360 degree cinema

Lightweight technology used in a new way

Cinema is a pretty engaging artform, but people have been playing around with making it an even more immersive experience since the earliest days of cinematography. Wrapping the film right around the viewer, in a full circle, has a long history that include:

  • Cinéorama : an early film experiment and amusement ride at the 1900 Paris Exposition devised by Raoul Grimoin-Sanson. Ten cameras with a central drive were mounted in balloon, and a 400 metres high flight over Paris was filmed. The film was shown backwards to simulate a descent, with ten 70mm projectors synchronised showing on 9m square screens arranged around 360°. The viewing platform resembled a large balloon basket, capable of holding 200 viewers, with rigging, ballast and large gas bag. It lasted only three days before being shut down over extreme heat and fire danger.
  • Circle-Vision 360° : with nine cameras and screens arranged in a circle the system was refined by The Walt Disney Company and used at several theme parks. The first film was America the Beautiful shown in the Disneyland Circarama theatre in 1955. With an odd number of screens, films are projected across the space through the gaps onto screens placed above head level, with rails for viewers to lean against.
  • World Expo: A development of this system was used for the 1958 Brussels world expo by The Walt Disney Company and Ford Motor Company using eleven 16mm projectors. The effect has been used in several other Expo's, including the Korea Pavillion at Expo 2012 Yeosu, where a 30m diameter dome claimed to be the 'worlds largest dome screen'.
  • Circlorama : London cinema opened 1963 was developed by professor Goldovsky (Moscow Cinema Research Institute). This 18m diameter auditoria for 500 standing spectators had a screen length of 45m raised 2½ meters from the floor. Eleven  Philips FP20S 35mm film projectors were synchronised electronically with a 9-channel Philips sound reproducer using 51 speakers. The first title "Russian Roundabout" was filmed with a rig of 11 cameras arranged in a circle and featuring panoramic pictures from Moscow, 2000 horse riding Cossacks and speedboats. With 20 shows daily, each lasting 20 minutes, it was also seen in Blackpool and Glasgow. http://www.in70mm.com/news/2004/circlorama/index.htm
  • Arromanches 360 : Built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994 this circular theatre of 9 screens shows ‘The Price of Freedom’ mixing news-reel images and archive material from war correspondents with modern day pictures. Standing only.


With our Lightweight project we've ended up making a 360 degree system, although its usually used in a different way. This is a view of the set-up inside the globe:inside

The content wraps right around and is either:

  • animation and imagery created live by computer
  • video pre-prepared in After Effects
  • we have also experimented with silhouetes made on the fly from Kinnect 3-D cameras.

For the Thornhill boost event we used this system in a different way, filling a space with immersive imagery:

boost event