Michael Gaughn Tag

The Lower Cost of Luxury

The Lower Cost of Luxury

Ed Gilmore in front of the Planar video wall in his midtown Manhattan showroom

Of all the radical changes happening in home entertainment, maybe nothing is having a bigger impact
than the unprecedented drop in the cost of reference-quality gear. We’ve already established on Cineluxe
that the once unassailable gold standard of the movie theater no longer pertains. The best possible
entertainment experiences are now happening at home. And not only has the quality of gear improved by
leaps, the cost of entry for a complete luxury system has tumbled just as dramatically.

 

But it’s not clear if most people understand how much has changed, and how fast. Today bears little
resemblance to five years ago, and the next three to five years are poised to bring vast changes in home
entertainment that will make today’s innovations seem hopelessly quaint.

 

Wanting to get a perspective on all this from somebody who spends every working day on the luxury
frontlines, I recently sat down with Ed Gilmore, founder and owner of Gilmore’s Sound Advice in midtown
Manhattan. Ed’s high-end clientele is, knowingly or not, at the very epicenter of the entertainment
revolution, and his vast experience in the installation world gives him unique insight into the changing
cost of luxury.

—Michael Gaughn

 

 

Michael Gaughn  What would a typical luxury system have come in at five years ago, and why?

 

Ed Gilmore  Five years ago, we were putting in Runco projectors that were in the vicinity of $40,000, and as much as $100,000. Even today, you’d pay close to $50,000 for a three-chip 1080p projector with a decent anamorphic lens. But you can get a great 4K laser projector for about $30,000, which is definitely a big drop.

 

For people who want to put together a home theater for, say, $30,000 all in, they have a wide variety of choices from projection companies. And they’re not horrible projectors by any stretch of the imagination. SonyEpson, and Wolf Cinema

have laser projectors that are less than $10,000. You can even get a decent projector for $7,000. That’s a huge change.

 

MG  How big will you go with a flat-screen TV?

 

EG  I won’t go bigger than 85 inches. I won’t do 100, because the delta becomes just too big.

 

MG  Do you consider that a media room at that size?

 

EG  Yeah. That’s not a home theater. I don’t think anything with a flat screen is a theater, sorry. Some people want to put a 100-inch TV in there. But if I’m going to put an LED or OLED that big in a room, you’re going to spend at least $60,000, so why wouldn’t you do a projection system?

 

Plus, you have a huge piece of glass sitting in your room. And there’s no way to locate the speakers properly behind that. It’s a compromise.

 

Besides, there have been big improvements in projection-screen technology over the past few years. Before, you had 

to be in a man cave—more like a bat cave, actually—but we’re now seeing decent results with ambient-light-rejection screens, decent enough where people can have a projection system in a room with windows, maybe with solar shades on them, maybe with lights dimmed.

 

Screens are less expensive, certainly, and projectors are plummeting in cost. As for receivers—you can buy a pretty darned well-equipped AV receiver for $1,700.

 

MG  Do you spec any disc players at all?

 

EG  Very rarely.

 

MG  That would be pocket change anyway, right?

 

EG  I think the only one out there that we’d consider a premier brand is the Pioneer Elite.

 

MG  But five years ago that would have still been standard equipment.

 

EG  Absolutely. Now you don’t need it. I mean, everybody is streaming one way or another.

The Lower Cost of Luxury

One of the home theater demo rooms at Sound Advice  (photo by Gusto Multimedia)

MG  It’s amazing how quickly discs died.

 

EG  Yeah. Streaming has really brought the whole world of entertainment to people at their fingertips, for better or worse.

 

MG  You’ve even got YouTube offering great-looking 4K—even 8K.

 

EG  Absolutely. We’re just seeing a huge change in terms of that kind of content availability. And it’s gotten cheaper and cheaper as well.

 

MG  So what’s the typical pricing for a luxury system today?

 

EG  A lot of components are no longer necessary, right? So, if you’re talking about a Kaleidescape and Apple TV, some type of a video and audio processing, then amplification and speakers, and of course, whatever choice you’re using for your video display, you can have a system for as little as $30,000, $35,000 now.

 

MG  That’s with control?

 

EG  Control, add another $1,500 to $2,000 max. If you then move up the ladder to say somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000, that’s a quantum leap actually. Then beyond that . . .

 

In our showroom we have Steinway Lyngdorf speakers, a Barco projector, and a Stewart screen with dual masking. So I have a room right now that’s about $175,000 all in, and it’s a phenomenal experience. I don’t think I could have possibly done that

five years ago. Back then, we were talking about a quarter of a million, easy. That’s a substantial drop in price.

 

MG  If somebody comes in and says, “I have Apple TV,” or, “I’ve got Sonos—or I’ve heard about Sonos,” what do you do to get them out of that paradigm where they think that’s somehow the ultimate?

 

EG  If you’re fortunate enough to be able to demonstrate the difference, that’s the easiest way to do it. With 

music streaming, it’s really difficult to get people who have only experienced Sonos off of it. It’s almost kind of its own cult. But if you can play Spotify or Pandora for them and then play Tidal MQA, they clearly hear that difference. And once they hear that, some of them—not all, but some will say—“Oh my God, I had no idea.”

 

And you can play exactly the same clip—whether it’s a concert or a movie—on an Apple TV and a Kaleidescape, and people will not only see the difference, they’ll hear it as well. And the people who are discerning will say, “Absolutely, let’s do this. Let’s do Kaleidescape. I get it.”

 

But in no way, shape, or form do you say it’s Kaleidescape or Apple TV. It’s always going to be, “I’m going to have Apple TV and Kaleidescape.” I use Apple TV when I want to watch something on Amazon Prime or Netflix or YouTube. But when I want to watch a movie, and it’s something I really want to see, I download it and watch it on Kaleidescape. There’s just no other experience.

MG  Is there still the perception that Kaleidescape is only appropriate for the most expensive installations and Apple TV is OK for everything else?

 

EG  Yes, because Kaleidescape used to be so high priced—$30,000-plus.

 

MG  The first unit was $35,000, wasn’t it?

 

EG  $35,000, yeah. That was a big ticket item for people. And it could go up 

Sound Advice’s work for this Central Park apartment features a completely
concealed home theater with a dropdown screen, a projector firing from
a porthole in the wall, 5 invisible speakers, and a subwoofer vented from
a closet 
 (photos by Gusto Multimedia)

from there. But now with the Strato at much lower price points, it’s really not a home theater until you have one. You can put a great projector and great surround sound system in. But if you’re not feeding it the best possible quality content, it’s like having a really wonderful car and giving it the lowest-grade gasoline. If a client’s already invested even $35,000 in a system, what’s another $7,000 for the 12-terabyte Strato S?

 

Let’s face it, five, six years ago we were putting $30,000-plus Kaleidescape systems in. Some systems were coming out to $50,000, $60,000 by the time all the storage was done. Now we can do the same thing for five or seven grand.

 

MG  How big is movie collecting a factor in all of this? Because when you rely on streaming, movies disappear all the time. You really don’t own a collection then.

 

EG  If you’re going to purchase a movie, and it’s going to cost you $28 or $30 to buy it in a 4K HDR format, then you’re making a commitment. It’s not a huge commitment, but you’re making a commitment to something you want to see time and time again. You’re also expecting that you’re going to see it in bit-for-bit resolution. I think that’s a wonderful trade-off. It’s affordable, and anybody who cares enough about that experience will say, “Yeah, this actually has value.”

 

If you look at the Kaleidescape experience from five years ago, we had clients who were buying discs and then ripping them into their system. And then there was that period with Blu-ray where you had to buy the carousel to do it. I think people lost interest in doing that. Plus it kind of defeated the whole purpose of having a server.

 

So, when you could start downloading Blu-ray, there was a little bit of a shift in terms of the value. Then the prices started coming down, and the Movie Store became accessible. I think there’s a lot of excitement about Kaleidescape now.

 

The biggest difference between now and five years ago with me and my clients is that you had to justify making a $30,000 investment. It was easier for people to say, “I’ll just buy a disc. I’ll have a bunch of discs.” Then there was Apple TV. So, “We’ll

rent a movie instead of buying it.” It’s much easier now for them to wrap their heads around the fact that they can start building a collection of their favorite movies, movies they want to see with their family and friends.

 

My clients aren’t necessarily making huge decisions about something that’s four digits anyway. I mean, they’re making $100,000 decisions, or $1 million decisions. They’re not making an under $10,000 decision. That’s just not part of their M.O.

 

MG  Can you think of anything else, when you’re spec’ing stuff in, that still carries a similar stigma?

 

EG  Control systems. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them. There never was. But a lot of people feel badly scarred by their experiences.

 

MG  It all hinged on the competence of whoever was doing the programming, right?

 

EG  Yeah. The client may have not had any real say, in terms of that engineering. Or they might’ve been ignored. Because let’s face it, when you’re creating a program pretty much from scratch, you’re going to put your own things in. You’re going to have it somewhat templated, and it may not jibe with what the client really wanted.

 

On top of that, you have a third-party control system. You’re trying to control components that have zero standardization, and that’s a recipe for frustration. People don’t like being frustrated. So that’s something where we have to push back all the time.

 

MG  What do you tell people is the current state of control, based on whatever their past experience was?

 

EG  Most of these systems are now app-based. So they already have those instruments in their hands. Whether it’s an iPad or an Android device they’re carrying around with them, that’s what they’re typically using to control the system. Remote controls still exist, especially for video

rooms. We think it’s a good idea. And in some cases, touch panels still exist.

 

But even the prices of these things have really plummeted. So you’re not talking about a $60,000 to $80,000 investment for a control system anymore. You’re talking $5,000, $6,000.

 

But even if a control system doesn’t cost a lot of money, the first time something doesn’t work, the client starts to question the wisdom of that investment. So if you’re talking about equipment that’s reliable, there’s this little thing called Kaleidescape that always works. It’s bulletproof.

 

MG  With Apple TV, Roku, or whatever, you don’t have system monitoring going on.

 

EG  Not at all. You’re in the dark with it. But Kaleidescape is really proactive when there’s an issue. They’ll let us know—we’ll know on our extranet, then get email notifications, telling us what condition that equipment is in.

 

Apple TV, you’ll get a client calling saying, “I have a spinning wheel here, and I don’t understand what’s going on.” You know how that usually translates, right? “I get the spinning wheel—I hate the whole system.”

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, The Rayva Roundtablemarketing, product design, some theater designs,
couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno
Theo's Corner

Rayva CEO Vin Bruno has been key in taking my desire to stem the decline in home theater and
help turn it into a viable company offering turnkey entertainment-room solutions. I recently talked
with Vin and Cineluxe editor-in-chief Michael Gaughn about the factors that led to Vin joining the
company and about what we’ve been able to accomplish since he came on board.

—T.K.

 

 

Michael Gaughn  My understanding, Vin, is that Theo recruited you to be Rayva’s CEO. How did that come about?

 

Vin Bruno  When I was the CEO of CEDIA, I was two weeks into the job, giving a presentation at our awards banquet, and amongst the 300 attendees, I spotted Theo. After the banquet was over, I went to find him and say hello, and he expressed his concern about the decline of home theater. The very next week, I went to Theo’s apartment in Brooklyn to see what we could do, as CEDIA and as an industry, to reverse that decline. And that was when Theo presented his vision for Rayva to me. And I thought, wow, this is the right thing to do. This is a great initiative. It will drive lots and lots of business and profitability to CEDIA’s members if they help implement Theo’s vision.

MG  Theo, how well did you know Vin before you approached him about Rayva?

 

Theo Kalomirakis  Vin and I have been friends forever, and he had me work with him to develop the theater experience for Crestron. To me, Vin represented a very, very fresh perspective in how you reach out with an idea. When we met after that CEDIA event he described, he impressed me with a story he told. He was in Dallas, and he found out that there are about 800 integrators in that city, and only about 10 of them were CEDIA members. So Vin recognized the opportunity for reaching out to these people to educate them and make them our partners in selling home theaters. I love that approach because it thinks outside the box and sees the potential that exists beyond what is easily within our reach.

 

I wanted everybody in Rayva to have that kind of vision. Vin is so important to the company because he has the trust of everybody. And they may not buy into my vision because I’m very passionate and sometimes I don’t communicate properly or people are threatened by me. But Vin does it methodically from a business perspective without losing his vision that the world out there is much bigger than what we can get by working hand-in-hand with just the integrators at CEDIA. That’s a finite effort that’s not going to get us far.

 

Vin is my partner and ally in this venture because he embraces the same values and the same bigger vision that will eventually allow us to reach out to the people who are specifying theaters—designers and architects—and eventually to the end user. That’s our biggest goal, to reach the end user directly and teach them what the benefit of a home theater is and how it can enrich their lives.

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno

ABOUT VIN BRUNO

A veteran of the custom integration industry, Vin Bruno joined Rayva’s board of directors in 2017. He is now the company’s CEO, leading promotions and marketing initiatives meant to educate architects, builders, and technology integrators about Rayva’s turnkey home theater solutions.

 

Vin has had a number of leadership positions in the AV industry throughout his career. He helped Crestron double its sales revenue during his tenure as Director of Marketing, and his marketing efforts helped rejuvenate CEDIA during his time there as CEO.

 

He has also served on the advisory council for the Harvard Business Review and on the Consumer Electronics Association’s TechHome Division board.

MG  Theo, tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like Rayva really hit its stride within the past year, right around the time Vin came on board.

 

TK  Yes, that’s true.

 

MG  I know the company went through a lot of struggles early on, and there was a lot you needed to figure out. What did both of you need to do to get on the same page? How much did rethinking the whole engineering process and the effort to productize theaters have to do with that?

 

TK  Realizing the need to rethink the engineering happened organically about a year ago when we realized that the way I had defined the product was not repeatable and was not productized enough to create a consistent offering that could be deployed successfully every time a client wanted a theater. Essentially, I woke up one day and said, “We missed it.” That was a rude awakening when I saw things being installed, and they were not consistent with my vision. I saw face-to-face what other people couldn’t see, that this product needed severe attention to detail that it didn’t have.

I was trained as a custom designer. My eyes aren’t trained to go beyond the surface and see what it takes to make that surface stand and work. So that was the evolutionary change that began a year ago when the first theaters were being installed. That realization put us in overdrive to develop an efficient way to deploy the theaters that would guarantee our success and our repeatability as we reached out to designers and architects, and expanded to other countries.

 

VB  As for the first theaters we deployed, I think you’re absolutely right. We took a product and we delivered it as if it were a custom job. And we then stepped back and said, “Well, this isn’t scalable and it’s a lot of work.” We wanted to minimize the effort for our technology integrators in installing a Rayva theater. So the work Theo and the engineering team he put together has created is patentable—and we are going to pursue patents on these products and these methods. He’s made delivering a Rayva theater as consistent as buying pencils at Staples. It’s that simple to take delivery of a theater and take the elements out of the box and install them on the wall.

 

MG  Now that you’ve worked out the product, what do you think it’s going to take to create a renewed demand for dedicated home theater rooms?

 

VB  We need to inform both integrators and potential customers. People don’t know what they don’t know. There are technology integrators that don’t know they can be in the business of deploying home theaters. Homeowners don’t know they can have a home theater in their house. Most people think that it’s over the top, expensive, complicated, and lots of changes need to happen. They don’t realize we can take any spare room they have and turn it into their relaxation space where they can sit and listen to music or watch movies or have their kids or grandkids play video games, and keep those lovely sounds of the video games in that room. So that will be the service 

we can provide—to let people know that this business, and the profitability of this business, is within their grasp. It’s accessible to all technology integrators and it’s accessible to homeowners who think a theater is out of reach.

 

MG  It seems like any resurgence in home theaters would have to be spurred not so much by a love of movie theaters or watching movies on discs, but by the popularity of online movie services.

 

TK  I agree, and I’ll use myself as an example. I used to use my own home theater much more rarely than I do now because it required an effort to go and find a disc and put it in. I found that cumbersome. Only making the time to watch the latest release on disc made it a unique, singular, one-off experience. But streaming has revolutionized the way I watch movies, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for other people. I watch movies every day because no more discs. I turn on the TV, and I look at 

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno

my Kaleidescape screen, my Netflix screen, my Amazon screen. The fact that there’s such an abundance of content—such an abundance of good content—has made the use of my theater not so archaic and so kind of specific. Online content has really opened up the flexibility of a dedicated room to a degree that wasn’t available before.

 

VB  We can see that same phenomenon as a company, which is why we as an industry are so important to the ISPs. We’re providing a way for people to enjoy streaming content in the best way possible. Instead of viewing it on tablets or phones, we actually now deliver it to big screens.

 

Ultimately, home theaters are in the best interest of technology integrators and their businesses, and home theaters are in the best interest of families and their homes. Enjoying entertainment in a dedicated room is an enjoyable and valuable way to spend time together. And, to bring our conversation full circle, that’s what inspired me to join Theo in his efforts at Rayva.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Ep. 7: Theo on Theaters

The Cineluxe Hour logo

Continuing the discussion from Episode 6 of how home theaters are now definitely better
than movie theaters, Episode 7 opens with hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger
discussing Dennis’s recent post on how even streaming can be better than a movie theater.

 

At 10:14, Dennis & Michael welcome the father of home theater, Theo Kalomirakis, back to
the podcast to talk about what impact the better-than-movie-theater experience at 
home
has had on both his work and his personal love of movie-watching.

 

At 22:28, the discussion turns to the influence the superior home viewing experience is
having on filmmaking. Theo also provides a brief update on the efforts of his company,
Rayva, to offer simple-to-install luxury home theaters
.

 

Ep. 7 concludes at 32:13 with a survey of what everyone’s watched over the past week,
followed by a guest appearance by Dennis’s son, Bruno.

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Creating Rayva: Dimitris Theodorou

Creating Rayva: Dimitris Theodorou
Theo's Corner

Dimitris Theodorou has turned out to be much more than just an excellent architect. He created
the striking Origami theater design for Rayva, and has since followed it up 
with the bold Light
Edge (shown above). Cineluxe editor-in-chief Michael Gaughn recently interviewed Dimitris and
me as part of my series of conversations with the prime movers behind Rayva. We discussed
Dimitris’ surprising emergence as an innovative designer, and some of the challenges we faced
with his first designs.

—T.K.

 

 

Theo Kalomirakis  I met Dimitris through a friend. That introduction didn’t have anything to do with creating new designs. It had to do with needing to have somebody architecturally develop the original templates for all the Rayva theaters. But as I got to know him, I realized he has a talent beyond being an architect—he’s an artist. So once I started reaching out to designers in Greece and other parts, Dimitris said, “You know what? Now that I know what the whole Rayva system is like, let me come up with something.”

 

Michael Gaughn  That turned out to be the Origami theme, right?—which has been Rayva’s most successful design so far, if I’m not mistaken.

TK Yes.

 

MG  Was there any particular inspiration for that design or did it just come from playing around with shapes?

 

Dimitris Theodorou  I’ve always liked triangular shapes, and I thought, let’s try them in a bigger space. I wondered how they could be used in complicated and interesting combinations in a theater. I took that simple form and tried it in different positions and angles in a typical dedicated home theater room. I started by dividing a simple rectangle, and then I folded it so that it became 3D. I liked the result, so I started developing the design with Theo.

 

We then decided to add light fixtures to it. I added illumination to the pyramid shapes, so that light comes out of that form. I think the combination of the unlighted and lighted pyramids creates some interesting forms and shadows.

 

We have a very simple form that, multiplied by the shape itself, has the ability to create a more interesting design. That is the concept of Light Edge, too. I’m fascinated by complex constructions that arise out of simple forms.

 

MG  Home theater spaces present a really unique design challenge. They’re not just another room. They’re not just about four walls and entryways and windows. So what were some of the challenges of creating that first design? Was there a learning curve to it?

 

TK  It was mostly making sure that whatever design we came up with could be applied to our backdrop, which are our panels, which can fit in any room, any size. We created the equivalent of a Lego system where you add panels to address the needs of larger rooms and take out panels for smaller rooms. That flexibility is the backbone of Rayva.

 

The challenge was, how do we come up with something that can be showcased in front of the panels and doesn’t hide speakers or cover too much of the acoustical treatments? We needed to balance the function and the role of the artwork with the need to adhere to the technical specifications.

 

DT  Because you can’t really know the position of the

Creating Rayva: Dimitris Theodorou

ABOUT DIMITRIS THEODOROU

Dimitris Theodorou was born in Athens, Greece in 1983.

 

He studied interior and furniture design at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens and then Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens. While pursuing his Masters degree, he began working as a freelance architect on many projects both alone and with others.

 

Dimitris received his Masters in “Theory in Architecture” in the summer of 2018, which made him very happy since he can now focus on his own work.

 

He has participated in many architectural competitions in Greece, from which he has gained three distinctions.

 

Dimitris joined the Rayva team in February of 2017. His main responsibility has been to develop all the different room templates, categorized by theme and size, while also managing the company’s current projects. He has designed two themes for Rayva’s portfolio: Origami and Light Edge.

 

He enjoys walking around Athens and shooting photos of buildings, ruins, and . . . cats. He also enjoys listening to music and more rarely—because of lack of time—skiing.

speakers ahead of time, Origami and Light Edge provide a lot of flexibility for the positioning of the design elements. Instead of creating a design that can only be positioned one way, I designed the theme as a whole, and just gave it a structure, a grid, so its elements can be repositioned as needed.

 

TK  The light fixtures are movable objects, so they can be positioned around the speakers and never have to cover them. The ingenuity of the system is that it offers so much flexibility. Unlike the fixtures in some of the other design themes, which must be in a specific location in the center of the panel, the Origami design elements can be placed wherever we want to look good without obstructing the technology behind the panels.

MG  So, for purely functional reasons, you can actually end up with unique rooms, because you need to position the fixtures differently every time.

 

TK  Every room will look different. The same design elements, but differently positioned every time.

 

DT  The beauty of Origami is that you have only one very simple fixture, but it is very versatile and can lead to numerous designs.

 

MG  What was it like for both of you translating the design itself into reality?

 

TK  Well, we took the design and gave it to a manufacturer, and told them to bring it to life, but that was not the right approach. We kind of lost control by having it developed without us being part of the engineering to make sure that the design would work. So after we met Paul Stary, we gave the design to him and he deconstructed it. He took it apart in multiple pieces and tried to put it together in a way that is always under his control. He created a set of blueprints that we can now give to any factory in the world, and they can manufacture the same light fixture every time.

 

MG  We’ve already written about one of the Origami installations, and I know there are others on order. Have you executed more than one?

 

TK  We have executed two, and we have another one that’s going to Angola. We have others that are already in showrooms.

 

MG  Do you have any orders yet for Light Edge?

 

TK  We had the same challenge with Light Edge that we had with Origami. It was originally engineered without the right approach to creating the product. Paul is in the process of finalizing the engineering drawings for both Light Edge and Origami.

 

MG  When you were working on Origami, did Dimitris do a lot of the work on the design and then present it to you for comment or did both of you work on it all along the way?

 

DT  We shared some thoughts at the beginning, and then I did some initial drawings, and that was pretty much the 

whole theme. When there’s an order, we discuss how to accommodate the exact position of the speakers, and then it goes into production. It’s so simple, really.

 

DT  We shared some thoughts at the beginning, and then I did some initial drawings, and that was pretty much the whole theme. When there’s an order, we discuss how to accommodate the exact position of the speakers, and then it goes into production. It’s so simple, really.

TK  An issue we had to deal with was making sure to orient the triangles so the light from the fixtures wouldn’t wash out the screen. You can always turn them off, of course, when the movie plays. But if you want to leave them slightly on, the ones facing the screen create a problem. So we don’t have any lights facing the screen.

 

MG  I also noticed that the rendering of Light Edge [shown at the top of the page] shows some of the fixtures positioned on the ceiling as well.

 

DT  Yes, that can be an option, but only with Light Edge, not Origami. The Origami fixtures are too big to put on the ceiling.

 

MG  Is Light Edge the only design where you have the option of having a light element there?

 

TK  No, Movement is another one. It uses LED lights on the wall and the ceiling panel.

 

MG  Whose design was that?

 

TK  It was originally designed for a custom theater. But we modularized it and it became a Rayva design, except it’s not designed by a specific artist.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Ep. 6: Home Theaters are Better Than Movie Theaters

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Hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger open Episode 6 with a brief discussion of how Dennis’s favorite show, Critical Role, recently made headlines by becoming the most successful video-production Kickstarter campaign ever. Dennis & Mike talk about the impact of alternate forms of production on TV & movies.

 

At 11:28, Cineluxe contributor Andrew Robinson joins the podcast for the first time, accompanied by fellow contributor John Sciacca. Everybody discusses how a home theater with the right gear, properly installed, can easily top the performance of a typical movie theater. But it turns out the biggest contributor to a better-than-movie-theater experience at home might not be the tech.

 

The show wraps up at 39:14, with a quick survey of what everybody’s watched during the past week, which runs the gamut from They Shall Now Grow Old to Love, Death, and Robots.

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Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopoulos

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous
Theo's Corner

In my previous two posts, Cineluxe editor-in-chief Michael Gaughn talked to engineer Paul Stary
and me about our efforts to re-engineer the early Rayva theater designs in order to turn them into
a product that can be economically manufactured, quickly delivered, and easily installed. In this
installment, Michael talks to Rayva’s operations manager Savvas Stamatopoulos and me about
how Savvas 
cataloged every element of the Rayva designs and created a software system that
allows Rayva to respond instantly to orders placed from anywhere in the world.

—T.K.

 

 

Theo Kalomirakis  Now that the engineering phase is winding down, Paul’s role is diminishing. Everything now moves into the real world, and that’s where Savvas keeps control of the process. He is now preparing us for actual orders whether the order is here, in India, in Angola, or in Russia. As the business grows, Savvas will be the overall coordinator between individual project managers that will have to be hired for other parts of the world.

 

Michael Gaughn  How does Savvas’s work relate to everything we discussed with Paul—about the re-engineering of the wall panels, etc.?

TK  Savvas’s job was to study all the panels needed for a room, and compile an Excel spreadsheet that listed, for example, how many panels were needed for the Illuminations design [shown above] in a small-size room, how many were needed for Illuminations in a large-size room, and so on.

 

Small rooms have three panels on the wall. Medium rooms have four panels. Bigger rooms have five panels. The price of the theater increases based on the number of panels because you have more components. Since we have 12 designs available for 12 room sizes, we had to come up with 144 templates.

 

Savvas Stamatopoulos  You also have to take into consideration the ceiling height and the position of the door, whether it’s on a side wall—

 

TK  It was a very complex process.

 

SS  Ultimately, we ended up with 500-something different room templates.

 

TK  The bottom line is, Savvas needed to figure out what happens in each room based on its size and its design. So he spent a few weeks recording every single item we see in a theater on a spreadsheet—not from the perspective only of a particular design, but from the perspective of all the designs.

 

And that plays out on three levels, the first level being the overall design. The second level is, how many panels are in this design? And with something like illuminations, how many fixtures like light sculptures are involved? The third level is determining how many panels there are. How many wood parts do they contain? How many screws? How many wall brackets?

 

So Savvas created a very comprehensive chart of the parts, which is layered so you can collapse it and see only the overall design, the room. Expand the chart a little, and you see the panels in the room. Expand each panel even more, and you see the wood parts of the panel. Expand it even more, and you see the metal parts.

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous

ABOUT SAVVAS STAMATOPOULOS

Savvas was born in Piraeus, Greece in 1977. He studied Shipping and Logistics at the Business College of Athens and at London Guildhall University.

 

He began his professional career in 2000, working for a couple of shipping/forwarding companies in Piraeus. In 2001, he became involved in his first major business project, setting up and managing a 3PL (third-party logistics) company whose main purpose was to provide logistics services for the Greek subsidiary of one of the six oil and gas “supermajors,” a collaboration that lasted until 2011.

 

In 2012, he co-founded a traditional milk and dairy products firm, where he was the executive manager until 2018, when the company merged with a large trading and importing firm of the sector.

 

Savvas joined the Rayva team in the summer of 2018, where he is responsible for creating the software to list and track all of the elements in the company’s theater designs. He also manages project costing and operations.

 

He enjoys playing music, free diving & spearfishing, and spending time with his dogs as a way to balance the stressful everyday life of logistics management.

This was a very comprehensive process of analyzing the product from the point of view of codifying everything so we could create list of parts that can go to a manufacturer. That is what Savvas has been doing before even Paul came onboard.

 

MG  Where are you in the process right now?

SS  At the moment, we’re trying to find the sweet spot between an artistic creation and an industrial product, because these rooms were designed by some very gifted designers and artists here in Greece—in my opinion, they are works of art.

 

You know art, by definition, usually doesn’t take into consideration cost, or the logistics of production, the ease of installation, transportation, storage, and so on. So we need to find ways to facilitate these things, and to turn these designs into an industrial product without making any compromises to the artistic aspect of the theater.

 

This is what we’re doing right now with the help of Paul, who’s an excellent engineer. He is breaking each aspect of the theaters into the smallest possible parts so we can ensure that they’re always the same and easy to to install. And so I can know beforehand what the delivery time will be, how much it will cost, and so on. He is re-engineering every aspect of the theaters, because for an industrial product to be successful you need to be able to produce it for the lowest possible cost. This is our main challenge right now.

 

I am inputting each part into MRP [material requirements planning] software. Each theater consists of many, many parts such as wood frames, metal brackets, magnets, and wiring conduits.

 

When someone says they want to have a certain design for a certain room size, we input it in the system and it shows us exactly what are the materials we need from the last screw to the biggest part, how much it will cost, how long do you need to be ready, and so on.

 

MG  If I’m understanding the process correctly, the wall panels are the one constant in every design.

 

SS  Yes, these panels are the key elements in a Rayva theater. What is different is the fabric that goes over the panel. In some designs, the fabric is printed with a drawings or pictures. And in other designs, there are custom design elements attached to them.

 

TK  Basically, the panels as an item are always the same.

 

SS  The frame is more or less the same.

TK  We have about 12 panel sizes, but it’s the same item, just the size changes. And then it gets a cover. And on top of the cover, we have design elements. These are the three elements: The panel, the fabric that covers them, and the artwork that goes in front of them.

MG  Right. So I’m hoping you can fill me in on some of the steps along the way. For instance, Antonia Papatzanaki’s designs use light sculptures [shown at right] that would be considered works of art.

 

TK  Yes.

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous

MG  What impact does that have on the whole engineering and reproduction process because when you’re building something more utilitarian like a car, you’re not dealing with artists and individual sculptures?

 

TK  Each artwork is addressed as an individual element that needs to be engineered in a different way than the artist intended. For example, Antonia’s fixture is 50 pounds. It would be difficult to install something that heavy. So, Paul re-engineered it to make it easier to manufacture, easier to mount, and much lighter than it was. Originally, the support for the sculpture had to go through the panel and be attached to the wall because it was so heavy the panel couldn’t support it. But now, that sculpture is so light that it can be mounted on the panel itself without having to create a hole in the panel in order to reach the wall.

 

Every artwork is engineered to maintain its integrity, because we want to make sure that no matter how we re-build it, it looks like what the artist envisioned.

 

MG  Who acts as the intermediary between the artist and Rayva?

 

TK  I receive the artwork from the artists. The artwork then goes to Paul, who re-engineers it. And when it’s finished, I show it to the artist so they sign off. We don’t want the artist involved with the engineering process because we have a very specific way of creating consistency and unanimity in how we engineer things.

 

MG  Does that pose any unique challenges? Especially, considering the diversity of the kind of art you’re incorporating.

 

TK  The only limitation is the imagination of the engineer. We’re not talking about developing a rocket that goes to the moon. It’s not that complex—it’s an artwork. If you have an engineering background, you can look inside the hood—I’m using the same analogy for the artwork that I used for the re-engineering of the wall panels—and you find out what it is.

Creating Rayva: Savvas Stamatopolous

For example, we had a challenge with the Origami design. You’ve seen the fabric that covers the Origami triangles, right?

 

MG  Yes.

 

TK  I didn’t like how the fabric was folded at the edges of the triangle; it wasn’t clean. So Paul said, “Are you opposed to having a paint that looks 

like fabric? That way we don’t have to deal with the wrapping methods for the ends of the fabric.” I said, “No.” So, he found a paint by DuPont that’s sprayed. It’s the color of the fabric, and it has the texture of velvet, of linen.

 

In the process of re-engineering, we’re addressing issues we have with the original artwork from the perspective of, “How do we simplify it? How do we make the process faster? And how do we change the method of fabrication without betraying the concept of the artist?”

 

This is the beautiful thing about having an artist working with an engineer—it’s a collaborative effort. If you work with smart people, let them make creative decisions. What I find exciting and exhilarating about the development process is that I’ve learned to trust people.

 

When I was a custom designer, everything had to come to me to be approved because it was a creative decision, quote unquote. I had to have the last word. I didn’t allow designers to make the big decisions. I made them myself.

 

I didn’t trust people before. But this time I do.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Ep. 5: How to Find the Perfect Integrator

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Episode 5 opens with hosts Michael Gaughn and Dennis Burger setting the stage for a discussion of technology integrators—what used to be called “custom installers”—the people you hire to install TVs, speakers, projectors, and security and lighting systems.

 

At 3:39, Josh Christian of the Home Technology Association, Eric Thies of DSI Luxury Technology in Los Angeles, Ed Gilmore of Gilmore’s Sound Advice in New York, and our our own John Sciacca join Mike & Dennis to discuss Eric’s “How to Find the Perfect Integrator” and John’s “Why HTA Is the Real Deal,” and to talk about how HTA can help somebody locate the right integrator to install their technology.

 

At 42:47, Mike, Dennis, and John talk about some of the movies they’ve seen recently—including The Umbrella Academy, Ralph Wrecks the Internet, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Mike talks about Pixar’s decline; and John discusses his fondness for the Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

PODCAST GUESTS

Josh Christian, director of certification, Home Technology Association

Ed Gilmore, owner & founder, Gilmore’s Sound Advice, New York, NY

John Sciacca, co-owner, Custom Theater & Audio, Murrells Inlet, SC

Eric Thies, principal, DSI Luxury Technology, Los Angeles

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Creating Rayva: Paul Stary, Pt. 2

Creating Rayva: Paul Stary, Pt. 2
Theo's Corner

In Part 2 of Michael Gaughn’s interview with me and Paul Stary, who engineered the Rayva theater designs, we talk about our efforts to ready the designs for manufacturing and distribution.

T.K.

 

Michael Gaughn  Have you hit any major hurdles in your collaboration? Has there been anything where you’ve said, “It looks good right now but as this plays out and has to be reproduced it’s just not going to fly.

 

Theo Kalomirakis  Every step of the way we had a challenge. We had challenges before we started dealing with them. For example, just stretching the fabric with staples around the frame looked good, and the end result was good, but it wasn’t practical for shipping the product in small boxes instead of having it crated. So that challenge led us to a solution.

 

Without challenges you get stuck in the initial concept and then you wait until the concept is applied in the real world and then it flies or it dies. Challenges during the course of engineering are a godsend. You come to see them as obstacles that need to be overcome in pursuit of a final, perfect product.

MG  It seems like there are two levels to this process, one level being the wall panels, which are a common element to every theater. But then there is the unique application of design elements on top of the panels. It seems like that second level has to be more flexible because you’re incorporating a lot of different elements.

 

TK  That’s correct. The panels provide the backdrop for the theater and conceal the engineering, the speakers, and the acoustical treatments. But the creative part is what goes in front of the panels. And that brings a unique set of challenges because those elements change based on the artist.

 

It’s like a gallery where you hang paintings on fixed walls, but one month the painter is Basquiat, the next month is Andy Warhol, the third month is Picasso. So you have very severely controlled backdrops, which Paul engineers, that artists can use as a depository of their ideas. They give us ideas and then we turn these ideas into something that can be built predictably and repeatedly.

 

MG  Are you at the point now where you feel like you can build this model out, where you can just keep scaling it up as you get more orders? Or is that a whole other phase of development?

 

TK  We have a perfect foundation for building up orders at any number or quantity we want. Paul has said it’s like building a skyscraper. If you don’t have a good foundation—and we didn’t have a good foundation at the beginning—

you’re going to build the first floor and the second floor, and then the third floor will collapse because its weight can’t be supported by the foundation.

 

So we’ve created a foundation that ensures repeatability and dependability no matter what the order or the scale of sales are. This is the brilliance of engineering properly. We create a repeatable result.

Paul Stary  Yes, like most products at the beginning, it’s not going to start out at the highest quantities; it will be a building process. So the elements of various designs and components are easily scalable by either increasing the volume with any one vendor or adding more vendors. Because everything is so well documented, we can draw on resources from around the 

Each of the wall panels in Marina Vernicos’ theater design “Pools” contains scores of parts engineered
to ensure the panels can be easily shipped and assembled. Each panel is designed to be able to support
decorative elements and lighting fixtures and to conceal speakers, acoustic treatments, and wiring.

world. We can scale it up pretty easily by just adding the resources necessary at the time to allow the building process to occur. So I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on being able to respond to the growth.

 

MG  Where are both of you in the process now? Do you feel like you have the Rayva model completely engineered?

 

TK  Yes, the engineering is nearing completion and then pricing will come next. I would say we’re about 70% done because we’ve built the foundation and are now adding the details to the foundation.

 

PS  Yes, all of the foundation has been laid, which means we’ve defined all the parts, determined how they interrelate, and what is required for manufacturing.

 

TK  We also had the luck of working with people who bought into the concept. One of which is our friend Savvas Stamatopolous from Greece, who is working with Paul on the next phase of the product development—how you implement the product. That means creating software that allows the product to be ordered, inventoried, and sold. So he had a very key role in creating a database of parts that is organized, codified, and priced so that at the click of a button we can get prices for every theater configuration based on the components that are used.

 

We have a team that worked in conjunction with Paul and me to create the parts we needed in order to develop the product. And that includes creating 144 templates with every possible important room configuration. Dimitris Theodorou, working under our project architect Eric Chuderewicz, created these endless templates that in turn allowed us to count how many parts per theater are in each room size and each design. It was a very complex process that took a few months, but we did it.

 

So this isn’t just developing the product, it’s developing a product based on a whole scheme of things where there is the inaugural vision and then you drill down to the details. Just like Paul described [in Part 1], at the beginning you see this from a 30-mile view and then as you go down you start tightening the loose ends and create the kind of product we believe will change the way people think about home entertainment.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Creating Rayva: Paul Stary, Pt .1

Creating Rayva: Paul Stary

An admittedly fuzzy picture of me with some of the key contributors to Rayva (from left): Tim Sinnaeve (Barco),
me, Rayva CEO Vin Bruno, Anthony Grimani (PMI), Paul Stary, and Rayva president George Walter

Theo's Corner

I recently asked Cineluxe editor-in-chief Michael Gaughn to interview me and my key collaborators at Rayva about our efforts to create turnkey home theater solutions that can be efficiently manufactured and easily installed. The first interview was with engineer Paul Stary, who took my initial concepts for the Rayva theaters and came up with brilliantly practical ways to manufacture the designs without any compromises in quality.

T.K.

 

Michael Gaughn  Theo, what was the initial issue that led to you needing to engage an engineer in this? Was there a problem with a specific installation or whatever?

 

Theo Kalomirakis  Yes. We created the first two Rayva theaters more or less based on practices I used to use for custom designs, but they were not adequate to provide the kind of product we wanted Rayva to be. But I didn’t know any better and we did it. We met with a variety of challenges in installation, but also in creating predictable parts. Every part, because it wasn’t defined in an engineering fashion in detail, was prone to be misinterpreted by the manufacturer and built differently. This had the potential to create some problems, which we carefully managed.

 

What brought me to Paul, by serendipity, was his son, Steve, of Brilliant AV, who was the first one to install a Rayva theater. He knew what I was trying to accomplish, and he knew what his dad could do. And he said, “Talk to my dad, because it’s

not just that he’s my dad, I know he is a brilliant engineer and he might be able to give you the right engineering perspective.” So he made the introduction, I called Paul, and the rest is history.

 

MG  Paul, had you ever had any interaction with Theo before this?

 

Paul Stary  No, I had not. We’d never talked. Although I knew his reputation and, through my son’s dealings, had learned about the Rayva theater product.

 

It has been an interesting relationship because you can obviously tell that Theo is extremely interested in the unique nature and detail of his product and all the design, and rightfully proud of all that. I just wanted to take what he had done and change what’s behind the curtain in a way that makes it reproducible and better in terms of the form, fit, and function but without changing the appearance of it.

 

If you compare a theater from the first Raya installation to one installed a year from now, you won’t see any difference until you start taking things apart and then you’ll see a radical difference. There’s almost nothing recognizable behind the façade.

 

Another big part of the engineering is creating a group of people that works together with common goals to evolve the product and the process. We’re trying to take something that is more or less an individual idea and turn it into an organization where the organization has the power rather than one particular individual.

 

That’s what has to happen when you take a company that changes from an idea into a product. Theo’s great at setting the culture. He’s also been great at adapting to change, which is something a lot of people in his position are not able to do. I would have probably bailed on this project long ago if he wasn’t like that, or hadn’t been so willing to make the necessary changes.

 

MG  What was the first thing you guys took on when you started the engineering?

 

PS  Well that’s a difficult question because there really isn’t any one thing; you have to look at it as a system. My

Creating Rayva: Paul Stary, Pt. 1

ABOUT PAUL STARY

Paul Stary is the President and CEO of Virual-E Corporation is Costa Mesa, CA. He is the founder, designer, and developer of the company’s signature product the VirtualGT racing simulator, a $20,000-$50.000 machine sold to affluent motorsports enthusiasts and racers, corporations for marketing and promotion, and commercial racing centers.

 

The VirtualGT simulator is based on home theater technology, and is widely considered the most realistic and exciting simulated driving experience available, which can be directly attributed to its custom audio and vibration system. (For more on, see Dennis Burger’s “VirtualGT: The Ultimate Racing Simulator.”)

 

He is also a principal at Audio-Video Engineering in Costa Mesa, which is a consumer electronics consulting, design, and engineering firm that specializes in the developing and manufacturing custom analog and digital electronics, computer control systems, and speaker systems.

 

The company recently completed the design of the TalkStar talkbox, a radical improvement in the performance, quality, and reliability of this obscure musical effect that was popularized on Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive in the ‘70s.

 

Paul is also the president and founder of AudioMobile, which pioneered many advances in high-end car-audio electronics, speaker systems, and installations techniques during the early days of that industry.

 approach to anything in life has always been to do a non-linear analysis, which means I start circling at 30,000 feet. You can’t see much down at the ground level at that altitude, but you have the big picture, you can kind of get an idea of the terrain, the scope, the whole package. And then you just keep circling, and as you circle you drop. And eventually you get down to Ground Zero where you’re into the minutiae.

 

That approach is useful for a project like this because if you take any one thing out of context and start to focus on it you eventually learn about some other aspect that changes the original premise, so it’s counterproductive. Even though this approach is more time consuming, it saves time in the long run because you have a more effective approach to managing all of the problems together as a unit.

 

So the problems typically are to take all the components and see how they fit together. And even that is difficult because there are multiple levels in terms of the manufacturing process of making it affordable, and maintaining the quality when it’s produced so it has consistent dimensions and finishes, and so forth. And then you might make the system easy to manufacture, but it’s a nightmare to install. So you have to keep all these other disciplines in mind.

Creating Rayva: Paul Stary, Pt. 1

The wall panels for the original Rayva designs had to be shipped pre-assembled
in large crates, and were difficult to install.

Then you have to define all the parts and build them, but you’re not done. You still have to kit them for shipment to the customer. We’re going to outsource that, so we have to find resources who can do that. And then the product has to be easy to ship. Right now, the Rayva theaters are shipped pre-assembled in crates, which makes it extremely inflexible.

 

And then there’s the installation. Even beyond that, there’s the ability to service and support, and to upgrade over time. Our clients are obviously homeowners with some degree of affluence. They often move and in the process may resell the house to someone who may not have the same tastes, so can you make upgrades and alter the designs of the theater after it is installed? Or is it so custom that it’s stuck that one way forever, so you have to rip it out and start over?

 

Those are the kind of things I looked at as we sought to make a Rayva theater a product that can be manufactured at a reasonable cost, then assembled by outsourced resources of various types, then easily shipped and installed so it can be readily upgraded, serviced, repaired, and supported in the field.

A brief video showing the installation of the Rayva wall panels
before they were engineered by Paul Stary.

We’re on that path right now, and understanding the unique nature of the product was extremely important as I circled down to the ground. I’m pretty much at the point where I understand all of the different elements, and it’s a very complex product because there are so many variations. There are angles and finishes and lighting systems, and things like that, that have to be integrated. I think we’ve moved Rayva from a custom theater to a turnkey product that anybody can buy and install.

MG  What impact does the complexity of a Rayva theater have on actually fulfilling an order?

 

PS  If this was a product where you simply took two or three components and put them together as a sub assembly, then put it in a box and shipped it, it wouldn’t be too difficult. But in this case there are hundreds of parts and they have to be assembled in stages and in different places.

 

So we’re putting together a software system to handle the manufacturing at the most sophisticated level where you can bring orders in random, and assemble those orders into production runs where the software manages the procurement, pricing, shipping, and all of the assembly with subcontractors. It automates the difficulty of bringing all these parts in, knowing what you have to order, when you have to order it—even more importantly, knowing what parts you have in stock, the lead times of all the parts you don’t have in stock, and then you can predict the delivery date with reasonable accuracy the moment you accept an order.

 

In Part 2, Paul and I discuss the significant challenges we encountered early on taking the existing Rayva designs and engineering them for production.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Ep. 4: Luxury TVs 2019

After show hosts Michael Gaughn and Dennis Burger have the briefest possible discussion of the most boring Super Bowl ever, they’re joined art 4:14 by Cineluxe contributor John Sciacca and Wiirecutter AV editor and Cineluxe contributor Adrienne Maxwell to discuss the state of luxury TVs in 2019. At 21:54, the discussion shifts to the many things movie-streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have to do to make themselves more user-friendly. And the episode closes at 38:21 with everyone naming the things they feel are most neglected in mass culture.

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