Friday, September 27, 2013

Delivering Ultra-High Definition

This is a jewel box dedicated theater in an ultra-modern home. Sleek décor and lighting with comfortable seating. The objective was to give a really small room the feeling of a big-sound, big-picture screening room, with high-quality styling and equipment. The clients wanted a sleek and elegant look to match the luxurious aesthetic of rest of their modern home, with high-end architectural values. They wanted a room with a warm vibe, with styling that departed from the traditional theater with columns and proscenium.

The left wall door was at a critical acoustical location and we placed an absorber panel on it. The entire back wall was originally hard wood cabinetry, so we cut out some of the doors and installed fabric panels, both to conceal wideband absorbers and to take advantage of diffusion from inside the cabinets which contained shelving, CDs, gear, etc.

We specified a 153” PMI 2.0 acoustically-transparent screen with 2:1 aspect ratio, along with a 4k projector. All three top-of-the-line Meridian speakers were placed behind the screen at reference angles. A system of four JL Audio subwoofers are distributed throughout the room in a way that eliminates standing waves. We installed a full Meridian digital 7.1 channel system with HDMI switching, and using digital equalization in the Meridian processor.

The acoustical tuning package includes Dimension4 Sonata absorber and diffuser modules, bass traps, and ceiling treatment units. All were carefully engineered and placed following latest findings from research into psychoacoustics. Equipment racks were concealed down the hallway.

In the end, this is a small room that produces an immersive picture with really big sound without ever feeling cramped. We call this result “ultra high definition.”


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beachfront Basement Theater

The main objectives for this project were to create a 10-seat home cinema with outstanding picture and sound, privacy from the main living spaces of the residence, and a design style that flowed naturally into the rest of the home. The client wanted the basement cinema in their new custom beachfront home in Dana Point, California to follow the traditional architectural look of the house. It had to retain the classical decor while being comfortable and delivering high performance quality.

Located underneath the Great room, the initial plans for the cinema made no effort to provide sound isolation or noise control. So we redesigned and reconstructed the wall structures, ceiling structures, and floor layouts to provide STC65 sound isolation, proper sightlines, and proper sound reflection decay times, all while respecting the original architectural style. 
A ventilation supply duct for the Great room transitioned through the top right corner of the cinema, so we had to fully insulate the duct in order to prevent sound leakage. All plumbing in the vicinity of the cinema was mounted on isolation bushings to prevent water noise and sound vibration transfer. Additional supply and return ducts were installed in order to reduce the background noise of the room.  

In the back of the cinema, there was a fireplace slab floating into the structure of the room which would have caused a serious sound leak; we did extensive retrofitting which included rebuilding the wall frame resiliently, dropping a sprung ceiling, installing a resilient floor system, and adding a sound-rated door. 

The client insisted on an entrance toward the front of the room even though the floor layout did not lend itself to retrofitting a riser at the back of the room.

The original design called for tall wainscot, but we recommended all fabric treatments instead, and in the process the homeowners decided on a rather wild fabric design!

Baffle-mounted Wisdom Audio line source speakers were installed across the front of the room, hidden behind an acoustically transparent screen. A high-quality video projector was built in a noise-reduced enclosure. 

Four custom Triad dual 10-inch subwoofers - placed in the four corners of the room - are driven by four channels of equalization for tuning out detrimental standing waves. Four carefully-located side surround speakers and two back speakers provide a consistent, immersive experience across all the seats of this world-class room.

The system includes a 16-channel digital audio processor/equalizer to fine-tune all of the speakers to the room's acoustical characteristics. Four of those channels were for the subwoofers alone in order to work out the standing wave resonances.

The existing one-inch acoustical material was removed and replaced by a thicker Dimension4 Sonata acoustical tuning system from MSR, which includes absorbers, diffusers, and bass traps.

This is a room where the original architectural plan could have been a complete failure from a sound, picture and background noise point of view. Through diligent work by the integrator and acoustical consultant, the client and architect were educated on the benefits of proper engineering and accepted a reconstruction of portions of the room. As a result, this is now a world-class home cinema.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Whimsical Showcase Cinema

This refined high-quality Orange County, California, dedicated home cinema features full-on sound isolation, carefully engineered AV, acoustics, ventilation and noise control, along with an interior style that matches a modern-whimsical interior décor in the rest of the artistically conceived house.

The homeowner is a fan of high-quality products, but couldn’t tolerate any level of product failure or control system uncertainties, so the project had to yield a dedicated home cinema room with high quality sound and picture, proper sound privacy, carefully crafted esthetics standards, and ease of use.

The original framing scheme in this basement room tied the wood structures to the joists of the ceiling system. We had to rebuild the framing to isolate it from the joists, in order to reach the requisite sound isolation. The traffic flow and ergonomics required a rework of the doorway, and the size and location of the equipment closet on back right of room.

The original ventilation duct passages were very undersized and ran in tight quarters. We had to re-engineer the duct passages in order to get enough air in and out of the room, while ensuring very low background noise.

A network of wood pilaster with backlit corner lights provide the panache while a full dress of stretched fabric conceals the loudspeakers, acoustical treatments, and all the wiring that drives signals through the AV system.

The sound levels had to reach 105dB per channel while not being heard in the great room above. The dialog intelligibility and signal clarity needed to be top level. A Triad Gold 9 speaker and 4 subwoofer sound system creates the immersive sonic experience at all of the seats of this two-row cinema. An HD projector lights up the 140-inch screen to high-resolution cinematic brightness levels. An ten Fortress-brand seats invite the customers and their guest to come in, sit down and enjoy a visceral movie experience.

The picture illumination needed to be around 20 Ft/Lamberts. The picture resolution and clarity needed to match the highest level of HD 1080P ratings.

All products were carefully engineered and chosen for optimal integration of value, quality, and reliability. Simplicity of operation was also key to client satisfaction so advanced and careful system automation programming was key!

The client rewarded the design, construction and AV team's efforts by stating "It's the room we use the most in the house; it is great!"

Thursday, September 5, 2013

White-Glove Service for Garage Conversion

PMI offers a whole range of services, from acoustical layouts of the simplest entertainment space, to interior and lighting design, full space 3D renderings, and concierge service. This is an example of a project where we helped a small integrator by providing a full suite of services including complete project management.

In a small town in Virginia, this was the first large-scale project for a local integrator who called upon the experts at PMI to not just engineer the space, but to roll out white-glove concierge service for his discerning client. What the integrator also realized was that bringing in a higher level of expertise and big-picture thinking enabled him to build increased revenue into the budget by getting the client excited about the additional value and functionality he could achieve with the space. 

The homeowner is CEO of a large coal mining company and he had very clear ideas about what he wanted for his dedicated – and not at all prototypical - home theater. While working on a previous project for this client, he informed the integrator – Rick Ratliff, owner of Alpine Audio - that he was remodeling the house and wanted to include a “world-class home theater.” That was when Rick contacted PMI to partner with him on this project. We were given the space of a one-car garage to transform, and we started by creating the highly detailed 3D rendered planset that is our specialty. We discovered the client had no concept of what a world-class theater really was, but the team brought him along nicely. One of his first comments was “that projector costs more than my first house!”

Since this was a garage, we had to compensate for the sloping concrete floor and the close proximity to the laundry room and kitchen. Another consideration was ventilation for the projector which had to live in the garage. After more than two months planning and engineering work, the homeowner decided to rotate the room 90 degrees, so we then had re-configured the plans to accommodate. 

The audio system was original budgeted at $30k but when we described to the homeowner the level he could reach for extraordinary presentation, he bumped it up to $90k!

We installed Wisdom Audio P38i, a point source loudspeaker that radiates its sonic energy outward in an expanding sphere, as though from a point in space; this model was specifically designed for in- and on-wall applications. We also specified JL Audio Fathom powered subwoofers – the combination of dual ultra-long throw W7 12-inch drivers and a very powerful switching amplifier give these jaw-dropping performance capabilities at any listening level. 

We installed MSR’s Dimension4™ Sonata Plus system which is their premier acoustical tuning system for fabric covered walls.

The 120” acoustically-transparent woven screen includes a PMI 2.0 screen format and 4-way remote-controlled masking system. A Titan 3D digital projector was installed to deliver a truly state-of-the-art presentation; this projector is robust and extremely quiet.

Beyond engineering the space and specifying the equipment, this project involved many hours of creative and detailed problem-solving, as well as complete project management from beginning to end - from the big-picture level, down to the smallest detail. Presented with the finished product, the client and his family were thrilled, exclaiming that we had exceeded his expectations!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Project Case Study: South of Market, San Francisco

PMI is a team of highly organized and seasoned professionals who sweat the details. In fact, we’ve been known to spend dozens of hours on wiring diagrams alone! Our services run the gamut from room design and layout through to audio + video commissioning and calibration.  We offer excellent project management to orchestrate any level of process, from the simplest project to the most complex.

Having designed and engineered more than 500 purpose-built and multi-purpose entertainment spaces, we've pretty much seen it all, and yet we continually encounter new challenges along the way. Our expertise lies in the detail with which we approach each project, and the many tools and resources we’ve developed to fulfill our mission of “doing it the right way.” 

This project is a sleek, modern home with an industrial flair in the trendy South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco. The interior of the home feels cool and spacious, not what you’d expect from condensed city-living. The bones of this home are a highly complex, high-end commercial-grade infrastructure. Even though it’s a residence, it has a very organized and mechanical structure – perfect in every way.

The homeowners love to entertain and wanted to create a space that would include everything from a screening room, a live performance space, an art gallery and workshop, a recording studio, and dance club. Giving new meaning to the term “multi-purpose room,” the space has been designed to go from a sit-down banquet to a raving disco with remote-controlled ease. We call it NASA meets rave!

Because the house is basically a steel and concrete structure. That means that any sound hitting sheet rock that's attached steel radiates throughout the entire building structure. The first challenge became how to take turn the building a great sounding entertainment space that can also maintain sound comfort in adjoining rooms. Another challenge was sound containment from the outside area, as well as keeping the rather noisy outside traffic from seeping into the space. Achieving high level of sound isolation and creating an extraordinary environment involved a multitude of painstaking details.

Working with builder Larry Christiani, PMI created a highly detailed plan set, and four drafts later, we were ready to start the build-out.

With the many structural materials used in this building – including corrugated aluminum pan deck, red steel beams, tension cable – the visible eye cannot really see that the finished architectural ceiling is actually flown several feet below the structural lid of the room – and it’s done so with a resiliently mounted sound isolated ceiling. Painstaking care was taken with each and every one of the penetrations into the ceiling, including the down-lighting, sprinklers, cables, and large format speaker mounts. 

The client wanted a clean aesthetic and we settled on a wood paneled look; had we used regular wood it would have created a giant echo chamber. We specified Murano acoustical wood paneling which is porous to sound and allowed us to install combinations of four-inch-thick absorption panels and diffusion strips behind some of the areas to optimize the reverberant field.

The windows are double layer three-quarter inch plate glass

Plumbing isolation columns were used throughout inside the walls in order to reduce rattling from vibrations in spots where metal touches metal  - it’s all in the details!

Acoustically-rated ductwork is installed throughout, in order to reduce sound transmission through the HVAC system.    

In this room, speakers play at an incredibly high level of sound pressure. The surround channel speakers are housed at ceiling-level, attached to a truss that motors up and down on flown cables, which can be lowered to approximately seven feet off the floor so they’re positioned at the optimum position during a film presentation. There are also sound reinforcement speakers in the corners for dance music/nightclub speakers.

Directivity of the speakers – given their different functions – was carefully selected to ensure that the direct and reflected soundfield ratios were optimized for the overall acoustical character of the perforated wood wall schemes. Because of the range of uses for the multi-purpose room, digital signal processing and channel routing were implemented with a multichannel BSS Audio processor. The sound system configuration and performance flexibly convert to adapt to the room usage, all seamlessly controlled by the Crestron automation system. The ceiling area conceals deep absorption for broadband control of the sound reflection decay time.

Multiple subwoofers were installed in the ceiling to distribute multiple points of bass radiation for smoother standing waves. Shallow profile subwoofers were flown from the ceiling on vibration isolation spring hangers.


PMI commissioned Triad CinemaPlus speakers behind the screen. The screen has 2-way masking plus a fabric cover that comes down to protect the screen when not in use. Wood is Murano Acoustics paneling, wood which is acoustically open to let sound go through it and into the absorptive materials behind it.


Inside the big window that faces the street outside, we engineered a motorized set of vertical blinds that are all black on one side to shut out the light, and are all white on the other side so the client can project still or moving images onto the window.

PMI also designed the rest of the home to include audio-video playback in all of the indoor and outdoor spaces so it was important to acoustically design and tune these rooms, as well.

Ultimately, this project gave the client exactly what they wanted: a truly multi-purpose entertainment space with a high level of function, flexibility, and style!