The immersive show of Satosphère

Launched in 2011, the Satosphere of the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) of Montreal – a 360-degree spherical projection dome – stays one of the most impressive audiovisual experience to live nowadays in terms of immersive digital cinema. A spatialized stimulation of spectator’s perceptions that doubles up with a large flexibility of contents as Sat Fest 2016 is still currently revealing.

Already known for the number and quality of its active network around digital creation – with research, development and diffusion sites such as Concordia/Hexagram University, Elektra and Mutek festivals, the SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques) and an abundance of artists that have followed local pioneers as [The User] or Herman Kolgen -, the city of Montreal benefits also from a very unique device on a global scale, the Satosphere.

This permanent and adjustable immersive cinema, taking the shape of a dome overlooking Montreal downtown from the SAT’s roof, Boulevard Saint-Laurent, is a jewel of technology echoing back the missions of its founding structure, a centre of digital creation created in 1996 to support a new generation of artists and searchers. A goal that SAT has been pursuing in all directions, being notably the first North-American member of  Open Living Labs (ENoLL) network, a European initiative gathering over 170 research and innovation centres around the world.

Outdoor and indoor views of the Dome

If this construction, launched in 2011, cannot be missed from the outside, it is a real must-see from the inside. Its dimensions are impressive, 13m high, with 18m in diameter. But this is mostly about the conditions of the immersive experience. They bring fascinating perspectives. Here, no conventional spherical projections as you could find in a geode or a planetarium. No Imax 3D glasses that fastens you on your seat and force you to focus on the central screen axis. At the opposite, the dome conveys an almost total freedom in the way of experiencing it as people can lie on the floor, seat on sofas or walk around and have different appreciations of the movie from different points of view.  

This principle of free spatiality is especially essential as the projection effects can be totally breathtaking. For instance, you can have the impression that the highest point of the dome suddenly draws away, making the space bigger, and a few seconds later, everything becomes narrow as the image dives into you and makes you feel as trapped in a cellar. The speed and change of these spatialized configurations is astonishing. This is the consequence of the technical armada that oversees the edifice as explains Louis-Philippe St-Arnault, director Production and Immersive development of the SAT and a key figure of the Satosphere project.

Satosphere, a very unique device

The Satosphere is an immersive device especially conceived to amplify the collective experience at a human level of a group of users”, Louis-Philippe St-Arnault says. ”It is also the only existing permanent device of this shape, specifically dedicated to multidisciplinary creation and experimental diffusion activities in the cultural sector but not only as audiovisual simulations and constant research about immersion language can interest lot of societies. It is composed of a vast modular spherical screen, permeable to the sound and that interlocks with a dome structure with very high acoustical absorption qualities. This screen is a movable unit, allowing having hemispherical or 180 degrees, 210 degrees and 230 degrees spherical projections if needed, allowing more open or more immersive configurations according to activities or creative intentions. The Satosphere is also fitted with a very performing system of eight HD sources, what brings a richer experience for resolution and colours. The real-time content management offers high flexibility to creators and performing live manipulations. Another very important specificity of the device is its spatializing sound system which is composed of a bunch of 157 speakers, positioned to create a 39.4 native system.”

Actually made of two domes, an immobile one outside and a slightly smaller projection dome inside, the Satosphere is still five years after its opening a model within the realm of spherical audiovisual content creation. “Spherical content creation is still a big topic as there are several techniques and workflows”, Louis-Philippe St-Arnault says. “The SAT immersion team has been working for almost ten years to improve, simplify and makes more accessible all theses techniques of creation by providing dedicated training courses.

Party 20 ans SAT !  

For people working on image synthesis, it is now easier to refer to 'cubemap' techniques in the process of their 3D capitation methods for their rendering software having not a camera with a satisfactory aperture. For others, some software directly integrates this functionality, mostly since the buzz around virtual reality that uses sometimes similar, not to say identical, principles. In fact, the most 'exploring' people are video artists that must still learn how to manually put into shape all the shootings required for a spherical projection, image by image!

SAT Fest

To show this creative infatuation spreading under the dome, The Satosphere welcomes from March 22 to April the SAT Fest, an event presenting new immersive movies realised by about 15 artists/directors among which Yan Breuleux (partner of Alain Thibault, director of Elektra festival inside live AV project PURFORM), Samy Lamouti, Sam Chenennou, Francis Théberge (TiND), Guillaume Bourassa, Sean Caruso, Paul Currie, Patrick Trudeau, Philippe Rochefort, Munro Ferguson, Kid Koala and Jan Pienkowski. A way to open new perspectives again?

We do not commission special pieces. Artists are free to create!”, Carolan Grégoire, SAT media editor, says. ”The Labodome technical team is of course there to support them with its internationally-recognised expertise in immersive audiovisual production. There are no either 'aesthetical' trends. If it’s easy to make 'circles', we encourage artists to use this dome-shaped immersive space as a whole screen. Perception experiments then are stressed out. But even today, there are still artists that succeed to surprise us with the circular visuals they are able to do, and the new levels of illusion they can reach.


Laurent Catala

Satosphere demo 2015-2016 from Society for Arts and Technology 

SAT (Société des Arts technologiques)

Montréal, Canada (Québec)

Credits photo : Sébastien Roy

Movies SAT Fest


Definition of "chronophage": Time-consuming, taking up of involving a great deal of time. Like screens, which are time –consuming, as this movie shows. 

Visuels : TiND (CA)

Audio : Création Ex Nihilo (CA)
Durée : 3:10 min


SWARM falls within the outcome of Yan Breuleux’s experimentations on immersion language. This project explores the concept of emergence under a metaphorical spell. 

Visuels : Yan Breuleux et Sam & Sam (CA)

Audio : Yan Breuleux (CA)
Durée : 13:40 min


A journey between plans and dimensions, going from beyond observable universe into imaginary environments where physical laws are in constant evolution.

Visuels : Sean Caruso (CA)
Audio : Sean Caruso et Paul Currie (CA)
Durée : 9:40 min


Immersive piece and 3D trip including particles systems and simulations of fluid acting into a framework that celebrates negative space.

Visuels : Patrick Trudeau (CA)
Audio : Orbital Mechanics (CA)
Durée : 8:50 min


Immersive movie created with Stereoscopic animation tool and 3D drawing software Sandde. The obsessive soundtrack has been composed by Kid Koala and Jan Pienkowski.

Visuels : Munro Ferguson (CA)
Audio : Kid Koala (CA) et Jan Pienkowski (CA)
Durée : 7:00 min