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Case study – a dream house in the Cotswolds

Andrew Brister 21 July 2010

How do you convert a dilapidated, yet listed, old garage in the Cotwolds into a high quality cinema in just a few weeks? It’s SMC to the rescue.

Recommended to the clients late in the day, with builders already on-site awaiting information, SMC’s brief for a client in the Cotswolds was to produce a high-quality cinema that could double as an area where his extended family and guests could play party games.

The installation was to take place in a dilapidated, yet listed, old garage. It needed to be isolated from the main dwelling adjacent to it, and completed in a few weeks. The client and his family were difficult people to pin down. Both partners work in the media with close ties to the TV and film industries and a high quality solution was essential. Aside from one five minute meeting to agree an upgrade to Meridian’s pricey 10-megapixel projector, there was no direct contact.

SMC visited the site and took photographs and measurements so that they could produce a drawing for listed building consent which was turned around in a couple of days. The building and surroundings are beautiful, and everyone felt they should try and keep the feel of the space, which gave SMC a difficult geometrical challenge siting a projector.

They modelled the building quickly in Google Sketch-Up, showing a new bulkhead fixed to the existing brick arch. This wouldn’t be ‘read’ as one entered the room, or indeed from the viewing position, but would allow for a very wide screen with the shortest throw possible. Client feedback was obtained which allowed SMC to proceed with this design.

This arrangement allowed SMC to raise the screen above a dais-type stage, and put the screen at the right viewing position for the audience, who SMC placed on tiered seating. This all added a bit of drama, and by taking advantage of the height allowed SMC to ensure everyone got a great experience. An area in front of the dais is left, with easily-moveable leather beanbags, for game play and younger viewers.

The very large screen meant that SMC wouldn’t be able to house traditional AV racks in the space (in fact the areas either side of the screen can be used to store costumes etc.), so two separate equipment compartments were designed. There is one specially constructed location under the stage with forced ventilation out through the building’s side walls, and a second client-accessible location for disc players, games consoles etc.

A small compartment in the integrated side table by the main seats allows storage of games controllers, chargers, connection of PC and iPod, and 3D glasses.

All front loudspeakers were concealed behind fretwork panels beneath the stage itself, and the speakers mounted on angled brackets to ensure correct time-alignment for the principal viewing positions. Great care was taken in the DSP set-up to make sure that there were no lipsync problems and delays were timed correctly. Two subwoofers were used – one front firing, and one side firing unit under the seating area, minimising standing wave issues. Two pairs of active rear speakers were used completing the 7.2 set-up. The active speakers enabled SMC to save space at the equipment locations. A tone generator and analyser was used to ensure good frequency response throughout the space and to make sure all rattles and other resonances could be dealt with.

SMC modelled reverberation time in the room and specified well-insulated plasterboard walls, including a canted, decoupled wall adjacent to the main building. In addition sealed doors and high-backed chairs were used to provide additional isolation and absorption. The result is a comfortable space with a reverb time just under half a second.

The amazing Meridian projector works equally well, thanks to intelligent scaling, with old low-res games, and pre-release 4K movie content provided by the client’s Hollywood colleagues and played back using a Western Digital media player.

Lighting was designed such that people could access and ‘perform’ on the stage, as well as move around in the space without detracting from the viewing experience. Other scenes highlight the interesting roof structure and allow more general use of the room. Customised cassetted blinds were specified, tightly integrated with the stone reveals. A wireless touchpanel controls the whole affair.

The client has given us two comments on the installation. The first, texted to our director on the night he first used the system, was concise: “U r a genius”. When asked for a testimonial for an awards entry he wrote: “This screening room installed in an old victorian garage in the Cotswolds has become a cinema of choice for some of the world’s most exacting film makers to show their work to select audiences of their peers and key opinion formers within the media. Personally I am most impressed by the system’s ability to play MarioKart on an old Nintendo 64 with my kids.”

He has recommended SMC to friends and colleagues and the company is now working for him at a number of other properties.

www.smc-uk.com

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