system aimed at lensing immersive entertainment exclusively for the MSG Sphere, which is slated to open in the fall in Las Vegas.

The massive MSG Sphere — whose construction is expected to cost $2.175 billion — features a 160,000-square-foot, 16K-by-16K wraparound LED display, custom spatial audio system and 4D capabilities enabled through haptic seats and environmental effects.

To film imagery for the immersive display venue, the studio has developed Big Sky, a custom single-lens camera system with a 316-megapixel, 3-inch x 3-inch HDR image sensor that it says can capture 18K x 18K images up to 120 frames per second. “Big Sky allows us to capture cinematic content at a level of detail never before possible, opening up extraordinary possibilities and pushing immersive imaging technology forward,” claims lead architect Deanan DaSilva in a statement.

The camera currently has two available lenses, with 150- or 165-degree fields of view, with more in development. The studio says it is working on the ability to use existing medium-format lenses. Led by Robert Settlemire (Avatar: The Way of Water), underwater housing was developed for filming beneath the sea with the Big Sky camera.

Before the camera was invented, early test footage for the Sphere was filmed with a custom circular rig that held 11 Red Monstro 8K cameras, which was larger and heavier, therefore more limiting to how it could be used, reps said.

The Big Sky camera system includes a media recorder and SphereLab image processing software with which the company is developing workflows using existing postproduction tech such as an Avid Media Composer. To date, the team has filed eight patents associated with Big Sky technology.

The Studio campus in Burbank — which had a grand opening in the fall while still under construction — features a 28,000-square-foot, 100-foot high geodesic dome with a quarter-sized version of the screen at the Sphere in Las Vegas. This is used as a screening environment, production facility and lab for Sphere content. In all, the Burbank campus includes 68,000-square-feet of development facilities, as well as production and postproduction suites.

Sphere hasn’t revealed how much it intends to invest annually in content, but it has nearly a dozen Big Sky cameras available for filming and it has been showing its system to Hollywood directors. The first project to use the Big Sky camera was Darren Aronofsky-helmed Postcards From Earth, an immersive experience scheduled to premiere Oct. 6 at the Sphere. This will be among the first productions to appear at the Las Vegas venue when it opens in the fall with a U2 residency.

Further out, plans call for additional Spheres to be built in cities including London. The Hollywood Reporter

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