Alps Home Cinema Reaches New Heights
This impressive Smart Building Award winning project (Best Home Cinema Under 50K) was created by Seymour AV Design under extreme time constraints and with access to site issues. The property’s home cinema is based around Pulse Cinemas ingredients and was created in close collaboration between dealer and distributor.
Tom Banks, Managing Director for Seymour AV Design explains, “We were contacted by the client directly, having seen our work on Instagram. It was towards the end of the third national lockdown, and he had decided to run his business from home for sustained periods of time and subsequently bought a chalet in Morzine, France.”
The main directive was to convert a windowless, awkwardly shaped room in the basement into a reference level cinema. This was a ground up design and build, including the sourcing of the lighting, furniture, carpets, artwork and naturally AV equipment.
Tom adds, “There were two main challenges. One, due to COVID, we couldn’t visit the site until it was time to install everything. The second was the room itself. The client wanted us to divide the awkward shape of the room into a cinema room plus a rack/storage room. The decreasing angle of the room meant that the larger you made the cinema room, the smaller the screen wall became. We had a target of 100in minimum screen size, so this, paired with maximising the projector’s throw ratio, required extreme precision. All this of course without being able to visit site!”
Pulse Cinemas played a major part in getting the project won in the first place and then achieving the high-standard the install team were aiming for, as Tom explains, “Firstly, we were able to get the client to come down to the Pulse demo facility, which really was so important; partly because the client hadn’t really experienced what true home cinema was and secondly he had a small space that turned out to be almost identical in size to the ’small cinema room’ at Pulse.
“For him and his girlfriend to be able to sit in a space that will be almost identical to his, with his styling, and in the comfort of his home, really helped us get this job over the line. He explained after the demo that he had a ballpark figure in his head and that went out the window, once he had heard/seen the demo!
“It actually resulted in us almost copying the equipment like for like in his space as he loved the demo. He was so impressed, in fact, that when we were invited to watch a film with some local neighbours, he demoed the Gregory Porter double bass scene on his new Kaleidescape, Strato as that was his favourite clip from the demo seven months before!
Pulse Cinemas' positivity did not end there however as Tom argues, “As helpful as the demo was to inform the client and show the value of key products, the real value of a distributor is after the equipment has been purchased! I’m a big believer that all the distributors have some great products and know how to sell those products. What we love about working with Pulse is that they are there to help and solve problems thereafter.
“They offer a full design service, photography, calibration and a host of other marketing services. They even offered to come to site (on the French-Swiss border) if we needed anything. As is always the case with installs, you inevitably run into glitches or unexpected issues. It was crucial these could be dealt with as they arrived as we were only in France for the week."
Tom explains, "We were able to call Pulse on one occasion and they were able to diagnose the picture issue we were having with the Sim2 and Kaleidescape, and get a fix immediately over the phone. For us, as a business, this is worth its weight in gold as we are able to move forward with an install in the timescale we anticipated, without having to wait for someone to come back to us. With this regard a special thanks has to go out to Clive Vooght (now at RTI) who we also leant on throughout the process. Pulse had also made the intro to Clive, who at the time worked for himself and now runs the RTI training at Pulse.”
One of the first priorities was to work with the French building team carrying out works on the property to provide Seymour with every possible measurement of the room. SketchUp was used to build a 3D model of the room. From here the team could see how things would work in scale, share design ideas with the client, and give detailed designs to the building team to build out the rooms, ready for the installation phase.
Tom continues, “We were keen to use technology that had good room E.Q capabilities given the potentially unforgiving nature of the concrete room. It was with this in mind that we specified an Anthem AVR, as their ARC room correction tool would be able to deliver as balanced a sound as possible. Using this we managed to get near-perfect bass response which we were incredibly pleased with.
“After discussing the room constraints with the client, we explained that a 7.1 system would be the best choice. As we were building a storage room, we had a stud wall in the middle of the room; this was therefore the obvious choice for the screen wall as we could build a baffle wall and hide the LCRs and sub behind an acoustically transparent screen.”
As the rest of the room was concrete, the plan involved dropping the ceiling in order to house the four rear/back speakers, specifying angled-in ceiling speakers. This drop also allowed the creation of a coffer for the star ceiling. This is also acoustically transparent and treated in the first reflection. Seymour AV worked with GIK Acoustics to design some bespoke artwork to help soften the room’s acoustics, treating the first reflections as well as the screen baffle wall and part of the rear wall. Absorption panels were used behind the acoustically transparent screen and the first reflections, as well as a combination of absorption and reflective panels on the back wall.
Tom says, “Given the limited space we had, we didn’t have the option to build a ‘room-within-a-room’ and treat it to our preferred level; but using the art panels we were able to improve the sound immensely and the four bespoke posters helped add some colour to the room’s muted grey palette.”
Tom explains the tight timing involved, “Once we arrived in Morzine, we had one week to install and commission the room, and thanks to the detailed plans and models we had initially provided to the building team, both the stud-walls and the lighting circuits we had specified were in the correct locations. We were then able to install and commission the room to ours and the client’s expectations within the short time frame. After the client had sent several videos to friends and family, we were asked to stay and watch a film as he and I were both so happy with the result.”
As a room, although windowless and well insulated from the rest of the home, it was not an ideal space given it was small and entirely made of concrete.
Toms says, “It is not usual for us to be given the opportunity to fully design a cinema room from the ground up, so we were excited to flex some design muscles. The fact the client was so happy with the results was a bonus, and we believe the design details such as the French panelling, Buster+Punch lighting, and the bespoke movie posters with acoustic treatment, really added to the enjoyment of the room. We added some surprise features, such as having a link from the remote’s home screen to a weather app so he can check the snow forecast for the slopes! He also loved that the lights dim as a film started and they slowly brighten when pausing/ending a film. It’s these reactions that give us the greatest pleasure and we’d love to bottle that in the form of a Smart Building Award!”
Tom concludes, “I feel the true evidence of this is that we are already working on a whole home automation, Lutron and media-room projector for the client’s brother. We feel this job exemplifies Seymour AV Design’s ability to problem solve and deliver a solution that exceeds expectations. Due to the constraints COVID placed on us, our knowledge, design skills and workmanship were put to the test. The fact that we were able to design everything with extreme precision, without setting foot in the property, is a showcase of our skills not only as designers but also communicators, which was important for an international project.”
Projector: Sim2 Domino 4
AVR: Anthem MRX740
Sub Amp: Paradigm X300
LCR Speakers: Paradigm P80-IW
Back+Surr: Paradigm H65-A
Sub: Paradigm RVC-12SQ
Sources: Kaleidescape Strato-S, Apple-TV
Control: RTI T4x remote and XP-6s Processor
Lighting Control: Lutron RA2 select with pico keypads