Viewers should notice a huge increase in quality, coordinator says.
By Wally Perez
Scobee Planetarium will close for the remainder of the semester starting Nov. 20 to upgrade the projection system in the theater.
Scobee Education Center will still be open, including the Challenger Learning Center and the observatory.
“The technology has changed, projectors are brighter, sharper and the computer systems have gotten faster,” planetarium Coordinator Bob Kelley said.
The planetarium will be upgrading its current projection system, known as Digistar 4, to the Digistar 5 system.
“Our current projector has a 980 x 1020 resolution and runs at 30 frames per second,” Kelley said. “The new system runs at 60 frames per second and has a resolution of 4000 x 4000.”
The audience will notice a difference because of the increased resolution and the sharper and smoother image quality, he said.
With the removal of the old system, which was placed in the center of the theater, Kelley expects to add more wheelchair-accessible or regular seating.
The theater currently seats 100, which includes about four wheelchair-accessible areas.
The new system will have two projectors in the front and back of the theater, hidden behind the wall, that will illuminate each half of the dome that is 38 feet in diameter, he said.
“We will need to run cables beneath the floor from the front to the back, so we’ll need to do a bit of construction,” Kelley said.
The system cost $775,000, which was approved by the Alamo Colleges board and the administration of this college.
“When we include the remodeling and the system, we’re looking at an estimate of about $850,000,” Kelley said.
“If we’re going to stay compatible with new presentations that are available, we need to stay up to date,” Kelley said. “If we didn’t, it would be like purchasing a Blu-ray Disc without the Blu-ray player.”
Along with the projection system, the Digistar 5 also comes with a separate computer system that allows the staff to generate and produce their own shows instead of spending thousands on them.
“We will have our last shows Nov. 20 and begin the disassembly of the current system on the following Monday,” Kelley said.
The Digistar 4 system will be traded in, as part of the Digistar 5 purchase, and the district will receive a payment for the Digistar 4 equipment, he said.
Kelley hopes to have the theater re-open in mid-January.
For more information, call Kelley at 210-486-0101.