The Planetarium of Bogotá needed to renovate the projectors of its dome – with capacity for 376 people – and was looking for the latest in projection technology.
The Planetarium of Bogotá was inaugurated in 1969 at the beginning of the Space Age, which aroused in the public a great interest in astronomy, science and the exploration of the universe, facts that led to the construction of large planetariums around the world. Due to the significant investment cost of the project and the small budget of the city, the mayor of that time made an alliance with the Federation of Coffee Growers to barter coffee for the projection system, the screen and the equipment with the firm Veb Carl Zeiss of the city of Jena in the German Democratic Republic, at that time one of the best companies to offer the infrastructure and equipment for large planetariums.
More than 50 years after that opening, "the planetarium was looking for a technological leap that would allow the public to live immersive experiences in the most realistic arts, science and technology and with the highest quality," recalls Carlos Molina, coordinator of the Planetarium of Bogotá, which is under the orbit of the District Institute of the Arts (Idartes) of the Mayor's Office of the Colombian capital.
To do this, the planetarium needed to renew the projectors of its dome – with capacity for 376 people – and was looking for the latest in projection technology: "The starting point was clearly the resolution," says Molina. "We wanted 4K projectors, as most planetarium productions come in that resolution," he adds. But the astronomical enclosure also aspired to have an environmentally friendly solution: "We wanted equipment that did not use lamps, that had a greater durability of the lighting source and that was more energy efficient."
It was at that point when the integrator Bigvideo SAS proposed to the planetarium the pure laser projectors Christie Griffyn 4K32-RGB: "The truth is that they were the perfect choice for their versatility, cutting-edge technology, sustainability, light power, energy efficiency, resolution, size, weight and price, in addition to their possibility of upgrading to 3D in the future," recalls Joaquín Gutiérrez, director of Bigvideo, which was one of the companies that won the public tender for the supply and integration of the project in partnership with the companies Merge and AV Design.
Thus, the planetarium was made with two pure Christie Griffyn 4K32-RGB laser projectors managed by Christie Pandoras Box 8 and by the Christie Mystique™ camera-based alignment and recalibration solution. In short, an integral Christie solution to which the planetarium added the hiring of Christie Professional Services for preventive maintenance of the system.
The two Griffyn of the planetarium work in blending, one of them covering the northern hemisphere of the dome and the other the south, each bathing approximately 70% of the dome and thus achieving a suitable overlap for the necessary blending/warping. The projectors have been equipped with special Navitar lenses for projection on concave surface, which allows a homogeneous focus by 90%.
For the control of the projection, two Pandoras Box machines are used, specifically a Manager and a Server with the Pandoras Box 8 software, as well as the Christie Widget Designer tool to create custom applications. "Pandoras Box is a very robust solution that deals with the planetarium to launch the contents, also capturing double signal 4K at 60 hz from the Digistar 7 station, the astronomical software from Evans & Sutherland that was acquired for the project", clarifies Joaquín Gutiérrez.
In addition, the Christie Mystique Large Scale Experience alignment and recalibration software has been installed, which allows the projectors to be aligned with ease. "It is a very versatile and robust solution to automate the warping and blending processes by allowing with a single click to align, calibrate and mix multi-projection matrices with great precision, in this case using three cameras," adds the director of Bigvideo.
In turn, the Planetarium of Bogotá has contracted Christie Professional Services to prolong the life of its AV systems and make the most of its investment. "As this is an important investment in equipment, we were interested in having preventive maintenance and real-time monitoring of the system, as well as diagnostics and quick solutions to possible problems, to minimize downtime," explains Carlos Molina.
The truth is that from the planetarium they are delighted with how Christie's integral solutions have allowed them to be at the forefront of projection technology for domes: "The truth is that the Griffyn offers us very vivid colors, a better contrast and a great light power (34,000 lumens) to cover our dome of 23 meters, tripling the luminosity of our previous system," says the planetarium coordinator.
Carlos Molina also highlights the reliability of the Christie brand: "The use given to the projectors in our planetarium is very intensive, with eight or nine sessions per day using equipment with a high level of demand, and with Christie we feel safe thanks to the proven performance of its machines in the most demanding conditions".
The new projection system of the planetarium has turned the dome into a space full of alternatives, because in addition to pleasing astronomy fans with immersive trips to the galaxies, it allows to project audiovisual, theatrical and musical samples, becoming a true immersive theater and a laboratory of audiovisual experimentation.
In addition, the planetarium has a Space Museum of 650 square meters, five exhibition rooms, auditorium, children's room, astrotheque – a library specialized in astronomy and space sciences – and interactive spaces with a capacity for 1,000 people per day.
Diego López, general manager NOLA & Andean Region of Christie, says: "We are very happy that the Planetarium of Bogotá has relied on the potential of Christie's integrated solutions to carry out its renovation. We are sure that they will help it position itself as one of the most modern astronomical enclosures in the world due to its state-of-the-art technology. We also want to thank our partners in this work for their enormous solidity, dedication and commitment to a project as avant-garde as this has been for the region."
Since its recent reopening, the astronomical site of Bogotá has become a benchmark for the region and has just hosted the XII Meeting of Planetariums of South America where attendees had the opportunity to learn about the experiences of planetariums and observatories throughout the Latin American subcontinent, exploring above all how the creative capacity of these centers has been promoted with the arrival of the pandemic to reach audiences with content and new programming.