Behind the Scenes of a Vintage Home Cinema in India
MACBEE recently completed a home cinema project in a residential property in New Delhi, India. Like most of our projects, we were referred to this client by one of our existing clients.
The client, a famous TV personality, and his technical team had some very unique requirements. Firstly, they wanted the maximum number of seating possible, which is always a challenge if you want to deliver the best possible sound quality to the entire audience. They also requested a very large 4:3 screen, as their news channel is in SD and they would want to showcase this programme in their house. The cinema room, which was in a basement, included wide doors that open into the basement lounge, so the client wanted the cinema set up so that people who are sat in the lounge can still view the screen in the cinema. Also, the cinema had to be DCI compatible with the latest in immersive audio. Lastly, in terms of interior design, the client required a vintage-looking cinema that matches the decor of their home.
We were very excited to design this cinema, despite the brief presenting us with a lot of challenges. It isn’t uncommon in home cinema projects to be faced with complications, so I will explain what we faced on this project in more detail.
The first issue was the size of the room (W 18.6” H 12.7” D 23.9”). We had great difficulty fitting in two rows of seating. We couldn't take the seats too far back. Not just for acoustic reasons, but also because when the doors at the back were open, we wanted enough walking space around the seating to allow people to move freely around the entertainment area. We considered pushing the screen to solve the seating issue, but this wouldn’t be ideal for the vertical viewing angle.
The second challenge was installing the projector. Since it was a ‘classic’ themed room, we didn't want to show any technology. With the entertainment area extending into the lounge at the back of the cinema room, it meant that the projector had to be fitted inside the room. Also, finding the right DCI compliant projector became a critical choice.
The third problem was the screen. We initially planned a 4-way masking screen, which would give us a wide 4:3 aspect ratio and a nice wide screen for 2.35 content. However, due to the challenge with the projector, there wasn't enough vertical lens shift in any DCI-compatible projector which would fill the screen.
The fourth challenge was that we couldn't predict the room modes, especially since the doors weren't built and the outside lounge opened into a double height ceiling. It wasn’t possible to measure the room before planning either of these aspects.
The fifth and final issue for us on this project was working out an immersive audio layout which could deliver all formats, including Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D and DTS:X.
All of these challenges were difficult, but we pride ourselves on finding ways to tackle such challenges and deliver the perfect end result for our clients. To ensure we could do so on this project, we had several meetings with the client and the technical team to explain the ‘intelligent compromises’ we would need to make in order to achieve the right solution and a high performance cinema room.
We decided to opt for a 2-way masking screen and reverse engineered the screen calculation to make the 4:3 ratio a priority, as well as achieving a nice wide 2.35 screen. This is more than the recommend guidelines for the front row seating, however for the rear seating, it would be perfect. To be able to get a view from the rear lounge, we installed the screen around 6in. higher than our usual preference.
The seating comprised of two rows of five seats each, which provided us with enough space to walk around, keeping all the seats away from the wall so that most listeners would get great sound, without much localisation in audio.
For the projector, we shortlisted the NEC 1100L Cinema projector, as it was the only solution that would provide low noise, and is also small. We had to design and engineer a special install mechanism to be able to service the projector in the future. The front glass was foldable and there was a pull out tray, which could cantilever for around 2.5ft., with a trap door on the base of the projector, which would allow us access.
Once we were sure on the video front, we shifted our focus to the audio.
For the immersive audio, we specified the Trinnov Altitude32, as it is the only processor that can deliver all three formats and render the amount of discrete channels in Dolby Atmos (>12).
Having selected this product, we decided to visit Trinnov in France for training and discussing a multi format layout. These four days were spent in the Trinnov 3D audio lab and we did a lot of subjective listening and measurements, and then decided that the right solution for the room would be a 11x8 layout (x = 4 Subs). We made a few changes in the layout by pushing the ceiling speakers outwards to gain a wider sweet spot. We went back to the client with the proposed layout and suggested an ‘intelligent compromise’ layout which could achieve all three immersive audio formats. Being technical, the client was more than willing to trust us with the decision and we got the go ahead for the full system.
Still focussing on the audio, we worked with the interior designer and contractor to design the back doors to be really heavy and isolated them to make sure all the low frequencies are not dispersed. This made the modal calculation of the room more predictable. We decided to opt for 4 sub corner placement. Since we couldn't find any space in the rear, we decided to choose Synthesis S4S in-wall subs.
Acoustically, we kept the room absorbent than reflective, as the direct sound from all speaker in the MLP is very important. Planning for 19 speakers was quite a task, both in terms of placement and acoustic treatment.
This project not only delivered to the client’s expectations, but it also gave us the opportunity to install a one-of-a-kind immersive audio solution that is ahead in its time and can playback all three formats in a single-speaker layout.
Sawan Nichani is Director of India-based integration firm, MACBEE and a CEDIA Member.