A longtime customer of Texas-based A/V Integration company Sound Lab Designs assigned principal Ernie Blumenthal with the task of creating a theater in a home that he was having built. One truly without compromise and to Dolby Atmos® Music performance specifications.
Blumenthal recruited German architect Jochen Veith (JV Acoustics), known globally for his creation of premier recording facilities, and California theater interior design specialist Brad Keeler (Progressive Design). Keeler, along with Maurice Patist (president of PMC USA loudspeakers) had previously updated the rooms at Capitol including Studio C which was redone in 2017 to Dolby Atmos Music.
Blumenthal and his client flew to Los Angeles to experience several of Capitol’s rooms, with Studio C -- the Dolby Atmos Music certified room – immediately setting the benchmark for what he wanted his theater’s acoustical performance to be modeled after.
Accordingly, Blumenthal and team proceeded to build the theater like a professional recording studio. Two acoustic access doors and room-within-a-room construction completely isolate the theater from the house. As for the flooring, a 5-inch concrete slab sits atop acoustical isolation pads which in turn rest upon the 4-inch concrete floor of the main home. Walls are separated by a gap with acoustical treatments in between.
Keeler installed the interior to Veith’s specifications. Diffusers are positioned on the walls and acoustical treatments are suspended from the ceiling on wires which also create a nice visual element. “With its 27-ft wide by 35-ft deep footprint, 16-ft ceilings and tiered seating, the theater has an overall grand feeling. To keep it fresh-looking for years to come we opted for light-colored wood floors. This was not a concern given the amount of acoustical treatment placed throughout the walls and ceiling,” says Blumenthal.
The theater’s air conditioning system was designed to be completely silent. A separate AC unit manages the equipment room, home to the amplifiers and projector. A custom made 50,000-watt isolation transformer with voltage regulation provides clean power to all the equipment. “After completion the room was tested and surpassed all design specifications. At 110dB full bandwidth pink noise there was an almost 80dB drop at all frequencies outside the room,” notes Blumenthal.
The audio portion of the theater consists of PMC’s flagship QB1-XBD fully active speakers as front mains, QB1 active speaker for center, twenty-two Wafer 2 surrounds in a Dolby Atmos configuration and two PMC XBD active rear subwoofers used as an acoustic bass array to help tighten-up the bass response in any position in the room. This is a similar but larger scale version of the PMC system used in Capitol’s Studio C. A StormAudio ISP 3D.32 ELITE manages the preamplification and immersive audio processing.
With such a critical focus on audio performance, required was a commercial-sized film screen that would not impede in the slightest performance of the PMC center channel and mains mounted behind it while still delivering reference video. Also required was the ability to adjust aspect ratio all the way down to 4:3 for this film noir buff homeowner.
To this, the team turned to Seymour-Screen Excellence for their flagship Enlightor Neo 4K HDR acoustically transparent projection screen surface framed in their Adjustable Ratio Theater (ART) motorized masking system. The setup used measures 22-feet wide with a native aspect ratio of 2.40.
Enlightor Neo and its predecessor Enlightor 4K are arguably the most highly reviewed acoustically transparent film screen surfaces in the CEDIA channel. Neo is a random knit, matte white, 1.0 gain material that does not require any equalization, therefore a top choice amongst discerning theater designers and engineers at film and post-production/mix facilities. It is commonly recommended by loudspeaker companies and acousticians to get specified into discerning jobs.
ART is the newest and largest of Seymour-Screen Excellence’s three masking screen platforms (ART, TAM, TRIM). Designed by Managing Director Chris Seymour, ART is unique in that it is a build-on-wall masking solution available in sizes from 160 - 350 inches wide (viewable image) and at its largest size reaches 20-ft high by 30-ft wide inclusive of masking. To accommodate the different video formats, ART is available with either 2-way (left/right or top/bottom) or 4-way independent masking panels and offers unlimited intermediate masking panel positions including down to 4:3 with 120-inches of masking on each side. ART was a star of the 2019 CEDIA Expo, declared a Best New Product winner.
ART is complemented in this installation by a 30,000 lumens Digital Projection 4K laser projector and anamorphic lens. A Lumagen video processor was used for scaling and aspect ratio control.
Appealing to the audiophile in the homeowner, the back of the theater features a top-of-the-line VPI turntable, McIntosh phono preamp and custom-made stand. Because the room is built like a recording studio, it is designed to play back all types of music and movies, from mono, to stereo and full surround. The turntable’s placement was carefully chosen so as not to get feedback coming from the speakers.
"This two-year project was completed in 2019 for a homeowner client that simply wanted the best,” says Blumenthal. “Overall cost of the theater including the equipment was over $1 Million and I’d venture to say this studio-grade theater achieves truly the finest sound and picture quality available today, perhaps one of the finest in the US today.”
“I’m proud to say that our ART system is gracing the finest venues in America, from this theater (the first ART sold), to private VIP screening rooms, movie studios and most recently the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. We also offer dealers our “Fly the Factory Guy” option, where we’ll come in and handle the setup and calibration of our film screens and masking systems,” said Chris Seymour.