After being recommended for the project by his first ever client, Sawan Nichani, owner of New Delhi-based installer MacBee was contacted by a cinema-connoisseur and owner of a chain of multiplexes, who wanted a home theatre in his own basement space.
The client had some very specific ideas about how his home cinema should look and sound, asking for the largest screen possible, DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) compliance and seating for up to 20 people.
In short, he wanted a luxurious and personal screening room that could compete with the quality and technology of a commercial application.
Although he didn’t know it, this project would take the company two years to complete. “The project had its space limitations; the client didn’t want to compromise as he is a perfectionist,” Sawan tells CE Pro Eu after his CEDIA win.
“Increasing the size of the space was an architectural challenge for the whole team: interior designers, architects, contractors and us. We were all trying to figure out ways to gain every inch possible.”
At first, the brief for a giant screen and 20 seats appeared straight forward, however MacBee soon discovered that fulfilling this request would not come without its complications.
The basement location meant the ceiling dipped for the first 10m at the entrance, before lifting to a higher level.
The narrow width of the room also meant that fitting more than eight seats comfortably would prove challenging.
Video sight lines, audio quality and allowing enough room between the seats and surrounding walls also had to be carefully considered to get this cinema as technically close to reference-level as possible.
Working closely with a team of architects and site managers, it was decided to lift the height of the ceiling entrance.
This would allow for an even surface to align the screen, projections, and audio and visual positions to the exact millimetre.
“The two major challenges that we faced after getting the maximum height and depth were the width in the room and the space to house the projection system,” Sawan reflects. “We had to fight for every inch in both these cases.
“The seats were custom designed a few times before the client found them to be comfortable whilst also giving us enough room for the two aisles. We had to find the right surrounds and sub woofers that would fit in-walls and also give us some room to do the acoustic treatment. For the projection booth we struggled to give the projector enough airflow to ensure that it didn’t overheat. It certainly was an amazing learning curve to be part of the project!”
Whilst increasing the height of the room was possible, the width of the space indeed remained problematic, only allowing for three rows of four seats, taking into account the reclining positions and the proximity of the walls.
However the client was not a fan of this set up, meaning MacBee had to redesign the custom seating five times, decreasing the size of the seating to allow for three rows of five viewing positions until the homeowner was happy with the shape, size and number of seats.
With supplementary room between the front row seats and the screen, MacBee placed four beanbags to reach a grand total of 19 viewing positions.
Then it was time for MacBee to turn its attention to the home cinema screen. Opting for a motorised masking Vutec screen, as per the clients brief, this covered the entire width of the room, leaving just one finger space between the edges of the screen and the wall.
Due to the client’s knowledge of professional cinemas, Sawan and the team had their work cut out for them in terms of delivering the very best.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure exactly, but there was a desire to make it better and technically ‘sound’ compared to the multiplexes,” he nods. “We wanted to make them experience the difference and the immersive and personal experience a home cinema delivers. The client wanted the biggest screen and the maximum seating capacity. Since the client has a great deal of experience with cinema technology, it in fact became easier discussing the requirements with him and he was very receptive to our ideas!”
With limited space now available, the positioning of subwoofers had to be meticulously planned.
MacBee designed a 7.1 system, including eight JBL Synthesis S4S subwoofers, eight surround sound speakers, with left, centre, right (LCR) positions at the front.
As per the client’s requirements, all subwoofers and speakers needed to be camouflaged.
To solve this, the surround sound speakers were placed strategically within the wall and into the ceiling to cater for the three rows of seating.
The LCR audio was achieved using JBL Synthesis Everest Speakers.
The installation company used its own in-house software to provide a custom graphical user interface, which is easy to use and minimalist, as the client requested.
Great care was taken to provide a robust system that met all performance standards, including ISF and THX Video Calibration to allow for both DCI and alternate content.
“It was a package which was ‘custom integrated’ in every aspect,” Sawan elaborates. “We followed all CEDIA recommended practices in audio/video design. ISF video calibration, HAA and ARCOS audio calibrations were performed as well.”
“This made me realise how much one can learn from a challenging project,” Sawan says. “Every person involved – from architects to interior designers to contractors – everyone came forward to support us and helped us deliver a great performing room.
“Sometimes our efforts as custom integrators and system designers make a big difference in a customer’s life, sometimes they don’t,” he shrugs. “I have to say that this client really like the immersive experience and he loves his ‘money seat!’ He loves watching premiers in his house with his close friends.”
And Sawan’s favourite part? “Mine is the outcome; it’s not just the looks of the project, it’s the performance it delivers.
“Not only did we create a great looking room, but we put in almost two years work to make it perform impeccably despite the number of challenges we faced. This project will be a story which will help us share our experiences and the outcome with other industry professionals – and receiving a CEDIA Award is a sign that we are heading in the right direction to do so.”