A Day in Virtual Space

By Matt Nesteroff (CREM ’19)

Earlier in the week my Emerging Media in Montreal (CCM 301) class was lucky to visit the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium at Montreal’s Olympic Park just a short walk from the Viau metro station. We watched two shows: Space Next documented the past and predicted the future of space exploration, and EXO tracked humanity’s search for other forms of life in the galaxy.

Both shows were very interesting to watch. As someone who’s had a great deal of enthusiasm for the development of technology for space travel and astronomy, it was awesome to see techniques and equipment I’ve been reading about for the past decade brought to the big screen, especially since I had the pleasure to visit the Keck Observatory research center in Hawai’i this past summer and learn about some of the topics discussed in the film first-hand.

Afterwards, we had the opportunity to speak to Loïc Quenel, co-Director of EXO, who talked to us at length about the behind-the-scenes process of creating these films. Most of all, I was impressed by the technical details. EXO was shown on a 170° dome screen that was the room, allowing us to look straight up and all around.

And while the other screen was slightly smaller, it was still large enough to fill our vision with the images from Space Next. The technology needed to run shows on these screens was really impressive: the full dome itself required

eight separate servers simply to render and project images, and a ninth to sync them all together, while filming for the screen required cameras pointed in five directions and complicated software to stitch the separate images together.

Overall, it’s an experience I can’t recommend enough. Whether you’re a hardcore enthusiast or just looking for something fun to do for the afternoon, the Planetarium has more than enough to ignite your interest in space!