Our goal at VMS is to create alternate visual realities – to allow the viewers to visit other worlds. The OVC-3D supports several types of display systems. We built a 12 foot diameter dome at the studio to experiment with this type of environment. Domes do not generate the same level of immersion as the HMDs (head mounted displays like the Rift or Vive) – the audience retains an awareness that they are in a room watching a show rather than feeling that they are actually in this other world. The stereoscopy for HMDs is also better. But domes do have some advantages over HMDs:
We ended up designing and building the dome and projection system ourselves, as we did not like either the prices we were getting or the quality of the images from commercial vendors. VMS is not in the business of building domes, so we are happy to share some info about our system.
Our dome is constructed from a 12ft diameter fiberglass shell. This was the largest size that would fit in our loft with 13 foot ceilings, and allows several people to simultaneously sit/work within the hemisphere with >1800 FoV. We considered constructing a rear-projection system, but it needed a solid clear acrylic shell, which could not be brought into our space.
We used 5 front projectors to provide adequate luminance as well as to provide higher resolution. We experimented with spherical mirrors, but found the resolution was uneven in ways that worked against using multiple projectors.
We did not implement stereoscopic projection. We experimented with various polarization schemes and chroma notch filters and found that they did not work well if the FoV was more than 1100. We decided that unobstructed viewing of the full 1800 was more important than the stereoscopy.
Our key innovation was to use custom home-theatre projectors. A $4K high-end home theater projector can provide better resolution and contrast ratio than the $30K projector designed for this type of professional work. We selected the JVC ILA projector series for the high static contrast ratio and 4K e-Shift technology. We had to use a Navitar wide-angle lens affixed to a custom mounts that we machined in order to achieve a short enough throw-distance. We also had to do some internal modifications to the projector air-flow to support vertical mounting.