The project was a collaboration between two companies. Hugh Roche and his team at Atlantis AV handled the whole installation of the room as well as the larger AV systems throughout the house. Vivid Research, meanwhile, provided the specialised design work required for the professional cinema elements.
The large, spacious basement cinema, with a huge Cinemascope projection screen and motorised, reclining plush seating and bed sofas, is part of a fabulous home at an exclusive Hampstead address in one of London’s most cherished locations.
The property is newly built and the vast basement alone also boasts underground parking for 20 cars, a gym, games rooms and an underground tunnel leading to a leisure complex with pools and spas.
Vivid Research director Graham Edmondson, explains: “For what must be one of the largest cinema rooms in a private home, the client’s brief was the room should be conceived, designed and built to achieve the very finest reference image and sound quality. All within an agreed budget of course. The project evolved over the two years it took to build the property.
“This longer-than-normal time scale ended up working in the client’s favour – during this period we were able to benefit from cost reductions in high-end 3D projector systems from Runco. In the end we could offer the client the very best Runco three-chip DLP 3D solution on the huge 5m-wide screen while keeping within the allocated budget.”
But the sheer size of the room meant from the outset, the project had to be treated the same as a professional film industry cinema room and therefore meet similar professional cinematic standards.
The room boasts high-end ‘industry standard’ components including JBL three-way loudspeakers built into a THX-type baffle wall with wiring for the Dolby Atmos format.
A Harkness Perlux high-gain micro-perf Cinemascope projection screen was backed up by Runco 3D projection with anamorphic lens and a whopping 5,700W of audio power from the rack of Crown amplifiers.
Being able to calibrate the sound and image to industry standards was of critical importance for this project.
Graham says: “While a consumer AVR was used for soundtrack decoding and loudspeaker delays, it was certainly not up to the task of critical audio alignment in a room of this scale. So banks of outboard EQ processing were installed to be able to very carefully align each individual audio channel to the ISO-2969 ‘X’ curve, used as the reference criteria for all film dubbing studios worldwide.
“Much of the equipment was designed for professional multiplex-cinema use and is normally either manually controlled by cinema projectionists or automated into dedicated cinema control systems.
“We therefore needed a control system to mimic the unseen work of the projectionist in maintaining perfect sound and picture presentation. But it also needed the full ‘front of house’ familiarity and ease of operation provided by the Control4 SR250 remotes used throughout the property.”
If the room was a formidable size, the challenges were suitably formidable. Take the massively powerful Crown audio amplifiers.
These have a large in-rush current of around 10A, so powering all six amplifiers at the same time would immediately trip the whole electrical distribution board.
To overcome this problem, by using IP mains controllers, the Control4 system staggers the power-up sequence of each amplifier, just as a cinema projectionist would.
By the time the projector is warmed up, the sound system has safely turned on and is ready to use.
The Control4 system also handles the anamorphic lens and motorised side masking to realise the stunning effect of the huge 2:35 Cinemascope screen.
It integrates with the Lutron Homeworks lighting system to provide an automated theatrical slow dim to allow the clients to sit back and relax ready for show time.
That seating was personally chosen by the client. In a word, says Graham, it is simply sumptuous.
Each one of the 17 luxury seats is huge and well spread out within the room.
Each has its own fully motorised reclining system while the seating culminates with a massive double-bed sofa on the front row, fully plumped up with inviting soft cushions and rugs.
It has taken years of experience within pro and home cinema to achieve the delivery of cinemas at this level.
Now in its ninth year, Vivid Research established the business after developing a passion for high-end cinema technologies during 15 years working for arguably one of the most respected technical companies in both the audio and the film and cinema industries, Dolby Laboratories.
Graham says: “As a director in the film and cinema division at Dolby, I was lucky enough to gain experience in cinema audio and video system design, integration, installation and servicing, as well as providing technical consultancy to film makers, from sound-dubbing studios to film premieres. If you thought private residential clients could be demanding, try meeting the insatiable demands of film directors, producers and the Hollywood studios.”
Graham’s team’s work is now divided into two main sectors: Vivid Research designs and installs cinemas for the professional film post-production industry and also tackles high-end residential installations.
Projects have included reference digital cinema quality control theatres, colour-grading suites, film and TV sound mixing and re-recording studios.
In the residential sector, Vivid Research has mainly specialised in dedicated cinema room installations.
Graham says: “We love being given the opportunity by clients to create a dedicated luxury cinema room, commonly a basement room. We always look at the room as a whole experience, not just a projector, screen and loudspeakers. From the moment the clients walk into the room we want them to love being there and we carefully design lighting, décor, room acoustics and ease-of-use control for total comfort and enjoyment.”
Looking at the wider industry picture, Graham is fascinated how cinema is evolving: “It has always been fascinating to see technologies evolve in the pro film and cinema world and then filter through into residential home systems.
“Four years ago my company worked with Dolby to install the first Dolby Atmos cinema room here in their UK headquarters and it’s great to see that now being adopted so widely in the home market.
“Meanwhile, for many years in the digital cinema industry there was great debate over digital cinema 2K versus 4K and whether the latter really produced a perceived benefit to audiences.
“In the end, however many manufacturers try to tell us one product with ‘bigger numbers’ is better than another, there has to be an obvious benefit to consumers.
“For example CD technology was a massive step forward from a compact cassette, yet the higher quality SACD didn’t offer enough perceived improvement to become popular with consumers – instead they turned to the convenience that lower-quality MP3 brought them.
“High definition images again produced a huge and very discernible leap forward for consumers at home. But I question if they really want, or even need, more resolution at a time when the convenience of emerging on-demand TV services and smart TV features is of more interest to them.”
Graham adds: “3D has also been an interesting technology to follow being reinvented in its latest guise. A decade ago the film industry and Hollywood studios created a huge hype about the new 3D formats and the commercial cinemas saw it as a great new ‘can only see it here’ incentive to attract customers back through their doors.
“But my 3D experience in the residential consumer market has proved to be a rather damp squib that has very little interest with my clients. After they watch the token children’s film or blockbuster movie in 3D, the glasses seem to be relegated to the back of the cupboard. I can’t help thinking we’re just seeing history repeating itself with another ‘coming and going’ of 3D as we did in both the 50s and the 70s.
“In the meantime, we continue extolling the virtues of dedicated cinema rooms to our clients. After many years of them being encouraged by interior designers that all rooms in their house must be ‘bright, white and light’, it can be counter intuitive for them to allow us to then totally black-out a room and darken their ceilings and walls.
“Yet the results are always worth the persuasion. And it’s the icing on the cake when we re-visit a client months later and they tell us the cinema is their favourite room in the house, is permanently used and fought over by parents and their children.”
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The Kit List
• 5.5m wide 2:35/1.77 Harkness high gain mini perf Perlux professional projection screen
• Motorised side masking system
• Runco SC35d three chip DLP projector
• Runco McKinley motorised 2:35 anamorphic lens
• Runco DHD controller
• 3 x JBL 3730 600W three-way left, centre, right screen loudspeakers
• 2 x JBL3635 300W subwoofers
• Lamaphon CLS acoustic loudspeaker baffle wall
• 8 x JBL8350 350W surround loudspeakers
• 6 x Crown DSi2000 475W per channel professional power amplifiers giving 5,700W of power
• 4 x DBX1231 31 band graphic EQ units
• Denon AVR
• Denon Blu-Ray player
• Control 4 HC250 (as part of a much larger Control 4 whole house system)
• Control 4 SR250
• 3 x AVCi IP mains distribution boards (controlled by Control 4)
• Lutron Homeworks
• Sky HD receiver
• Cinema fully pre-wired for additional Dolby Atmos loudspeakers
• Cinema aligned and tuned using Dolby AT5 spectrum analyser to international cinematic standards
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