A Digital Projection Insight Dual Laser 4K projector has been installed in North America’s first seamless dome planetarium. The Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium opened this summer, located in Minnesota’s Bell Museum following its $79 million renovation.
The renovation combined two originally separate entities: The James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History, which had outgrown its 1940s building within which all its historic dioramas and scientific collections were housed; and the Minneapolis Planetarium, which was demolished in 2002.
Sweden-based digital planetarium solution provider, Sciss AB, won the competitive bid for the project with one of its two proposals: the Digital Projection laser 4K solution. Digital Projection’s Insight Dual Laser 4K has become an industry staple of the planetarium design roadmap due to its true 4K resolution, its super bright 27,000 lumens and 20,000 hours of dependable laser phosphor illumination. Offering high-quality image quality from a long lasting light source with minimal running costs, it also offers a very low overall cost.
The planetarium’s intention was to pair it with the University of Minnesota’s latest data research and produce data visualisations that span the arts and sciences – taking audiences from the far reaches of the universe to deep inside the human brain.
The project specification called for a 4K, dual projector system that reflected 2.0 ft. lambert of brightness straight back off the dome of 45% reflectivity, whilst projecting white at full power. The successful solution required more than 10M unique pixels on the dome and less than or equal to 3.0 average arc minutes per pixel, as well as a native contrast ratio of 2000:1 and brightness at 5,000 Lux per projector.
The installed solution for the 16-metre, 120-seat planetarium features an Astro-Tec Ulteria Seam Dome onto which Digital Projection’s Insight Dual Laser 4K projectors deliver realtime rendering and full-dome videos, custom-created for the planetarium, using Uniview software and ColorSpace Theatre Control.
Planetarium manager Sally Brummel said: “We have been using Uniview in our portable planetarium since 2006. While preparing for the selection of our new planetarium system, we researched all options and decided that Sciss was the best fit for our new facility.”
Sciss project director Paul Tetu added: “Digital Projection’s 4K laser offering was the right choice because the customer was very interested in reduced operational costs. We did our research, saw demos, ran some in-house tests, and felt comfortable with Digital Projection. We were able to convey this trust to our customer.”
The difference between the image quality of the offered solutions was quite disparate, said Brummel. “Every time I’d seen demonstrations of laser projectors at conferences, I was astonished by how much better the image was than the lamp-based projectors. The form seemed so much richer in colour in comparison. The laser system was our preference because of its superior image quality and long-lasting light source. The final visual aspect is very impressive and the image is as rich and bright as I’ve expected.”
The installation itself was straightforward, according to Tetu, who was delighted to be able to introduce further cost savings to the customer. Due to the Digital Production Insight Dual Laser 4K projection solution’s ability to drive a 4K 60p signal over a single cable, where other models require two or even four cables to support the same signal, a significant cost reduction associated with extenders and cables was applied.