Catalyst Stage: Disney’s New Immersive ESPN Studio Opens Storytelling and Production Frontiers

ESPN Technology

Catalyst Stage: Disney’s New Immersive ESPN Studio Opens Storytelling and Production Frontiers

  • New studio at ESPN HQ blends physical space with digital and virtual technologies to unlock new frontiers in creative production, plus studio scalability and flexibility
  • Builds upon concepts that helped bring The Mandalorian to life
  • First studio of its kind to support both live multi-camera productions & cinematic-quality projects

Disney & ESPN technology, production, and creative teams have launched a new, immersive studio – Catalyst Stage – at ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

The first studio of its kind to enable both live multi-camera productions and cinematic-quality production projects, Catalyst Stage builds upon concepts and technologies pioneered in the production of the award-winning Disney+ series The Mandalorian – blending physical space with digital and virtual technologies to unlock new possibilities in imaginative production and studio scalability and flexibility.

What’s new:

  • Catalyst Stage opens new possibilities in the future of content customization and scalability. It fulfills day-to-day live, multi-camera, augmented reality, and extended reality productions in 1080p or UHD, and cinematic-quality and advertising projects in 4K.
  • Catalyst Stage is powered by proprietary software developed by Disney Entertainment & ESPN Technology teams, along with the novel use of technologies including Ghostframe, Unreal Engine, Disguise XR, Pixotope, and Mark Roberts Motion Control (robotic) camera systems.
  • With 26 real-time servers at work, Catalyst Stage renders 11 million pixels, refreshes 7.6 thousand times every second, and uses the largest and most complex Disguise XR system ever built for television production.

Why it matters:

  • Production teams can blend physical space with virtual elements to visually place talent in any location, real or imagined – from making Catalyst Stage a digital “twin” of an existing studio or stadium to an alien planet. This stage opens the door to infinite opportunities for studio programming and advertising production.
  • With Catalyst Stage, limitations attached to the access, building, and changing of physical environments are eliminated. Complex sets that once took weeks or months to stand up or alter can now come together in days, or even hours.
  • Production, operations, and creative teams can easily and efficiently operate Catalyst Stage by using Disney’s proprietary technology to select and move amongst multiple studio environments.

What we’re saying:

  • Aaron LaBerge, President & CTO, Disney Entertainment & ESPN Technology:
    “Our new Catalyst Stage showcases the ingenuity of the Disney Entertainment & ESPN Technology team, expanding the boundaries of production and elevating the canvas of possibilities for content creation. While we are introducing this at ESPN, Catalyst Stage will enable new opportunities in advertising, and showcases the extraordinary capabilities we are advancing for the entire Walt Disney Company.”
  • Tina Thornton, Head of Content Operations & Creative Surround, ESPN:
    “Catalyst Stage removes production and creative limitations that come with singular, purely physical environments. In this studio, we can place our show and talent anywhere – the top of a skyscraper, a virtual twin of an existing studio, a newly-created fully-rendered studio, or the middle of a football field…you name it. If we imagine a setting, we can create it. And it allows rapid scalability in live, custom cinematic-quality, and advertising productions.”

What’s next:

  • The immersive space of this fully operational studio will be the backdrop for a new production pilot, and ESPN creative and advertising teams are exploring its use across multiple other projects.
  • While built initially for ESPN, the advances in this project will extend to other parts of Disney in the future. This is a prime example of how Disney’s technological development is enabling new entertainment and advertising experiences.


Disney Entertainment & ESPN Technology Contacts:

Paul Melvin – [email protected]

Eri Estrada –  [email protected]

Jenna Levy – [email protected]

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