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Sneak Peek at the $2.3B MSG Sphere's Huge Immersive Screen, Advanced Audio Systems

Jan 04, 2024

We got to experience demos of some of the technology powering the MSG Sphere arena, opening this fall in Las Vegas.

Whether it's lighting up the Las Vegas skyline or blowing up social media with memes, the MSG Sphere will be hard to miss. The first-of-its-kind venue opens this fall, and its creators say it aims to revolutionize entertainment experiences. For it to do this, they've developed brand-new audio, video and camera systems. I had an opportunity to visit their Burbank testing ground, called Big Dome, to experience some of these innovations.

Big Dome in Burbank, where the technology inside the MSG Sphere is developed and tested.

Their most recent development has to do with the Sphere's audio system. Acoustically, a sphere is about as challenging as it gets. To conquer the echoes, MSG Ventures partnered with a company called Holoplot, which was using a technique called Wave Field Synthesis to develop an audio system for Berlin's echoey subway system.

Sphere Immersive Sound, powered by Holoplot.

The result is Sphere Immersive Sound, powered by Holoplot. The demos provided showed how precise this sound system could be. Depending on where I stood, I could hear the same dialogue in three different languages: English, Chinese and Arabic. I could hear different instruments highlighted in the same song. In a final demo, they played audio from an actor, and it sounded as if the actor had walked right up and whispered in my ear.

Sphere's beam-forming audio system visualized.

MSG Ventures team members are experimenting with other senses as well. They demoed an air cannon that could be used to create wind effects, and hinted that things like humidity, temperature and even smell could be used for artistic effect.

To wrap it up, we got to experience a curved, immersive screen that's a one-quarter scale model of the Vegas Sphere. The closest thing I can compare it to is VR. I could tilt my head all the way up and still not reach the end of the screen. When they played us different scenes, it felt like being transported. Some of the tests they showed experimented with different camera moves, some of which felt more natural than others. One shot from the front seat of a roller coaster in particular felt uncannily real, and could potentially cause some motion sickness.

These experiments helped the MSG Sphere team zero in on what sorts of visual experiences work best given the unique size and shape of the display. The team also invented its own camera, called Big Sky, to produce content for the enormous screen.

The MSG Sphere lights up the Vegas skyline.

The MSG Sphere in Las Vegas opens this fall, with a concert by U2 followed shortly after by a film presentation from Darren Aronofsky entitled Postcard From Earth. Tickets on the Sphere website are listed between $49 and $199. To see the Sphere in action, check out the video in this article.

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