Fulldome immersive creation: A panorama

In this dossier prepared by the SAT creation team, we explore the evolution of artistic practices in the field of Fulldome creation and the vast possibilities of this remarkable medium.

The planetarium community recently celebrated the centenary of the Model I, the first projection device for a geodesic dome presented on October 21, 1923, at the Deutsches Museum. In the same timeline, the Sphere recently opened its doors in Las Vegas, planting a flag on the map of “content creation oriented” dome venues worldwide while setting major precedents in the field of immersive entertainment technology.

If those two events mark a pivotal moment in the evolution of immersive creation, through major technological milestones and a wider acknowledgment of domes as popular venues, artistic experimentation also continues to thrive. Initiated in the late 1950s, with the series of experimental audiovisual concerts Vortex, organized by Jordan Belson and Henry Jacobs at the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco, or later in 1969 by the Rainbow Jam concert at the Salt Lake City planetarium, another trajectory quickly emerged in this story, that of artistic experimentation in immersive contexts. Quickly, domes’ potential for sound, visual and scenography became a new topic of interest and exploration for for visionaries around the world, who committed to extending the possibilities of the medium through multiple angles.

The SAT is part of this trajectory: the Satmobile, an inflatable immersive dome presented during the 400th anniversary of Quebec City in 2008, and the inauguration of the Satosphere in 2011, the first dome dedicated to the performing arts in North America, being two major examples.

[FR] Read also: Nini et la SAT, a retrospective by SAT’s founder Monique Savoie (interviewed by Alain Brunet)

Satmobile, dôme gonflable de la SAT (2008)


From its conception, the Satosphere stood out for its extraordinary specifications for a live venue, making it a perfect place to combine audiovisual exploration and performing arts: a 210 degree, non-inclined hemispherical dome overlooking a dance floor, with a modular room configuration that can accommodate up to 750 people. Equipped with 8 video projectors and alarge number of speakers (as of now, a 93.5 system) distributed over 4 height levels, the Satosphere also offers a creative space highly modular and perfectly suited for electroacoustics.

Thirteen years after its inauguration, the system was entirely revamped, including a notable update to its audiovisual equipment. However, at a time when 3D game engines and AI are redefining the possibilities offered to artists and immersive art venues become commonplace in most urban cultural landscapes, it is interesting to explore the evolution and the future of this medium.

/ is //// is ////////// – Myriam Boucher

Immersion through vision and sound

Based on the optical principle of anamorphosis, explored notably by the artist-researcher Luc Courchesne with his Panoscope 360 in the early 2000s, hemispherical screen theatres rely on the ability to create the illusion of a continuous space around an audience. Not unlike the trompe l’oeil frescoes of antiquity or the panoramas of the 19th century, the viewers find themselves placed at the very centre of the work.

The development of digital technologies has led to the emergence of fulldome immersive creation by allowing the assembly of multiple projectors in order to cover the entire screen with a standardized image format, also called “domemaster.” Besides the possibility of representing a total environment around the audience, this format also offers a certain flexibility when it comes to adapting works. Indeed, faced with the adaptation constraints that can be encountered in other disciplines, such as architectural projection, spherical content can easily adapt from one dome to another, as well as from or to a variety of formats – a sphere remains a sphere.

The democratization of digital production tools combined with the rise in popularity of virtual reality have played a key role in the evolution and accessibility of fulldome for independent artists. Open source 3D modelling software like Blender, the growing use of game engines in artistic creations, and the rise in availability of affordable 360 ​​cameras have helped enrich the understanding of the medium among a broader creative community.


Panoscope – Luc Courchesne (2006)

Towards a new cinematic language

Artists from different backgrounds have been able to adapt the medium to their disciplines to redefine its codes, like the artist Sergey Prokofyev who uses methods from architectural visualization in his art. Winner of the Excellence Award of the 2022 edition of the SAT Fest with his film Labyrinth (2021), and special mention of the Jury for the 2024 edition with ‘Inner Island’ his conception of the medium perfectly illustrates the cross-pollination between artistic disciplines.

According to him, immersive movies are fundamentally an urban art form. Much like a city, a film cannot be fully grasped at a glance. Diving into visual narratives, one cannot fully grasp the whole; it continually evades us […]. An immersive film represents an unceasing shift from spatial understanding to emotional engagement. The urban experience extends through time, tied to the affects of moving through rather than mere observation. This experience should be accepted as a continuous transition from internal to external and vice versa. We are perpetually in-between the external and the internal, in an ongoing shift from cognitive to affective. This approach can pave the way for reimagining future architecture through the lens of immersive cinema.

Through an expert use of dynamic cameras, and an awareness of the proportionality of spaces and subjects, Prokofyev crafts through this approach a form of utopian visual narration that relates our collective experience of urban spaces, perfectly adjusted to the medium. His work has also been acclaimed around the globe in both worlds, architecture and dome creation.

A variety of artistic practices, initially marginal in fulldome cinema, have distinguished themselves through visionary approaches and unconventional techniques. The work of artists such as Maarten Isaac de Heer (SWARM, Dancing with Dead Animals), Lynn Tomlinson (Reveries of Giverny, Ignite!) or Frances Adair Mckenzie (The Orchid and the Bee) blurs the boundaries between experimental animated cinema and world building by appropriating the possibilities of off-screen space and scale play to create surreal, maximalist, but always unique environments.

SAT Fest 2022 - Myriam Ménard
SAT Fest 2022 - Myriam Ménard

Motion, rhythm and colour

In continuity with visual music, abstract video art or VJing, a new generation of artists emerges, exploiting movement, rhythm and colour. To the minimalist and contemplative experiments of artists such as MNCLR, Weidi Zhang or Sébastien Labrunie, add the hyperkinetic and dazzling approaches of local artists such as Jules Roze, Baron Lanteigne or Lydia Yakonowsky. Known in the VJ scene as Kaminska, his first immersive short “Introduction to econometrics’ (2022) introduced a unique, colourful and dynamic style to visualizing economic and statistical models. These approaches have this in common that their dynamics are based on a strong correlation between visual and sound aspects.

In this sense, domes constitute a preferred space for sound experimentation, inviting artists to explore the multiple possibilities of multi-channel systems in 360 degrees. With its new 93.4 channel sound system, the Satosphere offers new challenges that few artists have until now had the opportunity to explore.

The democratization of sound spatialization tools has also encouraged a multitude of artists to put into practice new approaches to sound in relation to space, as demonstrated by the artist France Jobin. In an interview about the dome adaptation of his project “Entanglement“, created in collaboration with visual artist Markus Heckmann and presented as a world premiere last August at MUTEK 2023: “In installation and concert works for instance, I position speakers in specific ways to respond to the architecture, thus creating a sound sculpture without it being an absolute object […] but, rather, aurally mutable depending on one’s placement in the space.


France Jobin et Markus Heckmann – Entanglement (2023)


The notion of corporality (embodiment), fundamental to immersive art, finds in the dome an ideal device, offering a unique environment for engaging experiences for the public and the performing arts. TOT [Open Territories], a research and artistic experimentation program carried out between 2003 and 2009, which closed with the public installation 4D-mix 3, already foreshadowed the major issues that define the sector today. Within the same space, motion detection, a volumetric video projection device and a multi-channel sound system were integrated, thus offering the public a unified environment. At the heart of the experience, the human body as an element that is both interactive and disruptive.

Since then, a number of innovative currents in contemporary art, such as performance, theatre and dance, which use the body of the artist or audience as the main vector of expression, as well as installation art, Light Art and Land Art, have played a leading role in the exploration of immersive art, exploring the dynamic relationship between body and space.

The technologies introduced by new media art also play a vital role in the evolution of immersive art, paving the way for interactive and multi-sensory experiences. By enabling real-time interaction between body and space, they have opened up new perspectives for bodily engagement and interactive creativity in immersive settings such as domes.

BEATS (MUTEK 2021) Photo: Myriam Ménard

Choreographic art and interaction games

The growth and commitment of an active community of artist developers have made it possible to innovate by integrating interaction devices such as the Microsoft Kinect, smartphones, or sensors allowing the capture of group movement. These technologies have made it possible to conceive of space and the environment as extensions of the body, allowing artistic exploration centred on hyper-responsiveness and synchronicity. This approach requires precise technical development.

This attention to detail is found in the work of artists such as Chikashi Miyama (JP/DE), whom we received in residence in 2018. In his performance “Trajectories,” the artist used sensing gloves to control a system of particles in real time, thanks to a process detecting the angle and absolute direction of his hands in real time, drawing different audiovisual trajectories in the immersive space. This system, entirely designed by the artist, is highlighted by the simplicity of the black and white audiovisual content, placing a clear emphasis on the movement and velocity of his performance.

However, this approach can take on a whole new dimension when the audiovisual space becomes an element of representation and accompanies a desire for third-person staging. In 2018, the project “Disorder” by artists François Moncarey, Kevin Ramseier and Thomas Köppel (CH) already excelled at mastering these new codes of visual storytelling, featuring a dancer in the centre of the dome, with the backdrop of a science-fiction environment composed of 3D scans and animated in real time by his movements. The Montreal collective susy.technology was subsequently able to complete these codes with “Antilogy” (2022) featuring choreographer and dancer Paige Culley as well as the artists of the collective, both actors and witnesses of the alternative reality of their audiovisual creation alongside the public.

Hybridization with video game codes was also the subject of the project “UNION: Play the memory game,” presented for the first time in the Satosphere on the occasion of MUTEK 2023. We find the artists Nancy Lee and Kiran Bhumber (CA), in the role of two protagonists, discovering their ancestral memories through the desire to touch and the rituals practised during a post-apocalyptic wedding ceremony (read their interview).


Antilogy — susy.technology – Photo: Myriam Ménard (2022)

From interactive art to participatory art

Choreography is not the only way to explore the notion of corporality in an immersive environment anymore, as we see new intersections emerging between installation art, interaction, and dome immersion. Here again, we can attribute this trend to major technological developments: the diversification of individual capture devices, creative use of the possibilities offered by smartphones, as well as the development of tools for capturing group movement. Without this trend being reduced to technologies, the new intersections have been made possible above all by the vitality of the digital crafts and software development community.

Domes offer a novel approach to exploring new forms of participative storytelling, in a collective audiovisual environment. Adopting a presentation format usually found in media art exhibitions, projects such as ’THAN’ by Maria Takeuchi (US/JP), presented during Nuit Blanche 2022 in the Satosphere, open the way towards a new conception of the immersive experience under a dome. This installation imbued with existentialism allows the public either to freely explore the potential for interactivity, thus taking part in a form of co-narration, or to appreciate the work for its contemplative character. The experience repeats itself cyclically, symbolizing the rebirth of existence, offering a transitional point of view between the infinitely large and the infinitely small.

The dome thus makes it possible to explore corporeality through physical performance and presence, with the only limit being the capacity offered by this type of infrastructure. What happens when we extend the potential for cooperation and interconnection between several immersive rooms? Is this already a reality?


ENN – Maria Takeuchi (2023)

A turning point in the history of domes?

It would be a difficult task to define the art forms presented in this dossier other than by naming the device they all use as a canvas: the dome. Likewise, the term ‘dome film’ remains an acceptable consensus to define a medium which no longer shares much with film. Will our language one day be able to fill this gap? Nevertheless we are currently at an intersection that could be relevant to analyze in the near future. On the one hand, it is an immersive art born from a progressive convergence between different practices, which is reminiscent of the way in which theatre, photography and musical composition have been able to draw the contours of what would become the art of cinema. On the other hand, the emergence of large-scale screening spaces portends a series of major technological developments for the entertainment industry and the advent of new forms of creation and entertainment, as was the case when sound appeared in cinemas, followed by the proliferation of drive-ins, 3D, IMAX and Dolby equipped venues, or multiplexes. Are we experiencing a similar transition?

Currently, more than 4000 domes are registered in the FDDB (Fulldome Database), including planetariums. If there is one prediction within our reach, it may be this: few domes will be intended to become arenas and will instead retain a maximum capacity of a few dozen individuals. These places will continue to offer the potential for a plural experience, both through the diversity of modes of creation and through an increased awareness of the multiplicity of points of view within an audience. At the centre of this vision, there is a desire to fuel collective imaginations through a community approach, in touch with the individual realities of each person.

Since 2020, we have seen remarkable artistic vitality in the sector, both locally and regionally. Thus, an innovative XR residency program intended for indigenous artists, powered by Wapikoni Mobile, was born in 2021 while the Montreal Planetarium launched in cooperation with the CAM its first artistic residency program under a dome in 2022. This dynamic continued with several actions by the collective World Creation Studio, whose project CO-CREATE, focused on emerging artists, with support from the SAT through mentoring. These initiatives complement a landscape already representative of a certain expertise in the field, embodied in particular by the mobile domes and immersive VJing tools of NEST Immersion, Hubblo, international distributors of dome works, to name just a few.

Dome mapping

A similar dynamic also seems to be taking place abroad, presaging significant progress for the medium. Several artists from our community had the opportunity to present their work to new audiences worldwide. International presentations of ‘Biliminal’ (Collective Sans Perte) and ’TRIAL’ (CLAUDE x Shin Hyejin) at the Melbourne International Film Festival to that of ASTRO (Weidi Zhang) at MUTEK Mexico, to a series of sold-out presentations at Berlin’s Zeiss Planetarium of the dome performance ’Entanglement’ (France Jobin & Markus Heckmann) as well as films ’Metatact’ (Manami Sakamoto & Yuri Urano) and ’Iwakura’ (Ali M. Demirel, Kazuya Nagaya and Maurice Jones), demonstrate a growing interest among planetariums to expose their audiences to artistic programming. This trend is particularly evident in the design of large-scale projects such as “One Sky,” an international collaboration between 6 countries, or Space Explorers, filmed in the ISS station. Those creations are intended for planetariums, but are nevertheless daring in their artistic direction. Note also the creation in 2021 of Best of Earth, an international cooperation of festivals dedicated to promoting fulldome creativity, which we joined in 2022.

In France, several institutions actively support immersive creation. Among them, the Cité des Sciences in Paris, whose recently renovated planetarium will host the second edition of its Festival Sous dôme from March 22 to 24, in collaboration with Jérémy Oury and the 36° association. Based in Lyon,’ AADN organizes regular co-creation workshops at the Planetarium of Vaulx-en-Velin, the Labos Immersifs. Focused on performing arts, these workshops contribute significantly to the exploration of the dome as a stage space, through a multidisciplinary approach to the medium.

New screening locations also in the United Kingdom. The dome of Plymouth Market Hall, designed on a model similar to that of the Satosphere, explores new territories through its programming and offers artistic works adapted to audiences with sensory processing disorders. Founded in Cardiff (Wales) by a collective of artists with backgrounds in immersive documentary and performance production CULTVRLAB is a place equipped with a 12m wide dome, which has become for the second year in a row the headquarters of the festival Fulldome UK. A reference for dome film since 2010, this festival took up the challenge in 2023 of inviting Montreal artists Allison Moore, Arthur Desmarteaux and Lucy Fandel to adapt and present their choreographic performance CLOUD BODIES,’ hosted in residence at the SAT from 2021 to 2022.

Cloud Bodies – Allison Moore  (2022) Photo:Myriam Ménard


Another notable place is the C-Lab, an essential space for digital arts in Taipei (Taiwan) and headquarters of the festival Future Vision Lab. Featuring two uniquely designed domes, the C- Lab gives a prominent place to artistic experimentation and artists from the local scene. This place is also among the precursors of the immersive telepresence, a development axis aimed at simultaneously connecting several immersive locations remotely.

Faced with ecological issues that push us to implement responsible solutions, this last point joins a vision, once utopian, carried by several pioneers of the fulldome format over the last decades, namely, the possibility of connecting immersive places. In addition to the permanent domes that we know of, there are mobile domes, prized for their autonomy and portability, and which offer new alternatives for co-creation, exchange and transmission of knowledge, regardless of their location.


Dossier: Mourad Bennacer et Vincent Brault

Thanks to the artists and partners who collaborated on these projects.

Many of these projects received financial support from the Ministère de la culture et des communications du Québec.

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