Space Center Adding Ultra Sophisticated Video System

Columbus State Universitys Coca-Cola Space Science Center is planning a major upgrade to its Omnisphere Theater, adding a new digital planetarium system powered by 16 computers to produce the highest resolution video projection system in the world.

The U.S. Air Force is the only other organization now using the new Digistar 3 Laser, and their system is exclusively used for pilot training.

When installed, this will be the highest-resolution single lens projector ever available to the public, said Kevin Scott, production designer for Evans & Sutherland, the company behind Digistar 3.

The picture created 180 degrees around viewers on the space centers 50-foot screen will be more stable than in a movie theater, more colorful and crisp than a large format theater movie and four to eight times sharper than the latest high-definition television on the market today, Scott said.

Six new shows will be part of the package when it is fully installed later this year as part of a complete upgrade of the Space Science Center. Other new features will include an enhanced lobby area, upgrade of the Challenger Learning Center, upgraded computer systems and more interactive opportunities for visitors.

First, Space Science Center staffers need to learn to operate, and program for, the Digistar 3 system. That began in early April, and their excitement is evident.

Its extremely cool, said Shawn Cruzen, interim director of CSUs Coca-Cola Space Science Center. From the astronomy end of things, I will be able to easily demonstrate concepts to my classes that are extraordinarily difficult to show because they dont happen in real time, he said.

And from an entertainment aspect, we will be able to do things in this theater that are simply unlike the majority of planetariums, or any movie theater, or IMAX, he said. The viewer actually feels like they are in the scene because the image is wrapped around 180 degrees.

Laser shows such as the one currently used in the space science centers Omnisphere Theater are created using a laser beam that moves around extremely quickly to trick the eye into seeing distinct images. Its basically dots and lines, Scott said.

The Digistar 3 Laser will display a single continuous image nearly 16 million pixels on the dome, at least twice the image resolution of whats offered in the nations most respected planetariums. Plus, the video projector offers expanded color space greater than any other visual display medium, including motion picture film.

Additionally, the system will include interactive controllers at each of the 128 Ominsphere Theater seats. Using this feature will allow viewers, as an example, to travel through a 3-D replication of the galaxy and choose if they want to veer right and visit Mars, or take a left and check out Pluto.

This will open a whole new canvas for stunning, high resolution full-dome video content along with a standard astronomy toolset that creates a more accurate depiction of the universe (no stars showing through planets.), said Omnisphere Theater Director Lance Tankersley. Digistar 3 will allow us the convenience and lower maintenance of converging all our theater display systems into one concise unit. With the new system, we are no longer confined to video rectangles on our dome.

Funding for the project is coming from Columbus State Universitys capital campaign An Investment in People. For more information, visit CSU's Coca-Cola Space Science Web site at www.ccssc.org.