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Marshalltown, Iowa - October 2016 - The California Academy of Sciences (the Academy) recently unveiled the upgraded fulldome Morrison Planetarium, showcasing an all-new projection system from Mechdyne Corporation. The new technology will enhance the audience’s visual experience, reduce maintenance downtime, simplify operations, and enable both pre-rendered and live presentations, all while maintaining their LEED Platinum certification. 


The Academy’s planetarium, one of the largest all-digital planetarium domes in the world, originally opened in 2008. In an effort to provide a richer, more immersive experience inside the 75-foot-diameter dome, the Academy partnered with Mechdyne to ensure the planetarium upgrades enabled photorealistic imagery and high resolution. Mechdyne’s expertise in complex visualization, large-scale solution design, and optical engineering innovation came together to deliver the Academy’s technology vision.


“These upgrades will continue to position us as a global leader in education and scientific discovery,” says Ryan Wyatt, Senior Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization. “Our team creates a wide range of data visualizations in support of the Academy’s mission to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth. We decided to work with Mechdyne not only because of their expertise in complex visualization systems, but because they treated us like partners instead of customers. Collaborating with Mechdyne has been very rewarding.”


To ensure seamless project delivery, Mechdyne worked closely with the Academy on technology decisions and upgrade designs. In order to meet the Academy’s demanding project timeline with minimal risk, Mechdyne:

  • Carefully analyzed the Morrison Planetarium layout, equipment room, theater walls, operator console, and all other physical aspects of the space prior to technology design

  • Extensively modeled the system digitally in advance of staging 

  • Creatively pre-staged partial and fulldome scenarios at a nearby science center

  • Eliminated construction expense and schedule risk by utilizing existing projector locations


California Academy of Sciences Planetarium | Mechdyne

“We initially offered three projector options to the Academy based on critical aspects such as color performance, image consistency and resolution, total cost of ownership, and environmental impact,” says Kurt Hoffmeister, technologist and co-founder of Mechdyne. “We worked closely with the Academy to ensure the ultimate solution would meet and exceed their expectations. These upgrades to Morrison Planetarium will further enhance experiencing their educational shows.” 


An additional requirement was the ability to support real-time cross-fading between different digital content sources at full 4K resolution, a capability not supported by traditional systems. Instead, Mechdyne developed the Dome Display Manager (DDM), a proprietary solution which met the Academy’s demanding performance requirements at an attractive price point. 


“As one of the most prestigious science museums in the world, we were thrilled to partner with the California Academy of Sciences,” says Chris Clover, CEO of Mechdyne. “We look forward to a lasting partnership.”

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining and sustaining life on Earth. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education—all under one living roof. For more information, visit www.calacademy.org


About Mechdyne

Mechdyne Corporation is a broad-based technology partner specializing in audiovisual and information technologies (AV/IT), visualization and software solutions, immersive virtual reality technologies, and technical support services. We address complex projects where an in-depth understanding of user requirements leads to the development of customized solutions involving elements of display, graphics computing, software, and professional services. Headquartered in Marshalltown, Iowa, Mechdyne serves a global client base that includes leading government laboratories, university and research centers, energy, aerospace, manufacturing, and medical organizations, as well as any other user of advanced technology. For more information, visit www.mechdyne.com