This feature originally appeared in Sound+Image magazine, one of What Hi-Fi?’s Australian sister publications. Click here for more information on Sound+Image, including digital editions and details on how you can subscribe.
This space was always intended to house a home cinema. Indeed the owners – Anthony, Marisa and their three children in Western Australia – already enjoyed a multipurpose room with a Sony TV and surround system of Yamaha receiver and Canton speakers, also a bar area, plus gaming via a full-size stand-up ‘Street Fighter II’ arcade game.
“The original room certainly had a little bit of everything, but without a real cohesive purpose,” says Rogue Home Cinema’s founder and head designer Scott Rogan. “There was clearly scope to do so much more, so we set out to transform this room into a unique and exciting space which would deliver a truly big cinematic experience.”
As you can see from the images, the final results are stunning, and yet the room manages to retain everything from the original space, plus more, all with a real sense of style.
“I really love what’s been created here,” says Scott. “We took the original room’s unique qualities and added some balance and flow, and a few really bold statements in the room, while keeping things elegant.”
"With any custom cinema, the AV engineering is the absolute foundation, before we get excited about the décor and the finishes,” says Scott, wisely, fully aware of the problems that can occur if décor leads, while the sound and vision follow.
“After a room visit where we connected with their vision for the space, they optioned our design service, and we began exploring the engineering parameters, working out how to layer all the functions with the form of the room so as to get the most from the available floor plan. Importantly we needed great sound, and the kind of big-screen picture only possible with front projection technology, as here. The screen is about three metres wide, way bigger than an ordinary TV can deliver.”
The existing system was already delivering Atmos sound via the nine-channel Aventage RX-A3080 receiver, which in the existing system powered a 5.1.4 system of Canton speakers, with the front floorstanders out in the room, and with a single Canton subwoofer for the system.
“Since we were moving to a projector and screen, it made sense to have an acoustically-transparent screen with the LCR speakers behind it,” says Scott, “not just for sound and image cohesion but also to allow space in the room for the entry at the front right.”
The budget allowed for a Sony native 4K projector, the VPL-VW590ES: “very dynamic, very colourful,” says Scott, “and mounted in a tidy little hush-box which allows it a far more stable and rigid platform than a ceiling mount would.”
The space under the Severtson 4KSAT screen could then be used to house both the original subwoofer and a second SVS subwoofer added by Rogue. The four height speakers are bracketed in ceiling corners, firing inwards to the critical seating positions, and the decision was made to improve the spread of the surround system by adding an additional pair of Canton satellites for wide surround, while the original back surrounds were ensconced behind two of the dramatic art panels at the rear of the room.
“That delivered 7.2.4, supporting Atmos soundtracks in full,” says Scott Rogan. “The back channels deliver full behind-the-listener surround, while having both front and rear height speakers creates movement and focus through the room for Atmos objects, which isn’t possible with only one pair of height channels. And the second subwoofer helps with both the overall level of impact and a more even bass response across the seating.”
The seat positions would be crucial, not only for the family of five, but for the guests they like to welcome, and for when the room is used for hanging out after school, and for birthday parties. Raising the seat count required some careful thought.
“The length of the room wasn’t going to support two rows – having seats right on the back wall isn’t going to be that immersive, as you need space to create a truly big soundfield,” says Scott. “So given the space and shape of the room, the seating area was best delivered as one long row. Being somewhat limited on width, we needed to use loungers without arm rests, but we had enough depth at the back still to have full recliners, because Anthony and Marisa very much wanted that atmosphere and the feel of ‘going out’ to the movies.”
The row of seats is kept well forward of that back wall – essential for best sonics – but still with space in front to have an additional bean-bag row for visitors. And for those special occasions there’s even room behind the main seats to have bar stools there. Amazingly the room can thereby accommodate up to 16 people.
In the rack
The main rack is in a tall black cabinet at the back right corner of the cinema, to the left of those rear art panels. It houses the retained Yamaha receiver, along with an additional four-channel Parasound ZoneMaster amplifier used for the Atmos height channels (the two channels thus freed on the Yamaha receiver now biamp the front L/R speakers).
Racked sources include Foxtel IQ, AppleTV 4K and a Panasonic 4K Blu-ray disc player.
There’s also a Control4 EA3 home auto-mation controller, which acts as lighting control hub for dimmers under Control4, part of Rogue’s plan to deliver something special.
“Any great cinema has ambience and atmosphere,” says Scott Rogan. “The moment you walk through the door, you should be transcending the everyday world and entering something special. Feature lighting is a great way of achieving that.”
This room has more than 40 channels of independent coloured lighting strategically positioned to highlight shadow edges and details, while a star ceiling adds depth and feel. There’s also primary lighting which is dimmable and warm in tone, but bright enough to allow practical tasks, “like cleaning away the popcorn spills in the morning,” says Scott.
The family can control both lighting and the AV system using a Control4 SR-260 remote, which supplements a smart keypad with engraved buttons at the entry, and the use of personal iOS devices for streaming music.
“There’s complete custom automation,” says Scott, “so only a few button presses are ever required to access their desired sound, picture and lighting mood.”
Décor and design
That desire to create a real experience extended to the luxurious choice of décor.
“That was a primary consideration once the floor plan and basic structure of the room were set,” says Scott. “In particular we needed the right look for the redesign of the bar, which the owners use with friends for music concerts and when just playing music. There had been a bar in the original space, and we were able to incorporate it into a relatively shallow nook, only 180mm deep, on the right-hand wall.”
Below the bar there was also room for a Blu-ray disc library to be tucked underneath.
“One idea can lead to another, to another, until you get that perfect solution,” says Scott. “For example the red wasn’t here from the outset; it was the Jamaican walnut doors for the Blu-ray library that inspired the selected curtain colour of deep plum. But the room still needed more texture and pattern, and that sent us down the path of the Art Deco patterns that have been used to wrap the rear acoustics, and which were inspired by art from the original room.”
These are custom-printed artworks, digitally printed onto an acoustic fabric which covers both the back speakers and the rear room acoustic treatment.
Another enlargement from the original room is the ‘Easter egg’ of a Scarface entry door, an image which you don’t see when you come into the cinema, nor when the right-side curtain is drawn.
“There wasn’t any room to hang their original Scarface picture,” says Scott. “So we had the Easter egg idea of going full size and epic with the image on the door. It’s hiding in the room to be revealed when you least expect it!”
Meanwhile the additional wide surround speakers are secreted behind black panels between the back of the bar and the rear rack space, and in a parallel position opposite on the left wall. The disc library below the right speaker area was colour matched so as to frame and draw attention to the main bar feature.
“One bonus was that the existing carpet worked OK with the new room design, so it was able to stay,” says Scott. “We had it removed during construction then reinstalled professionally at the end.”
More than movies
The room also doubles up for gaming – but no longer that full-size StreetFighter II Champion Edition arcade machine.
“That wasn’t going to fit well into the new room, and was really out of theme,” explains Scott. “So we looked towards some new technologies which brought the classic arcade games into the room using a new joystick controller board. That was still quite a large unit, so it was purpose-designed to fit into some unused space under the screen, where there’s still plenty of room to be able to connect and upgrade later to other gaming systems like Xbox or PlayStation with all the controllers and chargers tucked under the screen unseen. You don’t need to get into the main equipment rack at the back of the room, so it’s easy, it’s fun, and really practical.”
For music listening the Control4 system gives them Tidal streaming, but we were delighted to see also a spot-lit Audio-Technica turntable, nestled in a little vinyl hub to the left of the screen, with storage for the owners’ vinyl records below.
“Again it’s a lot more convenient to access the records and the playback of your favourite vinyl by having that up at a comfortable height, and in a fun place right up by the speakers,” says Scott.
A Rega Fono Mk3 phono stage has been added to avoid a long phono-level run to the Yamaha receiver, and there’s talk of upgrading to a Rega Planar 3 turntable in the future. The room has also been designed to allow other upgrades.
“I know Anthony in particular would love to upgrade the sound further,” says Scott. “So the whole concept was designed with future speakers in mind – possibly Elementi Firebirds with 500W amps for the front LCR, and bigger Triad 15-inch subs below.”
All of which adds up to a multipurpose music, gaming and movie room designed with style and class, and sounding, says Scott, “awesome!”
“With this project there was a huge amount of input and inspiration from the owners in a collaboration with us to find the perfect balance for this uniquely personalised cinema. It feels warm and comforting, while being epic and huge as well... and with a few surprises along the way.”