Delegates who converge on Las Vegas this week for the first NAB Show since 2019 will notice a new addition emerging in the famous skyline — the MSG Sphere at the Venetian, which could usher in a new canvas for filmmakers and all sort of immersive entertainment when it opens next year. During a session on the opening day of NAB, a team from MSG Sphere Studios — the production arm of the venture — confirmed that it is talking to everyone from Hollywood directors to musicians while revealing new details about the creative content plans.
When completed, the massive sphere is expected to be the largest spherical structure in the world (336 feet tall and 516 feet wide) and serve as a radical new entertainment venue that can accommodate up to 20,000 spectators. (Construction costs have been estimated at $1.826 billion, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal).
It’s expected to house a record 160,000-square-foot wraparound LED display on the interior, while the exterior will be coated with a record 580,000-square-foot exterior LED display “that can be seen from space,” reported Andrew Shulkind, head of capture for MSG Sphere Studios, a Burbank facility that will house the core production and postproduction-work content designed for the Sphere. The LED display can accommodate 16K-by-16K picture resolution. Through a partnership with Berlin-based audio company Holoplot, the Sphere will also house a custom spatial audio system, and additional plans include 4D capabilities from wind to scents, as well as connectivity for all guests.
The panelists declined to share specifics of creative partners or planned content, but they suggested that content for the “multi-purpose” venue could include immersive filmed entertainment, live events including concerts, gaming and what they hope will be entirely new types of entertainment. Shulkind confirmed that narrative content is “absolutely on the road map.”
“We are looking for disrupters,” said senior creative director Nathalie van Sasse van Ysselt. “We have an active creative-development department. We are hosting VIP tours in Burbank and testing these creative tools, so we can open up the ideas for creatives.”
Chris Dee, the studio’s senior vp of production and show technology, noted that the studio is “focusing on live-action first.” To that end, the team confirmed that they have already placed camera systems — newly developed systems that look like 3D rigs on steroids — in Antartica and plans to place one on the International Space Station, through a grant from The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.
While designed for immersive entertainment, Shulkind was asked if a portion of the LED sphere could be used to display content at a more traditional aspect ratio — such as Hollywood tentpoles or live events including the Super Bowl — and responded, “Can you? Yes. Will we? Maybe.”
On the technical side of the equation, execs talked about the need for innovation in all areas of production, postproduction and exhibition — tools and workflows, all while managing massive amounts of data. “We are building the tools and language,” said Dee. Panelists confirmed that they are developing real-time virtual production techniques as part of the equation.
Looking ahead, plans are in place to build a second such Sphere in London and later, in additional cities. “We want to expand this, globally,” Shulkind said as the panel, part of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers-hosted Future of Cinema sessions, concluded.