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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.


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The Room Shell The physical issues that needed to be dealt with to accomplish these goals dictated a few design solutions:

Sound Isolation The room had to be decoupled from the Great Room that is located directly above it. This prevents the sound leakage from disturbing the adults. Decoupling loosely means to build resilient wall and floor-ceiling structures with little to no connections to the house’s framing structures. The purpose is to limit every contact point that could mechanically transfer sound energy and interfere with daily use of the rooms.

Ceilings in …

Performance Media Industries, Ltd.

61 Galli Drive, Suite B. Novato, CA 94949, USA
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