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Inside South Korea’s first spherical projection theatre

The Gwangju National Science Museum has recently opened the Space 360 spherical projection theatre following a 10 month-long construction project and investment from Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.

Front Pictures, a Ukrainian creative studio focused on immersive multimedia solutions, was responsible for engineering and installing the projection system and software.

Space 360, which is 12 metres in diameter, is located next to Lucerium National Science Museum in Gwangju. Construction started in September 2016 and finished in July 2017 and the sphere opened for visitors in September 2017.

When visitors step inside they find themselves on a transparent glass observation bridge, which crosses the sphere’s interior. A crisp 360° video projection around, above, and below the viewers fully immerses them as they stand and watch.

When designing the projection system for Space 360, the Front Pictures team had to come up with unique technological and engineering solutions.

Unlike in a conventional digital planetarium, where projectors are located along the dome’s perimeter, the options for placing them in a full sphere are limited.

“It was necessary to devise a layout that would avoid shadows being cast by the observation bridge, minimise openings for the projectors, while, at the same time, maximising the resolution and brightness of the projection. It was also important to position the projectors in a way that would prevent them from shining light into the viewers’ eyes,” said Front Pictures CTO Vitaly Slyusarenko.

To completely cover the 450sqm of the spherical screen, 12 Barco PGWU-62L laser phosphor projectors were used. An important factor was the ability of the projectors to tilt at any angle.

Front Pictures used its proprietary Screenberry media server for video playback and auto-calibration. Four Nikon D610 DSLR cameras were used to collect data needed for the calibration.

The first show exclusively created for the sphere narrates the history of the world, starting from the Big Bang to the origins of life and onto human civilisation. It also tells visitors about energy and green technology. Additionally, the system is capable of playing any fulldome or VR content.

“The spherical projection theatre creates new possibilities for education and entertainment. It can ‘teleport’ viewers to any place on Earth or in the Universe with its unbelievable immersive effect. It was a great pleasure for us to be a part of this futuristic project, which truly embodies the innovative spirit of South Korea. We also believe it is a significant step towards the future of cinematography,” said Front Pictures CEO Yuri Kostenko.