CE Pro Europe presents an exclusive look at the new IMAX home cinema just completed by London based integration company Cornflake.
Marking a genuine milestone in the industry, getting IMAX tech into a home set-up is not without its challenges, so naturally CE Pro was keen to find out and deliver the full story.
In detail, this luxurious 15-seat theatre has three tiers of seating and a 5.5m wide floor-to-ceiling curved IMAX screen. The reclining seats are equipped with professional 3D glasses (in a range of adult and child sizes), while a Dual 4K (2D/3D) projector is teamed with IMAX’s proprietary sound system to deliver impressive images and sound. The cinema is also completely sound-proofed to mitigate noise being heard elsewhere within the property.
Built deep below ground, the room in total cost a cool £1 million. Building the three tiers the client wanted was no mean feat as the basement floor had to be lowered by one metre to create the space needed.
Stretched fabric walling – dyed to match the client’s blue interior design scheme – and an acoustically-transparent screen conceal the speakers and sub-woofers that ensure viewers are enveloped in sound.
David Hanson, general manager EMEA for IMAX Home Entertainment, explains, “We offer three cinema design templates for home use – Platinum, Palais and Prestige. This exemplary project is based on the Theatre Palais option and brings the same philosophy used in the world’s leading IMAX theatres to small and medium-sized private home theatres, where between five to 20 seats are required.”
To create an IMAX cinema, space of around 80-150m2 (480-760sqft) and a ceiling height between 2.4m-3.8m is needed.
Taking it to the IMAX!
So how did the project come about, existing client or something else?
Robin Shephard, CEO of Cornflake, says, “We had already been appointed by the client and the property developer to design and install a package of integrated technology solutions for a property that was being completely refurbished in London. The house benefits from an impressive array of services including a sophisticated security set-up; HVAC, lighting and amazing projected artworks throughout. We were delighted to be commissioned to also manage the IMAX installation and other AV functions across the stunning property.”
Ce Pro also wanted to know if the client came to the project wanting IMAX or did that develop later? Robin explains, “The client wanted ‘The best viewing experience’ in a dedicated cinema to go alongside his dedicated ‘listening’ room. As Cornflake is brand-agnostic, and offers a highly bespoke service, we were able to propose several alternatives for a state-of-the-art home theatre.
“We have been designing and installing home cinemas for over 15 years now so we’re fortunate to have many installations where we can take prospective clients to view different systems, plus of course we have a reference grade home theatre in our London showroom where the client was able to road test kit for several hours. However, as this is the first residential IMAX install in Europe, the client had to visit Shanghai to review a similar set up installed in a hotel there. The research side of this job is great!”
So what are the particular challenges in translating IMAX technology to a home?
John Fitzpatrick, technical manager for Cornflake, takes up the story, “The biggest challenge, especially in central London where prime real estate commands a premium price per square foot, is space. In order to create an IMAX certified room you need a dedicated area of at least 480sqft with a minimum ceiling height of 2.4m – which is larger than the average living room – to accommodate the screen and tiered seating to the required proportions; so it’s a serious decision to dedicate all that space to such a specialist room.
“But, if everyone loves films and shared family-time is important then this is a room where you’ll spend many happy and fun hours together, and for some clients that is justification enough for creating a home cinema.”
John adds, “The quality of the fit-out can also be a sensitive area. UHNW clients frequently demand top-level finishing and their exquisite interior design schemes are often on a par with international boutique hotels. In this instance the client’s expectations for the room design were significantly higher than IMAX’s recommended specifications, so we were in the sensitive position of helping to guide the IMAX team and deliver a project which ticked everyone’s boxes.
“IMAX delivers exemplary cinematic equipment, but we had to ensure the space would exceed the client’s brief in all areas, not just system performance. To this end we worked closely with the appointed interior designer to develop the aesthetics and styling of the room. The combination of top technology with ultra-stylish design has created a room that is out of this world.”
As well as a world-class cinema experience, does the cinema accommodate gaming and other forms of entertainment? John explains, “For this particular project it was a client-driven decision to include several source components to ensure flexibility and maximum choice, these included IMAX’s Movie Server, a Kaleidescape Movie Server and an Apple TV. Cornflake also advised that due provision was made for further sources to be added with ease at any point in the future, such as games consoles, Sky or similar subscription based TV services. As media options become more sophisticated and children mature into teens, it’s always good to build in future-proofing to keep abreast of changing needs.”
Part of the set up is that the cinema carries out its own self calibration each day, so how does this work?
John says, “This is IMAX’s own unique technology. In brief, cameras mounted to the lens assembly within the projector constantly interpret the picture on screen and adjust the image accordingly to deliver consistent quality. It’s visionary technology especially combined with IMAX’s 24/7 remote system performance monitoring.”
So now its all fired up and working, what is the team’s stand-out feature, when compared to a standard cinema?
Mark Withers, senior home cinema consultant for Cornflake, enthuses, “Unlike many home cinemas, a home IMAX has quite a commercial feel to it. When you step into a private IMAX you literally leave the rest of the property behind and enter another world. The room feels weirdly detached from the rest of the home due to its unique set up and styling. It’s hugely immersive due to the sheer size of the space, the quality of the furnishings and fittings, and the hushed calm feel of the space as a whole.
“The scale of the image on the giant screen is akin to the sensation of being in a modern multiplex cinema – with a far greater luxe factor than in the average high street chain. IMAX’s award-winning 3D technology is also class-leading and completely unlike anything most film buffs will have seen before. In this particular installation, the room affords the height of luxury and no expense was spared to make it by far the most captivating in the home. The owner and his family were completely blown away by the experience.”
So with one under it’s belt, is Cornflake planning any more? Mark comments, “The IMAX brand is the epitome of luxury and a private IMAX is undoubtedly a covetable status mark. For home owners with the budget and space it is now a real viable option. We have several clients currently considering and comparing set-ups, and a second IMAX project that is nearing sign-up. Let’s be honest, like all new technology, there is a learning curve.
“Essentially we are taking a system designed for enormous amphitheatres and making it work to the same stunning capacity, but in a much smaller space, whilst at the same time integrating it with all of the other household requirements (e.g. lighting, movie servers, streamed content, etc). Hands up… this install presented challenges and was a steep learning curve for Cornflake, but nothing was insurmountable, and we worked closely with the IMAX team to deliver a first-class theatre. With this project under our belt we are looking forward to a strong ongoing partnership with IMAX and delivering many more exciting theatres.”
Mark adds, “Cornflake is not IMAX’s exclusive partner – preferring to remain brand agnostic and true to our independent roots – but, in reality, there are probably very few UK companies that could manage the complexity of design and install to achieve the quality of performance demanded by both the client and IMAX. The experience we have gained from this first install has been invaluable and we will of course build on it for future projects. Watch this space for the next one – due to be signed up just in time for the festive film fest.”
IMAX kit list
Dual 4K 2D/3D projectors
Advanced image super enhancer
lmmersive IMAX curved screen and movable frame
Proprietary IMAX sound system
Support for additional sources (DVD, CD, streaming, gaming, karaoke), touch-screen control pad with dedicated control system
20 pairs (adults) + 5 pairs (kids) of professional 3D glasses
Space requirement: ~480 – ~760 sq.ft