Loft conversion cinema
Bespoke niche projects are always of particular interest to installer, proAV. The company jumped at the chance to transform an empty loft space above a vast garage into a sophisticated home cinema experience while also retaining the charm of the exposed timber beamed architecture. Amy Wallington finds out more.
The bigger commercial and residential install space is where you would usually find proAV, but this interesting private project was a welcome addition. proAV has been involved in the residential AV space for over 10 years, delivering projects for high wealth clients. Then in 2017, in response to the demand from their clients, proAV opened their dedicated Residential Division, headed up by Mark Roberts, who brings with him over 23 years of experience in the sector.
“Moving to proAV gave me the opportunity to put my own team together utilising over 40 years of proAV experience,” explains Roberts. “From the in-house programming and software development team that create truly custom interfaces, to the 20+ designers and dedicated network team, proAV projects are always managed effectively and efficiently no matter how big or small.”
Roberts took the lead of this cinema project in October 2017. “This was all very early on in my role here at proAV,” he says. “I met the client in the October, and he explained that he was having an additional building built, one of these new generation, barn-effect garages, with an annex or playroom-style facility above it. He was putting in a small kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom for guests, and wanted to put a cinema room in there too.”
Installers had to work around the architecture of the newly built space, which featured slanted ceilings and wooden beams. They also had to think about how they were going to get connectivity from the main house into the new build.
Roberts adds: “There were some dependencies on existing services that we had to bring in from the house, for example the satellite feed and the network that you need for broadband and Wi-Fi. We brought those services over from the main house and established connectivity in the new building.”
The ultimate goal for this client was to have an impressive cinema but on a smaller budget. “This client wanted a cinema room with the ‘wow’ factor, somewhere they can invite friends round to watch movies and big sporting games and for everyone to be blown away with the size of the screen and how good the sound is,” explains Roberts. “You can achieve the ‘wow’ factor through careful decision making and planning, it doesn’t have to be an expensive cinema room to get a good result. In certain domestic spaces it isn’t realistic to have great big speakers in the room, so it needs to be a compromise between achieving that wow factor but also making it a well-designed space that is easy to use by the client.”
In this case, the client had a keen eye for interior design and requested everything be as discreet as possible. The front speakers are all in-wall while the rear speakers are hidden in the recesses of the beams. An assortment of speakers were combined to create the audio amplification and speaker system, including a Marantz 4K surround receiver, Bowers & Wilkins cinema speaker arrangement with long-throw active subwoofer and Sonos Connect streaming interface.
The screen used in this project was the Sony 85-in LED HDR 4K Ultra HD display screen with X1 4K HDR processor, Motionflow XR, 4K X-Reality Pro and Android smart technology. The screen size fitted the space well, taking into consideration the slanted ceilings and beams, and the price fitted well within the budget. Inputs include a Sky Q Silver UHD Skybox and 4K Apple TV.
With any install, no matter how big or small, there are usually other people to work alongside, each with their own jobs as part of the project. Working around or alongside other professions can be challenging, as Roberts agrees: “The only challenges we really come across is having to fit in with everyone else. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the project is, if you’ve got a building company and electrical contractor, whether they are a two-man team or a 400 strong company, you still need to fit in with them and their programme. We always get them onside and work around them.”
A more technical challenge is making sure the technology is programmed properly and everything works together seamlessly. Having a good team behind you makes a big difference. “The big challenge with any modern system is finding the correct balance control-wise,” Roberts continues. “proAV has an amazing, highly qualified pool of talent when it comes to programming. In my experience, some control systems can be so complicated and not particularly intuitive, a good programmer understands the system and how to simplify it based on the clients’ requirements.”
A Crestron 3-Series Control System (CP3) was used in the annex for full control of the cinema. A touch screen remote (TSR-302) gives the homeowners a simple way to control the system. In Roberts’ opinion, Crestron is “about the best there is” for simplicity and ease of use. The clients have two children aged around nine and 12 also using the room, hence why the system had to be straightforward for everyone to use seamlessly.
Because the room was separate from the rest of the house, there was no need for any restrictions; the annex was effectively standalone. Roberts explains that if the system was running off the hardware in the main house, they would have then considered allocating Sky boxes or source products to the individual zones, but in this case, there was no need.
Roberts thinks that having trust and a good relationship with the client is key to an install. He continues: “I think residential projects are all about the relationship with the client. If you get that bit right, there are rarely any problems. Providing you’re giving them the visual front end and a system that works, and you support them properly, it usually goes very smoothly.
“Of course, things can go wrong. For the first few weeks there’s always teething issues, the key is being there for the client in these early stages while they get used to it. It’s the same with any project, whether its residential or commercial.”
It is always important to keep any type of install future-proofed in case of any upgrades or additions to the project. In this case, the client will update the screen at some point to keep up with technological changes.
“Screen technology changes at such a pace so he will update the screen,” explains Roberts. “We also talked to him at the beginning about the possibility of having a projector in there and either folding the screen away or retracting it into a bespoke canister above. In my opinion, I would have preferred to have done that. I think the room would have looked great with the screen rolled away when not in use. But that’s something we can address and change, it would be very easy to do. We always future proof everything by running plenty of infrastructure.
“In this instance, instead of running just the one communication cable to the screen, we have run four. So, in the case of adding more technology and needing additional connectivity, we can easily cater for it.”
The cinema build was the main install in this project. However, as well as this, the client also asked proAV to install an exterior speaker system for the swimming pool area. Here, the company used Bowers & Wilkins environmental weatherproof speakers with a Sonos Connect active amp to drive passive speakers.
• 4K Apple TV
• Bowers & Wilkins cinema speaker arrangement with long-throw active subwoofer
• Crestron 3-Series Control System (CP3)
• Marantz 4K surround receiver
• RF gateway
• Sky Q Silver UHD Skybox
• Sonos Connect streaming interface
• Sony 85-in LED HDR 4K Ultra HD display screen with X1 4K HDR processor, Motionflow XR, 4K X-Reality Pro and Android smart technology
• TSR-302 touch screen remote
• Ubiquiti 16 port UniFi PoE switch, gateway and access point
• Bowers & Wilkins environmental weatherproof speakers
• Sonos Connect active amp