VP of Interactive Software Engineering at MSG Sphere Studios Chris Burke told us about his career, explained why he joined the MSG Sphere Studios team, and spoke about things he considers when looking for new people.
80.lv: Chris, it’s nice to meet you – could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Chris Burke: Hi! I’m Chris Burke, VP of Interactive Software Engineering at MSG Sphere Studios. My team develops content and advanced technologies for live entertainment, including MSG Sphere in Las Vegas – our state-of-the-art entertainment venue set to open in the second half of 2023.
I grew up in the Midwest and studied electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My career since then has spanned exciting engineering projects across the media, entertainment, and technology industries. Some of my favorites have been helping to invent smartphones, digital personal assistants, and mobile internet at Motorola; fitting the game Mortal Kombat into a game controller at Backbone Entertainment; and designing, building, and running systems at Indeed that made it easier for people to get jobs. And of course, now MSG Sphere Studios – where we’re creating the next generation of entertainment!
MGS Sphere Studios
80.lv: You’ve had an impressive career, what motivated you to join the MSG Sphere team?
Chris Burke: When I first heard about MSG Sphere, when the project had yet to even break ground, I recognized it was a bold concept: the world’s largest spherical venue, in Las Vegas, featuring unprecedented technology to usher in a new genre of immersive entertainment. Once I started to see the vision coming to life, I knew I wanted to be part of it – not only to work on something this incredible, but also to do it alongside colleagues who would be as excited and motivated by this challenge as I am. I joined in August of 2021.
80.lv: What new approaches and tools are you and the team developing? What are some challenges behind developing technology for a new platform?
Chris Burke: We’re creating content, and authoring tools, for a one-of-a-kind, next-generation platform with unmatched capabilities. Our multi-sensory experiences, for up to 20,000 people at a time, utilize a massive, high-resolution display plane and an advanced audio system, augmented by practical effects such as lighting, haptics, temperature, wind, and scent. There’s no precedent for what we’re doing from a tech perspective – from rendering realistic, real-time content, to deploying more than 160,000 individually processed channels of audio, to creating a new architecture for connectivity.
Because there’s no existing playbook, we often take an experimental approach. Every new idea starts out small, and we brainstorm based on what we’d like to learn about this medium and our audience. I approach this creative work holistically, and always with an open mind to what’s possible. We test a lot. And through testing, we’ve learned valuable lessons – and also some things that surprised us – about our venue, our technology, and even our audience.
80.lv: What are some of the things you consider when looking for people to join the team?
Chris Burke: I look for technical excellence, the ability to learn, people who are energized by the possibilities of what we’re doing, those who can bring new and different ideas to the table – the creative spark. And I want to emphasize that technical excellence alone isn’t enough.
You must be able to communicate effectively across disciplines – MSG Sphere brings together talent and expertise from the video game, movie production, extended reality, and theater industries spanning production, art, design, engineering, and operations. A valuable team member is receptive to feedback and able to set aside preconceived notions. They have a positive impact on those around them – by sharing ideas, improving processes, mentoring, and being a force multiplier for our team.
80.lv: Can you give us some final tips for people looking to join MSG Sphere Studios? What is the first step for them?
Chris Burke: We’re looking for visionaries who can deliver! Bring your hard and soft skills, including strong fundamentals in computer science and the Unreal Engine or Unity. Bring a portfolio: code samples we can look at, industry or academic credits, projects you’ve worked on, etc. Bring passion for the project.
This is an exciting time to join MSG Sphere Studios because we’re in a rapid growth phase for hiring. So check out our Careers page, and also look out for postings on 80 Level. We’d love to hear from you!