Get ready to see some changes in the Hansen Dome Theatre. You won’t see the improvements when you walk into the colorfully lit theater to sit down. It’s when the lights go down that the magic will shine!
For three weeks in September our dome theater will go through its biggest transformation in over 8 years. When the Clark Planetarium opened its doors in 2003, the dome debuted as one of the most sophisticated digital theaters with the introduction of the world’s first Digistar 3 projection system. Based on high resolution 360-degree immersive graphics, we could show the universe in three dimensions and full color with Pixar-like movie quality animation.
Just as with any digital technology, upgrades are sometimes necessary. We replaced our projectors and playback computers in 2007 which improved brightness, sharpness and color. But now the next major revolution in space theater technology is here, and it’s called Digistar 4. Aside from getting a progressive number, what does that mean? It’s a way to show even more detail, better contrast, and increased complexity. A wider variety of 3-dimensional effects will be on hand to make each show unique. Digistar 4 can do this with fewer projectors too – only two large projectors instead of six small ones. That will essentially eliminate the perception of “blend lines” on the dome.
The new system also gives us a chance to pioneer a new technique for digital dome presentation – smoother motion though the introduction of higher frame rates! Traditional film and video runs at 30 frames per second, and on a large domed screen that can cause “frame stutter” as objects and scenes move more quickly across the screen. Our newest productions will display programs at 60 frames per second, dramatically increasing the smoothness and apparent sharpness of the imagery. When we reopen our doors on Friday, September 23, our original production “Saturn: Jewel of the Heavens” will be re-introduced at this higher frame rate. Our next show, “Perfect Little Planet,” is slated to open in February with higher resolution, 60 frames per second, and lots of action for the whole family!
Other improvements to the theater will be made as well: the dome screen will be cleaned and painted, the sound system will be refurbished, and better automation will allow for a wider variety of planetarium lighting effects. Come and see the universe and music entertainment like it’s never been experienced before when the new Hansen Dome Theatre opens September 23!