Pyramid AV has created this big fat slice of home cinema heaven for a client who had very clear ideas about what they wanted. CE Pro Europe settles down to enjoy the story.
The Pyramid team explains that the Roxy Cinema was conceived as a design and build project for clients Bruce and Hilary Weston incorporating an unusual space within the basement pool area of a large existing property.
The Weston’s were intent on creating their dream cinema alongside a new bar area within this unused space.
Getting there however was not straightforward, as the project presented a number of particular challenges. The room configuration was of a ‘wedge’ shaped space that the team had to split up in order to maximise the potential cinema requirement as a dedicated space.
After a number of trial configurations, Pyramid settled on the final design, with extensive input from Bruce and Hilary as they were very particular about every detail.
Nic Black, Pyramid AV’s MD, explains, “One thing that was clear from the outset was Bruce’s steadfast intent on having a fully black room and Hilary was keen to introduce a style that was art deco in essence, along-with a star ceiling effect.
“Our designs successfully accounted for both requirements as we were able to combine a style of décor that was consistent with the notions of 1930’s cinemas, but at the same time ensuring that good lighting design and systems control allowed for a fully controlled environment.”
The spec also included fitting in two rows of Front Row seating which the family had already procured.
Building the solution
Nic breaks down the spec, “The audio system was chosen as a 7.2.2 Dolby Atmos set-up as the client was less concerned with the overhead effects of 3D audio, and in particular post commissioning prefers a more direct sound emanating from the screen when listening to music, as opposed to an ‘up-mix’ of stereo content to a sudo-surround mode.”
Audio performance objectives were set out to achieve PEAK SPL 105dB(C) reference level at the listening position, taking the THX reference level of 85dB(C) and allowing for the requisite 20dB of additional headroom to allow for accurate reproduction of transients.
All of the cinema’s speaker and audio designs are in alignment with the guidelines for Dolby Atmos configurations as well as incorporating the CEDIA whitepaper guidelines for loudspeaker placement for immersive audio.
Right throughout the project Bruce and Hilary had clear ideas what they wanted.
The client was very specific about the choice of loudspeakers,” says Nic, “being an ardent opera and classical music listener as well as a movie enthusiast. We arranged for Hilary and Bruce to attend a number of system demonstrations and after some consideration it was clear that the KEF Ci series of in-wall loudspeakers were the desired model.
“The choice of sub-bass loudspeaker was also a matter of great concern to him, and he had undertaken some considerable research and listening on the subject. Bruce decided on a pair of the SVS Ultra SB13 self-powered units and a left right screen orientation which we were able to account for this within our calibration and tuning process.”
Crossover facilities for the Ci5160 LCR loudspeakers were provided by inserting a Bose ESP 880 DSP into the signal chain, post the AVR LCR outputs. This also enabled precise set-up of the LCR before calibration, giving the team an extremely accurate platform from which to balance the rest of the system.
After a period of demos involving Pyramid’s own dedicated demo cinema within its showroom and visits to a variety of other demo cinemas offered by distributors across the South of England, the debate settled on a 1.78:1 ratio screen at 135in diagonal.
It was a compromise based on the identification that the client’s tastes were varied in terms of content, and as such they felt that they wished to maximise the opportunity for a wide range of ratios, in addition to the cinematic experiences offered by a 2.35:1 set up.
TV, DVD, Blu-ray and home videos are all part of their collection, so this decision was based on a sensible compromise. Video performance was also designed to meet THX cinema standards.
The projector chosen was the JVC DLA X7900 offering 1900 lumen output, plus E-shift 5, 4K capability. This was chosen after a series of demos showing a range of projectors, and the client had some very clear ideas on the image quality, as well as the ability of the projector to be altered in terms of frame rates to accommodate Bruce’s sensitivity to motion jitter.
Nic expands, “Importantly, the fact that the room was black, and the chosen projector has excellent contrast ratios, the chosen 1.78:1 screen ratio ensures 2.35 content is displayed with the best possible contrast around the screen margins, almost negating the white borders top and bottom as a result. The end result is a fantastic picture that accounts for all media in an almost perfect viewing environment.”
The right result
The Roxy Cinema was intended to be as tight and accurate as possible. The room was created with specialist acoustic modelling software platform EASE to determine a pre and post build RT60 reverberation response which determined the choice of materials and methods of application.
Particular attention was paid to the structure of the screen wall to ensure very rigid loudspeaker mounting and minimise interference to the wavefront leaving the loudspeakers.
Pleased with the results, Nic enthuses, “The audio in the room is incredibly well balanced, speakers blend into one cohesive sound field with no perceptible point source, the bass is very tight and accurate and the system headroom creates the necessary dynamics that this environment needs. The net result is that the room disappears, leaving the content to envelop the audience as it is intended.
“What they did not expect was for the system to not only to perform so well as a cinema system, but Bruce now spends a great deal of time in the room listening to his favourite music, which he says ‘far exceeds my expectations – it sounds fantastic’. Bruce is a very discerning music listener and stated that he did not envisage using the cinema for listening to music.
“We believe that a great sound system should be fit for any possible use, and aim to provide the client with a stunning, immersive Hi-Fi as well as the ultimate cinematic experience.”
From the client
So pleased is Bruce with his cinema he has put his thoughts on record.
“In picking what equipment we should have for our home cinema we had two problems, says Bruce, “All but breathtakingly expensive built-in speakers sounded to me no better than fairly inexpensive cabinet speakers, with the base neither full nor well integrated to the mid-range. Yet we wanted to achieve a built-in look.
“I am one of those people who experience cinema at 24f/s as jerky, so, while I love films, I have always taken care not to sit too near the screen so as to avoid movement looking too much like a succession of stills. In a room of our size this presented potential problems.”
Bruce explains the solution, “We solved the first issue by the designers arranging for us to listen to numerous systems. Finally, we opted for what sounded to me like good quality active cabinet sub-woofers (SVS) that the installer ‘built-in’ and passive in-wall speakers (KEF). The in-wall sub-woofers just didn’t seem to have enough grunt! “
Bruce continues, “I had originally thought that I would not want to listen to music in a windowless room, and so was not concerned with that aspect. But we ended up bi-amping the front in-wall speakers to improve their performance still further, and I would have to admit that I am frequently to be found sitting in the dark listening to CDs! The system actually exceeds my expectations, and to my ear is really, really good!”
So what about the image quality? Bruce explains, “On the second issue, we thought that it might not be a great time to buy a projector. Because at last there seems to be some proper competition in 4K projectors, and my view was that projector quality would both improve and very high quality would become more affordable – but this would take a few years! So, we expected that the second issue would involve some compromise.
“Ideally we wanted a 4K projector that was capable of frame interpolation when playing/upgrading to 4K – but without generating noticeable artefacts in the process and we didn’t want to pay a fortune for this! The designer helped me choose the JVC DLA X7900, after auditioning various JVC, Epson and Sony models, for four reasons.”
Bruce breaks down the reasons, “The previous JVC model had excellent contrast and the new model (that was not even reviewed when we selected it) was unlikely to be worse and our dedicated windowless room all-in-black assists getting first class contrast.
“Native 4K projectors were either inordinately expensive, currently around the £25k mark, or gave what seems to us a less good picture overall. The latest JVC model (that we got) actually can add frames to UHD pictures.
“A real plus. By keeping to a projector under £6k we could potentially allow ourselves an upgrade in a few years’ time, when competition may have driven prices down. Again the picture quality exceeded expectations, so overall we are delighted.”
Bruce is also full of praise for Pyramid AV, “What was so good about the designers and installers was their attention to detail, setting up the cinema and the hardware superbly, employing top class specialists for both sound and picture to get the very best from the chosen equipment. They offered advice without pushing their own views or hardware options too hard and tried, with great success, to accommodate our (my!) foibles.”
- KEF Ci5160RL Speakers x 3
- KEF Ci3160RL Speakers x 4
- KEF Ci200RR-THX x 2
- SVS Ultra SB13 Subwoofers x 2
- JVC X7900 Projector Black
- DT Screens16:9 3m Projection Screen Fixed Frame Screen
- Marantz AV8802A AVR
- Marantz MM8077 Amplifier
- Marantz MM7055 Amplifier
- Sony UBP-X800 Blu-ray
- Penn Elcom Equipment Rack
- Control 4 EA-3 Processor
- Network Switch 8 Port (4 PoE) Switch
- Starscape Fibre Optic Star Ceiling 3m x 4m