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7thSense powers new entertainment era at Sphere Vegas

Featured image credit: 7thSense

7thSense, the software and technology company behind the groundbreaking offerings at the new Sphere venue in Las Vegas, has stated the arena will “forever redefine” the landscape of live performances and immersive experiences.

The Sphere officially opened on September 29 after U2 kicked off a 25-show residency at the 18,600-capacity venue. The Populous-designed facility has been built at a cost of $2.3bn (£1.9bn/€2.2bn) and has been praised for its stunning visuals.

Two of the Sphere’s signature features – its 160,000 sq. ft interior LED display plane, and its 580,000 sq. ft. exterior, the Exosphere – are powered by technologies from 7thSense. At 16K x 16K resolution, Sphere’s interior LED display plane is the highest resolution LED screen in the world.

Soaring to a height of 240 feet, and with over three acres of display surface, the screen wraps up, over, and around the audience to create a fully immersive visual environment. The Exosphere is the largest LED screen in the world – a vivid canvas that has captured the world’s attention with a wide range of artistic and branded content since debuting in July.

7thSense said the size and scale of Sphere required a playback engine like no other system in the world. Behind the scenes at Sphere, 7thSense’s new suite of products, collectively known as the ‘Performer Range,’ work to collaboratively breathe life into the LED displays.

“Sphere’s LED displays redefine the meaning of immersive,” said David Dibble, CEO of MSG Ventures, a division of Sphere Entertainment. “On the interior, never has an LED screen combined this immense scale and field of view with this level of clarity, while the exterior is a dynamic canvas that has already become a new global landmark.

“7thSense has been a valued partner in delivering high-quality video playback solutions for MSG for over a decade, and we trusted the team to work closely with us and push their technologies even further to meet the unique demands of Sphere. The result is an experience that takes audiences from simply watching content on an LED screen, to feeling like they have been transported to new places.”

7thSense has worked with the team at MSG since 2011, when the company’s technologies were used as part of the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes in New York. Since then, the 7thSense and MSG collaboration has produced several other project installations.

Richard Brown, chief technology officer of 7thSense, said: “With the opening of Sphere in Las Vegas, we are excited to introduce our new Performer range, including Actor media server, Juggler pixel processor, and Conjurer – our generative media solution.

“Developed over several years with a focus on the evolving landscape of video technology, and the challenging workflow requirements associated with a media storage and playback system needed for a project the size of Sphere, these products are intricately designed to leverage SMPTE ST 2110 IP video streaming.

“The pre-rendered content at Sphere is stored on a network-attached storage (NAS) solution and streamed in real-time to dozens of media servers, which each output 4K video at 60 frames per second over an ST 2110 distribution network – a world-first in terms of technology capability at this scale for a live entertainment venue.

“7thSense’s Juggler pixel processors handle combining playback media with other video sources, such as cameras, to create overall compositions that tell larger-than-life immersive stories. The integration of these products into Sphere isn’t just a step, but a leap forward in our journey of innovation.”

Bryan Hinckley, CEO of 7thSense, added: “Since 2004, 7thSense has been at the forefront of identifying and addressing inefficiencies and challenges in managing very large video systems, consistently raising the bar in user interaction, both for technical experts and creative minds.

“We firmly believe that our team and our technologies have now crafted a solution that will forever redefine the landscape of live performances and immersive experiences.”

London latest

Sphere Entertainment, the company formerly known as Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp which is behind Sphere, has plans for similar venues throughout the world. London is one such proposed site, with London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in March 2022 approving plans that have drawn vocal opposition, notably from AEG, operator of The O2.

Located in the heart of Stratford, East London, Sphere’s main venue would have a scalable capacity of up to 17,500 seated, or 21,500 when there is a mix of seated and standing. The latter, in theory, would be greater than the official capacity of The O2 arena, which is situated in the borough of Greenwich.

The proposals still need to be approved by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, before construction can start. In February, an Article 31 holding directive was issued by Gove, preventing the LLDC and Khan from approving the plans before Gove has decided whether they need to be “called in” for further scrutiny.

Along with AEG, the Sphere plans have been met with opposition from the likes of environmentalists and local residents, concerned at the impact the Sphere’s state-of-the-art display technology would have on their lives.

The Evening Standard reported this week that Sphere Entertainment has offered residents blackout blinds to address the imagery that would be broadcast from the arena. Questioned on the current status of the project, a spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “As this is a live application that will be referred back to the Mayor, we cannot comment in advance of any decision he may make.”