Killing It With The Cavern

This Luxury Cinema is the handy work of The Pyramid Group and is shortlisted for a CEDIA Award this year. Company MD, Nic Black, gives EI the tour.  

The site of this cinema is within a basement area that housed a previously installed private cinema for 12 people. This space had been left unused as the family had grown and the installed technology and systems became redundant. The client’s first approached Pyramid in August 2018 in order to discuss the opportunity of refreshing the existing space.

Nic explains, “Having undertaken an initial site visit, it was clear there was the intention to create a bespoke and high-quality cinema suited to the family’s modern viewing needs, using the very latest technology and maximising the available budget. High on the quality agenda was the audio performance, which was always going to be a challenge due to the nature of the basement space and very limited 2.3m ceiling height.

“During the initial consultation we spent time discussing the family’s needs in terms of viewing habits, content and the frequency of use, and from there it was decided that the notion of a high specification cinema with a variety of media sources would be the desired outcome. Music listening was not high on the agenda, however the client appreciated that musicality and excellent acoustics are key to the audio experience of any cinema system.”

Over time, the cinema design developed such that the team was able to present the client a variety of cinema interior styles, as well as price point considerations regarding technologies and the trade-offs of the various quality points and performance outcomes.

Show and tell

The client was very keen to understand the various approaches to speaker types and form factors, processing and calibration tools, as well as speaker counts and the resultant effects that are possible in terms of immersion.

Nic explains, “We invited the client to visit us at our dedicated cinema room in order to set some benchmarks for performance. Our perfectly designed acoustic environment is equipped with various technologies, including 7.2.4 Atmos configuration managed by a Trinnov Altitude 16 processor.

“Our cinema room is capable of recalling various pre-sets (2.1,5.1,7.1 and Atmos) which allow demonstrable performance and speaker configs to be experienced. Impressed from their visit, the client left, intent on replicating their experience at least and exceeding it if possible!”

Delivering the solution

All of the cinema’s speaker and audio designs are in alignment with the guidelines for Dolby Atmos configurations and audio performance objectives were set out to achieve 102db reference level at the listening position.

The viewing angles are designed to meet with THX cinema standards, and provide a minimum viewing angle of 38° from the rear seats.

The property is a period mansion built primarily of stone circa 1750’s. The cinema replaced a previous basement cinema that had been built within a well-considered envelope constructed for the previous fit out.

 For this cinema, Pyramid designed a concept that ensured as well a controlled acoustic space as possible, incorporating the speakers invisibly, acoustic treatments, bass traps and raised seating platform.

Nic argues, “The Cavern is a unique construction that ensures an enveloping experience within a space that is surprisingly roomy, feeling immersive but not oppressive.”

The screen wall is a very solid construction specifically to avoid rear speaker loss, as well as housing the large dual 10in subs, and the rear wall incorporates the aircon ducting, 3rd sub bass, projector and DVD cupboard.

Acoustic considerations

Nic states that the team has developed an effective method of incorporating the necessary amount of absorption to tightly control low frequencies in small spaces, using established methods of acoustic treatment found in other areas of acoustics, such as recording studios and noise management.

These methods involve incorporating absorption into the actual construction of the room rather than considering it as a post-construction fix.

Nic says, “The nature of the room design offers plenty of space for the inclusion of appropriate absorption into the construction process – the fascia panels of the tetrahedra that make up the wall and part of the ceiling are finished in acoustic fabric over foam, and the 3D form of the panels serves as an effective acoustic diffuser, helpful in reducing standing waves.

“The combination of absorption and the lack of parallel surfaces makes for a highly controlled acoustic environment, rendering a very short RT60 (0.22 secs), ideal for the effective reproduction of accurate dialogue and powerful, dynamic transients.”

Having experienced the power of the Trinnov Altitude during the demo process, the client was determined to include this processor as the heart of the system.

The loudspeakers chosen are all from the UK manufacturer Martin Audio Ltd. Pyramid feels that the CDD range demonstrates some unique characteristics that the company believed would be ideal for a home cinema project of this size.

Nic expands, “We have for some time been keen to utilise these products in a cinema project, having used these very successfully on a range of commercial and church installations in the past. The challenge came with the form factor of the speaker, which is markedly different from the ubiquitous in-wall or shallow depth characteristics of so many well known home theatre brands.

“A traditional trapezoidal enclosure means increased speaker depth and whilst the room was wide enough to accommodate these along the sides, the 2.3m ceiling height proved more of a challenge. Our unique 3D faceted ‘cave like’ design accommodated this level change whilst at the same time creating a unique and exciting environment that is different from the all too often employed home cinema designs in the marketplace today. ”

The arrangement is a 9.3.6 Atmos configiguration. The LCR’s and LR wides are CDD8’s, the bed channels are CDD6’s (Double sides were employed to spread the side image between the two rows of seats) and the overheads are CDD5’s. The latter being a strong solution as they can be oriented to suit the mounting angles required for the focus and the drivers spun to suit dispersion requirements.

The system is also equipped with a coupled pair of Martin Audio X210 sub bass loudspeakers below the screen. In addition to the X210’s, a single Artcoustic 4 x 10in sub, left over from the client’s previous installation, was deployed at the rear of the room and time aligned in such a way as to temper low frequency standing waves and increase the impact of the LFE. All crossover and delay timings were set using a separate in line DSP unit.

All speakers are invisible to the user, hidden behind acoustically transparent materials within the 3D CAD designed, laser cut wall matrix construction.

Nic says, “Coupled with the strong room acoustics, achieved with the unique spacial room design, the results are an incredible combination of well controlled energy and dispersion, tight bass and well defined vocals that sit perfectly within the soundstage and combine to immerse the viewer wherever they may be sitting.

“The Trinnov’s 3D mapping facility allows a perfectly balanced rendering across all channels, and at the same time allowing a custom set of seat specific pre-sets that the client can choose depending on what type of focus and viewer arrangement is required – front middle, whole room, rear middle and so on. A stunning audio experience overall.”

Projection perfection

Pyramid opted for as mid-level projection unit having had great success with the JVC X7900, which the company feels is a good choice at its price point for consistency of manufacture, excellent e-shift5 technology and great colour/contrast performance.

The JVC N5 unit hadn’t landed in the UK at the point of install or the team would have chosen this as the latest iteration, however the outcome is excellent and the X7900 performs well post calibration.

Nic adds, “In conjunction with this we opted to utilise the Lumagen Radiance Pro range of video processors within this system in order to maximise video performance, as well as ensure screen ratio format re-sizing and colour format pre-sets were managed correctly and consistently across all sources and ratios.

“In addition, we were able to present Custom Button access on the Control 4 GUI such that the user can select either manual or automatic ratio pre-sets as either 16:9 native, or all source ratios re-sized to 2.35. 3D viewing is achieved using a pair of JVC active glasses linked directly to the projector.

Video sources consisted of a Kaleidescape Strato 4K player, the client’s own DUNE HD media player, Bluray playback via Panasonic DP-UB9000 as well as Apple 4K TV, Chromecast, Sky Q and localised HDMI auxiliary connection for games decks etc.

Routing was undertaken via the Trinnov Altitude due to the increased number of sources vs the Lumagen’s limited four, and although the latter would have been the preference in terms of routing, the Trinnov simplified the task of dealing multiple sources with varying qualities of signal such that the Lumagen set all sources to the best output in terms of colour space, bitstream & HDR management, ratio settings and 3D content calibrations.

Size is everything

Nic explains, “The client was unsurprisingly keen to maximise the screen size and immersion effect. The constraints of a basement with 2.3m total height meant that we were limited to a degree in terms of height. The first consideration was to do with end user content preference, and the considered outcome held ‘Hollywood blockbuster family’ titles as the main content to be viewed, alongside streamed media from Netflix or Prime, and then Sky 4K TV sources.

“We settled on a 2.35:1 ratio at 3.35m wide Contempo model from DT Screens. This screen has a micro bezel format which we prefer when used with black/dark grey screen wall finishes c/w black rear shadow gap detail. Screen material ATpop which is a unique knitted image surface supporting reference acoustic and visual performance.”

The viewing angles within the room design, inc screen height relative to the 2nd row viewing sight-lines were critical. Due to the low ceiling and after much discussion and debate with the client, Pyramid settled on a 2nd row staging height of 400mm AFFL.

This height was agreed as the trade-off between comfortable screen viewing angles and head clearance when stepping up onto the platform.

Much discussion went into seating as you would expect for a high end bespoke cinema, finally settling on a custom choice Frontier from Ineva Seating in a raspberry coloured ‘alcantara style’ fabric.

In addition to recliners the client wished to have additional lumbar support controls added.

Utilising Control 4 within the design was a conscious decision as a result of the initial consultation process and the client agreed that the consistent C4 GUI architecture would be the best offering for the family to use. An iPad Mini running Control 4’s app was housed within an iPort case mounted above the in-room DVD cupboard.

Alongside this, Pyramid installed a single Control 4 keypad that provided direct access to lighting scenes, plus a C4 SR260 remote in order to allow direct user access as an alternative control to iPad.

Some really detailed and precise work hear from Pryamid, lets see if the cinema comes out on top at the CEDIA awards in September.

Essential Kit List

  • Trinnov Altitude 16
  • Martin Audio CCD speakers
  • JVC X7900 projector
  • Lumagen Radiance Pro video processor
  • Kaleidescape Strato 4K
  • DUNE HD media player
  • Panasonic DP-UB9000 Blu-ray
  • Apple 4K TV
  • 2.35:1 ratio at 3.35m wide Contempo model from DT Screens
  • Ineva Seating (Frontier)
  • Control4 C4 SR260 remote 
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