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Bringing the Outside In

Most residential electronic systems contractors promise to move mountains and deliver the stars for their clients.

Cinemagic Gets Creative with ‘Mountainous’ Arizona Home Theater Design

Cinemagic jumped at the chance to create a mountain motif in its client’s home theater to reflect the geographical features surrounding their Arizona home.

Most residential electronic systems contractors promise to move mountains and deliver the stars for their clients. Scottsdale, Arizona’s Cinemagic may be the first to carry out that promise, literally.

After initially being hired to design and install a whole-home A/V system for its client, Cinemagic was later contracted to create a dedicated home theater to match the desert theme of the rest of the home. Lacking a specific theme for the space, the homeowner turned to Cinemagic’s installation manager, Terry Kohler, for inspiration. Kohler jumped at the chance to create a mountain motif to reflect the geographical features surrounding his client’s home.

Our client wanted to take the outside and bring it in, and he asked me to come up with some ideas as to how we could achieve that vision,” Kohler recalled.

After settling on a mountain range mural, of sorts, to adorn the walls of the theater, Kohler drove around Phoenix taking multiple photos for inspiration. The goal was to find mountains providing the best re-creation opportunities for the exact direction of each wall of the theater.

Building Mountains

To convert his photos into a mountainous mural, Cinemagic connected with California-based Numinus, manufacturer of StarDomes Architectural Starfields. Cinemagic created line drawings of the mountain ranges and gave them to Numinus to work from, Numinus then cut out the mountains from one-inch acoustic panel material to control high-frequency audio reflections. They wrapped the panels with midnight blue acoustic fabric to achieve the desired visual effect. The design team also added another layer of mountains below the first set in black to represent rolling foothills. The first layer of acoustic panels was spaced one inch off the wall and the second layer was one inch from the first, allowing room for rope lighting and giving more visual depth to the room.

The whole process was easier said than done, however, because the room featured a curved back wall and uneven-length side walls. Numinus sent Cinemagic replicas of their cuts, from which they tailored the pieces to an exact fit. To seamlessly stop the panels at the doorway without someone seeing the backs of the panels, Cinemagic inserted small blocks around the edges, and then rewrapped the panels. To protect these edges, Kohler also hired a company to cut a one-eighthinch thick piece of wood to the exact shape of the panel’s edge, paint it black, and attach it to the edge of the doorway cutout, every detail was taken into account.

Next, Cinemagic hired Phoenix-based Skywoods LLC to create a mural of the sunset above the mountains. “They started with the sun setting in the southwest corner rolling all the way around to black in the northeast, front, corner of the room,” he said.

Cinemagic selected Middle Atlantic Products’ ERK-4026 rack to house the room’s AV, including Integra’s DTA 9.4 seven-channel amplifier and DHC 9.9 pre-amp and audio processor, and Panamax M-1500UPS uninterruptable power supply and M-5500EX power conditioner.

To complete the illusion, Cinemagic installed rope lighting behind the mountains for illumination. The upper and lower mountain lights are individually controlled so they can be dimmed at different levels to mimic the glow of the setting sun’s last fleeting bits of light. “Even on the northeast side of the mountains where the sun is not setting, they seem to glow,” Kohler explained.

Shooting Stars

Cinemagic was then ready to focus on the home theater’s ceiling. Originally, Cinemagic planned to construct its own star ceiling, but then the company contacted Numinus to see if it could create constellations in the simulated night sky. The company had never done that before, but was able to deliver an exact geographical replica of constellations on a midsummer night evening, even with some shooting stars.

“We put the shooting stars on a separate control so that when the projector is on, they can be turned off to avoid drawing your attention away from the movie,” Kohler said. “Seeing constellations in a big field of stars can be difficult, so we came up with a solution to allow us to dim out any of the non-constellation stars, so that the constellations are more apparent.”

Control4 manages the entire system home theater from either a seven-inch touchpanel or a standard handheld remote, and both controllers are programmed with specific buttons to allow the stars to be dimmed.

Getting the Gear in There

A Prismasonic HD-5000R Anamorphic Lens, Marantz VP-11SL Projector, and SMX CineWeave Pro-Curve Side Masking Screen provide the video elements of the theater. Kohler recommended the Marantz/Prismasonic combination for its picture quality, functionality, and its ability to “handle robust video demands,” without sacrificing quality.

The SMX CineWeave acoustically transparent screen allowed the theater’s LCR speakers to be mounted behind the screen, while the surround speakers were hidden “behind” the mountains.

“We cut out the fiberglass behind the acoustic fabric,” Kohler explained. “It’s completely acoustically transparent, so it doesn’t affect the sound at all, with the speakers behind the panels they are completely hidden.”

The screen is spaced six inches off the front wall, so the effect is that of a movie screen visually floating in front of mountains, out in the middle of the desert.

While Cinemagic went with Prismasonic’s anamorphic lens, they ended up designing their own mount for the projector and lens out of several pieces of quarter-inch aluminum. “Having the star tile ceiling to contend with; we found that the factory mount wobbled, so we took it upon ourselves to fabricate a mount from scratch, to get the projector/lens mounted securely” he said.

To house the room’s A/V equipment, Cinemagic selected Middle Atlantic Products’ ERK-4026 rack. “We love Middle Atlantic, they have many different products which allow us to custom fit any application,” Kohler said. “If I order a custom shelf from them, I can get it quickly and accurate, which is important to us, to get the job done properly, the first time.”

To provide power protection and filtering for all of the A/V equipment in the rack, Cinemagic selected the Panamax M-1500UPS uninterruptable power supply and M-5500EX power conditioner. ”Most A/V equipment has processors, similar to a computer, so you need to make sure they stay protected against power losses and restarts,” he said.

A Prismasonic HD-5000R Anamorphic Lens, Marantz VP-11SL Projector, and SmX CineWeave Pro-Curve Side Masking Screen provide the video elements of the theater.

Cinemagic turned to Artison, Sonance, and Integra to provide the ingredients for the 7.1-channel audio system. Artison’s RCC-600 subwoofer amp features a built-in EQ that enabled Cinemagic to perform a full EQ of both of the wall mounted subwoofers first, before tackling the rest of the speakers.

Cinemagic utilized 32 microphone locations to run a full Audyssey room tune up via the Integra DTA 9.4 seven-channel amplifier and DHC 9.9 pre-amp and audio processor.

“We wanted to make sure that not only does the theater look great, but the video and audio quality matches the aesthetics as well” Kohler noted. “First and foremost we are A/V guys.”

Kohler said the Sonance Cinema Ultra II speakers were chosen as LCRs and surrounds, because they provide great sound reproduction, provide a good value to the client, and last a long time.

“We have other speaker lines that are five times the price, but Sonance does an amazing job. Being able to still get excellent sound reproduction and performance without the extra expense was paramount.”

By focusing on every detail, Cinemagic surpassed its customer’s expectations by creating a home theater with acoustic performance that is as dramatic as its appearance.

Going with Control4

Cinemagic’s Terry Kohler said that on projects such as his company’s “outdoors inside” home theater, the economic downturn is helping encourage more clients to choose Control4 to run their AV systems.

“Control4 is a phenomenal system that will allow me to do almost anything at an attractive price point,” he said. “Over the last few years the company has made such advancements that they can handle large houses with no problems. And knowing this client, it was a lot more efficient to go with Control4 not only from the get-go, but also as he adds and changes stuff in the future. The programming is much less intense.”

Cinemagic’s Map of the Stars

Upon completion of its “outdoors inside” project, Cinemagic gave its client a laminated map of the constellations in his Numinus fiber-optic star ceiling along with a laser pen, so he can sit and point them out to his friends.