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Sphere’s ‘Postcard from Earth’ set up to rock the world

Feb 11, 2024

“Postcard from Earth” shakes your seat while leaving you dazzled and (at times) dizzy.

LOS ANGELES — This experience makes you want to lose it.

“It” can be almost anything. Your mind. Your composure. Your breath. Your cookies.

Welcome to the preview, a literary sizzle reel if you will, of “Postcard from Earth,” the first full-sensory production at The Sphere. The immersive experience opens Oct. 6.

We took in a sampling of the show on Saturday, at Big Dome in Burbank, California. The 28,000-square-feet 100-foot-high venue adjacent to Burbank Hollywood Airport is the largest Sphere in operation. At least, until the real thing opens Sept. 29 with“U2 UV: Achtung Baby.”

Directed by Darren Aronofsky (“The Whale,” “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”), “Postcard” launches just after U2 ends its first series. Sphere Director of Photography for Big Sky Andrew Shulkind led this world tour.

The “Big Sky” in Shulkind’s title refers to Sphere Studios’ new Big Sky Camera, used to capture the amazing on-location footage in “Postcard.”

Aronofsky says his aim is to “pluck people from the bling and thrum of the Vegas Strip in all its human constructed madness and immerse them as fully as possible in the wonder, awe, and beauty of the natural world.”

From this session, the theatrical visionary has achieved that. We say this, even as specifics about the earthly experience are being made public with the urgency of a caterpillar crawling across a leaf. We’ll see more, and all of it, in due time.

But we can tell you that in “Postcard,” your seat vibrates and you feel temporary imbalance, as if you are about to teeter out of your chair.

The temperature drops as you drop into Antarctica. Or does it? Feels like it.

You are taken to the African wilderness, thousands of green acres of India, and over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Portland, Oregon.

You duck. You grip. You laugh, gasp and shake your head. You’ll feel as if you are transported to places that seems quite familiar, even if you’ve never been to any of them.

Also sampled for viewing purposes were scenes apart from the “Postcard” production. A roller-coaster ride at Six Flags Over Georgia theme park has you pitching forward, and leaves your head spinning. Shulkind said members of the Sphere team with, shall we say, weaker stomachs are brought in to test such scenes (if they start to lose it, the segment can be shortened).

We watch as a locomotive bursts through the screen. You follow ocean divers in Clear Lake in Oregon, and traipse through a thick forest in Georgia. You meet the face of a stranger from Thailand so close, you see a speck of grass on his face, indicating he is a farmer or landscaper.

There is even a detailed shot of the Strip. The lettering on the hotel-casino marquees is clearly visible. Of course, The Sphere is highlighted. The image is so detailed, you can spot a tiny bird flying across the horizon.

The mandate at The Sphere has not been to make the screen “sing,” as Shulkind says. But instead ask, “How can we transcend this being a screen? How can you make it feel like a window?”

That challenge drove the team to create Big Sky, its ultra-high resolution camera system, never been used in theatrical production until “Postcard.” Shulkind realized early in development there was not existing technology for this type of experience, reasoning, “We had to build something.”

Big Sky is the largest single sensor in commercial use in the word, capturing stunningly detailed, large-format images. Those images will be displayed on and around the highest-resolution LED screen ever built.

And the sound, delivered through more than 160,o00 speakers, does not run incidentally to the video. The visuals and sounds are intertwined. The “Postcard” images will seem to respond to the music. And while U2 will perform hits known around the world, the “Postcard” score will be entirely new and original.

A composer, someone we know, has been brought in to match the music with the dazzling visuals. Those details, too, are in the offing.

Shulkind says “Postcard” and all presentations inside The Sphere represent a more realistic life experience than anything produced for theaters.

“So much of the experience is more than just a show,” the audio-video visionary says. “It’s something that’s different.” Similar to the Aronofsky-imagined beauty of the natural world, the process will be organic.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at Contact him at [email protected]. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.