Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to common or important questions.
- Where can I see a Digitarium system and/or Digitalis Dome in use?
- Where can I find a list of your customers?
- Can I rent one of your systems?
- How long is your warranty period and what does it cover?
- Why is a laser-phosphor projector an advantage over a lamp-based projector?
- How much does a Digitarium system cost?
- Why should I buy a Digitarium system when there are lower cost options available?
- What are the differences among your Digitarium models?
- What is the highest resolution Digitarium system you offer?
- Do you sell spherical mirror projection systems?
- Can I buy a Digitarium portable system without a Digitalis Dome?
- Can I buy a portable Digitarium system to use in my fixed dome?
- How long does a Digitarium system last?
- What kind of a laptop do you use with a Digitarium system?
- Can I show images and videos with a Digitarium system?
- Can I display spherical content with a Digitarium system?
- Can I play fulldome movies with a Digitarium system?
- What are the differences between Nightshade NG Basic and Professional versions?
- Do you sell your software separately, or is it only available as part of a complete Digitarium system?
- I am a research scientist. Can I use a Digitarium system to display my data onto a dome?
- What planetarium software do you use?
- Do you manufacture fixed domes?
- Do you manufacture peripherals for fixed domes such as cove lights, audio systems, inset projectors, etc?
- Where are Digitalis Domes built?
- How much does a Digitalis Dome cost?
- What are the size options for your Digitalis Domes?
- Is it true that I can fit more people in my portable dome if I use a spherical mirror system rather than a single fisheye lens system?
- How long does a Digitalis Dome last?
- Do you offer an inflatable dome with an "airlock" entry?
- Don't your domes collapse when the door is open?
- Can I buy a Digitalis Dome without a Digitarium system?
- I work for a school district that wants to share one Digitarium system among 50 schools. How can my large teacher base learn to use the system in a very short amount of time?
- How easy is it to do a live, interactive program with a Digitarium system?
- Are there lesson plans available for use with your systems?
- Does your planetarium software meet Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?
- What subjects can I teach with a Digitarium system aside from astronomy?
- How big is a Digitarium portable system?
- How long does it take to set up a Digitalis Dome and Digitarium Portable System?
- What are the most important considerations for selecting a planetarium system?
- What is the best projection angle for a single fisheye lens planetarium system?
Where can I see a Digitarium system and/or Digitalis Dome in use?
Where can I find a list of your customers?
Can I rent one of your systems?
We do not offer system rentals. Try your local science center or natural history museum as a starting point, and contact us if you can not find a local outreach program.
How long is your warranty period and what does it cover?
Our standard warranty period is three years, and we can offer an extension to five years for most products. Please note that extended warranties can only be added at time of purchase. You can read our full warranty text.
Why is a laser-phosphor projector an advantage over a lamp-based projector?
The primary advantage is lifetime: Most laser-phosphor projectors have stated lifetimes of 20,000 hours and up, versus 2,000 to 3,000 hours for an average lamp-based projector. For the laser-phosphor projectors used in the Digitarium Lambda and Aethos lines, laser power can be dialed down enough to extend laser lifetime to an incredible 60,000 hours.
This saves on lamp replacement costs and is more environmentally friendly.
For multiprojector systems like the Aethos line, laser-phosphor projectors are the obvious choice, since it is far easier to color match laser-phosphor projectors than lamp-based; lamps degrade at different rates, leading to color differences on your dome. It is a challenge to adjust for these differences and usually you have to replace all lamps on all projectors at the same time.
Projector Reviews has more information.
How much does a Digitarium system cost?
Prices for Digitarium portable models are in the overview table and on each model-specific webpage. Prices for single fisheye lens Digitarium fixed systems are also in that specifications table and on the model-specific pages. Contact us for Aethos system prices, as these projects are fully customized for your needs.
Why should I buy a Digitarium system when there are lower cost options available?
Value and price are not synonymous, though some people mistakenly use the words interchangeably. Digitalis focuses on offering the best value.
Value encompasses subjective characteristics like projection quality, usability, and support. Digitarium single lens systems use our proprietary fisheye lenses so that we can control the image quality. Our emphasis on live, interactive programs is obvious in our interface designs; we make it fast and easy to find the feature that you need to address an audience member's questions.
Many people don't realize that we develop and maintain all of the software on our Digitarium systems. This is a huge benefit to our customers, as we can directly add features they request, and we quickly fix bugs that arise. (Naturally we also do extensive pre-release testing to try to prevent bugs from reaching our customers in the first place.)
We ensure that all of the software—planetarium, media, and operating system software—works together before we release an update. Our software updates are automated: You connect the system to the Ethernet, tell it to update itself, and the system does the rest. The system finds the correct version and performs the update.
Contrast the above with a system that uses third party planetarium software. You are dependent on that third party, which may just be a loose collection of volunteers in the case of free software, to add features and fix bugs, so your request may go unanswered. We stopped using Stellarium planetarium software when the desktop developers kept breaking our planetarium specific features—they just did not seem to understand or care about planetarium users. Media software may be external to the planetarium software, forcing you to exit one application to use the other. Interfaces will typically not be well designed for a planetarium user. You get to deal with any incompatibilities between your operating system, software, and your hardware.
We include free standard technical support for the life of the system, and because we build the systems and maintain all of the software, we know our systems inside and out.
You should always, always, always see and test drive systems that you are considering for purchase. See for yourself why we are so confident that our Digitarium systems easily offer the best value on the market for serious astronomy educators. There are lower-priced systems than ours, but none that offer our level of support and quality at a lower price.
What are the differences among your Digitarium models?
All Digitarium portable models use a single fisheye lens projector in the middle of the dome; the differences are resolution, brightness, and light source type (lamp or laser-phosphor).
For Digitarium fixed systems, the Kappa 2 and Lambda/Lambda Plus models use a single fisheye lens projector in the middle of the dome. As with portable models, the differences in the single fisheye lens systems are resolution, brightness, and light source type.
The Aethos line uses two laser-phosphor projectors mounted either at dome center or in the cove. Automated calibration avoids the tedious headache of manual calibration. We currently offer 4k and 8k Aethos systems.
What is the highest resolution Digitarium system you offer?
Do you sell spherical mirror projection systems?
No. The image quality of all spherical mirror systems we have seen is too poor. Spherical mirror system projection in our opinion is acceptable if you only want to play fulldome movies; if you want to use planetarium software, the poor focus is unacceptable. We encourage live, interactive planetarium programs due to their greater educational value, though of course our systems are also fully capable of simple movie playback.
Can I buy a Digitarium portable system without a Digitalis Dome?
Yes, although note that Digitalis Domes are specifically designed for digital projection. If you are using a Digitarium system in a dome with a highly reflective projection surface, wrinkles will be more obvious and the night sky background will be brighter than with a Digitalis Dome.
We perform all dome construction and testing at our headquarters in Bremerton, Washington. We have invested in state-of-the-art automation, high-tech tools and materials, and a skilled US workforce. The end result is product quality that is unmatched in the market, yet at extremely competitive prices.
Our exclusive imported Nolux™ fabric makes blacks darker, for a noticeably more realistic black night sky simulation, and it increases contrast by minimizing cross-reflection in the dome. Its matte gray projection surface even helps hide wrinkles.
Can I buy a portable Digitarium system to use in my fixed dome?
You certainly can, but if your primary aim is to reduce the cost by buying a portable system, please contact us. We may be able to offer you a better customized solution to work within your budget.
How long does a Digitarium system last?
This will vary based on how well you treat your system, but between five to ten years is a reasonable expectation. Think how outdated a computer gets after 10 years—you are going to want something more current in performance and resolution. However, some of our earliest portable systems are still in use today, about 16 years after they were first shipped.
What kind of a laptop do you use with a Digitarium system?
We do not use laptops; our interfaces are all designed to be mobile so that the teacher can teach from anywhere in the dome. Unlike a laptop, you are not tethered to the projector, do not have any awkward ergonomic issues, and our interfaces are designed to minimize light cast on the dome.
Can I show images and videos with a Digitarium system?
Absolutely. Digitarium systems are designed so that you can easily move between media and planetarium functions; media functions are fully integrated into Nightshade NG. This means you do not have to quit one application to use the other; you can weave media into your live, interactive programs.
Note that some competing systems require you to quit the planetarium software to show media. If moving between the planetarium software and media is important to you, be sure to ask all vendors about whether it is possible with their products.
Can I display spherical content with a Digitarium system?
Absolutely! In fact we have two spherical cameras that we use on our travels around the world to capture spherical images and videos. Note that only half of the sphere is projected at any one time, but you can pan around even while playing a 360 video as if you were there.
Can I play fulldome movies with a Digitarium system?
Of course. We include about two dozen fulldome movies with each system purchase.
You can play movies from virtually any producer. To be shown on a Digitarium system a show just needs to be sized appropriately and saved in a supported video format. Contact the show producer for the best pricing. They can contact our technical support for encoding recommendations if needed.
You can also create your own shows using the StratoScript scripting features of Nightshade NG on a desktop computer and play these back (including an audio track) on your system.
What are the differences between Nightshade NG Basic and Professional versions?
See this discussion and table of differences.
Do you sell your software separately, or is it only available as part of a complete Digitarium system?
We now sell control computers running our software; we do not sell the software alone.
We support single fisheye lens systems and some multiprojector configurations. Contact us to determine if we can support your system and for pricing.
Because we provide the hardware, you can use our outstandingly intuitive interfaces, and we can provide technical support as well as software updates. You also don't have to worry about compatibility issues, since we ensure that all software works properly together before releasing an update.
I am a research scientist. Can I use a Digitarium system to display my data onto a dome?
One of the most powerful aspects of a digital planetarium system is the ability to display data in a three-dimensional, immersive environment. That said, depending on how your data is formatted, there may be prep work required before it is ready for dome display. Contact us to discuss possibilities for your specific research.
What planetarium software do you use?
We develop Nightshade® and use it as our simulator. Nightshade NG for dome projection is exclusive to Digitalis systems.
Do you manufacture fixed domes?
We proudly partner with Astro-Tec Manufacturing, Inc. to supply new domes or maintain/repair older domes. Astro-Tec has a wide range of dome sizes available, and they offer exceptional projection surfaces and customer support.
If you need a fixed dome, projection system, peripherals, etc., ask us to quote for the entire project. Contact us for more information.
Do you manufacture peripherals for fixed domes such as cove lights, audio systems, inset projectors, etc?
We proudly partner with Bowen Technovation to supply these items and more. If you need a fixed dome, cove lights, etc. in addition to the projection system, ask us to quote for the entire project. Contact us for more information.
Where are Digitalis Domes built?
Digitalis Domes are designed and built at our headquarters in Bremerton, Washington USA. We also design and build the exclusive Digitalis Dome Duffel bags. Building these products at our headquarters ensures that we can continually improve our designs and also have complete quality control.
How much does a Digitalis Dome cost?
Prices are on our Digitalis Domes webpage.
What are the size options for your Digitalis Domes?
Our standard sizes are on our Digitalis Domes webpage. Note that we have some flexibility in heights, footprint, etc., as we build the domes ourselves.
Is it true that I can fit more people in my portable dome if I use a spherical mirror system rather than a single fisheye lens system?
Not at all. In fact the opposite is usually the case.
You can easily compare projector sizes online, but these are all quite similar. The largest factor determining seating capacity of a portable dome (aside from the age of the audience members) is the type of content being shown.
The vast majority of fulldome movies are unidirectional, which means that the audience needs to be seated all facing one part of the dome. To be able to see much of the movie in relative comfort, no one's head should be within about 2 meters of the dome front. If you don't like sitting in the front row of a movie theater, imagine how much worse this is when the screen is a hemisphere and mostly behind you. The need to leave empty space for unidirectional content applies no matter whether you are using a spherical mirror system or a fisheye lens system.
By contrast, during a live program, objects/areas of interest should be pointed out all over the dome, just as you can look for objects all over the real night sky: in front of you, behind you, at the zenith, etc. With a fisheye lens system that projects a full horizon (like Digitarium systems), audience members can be seated in concentric circles, maximizing the seating area and most closely mimicking observing in the real sky.
Most spherical mirror systems seem to be marketed as fulldome movie theaters, so they would have less seating capacity than an equally sized fisheye projection system used primarily for live planetarium shows. But again, it is the content that matters, not the system.
How long does a Digitalis Dome last?
As with Digitarium systems, this will vary greatly based on treatment. Five to ten years is a reasonable expectation.
Do you offer an inflatable dome with an "airlock" entry?
No, our design has several key advantages over the so-called airlock entry used on some competing domes:
- Better projection surface. The doorway essentially disappears under projection.
- Less pressure is required, so the inflation fan is orders of magnitude quieter—save your voice!
- Smaller footprint, so it fits in more rooms.
- Less fabric used to build the dome results in a lighter weight and smaller packed size.
- There are no velcro strips just inside the doorway of our domes. We have heard from several users of airlock entry domes that this velcro tends to snag sweaters. It is there to hold a curtain in place over the airlock entry to improve the projection quality.
- Much easier and faster entry: We have witnessed small children trying to enter the airlock domes at conferences who were not strong enough to squeeze past the air-filled columns.
Don't your domes collapse when the door is open?
No, with our exclusive StayFLATE™ technology, you can leave the dome door open indefinitely.
Can I buy a Digitalis Dome without a Digitarium system?
Yes, our domes will work with any portable system. There is a discount on the Digitalis Dome if you purchase it at the same time as a Digitarium system.
I work for a school district that wants to share one Digitarium system among 50 schools. How can my large teacher base learn to use the system in a very short amount of time?
Our Augmented Lessons functionality was designed for exactly this kind of use. With narration and embedded command and media buttons, your teachers will be able to start presenting right away. Set up and tear down of the equipment are fast, and our user manuals cover these procedures in detail.
How easy is it to do a live, interactive program with a Digitarium system?
We are so glad you asked! Live, interactive programs are the most difficult type of program to present, since you need to be ready to reply to audience questions on the fly, no matter what those questions are. Because live, interactive programs respond to audience questions and interests, they are also the most educationally valuable.
Playing a movie on any computer is easy; making features fast and easy to find during a live, interactive program requires a lot of interface work. Our user interfaces are designed from the ground up expressly for making live shows as easy as possible.
We don't just focus on the usability of our equipment, though; we also organize and lead several professional development opportunities each year for presenters of live, interactive planetarium programs—using any type of planetarium projection equipment. We are the founders and major organizers of the annual, multiday Live, Interactive Planetarium Symposium (LIPS).
Our Director of Education, Karrie Berglund, organizes and runs several shorter LIPS- style events every year. No company has a stronger commitment to live, interactive planetarium programs than Digitalis.
If you're not entirely sure what a live, interactive planetarium program is, you can read a blog post from Karrie.
Are there lesson plans available for use with your systems?
Yes, we include lesson plans from Digitalis and Planetarium Activities for Successful Shows™ from the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California Berkeley. All PASS modules and most Digitalis lessons are formatted for use with our Augmented Lessons functionality.
Does your planetarium software meet Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?
No planetarium software on its own meets any learning standard; it is the teacher applying the software who meets standards. We have several lesson plans written for use with our system that can be used to address Earth and Space Science NGSS. With some imagination, it is easy to also target several math and physics standards, as well as to pull in social science and history. This NGSS PDF provides ideas for targeting specific standards with a Digitarium system.
What subjects can I teach with a Digitarium system aside from astronomy?
The possibilities are limited primarily by your imagination. There are constellations from more than two dozen cultures for social science lessons. Our multimedia support—including displaying spherical media—dramatically opens up the dome to other topics, as does the ability to display and explore 3D models (Professional package required).
Our new Data Console (Professional package required) makes it simple to teach with datasets, such as those available through NOAA (https://sos.noaa.gov/What_is_SOS/). Data layers can be static images or dynamic time series to demonstrate changes over time. Through the Universal Console interface, layers can be added, dropped, or faded in or out on the fly, which is a wonderful means of highlighting connections between data sets. For example, you might layer one data set showing average rainfall over a layer showing agricultural production, then fade each layer in or out for comparison. The opacity and order of the layers can be controlled live and on the fly, enabling you to draw connections between data sets.
How big is a Digitarium portable system?
You can find this information on each portable Digitarium model's webpage. Simply follow the model name from the specifications comparison table on the Digitarium Portable Systems overview page.
Digitalis provides all system specification information publicly; it is critical for making an informed purchasing decision. If you are comparing Digitalis products to those of other vendors, please be sure to request this information if it is not publicly available.
How long does it take to set up a Digitalis Dome and Digitarium Portable System?
For an experienced person, 10 to 15 minutes is all that is required. It takes just over five minutes for a 5m dome to fully inflate using the round industrial floor fan we supply for US and other 120VAC dome orders.
What are the most important considerations for selecting a planetarium system?
There is no one right answer to this question, but in our opinion, ease of use, robust educational features, and access to support are the most critical. Consider the following:
- Our interfaces are extremely intuitive and are designed to work from anywhere in the dome. You can interact with ALL audience members or even hand an interface to an audience member so that they can "drive" the system.
- Our planetarium software, Nightshade NG, has features for use with audiences from ages 2 to 102.
- We include free standard tech support for the life of the system, and free software updates for ALL system software are also included.
This is a huge cost savings compared to other systems and keeps you current.
- In addition to evaluating the above, be sure to see and test drive all systems that you are considering purchasing. If a company makes it difficult or impossible to see a system in action before purchasing, that should serve as a red flag. We have information on our website about how to see a Digitarium system.
If you risk buying a system without seeing it in action first, insist on a written return policy before placing the order in case the products arrive broken or do not meet your expectations. Some systems sound far better on paper than they perform in real life.
What is the best projection angle for a single fisheye lens planetarium system?
There is no one correct answer to this question. In a portable dome, you want a wide projection angle to project just over the audience's heads for the most immersive experience. We think 175 degrees is ideal, as the projector can be a bit lower and block fewer sight lines than with a flat 180 degree projection.
In a fixed dome, due to the higher dome springline (projected horizon), a projection angle around 160 degrees is more typical. The audience is seated further below the projection so you want the projector as low as possible to block as few sight lines as possible.
[Our Zeiss starball] projector itself was great but we could not find any 'good' new shows for this format (slides). I told my boss it was like having a perfectly running car that required leaded gas to run. It works fine but no fuel available... Thankfully our entire group decided... to move into the digital age.
— Jim Duke, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR