An instantly iconic addition to the Las Vegas skyline, Sphere is not only the world’s largest spherical structure, but also a technological marvel whose innovations could offer a glimpse of the future of entertainment. The venue near The Venetian will make its highly anticipated debut with a U2 residency on September 29, closely followed by the launch of the first film designed for its all-encompassing screen, Postcard of the Earthaccompanied by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.
The $2.3 billion structure contains the world’s largest wraparound LED displays in the world. Outside, the LED-coated globe illuminates the city at night with ever-changing images. Inside, the viewer is immersed in a breathtaking phantasmagoria.
Sphere’s sound system even allows audience members to experience different sonic experiences in different parts of the venue, which seats 20,000 people. As Hollywood explores the possibilities of LED screens as an alternative to digital cinema projection, sound remains a persistent obstacle. Sphere’s system, designed by Berlin-based Holoplot, could well be an approach to tackling that technical challenge.
The production of U2:UV Achtung BabyLive at Bol includes custom 16K resolution content produced and mastered specifically to be displayed during the concert, as well as unique concert lighting and a mobile stage. Traveling around the world in the meantime Postcard – which Aronofsky describes as a “sci-fi journey deep into our future as our descendants contemplate our shared home” – was filmed on every continent and features both narrative and documentary elements. “It is a learning process because the technology is new,” says the director. “Delivering a half-petabyte movie – that’s 500,000 gigabytes
– which uses more than 160,000 speakers is mind-boggling.”
With such groundbreaking technology, it is perhaps no surprise that Sphere’s construction budget has ballooned since the 2018 groundbreaking.
“I have to admit, we didn’t expect to spend $2.3 billion,” James Dolan — the cable TV and Madison Square Garden mogul who conceptualized the project — said on Aug. 22 during the first earnings call for Sphere Entertainment Co. t anticipate COVID,” which dramatically increased the cost and construction time of the project. “But I think we’re still in good shape.”
Dolan initially unveiled the plans for Sphere in a high-tech presentation at Radio City Music Hall (another Dolan property) in February 2018. Dolan, a musician himself (he is the frontman of the band JD & The Straight Shot), praised the Sphere as venue that would “revolutionize the way artists and audiences connect.”
Dolan would restructure its assets in support of the project, combining the Sphere with MSG Networks and splitting it from MSG Entertainment (which includes the eponymous New York Arena, Radio City, the Beacon Theater and the Rockettes) and MSG Sports. owner of the New York Knicks NBA team and the New York Rangers NHL team.
The mogul has positioned Sphere as the future of experiential entertainment, combining live concerts (like the inaugural U2 residency) with programming like Aronofsky’s film that can run on days when no live events are booked. The hope is that eventually multiple shows can take place in one day.
To tailor content for the massive curved screen, Sphere Entertainment established Sphere Studios, a quarter-size version of the Las Vegas Sphere in Burbank, with R&D and production facilities. It also turned to Hollywood professionals for their expertise, such as Robert Settlemire (Avatar: The Way of Water), who helped design underwater housings for filming water scenes with the 316-megapixel Big Sky camera, designed to capture 18K-by-18K footage at up to 120 frames per second.
Dolan told Wall Street analysts that Aronofsky’s film was “capital intensive” but that future projects could be produced at a lower price tag.
“He is a very talented director, but we have new cameras that are being used for filming. He had to learn how to use those cameras, We I had to learn how to use those cameras,” Dolan said. “We went all over the world with those cameras and captured content from all parts of the world.”
Sphere is poised to play a visible role at the Formula 1 race in Las Vegas in November. “Turn six and the beginning of turn seven on the track pass through the Sphere parking lot,” said Rich Claffey, executive vice president and COO of Sphere. “And then they will use our entire infield for their stage space, their musical artists, their activation space. We will probably have 27,000, maybe 30,000 people on our property at any given time.” Additional plans call for Formula 1 content to be shown on the exosphere during the race, while an afterparty for the drivers will be held at Sphere.
In the meantime, the company continues to showcase the Sphere to potential partners. “I think we do 20 tours a week with athletes, celebrities, rock stars, producers, promoters and business people,” Claffey says. “Everyone has come over here, they’re all interested in seeing Sphere.”
And while many Hollywood creators have railed against artificial intelligence this summer, Vegas has no such qualms about the future: Visitors to the venue will be greeted by five humanoid, AI-enabled robots called Aura, which will chronicle humanity’s history and innovation will tell. , culminating in – what else? — Bol.
1. Sphere houses a record 160,000 square foot wraparound LED display on the inside, while the exterior is covered with a record 580,000 square foot LED display. Both are fully programmable and offer an image resolution of 16K by 16K.
2. Sphere is set to play a visible role at the first Formula 1 race in November in Las Vegas. “Turn six and the start of turn seven on the circuit pass through the Sphere parking lot,” said Sphere executive vp and COO Rich Claffey.
3. With the unique display and sound system, the content must be tailor-made, mixed and mastered specifically by the filmmakers for the location. by Darren Aronofsky Postcard of the Earth is the first film designed specifically for the immersive experience screen.
4. The location can accommodate a maximum of 20,000 standing spectators or 17,500 seated guests. The spatial audio system uses an estimated 160,000 speakers that can simultaneously deliver different audio content (including different languages) to different seating areas.
5. Visitors entering Sphere’s grand atrium will encounter five lifelike AI-enabled humanoid robots, all named Aura, who will converse with guests and introduce them to the wonders of Sphere – while a flesh-and-blood technical advisor blood is present.
6. At 100 meters high and 160 meters wide, the site is believed to be the largest spherical structure in the world, surpassing such globes as the Epcot Center’s Spaceship Earth, Montreal’s Biosphere and Stockholm’s Avicii Arena.
This story first appeared in the September 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.