A movie lover from Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit) in South Africa wanted to create a small eight-seat home cinema as part of a new build with the absolute best sound and vision – all within a £25,000 (R450,000) budget.

Mbombela is mainly a farming community, with tourism to Kruger National Park as its main attraction. With this residence set on a private game reserve, the homeowner was keen the cinema reflected the external environment while ensuring the room was fully sound proofed to not disturb any wildlife around the property. And although space for the cinema room was part of the design for the property, this was not planned from an AV perspective and is located in an awkward position in the house, meaning it was quite a challenge for the install team from Smart-Fi Audio Visual.

The company was commissioned to design and install the home cinema room and chose the Optoma UHD40 4K UHD Projector with a Grandview Acoustic Transparent Screen. 

Tiaan Burger, professional engineer at Smart-Fi Audio Visual, says, “The Optoma UHD40 UHD 4K projector is the best value-for-money 4K cinema experience available in South Africa. It is a quiet projector and small enough to not be obtrusive in the room. Because there are no windows, we did not have to worry about any ambient light and we could choose a lower lumen projector with a higher contrast.  The UHD40 was perfect – and hit the budget requirements.”

For surround sound the team installed a Marantz AV receiver, Emotiva Power Amplification, M&K LCR front speakers and M&K 10in subwoofer, Jamo surround and in-ceiling speakers. Smart-Fi also custom built acoustic panels for the room.

The room was square and not ideal for a home cinema with two layers of brickwork making cable management and speaker placement challenging. 

Tiaan explains, “We resolved the issues of cable management and speaker placement by installing two false walls – one to hide the speakers behind the acoustic transparent screen at the front and the other to channel all the cables from the dedicated equipment rack into the ceiling. The surround sound speakers could not be installed in the side walls, so we placed these in the ceiling, still maintaining the ATMOS experience.

“The acoustics in the room were initially terrible, but the large acoustic panels, together with Audyssey Room Correction from Marantz helped to equalise the sound. Apple TV and Satellite TV would be the main sources for the home cinema as we don’t have the luxury of 4K Atmos Blu-ray disks in South Africa.  We also don’t have the luxury of 100 MBs fibre internet in the bush!”

The team also installed a Pioneer Blu-ray player, Apple TV 4K media player and Control 4 Automation together with all décor lighting and seating. 

Tiaan adds, “The interior design was inspired by the red stone edges and ridges in the estate, with earth colours, browns and sand. We installed everything including the carpet, wallpaper, lighting and cinema seating – everything, in fact, except the original brickwork!”

Getting the right results

Installation took six weeks and was completed in June 2019. 

Tiaan explains, “To get a cinema looking this good for under £25,000 was a tall order but the balance of cost vs performance was spot-on!  We have this projector in our showroom – so we knew it would be good – but in this setting, the equipment was just amazing! It outstripped all our expectations.

“Our client is over the moon. Mbombela has two commercial cinemas and neither provide the 4K or ATMOS experience. Our client commented that it looks and sounds so good, his family and friends can now watch movies together in the best seat in town – in his own house!”

All photographs copyright Smart-Fi Audio Visual

Essential Kit List

  • Grandview acoustic transparent projector screen
  • Optoma UHD40 Projector
  • Pioneer BDP-100 Blu-ray player
  • Apple TV 4K media player
  • Control 4 Automation
  • Marantz AV receiver
  • Emotiva power amplification
  • M&K LCR front speakers
  • M&K 12” subwoofer
  • Jamo surround and in-ceiling speakers
  • Cinema seating (RED PU leather)
  • Acoustic Panels custom build by Smart-Fi
  • Carpet, wallpaper and décor by Smart-Fi
  • Lighting design by Smart-Fi
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