Planetariums

A powerful tool for planetariums large and small, WorldWide Telescope (WWT) provides a comprehensive set of features to help you create seamless displays on single-projector domes or complex, multi-projector domes.

WWT provides native support for a variety of planetarium systems and is scalable for simple and complex systems. In the simplest planetarium setup, WWT can run on a single computer running Windows, with one monitor for the control interface. In this scenario, WWT outputs the presentation to a single, full-dome channel so that you can project the visualization by using a spherical mirror dome or a fisheye lens.

For more advanced planetariums, WWT can drive a cluster of servers to create a multi-channel dome projection. In this cluster mode, WWT synchronizes the display video and the data across servers, and manages the status of the WWT server power for each server in the cluster.

WWT handles warping and blending for the dome and comes with tools to solve for this calibration from within the application. Performance has been optimized to enable smooth real-time playback on modern graphics hardware with control for limiting computational demands such as frame rates and anti-aliasing.

The following features in WWT 5.0 make it an even more powerful tool for planetarium shows:

  • Full-dome tour authoring and instant full-dome playback of desktop tours with overlays and images
  • New MIDI controller support, enabling you to customize control panels by using inexpensive but powerful MIDI performance controllers
  • Controls that let you manage projector nodes, check status, and render performance from the WWT console
  • Screen Broadcast feature, which allows any application on the console to display as a window in Full Dome mode

WWT requires a Windows operating system. You can install it on existing Windows-powered digital domes and it is compatible with a variety of software. Like any real-time graphics application, it runs better on higher-performance graphics cards.

People viewing the cosmos inside a planetarium

Presenting WorldWide Telescope in the Planetarium

Planetariums are using WorldWide Telescope in three general presentation formats:

Real-time, interactive presentation: a live operator can change the WWT display by using various controls during real-time, interactive presentations. Control options include:

  • A desktop application interface, including programmable custom buttons
  • An Xbox controller, which can be used by the presenter or audience members to change views, select locations to visit, and more
  • A variety of MIDI controllers are compatible with WWT, enabling you to customize control panels with sliders, knobs, and buttons for complex presentations

Real-time, push-button shows: you can use WWT to create and present tours (real-time shows) that are timed to music and to pre-recorded or live narration. WWT can output a SMPTE track for timing control of external audio sources. Just push a button and the show runs.

Pre-rendered movie for playback and distribution: WWT can directly render uncompressed dome master frame sequences at up to 8k resolution. Planetariums can use this capability to render an entire full-dome movie that is then loaded and presented by using an external video playback system. You could package this movie for distribution as a pre-rendered show or as a real-time, push-button show.

Pre-rendered digital video sequences also can be used as part of a pre-rendered production, either as layers with additional visual effects composited in, or for a specific visual sequence of a longer production. This enables producers to use their own visual-effects tools to integrate WWT-created assets with those from other sources.