Meeting demands of award-winning cinema

Cinema Lusso found themselves up against a demanding customer in this home cinema project, which was a big winner at this year’s CEDIA Awards. Ben Goff, technical director of Cinema Lusso, talks about how they overcame the challenges to create a cinema masterpiece.

Winning two awards at this year’s CEDIA EMEA Awards, including Best Global Cinema, this project entails the best of knowledge, design and craftmanship to build a home cinema for a challenging customer in the limited space provided.

Meeting the demanding needs of this movie fanatic required integrator, Cinema Lusso to go to extreme lengths. The client, a CEO of an engineering company, described this home cinema project as a once in a lifetime opportunity to fulfil his dream, so it was important that Cinema Lusso chased down every last bit of performance to create something special.

The project started off as a DIY project of the client’s, but his continued research became a never-ending rabbit hole and a year later, work still hadn’t started. The client made the decision to bring someone in to do it.

When the integrator came on board, there was already a plan and a list of requirements. During their first meeting, they were asked for a room that would be better than a commercial cinema audio system with a huge screen, seating for six people and the ability to enjoy a movie when the rest of the family have gone to bed.

“The system needed to provide an immersive audio experience, meeting or exceeding the recommended performance levels for commercial cinemas.”

Cinema Lusso immediately saw problems with these requirements. It became obvious that the room dimensions simply could not support both two rows of seating and high performance, so choices would need to be made. Over several weeks of meetings, the client’s wants and needs were refined. His primary requirement was to be able to watch movies with his immediate family of three. The room didn’t need to support sporting events and social gatherings were never mentioned, so the integrator proposed a reduction to a single row of three seats.

A series of 3D models were created to show the client the compromises introduced by squeezing a second row into the room. The additional capacity would be a big compromise on performance. The difference in viewing angle would have been dramatically different between rows, making the screen too large from the front and too small from the back. The location of the large side window, which couldn’t be removed, also reduced the options for surround speaker placement. A front row would be a long way out of the ideal speaker angles, while the back row would have been far too close to the surround back speakers, making them a distraction from the immersion required.

The integrator stressed that it would be silly to ruin the experience for the family for every movie just to accommodate friends a few times a year. The client agreed and designing was able to proceed. It was understood that some compromises were still inevitable, but it was important to remove as many as possible with intelligent engineering solutions. This process involved a series of iterations, with each decision impacting the next and removing one compromise could create another. The design process went round in a circle with them looping back to the start finding small improvements each time, until the balance of compromises ensured the best performance in each seat.

Sound isolation & night mode

The room is most often used when the client’s son is asleep. Therefore, it was vital that the cinema could be enjoyed to the maximum potential without disturbing others. Again, this required a considered approach during the design and planning phases. If the room allowed too much noise to escape, the whole project would be a failure.

Using a 15” subwoofer, Cinema Lusso was able to take detailed measurements of the sound reduction provided by the existing walls before the design began. The small room dimensions required the minimum depth possible of isolation, so a new isolation clip and rail system was tested in combination with very dense materials. This saved precious depth on each wall but used 3,500kg of material in a complex multi-layer system to reach the target. The materials used were so dense in fact, the delivery driver underestimated the weight and tipped his forklift onto two wheels of the client’s driveway. The integrator continued to test every day as materials were added to ensure the predictions made during planning were correct. Reaching the end and missing the target was not an option.

The sound isolation materials and installation labour accounted for 10% of the total budget, so it was by no means an insignificant sum of money but it allows the client to enjoy the system to its maximum potential, gaining full benefit from the remaining 90% of the budget.

The final result is an average 61dB reduction from the room to the hallway, which is directly outside. Measurements in the client’s son’s room showed that the subwoofer peak SPL levels at 115dB were just audible over the ticking wall clock, which was slightly better than predicted.

To ensure silence in the bedrooms, a night mode was added. When the system is turned on after 7pm, the Savant control system automatically recalls a preset from the Trinnov processor with a reduced bass level, while adding tactile transducers which were built into the bespoke seating. The visceral impact of the movie soundtrack is maintained, replacing the bass that would usually be felt with physical, but silent energy directly in the seat.

The huge amount of sound isolation also makes the cinema the quietest room in the house, recorded at NC19 over 60 seconds with the air conditioning and projector operational. A room this quiet requires specialist tools to verify, and even with over £1,500 invested in measurement microphones, the NC19 recorded represents the lowest limit of what could be measured.

Room acoustics

The room is too small to provide true reverberation but reflected energy would still smear the detail of direct sounds. In order to maximise resolvable detail without making the room uncomfortable, the acoustics we designed in line with ITU Guidelines. This provided a target decay time based on the volume of the room across eight octaves from 63Hz to 8,000Hz.

Detailed predictions were made, modelling the wall structures and every material in the room to estimate the decay time at each frequency within +/- 10%.

The room dimensions didn’t lend themselves to broadband absorption on the side walls because the interior design concept allowed a maximum of 18mm to be used on each side wall, which were then interrupted by the door and a large window.

This left the front and back walls which were designed to leave plenty of space to be utilised for the treatment of these room modes as well as more broadband bass control. Using a combination of room models and in-room measurements, it was discovered that the largest acoustic issues would be in the region of 93Hz, where the third axial length mode combines with a width and multiple tangential modes, placing five modes within 5Hz of each other.

“If the room allowed too much noise to escape, the whole project would be a failure.”

GIK Acoustics were brought on board and tasked with providing bass absorption panels tuned to Cinema Lusso’s specific design, targeting the second axial length mode alone. A range of further bass traps were used with their highest absorption coefficient centred at 93Hz identified to be a problem, then extending up to 400Hz where the treatment rolls off significantly and other materials such as carpets, seats and padded wall panels become more effective.

Large padded footstools are placed in front of the main seats to provide ancillary seating for children when required although rare, but mainly for their beneficial effect breaking up the floor reflections and providing additional broadband absorption. 

The final result is a room which behaves the same across all frequencies, meaning it is never too dead from over treatment or too boomy from not enough treatment. This allows all the detail in every recording to be clearly heard as the director intended.


The objective for the audio system was to convey the director’s original intent as faithfully as possible to the technical production of the movie. The system needed to provide an immersive audio experience, meeting or exceeding the recommended performance levels for commercial cinemas.

Thanks to the sound isolation, the cinema is the quietest room in the house, allowing the quests of sounds in movie soundtracks to be clearly audible but still allowing the client to turn the system up to reference listening levels to achieve the full dynamic range intended.

Cinema Lusso also specified Wisdom P4M On-Wall speakers for the LCR channels, installed in a custom baffle wall to achieve slightly higher output than the in-wall models would provide.

Consistent experience

With such a narrow room, the width of the seating area was limited, but it was crucial that each seat had a consistent experience. This was achieved by positioning every speaker to be angled towards the centre of the room. The left and right front speakers are angled slightly beyond the primary seat, meaning that the two seats either side will experience its nearest speaker to be off-axis and the speaker furthest away is on-axis. This results in the front speakers providing almost an identical performance to each of the three seats so that nobody has difficulty following the dialogue or on-screen action.

To further enhance the consistency of the experience, the bespoke seating features occupancy sensors. When two of the three seats are in use, Savant can recall a preset mode which will turn the near side surround speaker down slightly and the far side surround speaker up slightly. A slight compromise in the primary seat is absolutely acceptable to the client so that friends or family are not bombarded with noise from a surround speaker so close to their ears. This weighting for the outside seat, which is only used when the seat is occupied, vastly increases immersion in the movie by reducing audio distraction.


Tech Spec

Apple TV 4K Media Player

Blustream PRO68 6*8 HDBaseT Matrix

Blustream Precision 48Gbps Active Optical HDMI Cable

Camira Blazer Lite Fabric

Cinema Build Systems Create 3.2m 2.4:1 Acoustically Transparent Screen

Cinema Build Systems Fabric Track

Dayton Audio Tactile Transducers

Display Technologies Vertical Mirror Mount

Emotiva XPA Gen 3 7 Channel Power Amplifiers

Furman AC210 Mains Conditioner

GIK 6A Alpha Panel with Scatter Plate

GIK Monster Bass Traps with Range Limiter & Scatter Plate

GIK Tuned Membrane Bass Absorbers

JVC NZ8 Laser Projector

Kordz 12 Gauge Speaker Cable

MadVR Envy Extreme Video Processor

Pakedge P8 Rackmount PDU

Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Blu-ray Player

Penn Elcom 42U Rack

ProSound ReductoClips

ProSound SoundDeck 37mm Acoustic Floor Panels

Protopixel LED Tape

QMotion Made-to-Measure Motorised Roman Blind

Rako Hub

Savant S2 Control Processor

Sinemas Ceiling & Wall Panels

Sinemas Made-to-Measure Seating

Sky Q

Sky Q Mini

T.akustik Diffusor Wave

TDG Audio NFC83A Angled Baffle In-Ceiling Speakers

Trinnov Altitude16 Audio Processor

Wisdom P2M Speakers

Wisdom P4M Speakers

Wisdom S90i Subwoofers

Wisdom Sub 1 Subwoofer Amplifiers

Zapitti Reference 32 Terabyte Media Player

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