What makes an award-winning home cinema?
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a premium cinematic experience in your own home, your own personalised escape based on your favourite films or aesthetic? The combination of better equipment, the ability to customise every detail, and skilled teams determined to get to the heart of what you want has made this possible.
In this 8 part guide, we’ll break down what creates award-winning home cinema and theater systems , showcasing real life rooms that have been recognised with top awards from the industry. While we’ve highlighted rooms created by Wavetrain Cinemas and expert insight from Founder, Director and Owner David Moseley, these key points are universal and can be the start of your journey to your perfect home cinema.
1. BRINGING THE X FACTOR TO YOUR CINEMA ROOM
Beyond creating a room to watch films, Wavetrain is known for creating cohesive and well-crafted experiences that extend on from the rest of the home, and has received many accolades for these creations. Moseley puts this success down to having a team with decades of experience and the ability to read a client’s personality and get to the heart of what they truly desire.
If you’re after the X factor, Moseley says find a cinema designer you trust, and be open to inviting them into your home or a space you love so they can get to know you, and then allow them to bring their creative vision to the table when you’re discussing which direction to go in.
Moseley says when he presents his team’s unique vision for the room, based on their read of the client’s personality, the client almost always chooses this creative design over the original brief. This approach was how two of Wavetrain’s award-winning home cinema rooms, Utopian Dream and Bohemian Rhapsody, were created. With both, Wavetrain successfully manifested a feeling of a place or an environment to create exactly what the client ‘didn’t even know they wanted’.
For the room above, the Wavetrain team visited the client’s home to meet them and get a better understanding of what they loved. It was apparent right off the bat that the client loved design and art.
That’s where the creative came from for that room – this client loves art, they like sculpture. Even their home is actually quite sculptural. So we decided: let’s make this room a piece of sculpture, let’s make this room a piece of art, and if we do that well enough they’re really going to connect to it. -Moseley
The success of this room, which was the Winner of the 2015 Sound and Image Magazine: Home Cinema Installation of the Year, highlights that the best designs are often achieved when a qualified cinema design team is able to exercise their unique blend of artistry and engineering.
For the room known as Bohemian Rhapsody, Moseley says at first it was difficult to define what the client was after and they eventually settled on trying to recreate a ‘feeling’ rather than focusing on distinct design details or themes. This ‘feeling’ was the atmosphere of Hemisphere Bar in Sydney in the cinema, – a bar that the clients immensely enjoyed.
Moseley says, “As a company we went to the bar and spent a few hours there having drinks, getting a feeling for the room and what it was about that space that the client was actually gravitating to.”
The end result was an entirely custom theatre which succeeded in acoustic and aesthetic design, and successfully met the clients expectations. The room was the winner of the 2013 Sound and Image Magazine: Best Custom Installation and 2011 Cedia Awards: Best Home Cinema Over AUD$150,000.
2. HOME CINEMA DESIGN DOCUMENTATION & INSTALLATION
How can a home cinema designer ensure such high standards? By meticulously documenting every detail of the proposed room, and then sharing this documentation with every expert or professional brought in. The Wavetrain team consider room documentation to be incredibly important as they work with contractors, such as builders or joiners, on every project, as the small details together create the overall room.
You should be looking for a company that prides itself on deciding on what the outcomes are and then delivering on those outcomes. The difference between having drawing documentation done correctly and not having it done correctly is actually executing a desired outcome for the room. – Moseley
Room documentation was especially important for the project Uptown cinema. For this room, the client was very specific about sound isolation, as a children’s bedroom was next to the cinema and a main living area was across an adjoining hallway.
Carefully designing the room over many hours and completing thorough documentation which specified materials, joinery and more, the team successfully reworked the home services including plumbing, drainage and electrical, created custom air-conditioning and brought in air-lock doors. The result was a room where the sound can barely be heard outside. Uptown Cinema received the Winner 2017 Cedia Award for Best Media Room Over $150,000.
3. INTERIOR DESIGN, BRINGING THE SPACE TO LIFE
Interior design brings together all the elements of a home cinema room and adds to the special quality, theme or subject matter of the room. Certain cinema designers, including Wavetrain, have in-house interior designers to help bring a project to life.
Moseley says some award-winning rooms he and his team have created have been the direct result of design challenges, or where they were able to unleash their creativity. As such, the ideal cinema design partner is one that is willing to go the extra mile and think outside the box. “That’s when you come up with your best ideas and you really push the boundaries to achieve something extraordinary,” he says.
Interior design shines in Wavetrain’s Matrix Room with its adjoining Cube Bar, Winner of 2016 Sound and Image Magazine: Best Home Cinema Installation.
With the Matrix Room and Cube Bar, Wavetrain built a space that flowed on from the rest of the house while also creating a distinct design moment inspired by their favourite science fiction films: The Matrix and Cube.
The bar is made entirely of mirrored charcoal glass with inlaid stainless steel, which gives the overall cinematic effect while still being comfortable, functional and elegant. In the theatre itself, digital rain was created from scratch, which enabled the team to recreate a family photo of the homeowners as a line of code, and have it seamlessly fade into the ceiling.
This room also showcases high quality and hugely successful engineering, including sound isolation, air conditioning design and internal room acoustics, which brings us onto what makes a home theatre more than a beautiful room: equipment.
4. HOME cinema EQUIPMENT: THE WHY & HOW
With any project, the equipment should select itself, Moseley says. ”What it comes down to is we’re showing the client what outcomes are possible, the client is telling us what they want to achieve in the room, and then we’re calculating based on that engineering what equipment is required to meet their outcomes for their room,” he says.
More specifically, equipment is dictated by what the client wants from the room, the room size and required performance levels. Moseley says whether you know what you want or not, you need to experience what’s available in your chosen cinema designers showroom first. Numbers and words on paper may not have much impact, but to see, feel and hear what’s available and what’s possible makes all the difference to achieving your desired outcome.
For this to work, I need to demonstrate what’s possible because they won’t have seen what we do before. They might not have experienced a room that was acoustically designed before, and how comfortable it is to listen to something in that environment. – Moseley
An instance where equipment was chosen to suit a specific requirement was the Havana Rock room, which was the Winner of Best Home Cinema Over $150,000 at the 2015 Cedia Awards. The client for Havana Rock enjoyed movies but spent more time watching concerts than films, so required a system that could play louder than normal. As such, the cinema was designed to meet a higher SPL specification of 110dB peak playback. To maximise sound, Wavetrain designed the sound isolation, air conditioning system, room acoustics, audio-video system and was also engaged for interior design.
5. ACOUSTICS: STRIKING THE BALANCE
When it comes to creating award winning rooms, acoustics are key. For every individual project, acoustic treatments, baffles, design and construction must be carefully calibrated for the specific space. Striking the perfect balance means taking into account the rest of the house and how the client will use their cinema, ensuring no sound escapes and the movie watching experience is high quality and immersive.
Acoustics is another important reason to visit the cinema designers showroom or studio, Moseley says. “When you go to a commercial cinema, you are experiencing a sound pressure level as the director intended, but there is no standard for sound quality. What we are trying to reproduce is sound pressure levels in the cinema, while ensuring the sound quality is at the same level as what it would be in a mixing studio, where the sound engineers created it. If the cinema company knows what they are doing, you should hear the difference quite clearly,” he says.
An example of a particularly challenging and rewarding project, in terms of acoustics, was The Gatsby. This was because instead of creating the cinema in a basement or bottom level, which is common for a home cinema, this room was on the upper story.
Moseley says, “In a basement or down on a bottom level] it’s easier to create an acoustic break between where the cinema is and the rest of the house. In this particular instance, everything upstairs was lightweight timber construction, and we were installing a system that was extremely high-end, that was going to be playing at very high SPL levels, potentially, and couldn’t disturb the rest of the house. Also, it’s quite an elaborate design.”
Moseley says the Wavetrain team and acoustic engineers solved each of the design issues, including those that come with working in a larger space, to create a functional room without compromising on the final aesthetic or experience.
6. CINEMA SOUND ISOLATION: FOR BETTER SOUND & HAPPY NEIGHBOURS
For The Gatsby room, Wavetrain had to create the right balance in sound pressure and quality, while also ensuring the sound was isolated to the room. Sound isolation, including audio and video calibration, is another area that can make or break a home cinema, and this is an especially delicate area as each home has its own distinct requirements and quirks.
This cinema had a large sliding door between the screen and the seating area. Moseley says because sliding doors normally allow sound to escape, they recommend against including them in the design. In this case, however, it was unavoidable, and the team rose to the challenge.
The final door for the room was a one-off custom piece that was 100mm thick and weighed approximately 300 kilos. This was placed on special sliders with three lots of brush seals. Once installed, the door’s weight is almost unnoticeable and opens and closes almost silently. In addition to this, the team created an acoustic treatment on the cinema side and engineered the timber slates, which were chosen for design purposes, and made it perforated where more mid-range sound absorption was required.
7. AIR-CONDITIONING DESIGN & ITS SURPRISING IMPORTANCE
Playing a surprisingly big role in every room is air conditioning. Not only does the right air conditioning system help to ensure greater comfort, it also plays a significant part in sound quality and acoustics. Some designs, in order to reach optimum sound quality, require the air-con system for the entire floor to be redesigned.
Moseley encourages clients to consider the air con design right at the start of the project in order to save on money and time later down the line. Air conditioning always requires special attention because specialists and manufacturers are used to working on homes and not home cinemas, and so don’t consider home cinemas to be pressurised rooms and therefore require custom designs, Moseley says.
The problem is, air conditioning for a cinema room should be designed as if it’s sound isolated (in a pressurised room), but the rest of your home is not pressurised. So, the manufacturers recommendations, which are usually followed by the technician installing your device, are immediately incorrect in the context of a pressurised cinema. – Moseley
In addition, he says most architects don’t understand this kind of advanced air-conditioning design and don’t make adequate allowances for it, which can be costly when trying to add this into a room after it’s been designed. According to Moseley, it’s never too early to bring in your home cinema designers.
He says, “Introducing fresh air is critical. When you are introducing fresh air, you need to release pressure in the room to allow the room to accept the fresh air.”
For the room Bohemian Rhapsody, the client had had mechanical engineers design the air con system, and while it worked well on its own, it was too big for the room and resulted in the other elements – including the seats – not fitting into the room. Moseley says he concluded that there was a better way to use this air con system, that actually worked with the room.
He says, “We didn’t replace any of their equipment, we just redesigned it and repackaged it in such a way that the room could work. So now the air-conditioning system is underneath the floor – because this is a three-tiered cinema we had a lot of space under the floor, so that’s where the air-conditioning system lives. There was also lot of attention devoted to the fan coil system so that it wasn’t heard in the room. And suddenly the room works, it functions correctly, and the clients are thrilled.”
8. HOME CINEMA SEATING: WHY COMFORT & CUSTOMIZATION IS KEY
As with sound, when it comes to home cinema seating Moseley explains it’s difficult to understand what best suits a client’s specific needs until they experience it first-hand. For this reason, he recommends engaging a cinema designer in a conversation about what’s available and what you’re looking for.
They should approach it from a very analytical and detail-oriented perspective, asking questions about how you feel sitting in the chair, looking where you put your head and how you sit. It should be a totally personalised experience. – Moseley.
When testing out seats, many options are customisable – either the whole chair including the structure, or the detailing and materials. Wavetrain primarily works with two seating companies: Jaymar and Fortress. Jaymar is a European-based brand that delivers a high-quality affordable product which matches the clean lines, open and uncluttered European design ethos that Wavetrain delivers.
Jaymar also customises design detailing and the finish, enabling the team to change piping and highlight lines on chairs, and use different materials for different sections to maximise comfort and style.
Let there be light
With the project Let There Be Light, Wavetrain worked side by side with the client’s chosen architect to create the room. While the engineering was the work of Wavetrain’s team, the design was heavily influenced by the architect and was very specific. One of the most challenging things to get right was the white of the chairs. With over 500 potential shades of white Moseley says Jaymar went out of their way to source additional ranges of custom white leathers so the team could find a true neutral white. The architect and client were thrilled with the result and the room received ‘Highly Commended’ at the 2014 Cedia Awards for Best Home Cinema.
Where customising the finishing touches is not enough, Moseley recommends using Fortress, which create totally bespoke chairs by changing the physical structure of the seat, depending on what’s required by the client or the room.
An example of a home cinema that required custom seating design was Utopian Dream. For this room, custom seats were created to help achieve the optical illusion of making the ceiling look higher than it was at 2600mm. Moseley says the front centre two seats are a daybed, and the front row of seats were manufactured to be 25 millimetres lower than normal, while the back row seats are 25mm higher, a kind of customisation we would only trust Fortress to provide.
REALISING YOUR DREAM HOME CINEMA: KEY TAKEAWAYS
Winning an award is about ensuring all of the technical aspects discussed in this article are covered, but more than that, an award comes to the projects that go the extra mile to bring something unique to the table, overcoming a problem with creative flair or bringing a client’s unique vision to life.
It’s important to understand each client is an individual and no one cinema fits all. “It’s this attention to detail, combined with the technical precision and ability to execute ambitious designs that I believe ultimately results in winning projects” Moseley says.
When embarking on creating your dream home cinema Moseley advises that you should look for a leader or team that will value your passion, and engage a company that’s able to demonstrate clear outcomes. This means the company must allow you to experience the ‘level’ of cinema they are promising to deliver to you before its installed. When you know what they’re going to deliver, you will be able to set clear parameters and goals for what can be achieved at what cost.
When that company has been decided on, Moseley says the best clients are those that care about the end result, are unafraid to ask questions, and are open to creative input and expanding their imagination. One such client for David Moseley was M. Ruber, and this is what he had to say about owning an award winning Wavetrain cinema:
Wavetrain’s fusion of creative design, engineering excellence and client communication is a rarity in an industry full of complexity and was in large part responsible for my project winning best cinema at the 2015 Sound & Image awards. And the best part of all: the ‘instant awe’ every time my friends come over for movie night! – M Ruber
If you envisage a home cinema in your dream home consider contacting the talented team of interior designers and cinema experts at Wavetrain. You can discover what’s possible and start your journey by booking a demo in one of Wavetrain’s cinema rooms below.