Christie 4K Digital Projectors Reach for the Sky at Planetarium
February 17, 2015

Christie 4K Digital Projectors Reach for the Sky at Planetarium

Christie has helped the Science Museum of Virginia create a state-of-the-art planetarium that is taking patrons across the planet and deep into the universe.

Audiences are seeing it all in high resolution at 120 Hz thanks to Christie D4K2560 high frame rate projectors, which were installed by Evans & Sutherland (E&S), a pioneer in computer graphics and digital dome theater systems.

The projectors power an 8K-resolution full-dome system with the sharpest and brightest images ever seen on the 76-foot Dome screen, one of the largest digital dome theaters in the world. Audiences are spellbound when they see the high-energy 2D and 3D movies, as well as innovative astronomy shows featuring E&S’s proprietary Digistar 5 system.

Making the journey from film to digital with Christie

“The fact that the Christie D4K2560 projectors with 120 Hertz and 25,000 lumens of brightness became available at the perfect time meant we could offer a cutting edge digital dome projection system to the museum. These new projectors provide them a solution that has the brightness on the dome that would equal or surpass what they were getting out of their film projector,” said Dennis Elkin, Director of Advanced Displays, Evans & Sutherland. “And with our proprietary auto blending and auto alignment systems, we are able to perfectly blend the five projectors into a uniform image across the dome. Color and dark state uniformity makes a lot of difference – especially in the dark parts of a presentation. It is critical to have the right black level for the sky in a dome or planetarium and the Christie projectors provide that.” 

Aware of the dome’s 30-degree tilt, Evans & Sutherland installed three Christie projectors in the back of the dome inside the projection booth, cross-shooting two of them. Another two Christie projectors were installed in the front of the dome, cross-shooting to the back. Using E&S’s auto-alignment and auto-blending, all the images were perfectly blended and “stitched together,” resulting in a seamless image throughout the entire dome surface, which was recently re-skinned by Spitz, an E&S subsidiary.

“With a film projector that physically loads frames into the projection gate 24 times per second there is a slight misalignment between frames that causes some image jitter. Digital projection eliminates that shake and resulting blurriness. You add to that 8K resolution and four foot-lamberts of brightness and you really get a premium experience, which we demonstrated at the GSCA digital dome day,” added David Sasich, E&S sales account manager.

“We split the dome down the middle with 1570 film on one side and digital on the other. We masked half of each projection system so there would be no cross-contamination,” Sasich continued. “The left side showed film and the right side of the screen showed the same footage in digital and they were synced together using Digistar. The feedback from the very film-centric GSCA audience was overwhelmingly positive and the takeaway was that digital is the way to go.” 

“Overall, the image coming from the digital system and the brightness is better than what was presented on film,” said Michael Daut, Director of Show Production, Evans & Sutherland. “Plus, the colors on the digital side were more true; you have a more consistent color for the digital image over the entire dome. When you have film, there is variance - but not with digital. And, from an operational standpoint, digital is much simpler to run.” 

The Christie D4K2560 3DLP projector boasts 25,000 center lumens for ultra-realistic images and smoother video at 60Hz and 120Hz. It features Christie TruLife electronics – a major leap in video-image processing for high frame rate and high-resolution video projection.  

Photos courtesy of Sean DeWitt Photography