Sphere & STMicroelectronics create world’s largest image sensor

11th January 2024
Paige West

Sphere Entertainment Co. (SPHR) has announced its collaboration with STMicroelectronics for the creation of the world's largest image sensor.

This sensor is designed specifically for Sphere's Big Sky camera system, which is a key component in capturing content for Sphere's entertainment medium in Las Vegas. The Big Sky camera system, conceptualised by Sphere Studios, is integral for producing content for Sphere's enormous, high-resolution LED screen, which engulfs the audience in a fully immersive visual environment.

The Sphere venue boasts the world’s largest LED screen, offering a vast 160,000 sq. ft. display with a 16 x 16K resolution. The Big Sky camera system, with its 18K sensor, was engineered by Sphere Studios to capture images at the scale and quality required by this expansive display. This sensor, now the largest used in commercial cinema cameras, works in tandem with the sharpest cinematic lenses to capture intricate, large-format images.

“Big Sky significantly advances cinematic camera technology, with each element representing a leap in design and manufacturing innovation,” said Deanan DaSilva, lead architect of Big Sky at Sphere Studios. “The sensor on any camera is critical to image quality, but given the size and resolution of Sphere’s display, Big Sky’s sensor had to go beyond any existing capability. ST, working closely with Sphere Studios, leveraged their extensive expertise to manufacture a groundbreaking sensor that not only expands the possibilities for immersive content at Sphere, but also across the entertainment industry.”

“ST has been on the cutting edge of imaging technology, IP, and tools to create unique solutions with advanced features and performance for almost 25 years,” said Alexandre Balmefrezol, Executive Vice President and Imaging Sub-Group General Manager, STMicroelectronics. “Building a custom sensor of this size, resolution, and speed, with low noise, high dynamic range, and seemingly impossible yield requirements, presented a truly novel challenge for ST – one that we successfully met from the very first wafer out of our 12” (300mm) wafer fab in Crolles, France.”

The 316-megapixel sensor of the Big Sky camera is significantly larger and more detailed than standard high-end commercial camera sensors, with a size almost double that of a wallet-sized photograph. Its capabilities include capturing images at 120 fps and managing data transfer at a rate of 60 gigabytes per second.

Furthermore, the Big Sky system addresses common issues in large-format image capturing, such as the need to stitch content from multiple cameras, by allowing filmmakers to capture from a single camera. Sphere Studios has filed numerous patents related to the technology developed for Big Sky.

Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Postcard from Earth’, showcased at Sphere, is the first cinematic production to utilise the Big Sky camera. This production offers audiences a breathtaking journey across all seven continents, with visuals captured using Big Sky that provide an immersive experience, allowing viewers to feel as though they are traveling to distant lands while seated in Las Vegas.

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