Taken from original article published by Blooloop on 10 October 2022
Located at The Venetian in Las Vegas, the eagerly awaited, state-of-the-art Madison Square Garden (MSG) Sphere will open next year. Featuring a 160,000-square-foot display plane that surrounds the audience, including the world’s highest resolution LED screen with over 170 million pixels and a resolution of 16K x 16K, the ambitious $1.865 billion venue is scheduled to open in the second half of 2023.
When completed, the MSG Sphere is expected to become the largest spherical structure in the world, at 336 feet tall and 516 feet wide. A disruptive and unique entertainment venue, it will accommodate up to 20,000 spectators, with 23 VIP suites, and will be used for immersive, custom-made attractions, live performances, sports, gaming, and corporate events.
Multi-award-winning media solutions specialist 7thSense is working with MSG Entertainment as a technology partner to ensure the speed, image quality, and integrity needed to render content for MSG Sphere.
Rich Brown of 7thSense explains:
“Our top-level brief is content management and the video platform for both the interior and the exterior; essentially, presenting the visuals that you will see on the interior or the exterior of the MSG Sphere.”
Outlining the tech that is being used and combined for the project, he says:
“We are using a combination of many technologies. Sphere is a multipurpose venue, and we have many of our products in use in the system. We have our 7thSense Media Server platform presenting any pre-rendered, and live content and effects. It’s super high quality to meet the resolutions required for the Sphere.”
All pre-rendered content is being streamed from a centralised storage system, which, he explains, has been a big technical challenge for the system:
“All of the media comes from one central place on the network. It is streamed through to all of our Media Servers, which is unlike most of the venues I’ve ever seen. That was one of the challenges we’ve had, but we’ve got that all ready to go.”
This aspect, he explains, must be unassailable.
“It has to be bulletproof, and it has to be low latency, as well. It’s a fast-reacting system. There are generative aspects to the show; there are pre-rendered aspects to the show, along with live feeds, all depending on what the show is. There’s a huge network behind this whole thing.”
“The video distribution system for the whole venue, again, is network-based, using SMPTE ST 2110. This is a network-based video protocol that people are starting to adopt, especially in the broadcast industry. We’ve taken that and, with MSG’s vision, have created a massive network for Sphere. The data rates that we are driving to be able to get all the pixels to the LED are massive. It’s an exciting challenge.
“The SMPTE ST 2110 aspect is very important. It’s such a large part of the system.”
MSG Sphere, he feels, is genuinely unprecedented:
“I can’t think of anything like it. It’s a truly immersive experience. ‘Immersive’ is an overused word, but in this case, it really is appropriate. It’s not just the technologies we’re using, it’s the scale and the quality. Our focus is to ensure that the experience is the best that it can be.”
The whole system is, he explains, fully redundant:
“You’ve got a huge amount of equipment, which you then multiply by two. We have our product, Juggler, which is our FPGA-based pixel processor. Juggler acts as the backbone of the video system in Sphere, compositing and managing all the different sources.
“We have our Media Servers; our Conjurer generative content management machines – our game engines, for live, generative content, along with the live feeds. All can be used depending on the needs of the show. Juggler allows us to real-time composite the sources and map them onto the spherical surfaces. It’s going to be amazing!”
In terms of the process, MSG had a clear vision from the start
“We have worked with MSG for a long time and have a great relationship with the team; we’ve been involved with the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show for many years. We reviewed our existing products, and then what MSG needed for Sphere, and have spent over two years growing feature sets and adapting and improving the bandwidths of our products.”
“At the end of the day, we need to be able to say to creative teams that come in, ‘Here are all the capabilities of Sphere; what would you like to do with it?’ We’re essentially providing a toolkit of features and capabilities – and that’s really what 7thSense is all about: providing all the hooks and capabilities required to make the show as imagined by the creative teams.”
“It’s a showcase, really, of where 7thSense is going. Everything we’ve been focused on for the last few years is about creating new workflows for much larger-scale systems. The core of it is combining our Media Servers, Jugglers, and Conjurers, together in one big workflow with Media Distribution, advanced Metadata and Content Management.
“Our ecosystem can be manipulated by any of the other systems in Sphere through our various APIs, and control mechanisms. We are very excited to be releasing a lot of these capabilities to the market over the next year.
“This project presented the opportunity to progress what we were intending to do anyway, but at a much faster pace, and to do it on a giant scale, which is just fantastic.”
The MSG Sphere in Las Vegas is the start of a broader intent to build spheres around the world. MSG Entertainment has already announced plans for a London site, with more locations expected to follow.