No-compromise home cinema
The very highest level of home cinema performance has to be experienced to be believed.
Imagine a home cinema room with barely any compromise in spatial resolution, dynamics, and bass. Super-quiet with no background noise, and so well soundproofed, it doesn't disturb a soul. A crystal clear picture, which is detailed, bright, vivid and colourful - all at great cinematic scale.
This is when the experience takes on a different dimension, and goes from captivating to near-holographic. You might feel a little overwhelmed by the experience. And then you'll want to do it again, and again.
A screening room like this demands a higher level of expertise, because every element demands impeccable focus and attention, and our lead designer becomes one of several experts in the design team.
These are the key elements we have to focus on:
The final frontier
Getting the space right is a real balancing act. We want the room to feel relaxed and not cramped, but we still have elements we'd like to fit in.
A top quality screening room needs even more space. We have to allow for soundproofing and an internal wall system, which will hide all speakers and acoustic treatment to give a predictable sound response. Not forgetting the equipment itself - we’ll need larger subwoofers and more of them.
Then there's the gap between the listening area and the side and back walls. Wider is better, to make the experience you get from every seat as believable as possible.
Return to the source
When the playback system is incredibly lifelike and revealing, you benefit from the best possible source material.
As a minimum we'd suggest a high quality Blu-Ray player, and there are two even better alternatives:
All the convenience of a streaming player yet with all the quality of a Blu-Ray - often even better, because there's no space limitation on each title you buy, so some titles have even higher data rates, resulting in enhanced picture performance.
Using the secure and high quality DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) connection method, Bel-Air Cinema delivers films at the exact same quality as the mastering studio.
The best home cinema surround processors
We’re deliberately not discussing amps and speakers (or powered speakers) for this piece - there are so many ways to do the job very well. Your tastes, and the engineering specifics of your space, will both play a part.
Processing though is really interesting. For many years Trinnov Audio made the undisputed best surround processing you can buy. At the moment though (writing in early 2023), we still put Trinnov firmly at the top, but right now there are seriously worthy alternatives from Storm Audio, Lyngdorf Audio and Anthem, all of which could suit a super-cinema project very well.
The very top processors such as these have ten times the time-accuracy of a standard AV receiver or processor, which really affects the perceived sense of reality and exerts control over the lowest bass information - it's not just 'how much' bass, it's the precise timing of it that matters.
The best processors make the difference between looking at someone else’s holiday pictures and seeing the actual sunset.
Update 26 Nov 23 - our next super-cinema project will almost certainly feature Trinnov's new WaveForming system, for even better, more even bass performance. More about Waveforming.
The big picture
Not just big, but bright, vivid and colourful, with ultra-quick response and motion handling.
Some systems will benefit from the very best projectors - it might be native Cinemascope aspect, it'll probably be a 3-chip DLP device with laser light source for the very best black performance, brightness and long-lasting colour accuracy. However at this sort of performance level, modular screen walls like the Samsung Wall, Sony Crystal LED and LG Magnit are appropriate if you'd like to watch in a brighter room.
We'll often use screen masking so that the screen gets either wider at the side, or moves in at top and bottom, or both, to match whatever you're watching - whether that's a box set, blockbuster movie, or sport event.
A modern alternative to masking is to use leading-edge video processing - not just to enhance the picture performance but also to make 16:9 shape material look perfect on a Cinemascope shaped screen (or have both looking amazing on an IMAX 1.9:1 or 2.0:1 screen). Companies such as Lumagen and MadVR make leading-edge video processors.
Your room, and your tastes and preferences, will point you - and us - in the right direction.
Build, sound isolation, and noise floor
The first and easiest way to ensure better dynamic range and spectacular, explosive performance is to make the room quieter. That’s always true, but gets more true as we move up the performance chain. So for example we’ll put the projector in its own room, and use port glass to keep the fan noise out of the cinema itself. Similarly, air-conditioning and ventilation have to be painstakingly designed to add fresh, cool air without adding noise.
Next is sound deadening - to keep the sound of the cinema away from the outside world, and vice-versa. How much reduction you need is an engineering question, so we need to know: how far away is the cinema from the bedrooms? How old are any children you might have? How loud do you want to listen at 2am? How many subs are in this system and at what power? Do you live near a main road, train line or flight path?
The answers will tell us how much we need to achieve. Broadly, more reduction will add cost and take up space in the walls, floors and ceiling.
Predictable room acoustics
Just one of many beautiful Officina Acustica™ room styles
In most projects, we’re given a particular room to work with, whether that’s in a finished house or as one element of many in a build project, and we treat the sound to the best of our ability, by testing, measuring, and treating as we go.
When things get more serious and more expensive, we have greater influence on the room itself. So we’ll specify how we’d like the room to be built, and then use the specialist acoustic fit-out company Officina Acustica™ (that’s Italian for ‘acoustic workshop’) to create all the internal walls and acoustic treatment. It all works together as a single, purpose-designed system.
OA have wonderful styling options and world-leading acoustics credentials - with plenty of scope to tailor to your own personal style. They call it ‘acoustic interior design’. Together we can create a space that performs beautifully and is really 'you'.
The ‘best in show’ at CEDIA and ISE shows every year, the pinnacle of home cinema engineering, is invariably an Officina Acustica room - handcrafted in Italy and then re-built on the show floor in under a week.
We’d love to work with OA on every project we do, but in practice it becomes practical at around £200k total budget.
Fast, deep, accurate bass
Getting the bass just right in smaller rooms is a difficult engineering challenge:
In very small spaces like cars, the bass falls straight out again (we know this when the young people drive past late in the evening), and in large ones like a concert hall, club, or auditorium, the bass notes sit there happily. In domestic sized rooms, though - let’s say up to 10m long - the bass notes fold back around and create standing waves.
There’s a lot of engineering required and every room is different - for now let’s say we will need multiple subwoofer locations worked out painstakingly, plenty of power and top-notch processing. Interesting new developments are double bass arrays - here a wall of subs front and back deliver remarkably even bass at all seats, and infra-bass where very large subs with 32” or even 80” diameter fill out the very lowest frequencies below 40Hz.
Deep, fast, and well-balanced bass really underpins a film soundtrack and plays a big part in transporting you to another space.
Investing in experience
This is life-changingly great home entertainment. Think home screenings with friends; sports events with near stadium level tension; business screenings that elevate your work; and unforgettable special occasions with family. But it costs to live this well.
A reference room of a sensible size starts at around £150k - the variables being the room itself, the desired number of seats, and exactly how far you'd like to go with it. As with anything, the clearer your brief, the more precise the cost.
There are a few select facilities we can take you to, to show you what can be done.
Get in touch to talk about what’s possible.