Lure of the big screen

The home cinema is as much of a must- have in today’s big-budget projects as the home office was a decade ago, and even modest family homes can incorporate an area that can be turned at the touch of a button from a snug into a cinema experience.

But the kit required to transform a basement or box room into the flicks or a Dean Street-style rushes theatre is complex stuff and it’s not just about the technology. Decor and layout has a big impact too. Which is where specialist companies can help. idFX asked a range of installers and retailers of home cinema equipment to give their top recommendations for what you need in a variety of price ranges. Roll credits.

01 Steve Martin, managing director of Martin Kleiser: £ioo,ooo-£i4o,ooo budget

‘With this budget you can create a high-end, dedicated home cinema with all the latest goodies,’ says Martin, who also chairs CEDIA, the trade body that represents leading companies in this field. For such a budget he would choose a Kaleidescape media server, controlled by a Crestron touch pad. For the projector, he would opt for Sim, a company which he says offers ‘ultimate performance’, in conjunction with an anamorphic lens and a projection screen by Screen Research. The anamorphic lens elimates the black strips seen when a movie shot in ultra-wide CinemaScope format is shown on an ordinary wide screen (for a full description of how it works, see For the audio he would choose Linn. ‘These products will give you a real cinema experience and my clients say that the picture and sound quality is better than going to the movies,’ he says.

02 Iain Brown, director of Kensington Home Technology: £120,000 budget

For a big-budget, dedicated home cinema room, Brown would start with a projector by Digital Projection. ‘They have very bright projectors that are easily configurable. It’s not a thing of beauty, but gives cinema quality imagery,’ he says. For the screen he would recommend a slightly curved version by Supernova, which ensures there is no distortion in the viewable area, used in conjunction with an anamorphic lens. He would build the screen into a stand-alone speaker system, Aerial Acoustics System 1, which conceals the speakers behind fabric that can be chosen to match the decor. A Kaleidescape media server, Denon Blu-Ray player, ADA video processing and amplification system and a Crestron touchpad controller complete the job.


03 Matt Pullara, shop manager at Laservision: £80,000 budget

Pullara would start with an Infocus IN83 projector. ‘It’s a really good projector and good value for money,’ he says. He would go to Lexicon for its RT-20 DVD player, MC-12B HD EQ processor and ZX-7 power amplifier, and would select the ClearPix 2 THX Certified screen from Screen Research. He would opt for a 5.1 speaker pattern using Revel Ultima speakers and Revel Performa sub-woofer. He doesn’t feel the need for a media server. ‘I like putting my disks on,’ he says, but he would definitely find room for a PlayStation 3 and Denon Blu-Ray player. A Philips Pronto remote control, Rako lighting control, CinemaTech Equinox seating and Middle Atlantic rack complete the set-up.

04 Fraser Stride, marketing director of Finite Solutions: £60,000^70,000 budget

Stride would opt for a large fixed screen by Screen Research, set onto the wall with the speakers behind it. His choice of speakers would be Signature 7NT from Bowers and Wilkins (B&W) with two Rotel Power Amp 1095 amplifiers and a MC-12 Lexicon processor. For the projector he would select the Runco RS900. To complete the project, he would specifiy a Kaleidescape media server, Pioneer Blu-Ray and a TPMC 12 Crestron controller.

‘It’s about giving people the maximum amount of functionality but making it very easy for them to use,’ he says.

05 Andy Jack, director of Isis Integrated Systems: £60,000 budget

Jack would choose a tab-tensioned GrayHawk screen made by Stewart Filmscreen, powered with a silent Lutron motor to bring it down from the ceiling. For the projector, he would select the Runco RS1100. ‘The picture quality is up there with the best there is, and the company has been around the longest and offers really good reliability and customer service,’ he says. It’s a large projector, so he would built it into the base of a custom-made sofa. For sound, he would choose Triad Bronze and Silver speakers to recess into the ceiling, and a Sunfire amplifier designed to keep heat to a minimum. Finally he would add in an Imerge media server, Panasonic Blu-Ray and an AMX Modero touch panel controller.

06 Jane Scotland, director of Beyond the Invisible: £45,000 budget

Scotland recommends a JVC projector with an anamorphic lens and a Screen Excellence cinemascope screen with automated masking, to adjust for windscreen movies. For the sound she would choose Triad in-wall speakers. As well as being very high quality, the grilles can be colour matched exactly to the walls so they blend into the decor seamlessly.’ If space permits, she likes to specify a 7.2 surround system – three speakers at the front, four surround speakers and two sub-woofers. ‘That way the sound field is smoother, so the effects are more realistic,’ she explains. ‘Surround sound isn’t just about explosions and fighter planes: atmospheric dramas are greatly enhanced by good sound. You can then almost feel the rain on the back of your neck!’ She would also add the Marantz AV8003 processor and power amplifier and a Marantz Blu-ray player ‘But it is all pointless without good control,’ she warns. ‘Fighting with a pile of remotes just isn’t relaxing. A Control4 HC300 and remote makes controlling the lighting, curtains or blinds and cinema very easy indeed.’

07 Stuart Tickle, managing director of AWE: £25,000-£30,000 budget

Tickle has chosen to spec a mid-range home cinema integrated into a family area. ‘It would have a real impact, but only once you’ve poked the button,’ he says. He would select a Cineversum Blackwing projector that has a stylish contemporary design and so is attractive enough to leave visible. An Imerge media server would centrally store all the movies and music, accessed and controlled through a Philips Pronto TSU9800 touchscreen remote. ‘The Pronto is affordable but totally customisable and looks good,’ he says. He would add a screen from Cineversum and speakers from Kef’s KHT range to complete the set-up.

08 David Graham, managing director of Graham’s Hi-Fi: under £15,000 budget

Graham’s usual projects come in at around the £90,000 mark and for that he would include such goodies as a Meridian projector with anamorphic lens, G series DVD player and processor and DSP7200 speakers, Screen Research multi-aspect screen, Kaleidescape and Crestron controller. However, he has risen to the challenge to put together a high-quality system on a tiny budget using a JVC HD100 projector,

Arcam AVR600 amplifier surround sound processor, Pioneer Blu-Ray player, Vutec screen, Triad speakers and a Pronto controller. ‘It’s entry-level money but still good quality,’ he says.