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Mr. Darryl J. Davis, Planetarium Systems Coordinator, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Boston Museum of Science, discusses the Zeiss Starmaster projector with attendees. (Photo credit: Martin Feldman)

At the Wednesday, January 11, 2012 meeting...
Inter-Society Intergalactic Stargazing Colloquium
At the newly-renovated Charles Hayden Planetarium at the famed Boston Museum of Science

SMPTE-NE loves company and had been planning a joint inter-Society meeting for many months, ideally to be centered near the December Holiday Season so that family members might also be able to participate. As was expected, the Holiday season was too hectic for the SMPTE community as well as the others, but we were able to finally cement a date for a Wednesday afternoon in January for a group visit and screening at The Charles Hayden Planetarium.

Many regional peer professional societies and organizations were invited, including:

  • The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE, Chapter 11)
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)
  • Society of Information Display (SID/NE)
  • The Audio Engineering Society (AES)
  • Boston Audio Society (BAS)
  • Boston Creative Pro User Group (BOSCPUG) (formerly, the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group, BOSFCPUG)
  • Boston Avid User Group (BAVUG)
  • National Professional Videographers Association (NPVA of NE)

There were 32 members of the combined groups in attendance for this late afternoon mid-January event.


Darryl J. Davis, Systems Coordinator, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Boston Museum of Science, seated at the control station. (Photo credit: Martin Feldman)

Our Boston Museum of Science Host was Mr. Darryl J. Davis, the planetarium?s System Coordinator, who as it turns out, is a New England SMPTE member himself. He was ably assisted by planetarium show producer, Ms. Dani LeBlanc.

The Charles Hayden Planetarium has just undergone a $9 million facility upgrade and renewal, almost from the ground up. The entire inner dome screen surface was replaced with a special perforated aluminum inner-dome screen, which is almost acoustically inert, eliminating the hard slap-echo phenomena usually associated with hard-surface planetarium dome screens. It also facilitated the placement of multiple large-format JBL loudspeakers behind the dome for superb acoustic dispersing of the 5.1 surround-sound program audio, directly over the heads of the seated audience.


Digital Image created for dome projection by 4K LCD Projectors. (Photo courtesy of Definiti Theaters by Sky-Skan)

Full-motion image projection is provided by two Sony 4K SXRD Digital Projectors fitted with Sky-Skan Definiti HD lenses.

The house lighting system also was all-new and under automated control.

As part of the recent upgrade The Charles Hayden Planetarium invested in a modern Carl Zeiss ?Starmaster ZMP-TD? optical projector with single projection head, located at the center of the audience area. It replaced the dual-head Zeiss projector which had been the primary star projection device since 1970. The image quality from this device was simply breathtaking.

The 4K Sony SXRD Digital projectors and the eight dedicated computers that drive them combine the Zeiss Optical Imaging and the digital Imaging elements and serve to bathe the translucent domed screen in a nearly perfectly distributed light for the viewing audience.


The Charles Hayden Planetarium's control station. Eight computers control two Sony 4K Digital projectors fed by Sky Skan Digital Imaging Technology servers and the Zeiss Starmaster Optical projector. (Photo credit: Martin Feldman)

Mr. Darryl Davis elected to discuss and demonstrate both of the systems simultaneously, combining the highly-accurate star projections from the Zeiss projector, combined with digital images provided by a file server system, driven by the host computers, enabled by ?Sky-Skan? technology.

This served to provide intimate and highly accurate views of the entire known cosmos, all created from scientifically-gathered imagery gleaned from the latest available data from the astronomical community. The digitally-rendered ?Fly-Bys? and ?Fly- Throughs? were almost three-dimensional in appearance.

The viewer could quite literally experience a sense of queasiness or motion-discomfort during some of the more spectacular maneuvers where the images being displayed are very much like a flight simulator and provide a rather stunning and realistic portrayal of traveling in a space vehicle at very high speeds.

One very humbling excursion taken via the Sky-Skan Digital Projection System began here on planet Earth and kept expanding outwards, first beyond our neighboring planets, then onward through the galaxy, revealing millions if not billions of stars.

It didn?t stop there, however. We kept on this journey until all of the other galaxies in the universe were revealed and the entire dome became suffused by their light, each boasting their own roster of billions of stars! It really does makes one feel significantly INSIGNIFICANT !

Mr. Davis expanded upon the reasons why the Charles Hayden Planetarium provided BOTH the Carl Zeiss Optical Image projector as well as the Sony 4K LCD projection systems and the Sky-Skan Digital Imaging Technologies.

At issue is the fact that modern LCD digital projectors do not function at an absolute black reference level. With a bit of explanation, Mr. Davis demonstrated the obvious merits of the full motion all-digital imaging capabilities, and then with the Zeiss optical projector still fully functional, turned off the two Sony 4K Digital projectors, leaving only the pin-point images provided by the Zeiss Starmaster optical star projector. The effect literally WAS breathtaking, as the sky above became VERY dark and black instantaneously. The resulting images of the projected stars and planets from the Zeiss projector became razor sharp in brilliant clarity. This was without any of the digital imaging system ?LCD background light? to contaminate the otherwise totally-dark night time sky.


New Zeiss Starmaster projector in the Charles Hayden Planetarium, Boston Museum of Science. (Photo credit: Martin Feldman)

For the SMPTE attendees, as well as the other technical society guests and colleagues, this was a rare treat and an extraordinary educational experience, far removed from what many of us deal with in our normal profession. Most of us earn our living dealing with image creation, editing and replication in small formats of 4:3, 16:9 and occasionally cinematic formats that are almost 3:1.

This is child?s play by contrast. The visual and auditory experience at the Charles Hayden Planetarium far outreached any expectations we viewers may have had by comparison. The experience was totally immersive and, in the best sense of the word, almost overwhelming.

High praise for the many scientists and technologists on a world-wide basis who are gathering the cosmic information for the Sky-Skan Digital Imaging data base, and to the Museum of Science in Boston for their creative and fascinating leveraging of all this technology to provide such graphic and realistic imaging to The Charles Hayden Planetarium.
Special thanks to Mr. Darryl J. Davis and Ms. Dani LeBlanc for their kindness and great talent for providing a visual experience that will be very hard to forget.

For further information about the Museum of Science in Boston, and The Charles Hayden Planetarium, please feel free to visit these two links on their website:

http://www.mos.org/exhibits_shows/planetarium

http://www.mos.org/hayden/


Marty Feldman
Chair
SMPTE/New England Section

Paul Beck
Secretary/Treasurer
SMPTE/New England Section



(L to R) Ms. Dani LeBlanc, Producer, Mr. Darryl Davis, Systems Coordinator, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Boston Museum of Science, and Martin Feldman, Chairman, SMPTE-NE Section. (Photo credit: Paul Beck)


(L) Paul R. Beck, SMPTE-NE Secretary/Treasurer, (R) John O'Keefe, Panasonic Solutions Company. (Photo credit: M. Feldman)


Martin P. Feldman, Chairman, SMPTE-NE, stands before the Boston Museum of Science's new $2 million Carl Zeiss StarMaster Optical Projector installed in the museum's Charles Hayden Planetarium. (Photo credit: Paul R. Beck)

Click here for writeups of other past meetings

Posted: 26 January 2012
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor
robert.e.lamm@gmail.com