Michael Gaughn Tag

Media Rooms Come of Age

Media rooms have a pretty bad reputation. So bad, in fact, that anyone who really cares about quality usually hesitates to go down that path as an alternative to a dedicated home theater. And that hesitation used to be justified because media rooms were inevitably compromised—mainly by small TV screens, unattractive, elaborate speaker systems and their inevitable 

profusion of cables, lousy acoustics, too much ambient light, and primitive room control.

 

But if you haven’t checked out the media-room market in the last five years or so, you might be surprised by how dramatically these systems and spaces have improved, and that it’s now possible to have a media room that can fit in well with the flow of your household with practically no compromises.

 

Note that I said “practically no.” Media rooms can’t yet achieve the level of playback quality a dedicated home theater can, and maybe never will. But for anyone who doesn’t want their primary entertainment space sealed off from the rest of the home, or only wants a modest setup but also wants a better-than-movie theater experience, or just doesn’t have the room for a standalone theater—which is practically everyone living in Manhattan, no matter how well-off—a well-designed and installed media room no longer represents a distant second-best solution.

 

It could even be argued that some of the recent media-room collaborations between architects, designers, and integrators (such as the one shown at the top of the page) represent the real cutting edge of current home entertainment.

 

So what’s changed that media rooms are now poised to finally shed their stigma?

 

♦  Reference-quality playback has become standard-issue in TVs, in smaller speaker setups, and with the movies and series you can readily access via download or streaming.

 

♦  TV screens have gotten a lot better, a lot bigger, a lot lighter, and a lot more stylish.

 

♦  Control systems are now much more sophisticated, flexible, and comprehensive.

 

♦  Lighting and shade control, in particular, have become more common and far more versatile.

 

♦  The best digital room-correction systems can now tame and optimize acoustically compromised spaces.

 

♦  Improvements in downloading and streaming, and in the picture and sound quality of TV series and video games, have created a demand for spaces that maximize the experience of all forms of entertainment and are responsive to the entertainment needs of all members of the household.

 

♦  Some interior designers have stopped holding their noses and decided to devote some of their considerable talent to making these rooms functional, attractive, and seamlessly integrated into the rest of the home.

 

♦  Some high-end integrators have moved beyond the general disdain for media rooms and now see them as the challenge and opportunity they are.

 

The Cineluxe Guide to Media Rooms: The Basics” is the first in a series of articles that will provide you with all the information you need to decide if you want a media room and how to make it best suit your needs. We’ll walk you through a variety of possibilities—from simple, no-compromise setups for a smallish secondary room to far more elaborate reference-quality systems for large, open-plan communal spaces. And we’ll do it without going deep into the tech. The goal is to provide you with enough of the essential concepts, facts, and context so you can convey to your integrator et al. exactly what you want to achieve and get a good sense of whether they’re up to the job.

 

But maybe the most important piece of advice we can pass along doesn’t have anything to do with gear, or content, or lights or shades, or any of that. While it’s good to have the strong core knowledge we’ll be providing, your biggest priority should be finding an integrator who “gets it.” For any candidates you’re considering, study their website thoroughly—especially their portfolio; if possible, visit one or more of the media rooms they’ve created. And listen to them carefully to be sure they’re not taking on the assignment grudgingly but are willing to embrace the challenge and create an exceptional multi-use entertainment space for you and your family.

 

So, should you still opt for a dedicated home theater if you have the room and aren’t willing to settle for anything less than the best? Absolutely. Should you be for one second embarrassed or ashamed if you decide to go with a media room instead? Absolutely not.

Michael Gaughn

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.

AN INNOVATIVE MEDIA ROOM SPACE

The New York City apartment shown at left converts into a DCI-compliant theater at the press of a button; and yet there is no evidence of the system when it’s not in use. Almost every inch of wall space is either a reference-quality speaker or an acoustic treatment, all of it covered in custom-made acoustically transparent fabric.

 

Photos courtesy of Steinway Lyngdorf

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2019: The Year in Luxury Home Entertainment

2019: The Year in Luxury Home Entertainment

It might not have felt like it, but home entertainment changed in a big way in 2019. And, as Dennis Burger points out in “Beyond Discs & Cinemas,” that monumental shift wasn’t due to any technological breakthroughs or new formats, standards, or must-have devices. The arrival of 8K, which would have represented a major seachange in an earlier era, caused barely a ripple.

 

What happened instead was that the stars aligned—in other words, a variety of existing technologies reached just the right point of maturity to radically change how we experience entertainment. Downloading and streaming, until now maligned as the feeble stepchildren of the moviewatching experience, emerged decisively and undeniably as the future of movies.

 

Check out John Higgins’ post for a recap of this pivotal year in the streaming world. The focus here is more on what it took to achieve a state-of-the-art viewing experience at home in 2019, and how expanding beyond AV has allowed luxury integrators to become far more responsive to how people actually live.

 

Home Theater or Media Room?

Just as downloading and streaming are no longer dismissed out of hand, the once lowly media room has recently made great strides toward respectability—due in part to forces that have little to do with the technology that serves up the entertainment 

experience. And while many had declared the dedicated home theater room dead—or at least in rapid decline—there are signs of a legitimate resurgence.

 

It might seem counter-intuitive to say that both home theaters and media rooms are on the rise. And supporters within each camp will tell you their favored approach is way in the lead. But, in the luxury market at least, it seems to be a dead heat.

 

One big sign of change is that media rooms are becoming commonly referred to as multi-use spaces. “Media room” was a godawful moniker; “multi-use space” really isn’t an improvement, except that it emphasizes the room’s versatility instead of suggesting that it’s a slave to “media” (whatever that means). 

 

Multi-use spaces are nothing new. People have been setting up entertainment systems in rec rooms, dens, family rooms, bedrooms, and elsewhere since the advent of the Victrola. The arrival of TV didn’t do much to change that—and, to be honest, neither did the arrival of home theater.

 

It took the emergence of non-AV domestic automation like sophisticated and responsive lighting and shade control to make multi-use spaces a viable alternative. And 2019 was the year automated lights and shades became pervasive and flexible enough to help turn non-dedicated spaces into legitimate viewing (and listening) environments.

 

To give the AV world its due, the arrival of more designer-friendly acoustical treatments and, especially, the emergence of ultra-customizable, professionally-deployed digital room correction also had a lot to do with putting high-performance multi-use rooms on the map. So did super-sized flat-panel TVs, which can provide a brighter (and some would say better) image than a traditional front-projection setup.

 

But let’s step back a second. While multi-use spaces might be on the verge of offering the performance of a dedicated home theater, do you really want to be blasting out the Endgame finale at reference volume in the middle of your home at 1 in the morning? And do you really want various family members wandering through the room while you’re absorbed in an episode of The Crown?

 

For as good as multi-use spaces have become, they still can’t provide the uninterrupted focus on the viewing experience that a home theater can. And, even though they’re on the cusp, it’s still going to be a few more years before a multi-use room can compete performance-wise with the best dedicated theaters.

 

Ironically, we can thank the tremendous improvements in streamed audio and video for the home theater’s rebirth. People who know little or nothing of LaserDiscs or DVDs are beginning to realize that downloads and streams are rivaling or surpassing what they can experience at even the best movie theaters, and they want rooms that can take full advantage of what internet delivery has to offer.

 

Also, no matter how cleverly a multi-use space is designed, it still clearly signals that it serves more than one master. To have the ultimate entertainment experience, and to create a space that strikingly and unambiguously expresses the value of that experience, you have to have a dedicated room.

 

The Art Wall Revolution

I don’t expect many—or any—of you to buy into what I’m about to say, but please suspend your disbelief for a moment and allow that video art walls (a description as ungainly as “media rooms” or “multi-use spaces”) will eventually have a bigger impact on luxury home entertainment than multi-use spaces and home theaters combined.

 

Here’s why. Architects and interior designers have traditionally held their noses throughout the process of designing, building, and installing entertainment rooms—and for good reason. As much as AV companies might like to think their products are designer-friendly, the truth is that almost everything they put out has all the visual appeal of a WalMart boombox.

 

And creating entertainment rooms means having to deal with tech—a lot of it. AV enthusiasts would have you believe that gear has gotten more user-friendly—it hasn’t. It’s just found new and more intricate ways to be cumbersome and unpleasant. And interior designers have a longstanding, and not unearned, reputation for being technophobes.

 

Also, every home theater or multi-use space is essentially a unique machine. The greater the demands made on it, the more complicated that machine 

becomes. And unless you’re working with an integrator who’s something of a mechanical genius, you’re likely in for a decent amount of trial and error before your room is finally up on its feet.

 

Lastly, it’s hard to put a unique visual stamp on a home theater and especially on a multi-use space. Feeding generic content into your home in mostly generic ways tends to drain any meaningful personal touch from the environment—one reason why entertainment rooms tend to fall into disuse over time.

Video walls, on the other hand, are an opportunity to showcase unique, curated works of art via installations that can be seamlessly integrated into the decor (and structure) of a home. Interior designers love that idea; so do architects. And homeowners will too once they realize they can use these stunning installations to display something other than the usual mind-numbing mass entertainment.

 

This isn’t the place to provide more than just a glimpse of this emerging phenomenon, but it’s worth keeping an eye on—partly because, unlike entertainment-based tech, it’s a harmonious and complementary instead of disruptive and somewhat arbitrary experience. And no matter how they evolve, art walls will always remain a luxury affair.

 

Today & Tomorrow

With 4K HDR content and displays arriving solidly in the middle market, 2019 was also the year reference-quality playback made its way to the masses. Ironically, it was also the year luxury integration decisively separated itself from the world of trunk slammers, geek squads, and other purveyors of “good enough.”

 

Expect 2020 to be the year when professional-grade digital cinema systems, offering picture and sound exceeding the world’s best movie theaters, make serious inroads in luxury entertainment spaces. Expect to see 8K used not so much to create higher-resolution content as to significantly improve the quality of existing content. And expect to see interior design finally welcomed into entertainment spaces—and designers finally willing to accept the invitation.

—Michael Gaughn

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.

CINELUXE TRENDSETTERS

the most influential people in luxury
home entertainment on 
the trends
that defined 2019

Sam Cavitt, Paradise Theater
on how home theaters are better than movie theaters
and the importance of 
dedicated theater rooms

Ed Gilmore, Gilmore’s Sound Advice
on tunable lighting
, voice control, apps vs. control
systems, 8K, and art walls

Al Patel & Cortney Combs, Enhanced Home
on 
media rooms, outdoor entertainment systems,
designer-friendly tech, 8K, and art walls

Cory Reistad, SAV Digital Environments
on 
media rooms, bulletproof installation, downloading
vs. streaming, and automated lighting

Tim Sinnaeve, Barco Residential
on the emergence of video art walls, and their influence on
artists, integrators, architects, and interior designers

Katherine Spiller, Steinway Lyngdorf
on 
designer-friendly tech, luxury audio systems, room correction, digital cinema, and no-compromise media rooms

Eric Thies, DSI Luxury Technology
on 
the return of home theaters, 8K, art walls, and the
sad lack of integration standards

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Art Walls: The Next Big Thing?

Art Walls: The Next Big Thing?

Refik Anadol’s data sculpture Melting Memories

This all started as a side conversation with Cory Reistad, the head of SAV Digital Environments in Bozeman, Montana. We were discussing emerging trends in luxury home entertainment, and Cory mentioned that his company is getting an increasing number of requests for video-wall installations so people can display unique, commissioned works of video art

in their homes.

 

Intrigued, I reached out to a number of people I trust to know a lot more about something like this than I do. Some of them were well aware of, and up to speed on, the whole “art wall” thing and excited about the possibilities. Some of them had no idea what I was talking about. That suggested that this is a bona fide trend that hasn’t yet achieved broad awareness even among the luxury-tech cognoscenti.

 

What follows can’t really be called an introduction to art walls—it’s more like some random notes pointing in their general direction. But I wanted to send out an early missive as I do my due diligence and we, as a site, begin to wrap our arms around the phenomenon.

 

It would probably be a good idea to show you what I’m talking about. A bunch of website loops and Vimeo clips obviously can’t begin to convey the impact of these installations, but they can at least give you a taste of what they’re all about.

First up, a projector-driven installation Barco did at the the Carrières de Lumières, a quarry-based exhibition space in Provence, France. (Early evidence suggests Barco has been largely responsible for defining, promoting, and facilitating the art-wall category—but we’ll circle back to all that in later posts.)

Art Walls: The Next Big Thing?

Next, two works by Refik Anadol. I was steered to these by Barco Residential managing director Tim Sinnaeve, who has been tremendously generous and patient about addressing my ignorant queries and bringing me up to speed. The first is Melting Memories, a 20 x 16.7-foot LED video wall of “data sculptures” based on brain-wave activity associated with memory:

The second is “Wind of Boston,” a series of video paintings that feed off from a one-year set of meteorological data gleaned from Logan Airport:

Art walls seem to be catching on for a number of reasons. Projectors are brighter, projection screens are better at rejecting ambient light, and technology like MicroLED is taking hold that will allow you to create practically any size screen out of flat-panel video displays. Also, people are finally starting to think of video screens less as eyesores and more as design opportunities. Third—although this might just be wishful thinking on my part—the proliferation of content via streaming might be creating genre burnout, causing people to reject cookie-cutter mass-market diversions for more meaningful work. Or maybe they’re just taking video works more seriously as art.

 

Tim Sinnaeve discourages using the phrase “art wall,” by the way, in favor of “Architectural Digital Canvas,” while referring to the content itself as “New Media Art.” I can see the need for the more accurate nomenclature—there’s no reason, for instance, why you can’t have video images on the ceiling or the floor as well as the wall—but “art wall” seems like the more intuitive term, at least as we begin to explore the trend.

 

Tim pointed out something that was kind of an epiphany for me, since it suggests that these installations are part of a larger paradigm shift in luxury tech. Art walls deliberately try to avoid the connotations of the 16:9 aspect ratio, which we associate with computer monitors, movies, TV shows, and gaming, so the viewer will more readily embrace the art work on its own terms. The idea of freeing screens from the tyranny of the proscenium could clear the way for other innovative tech-driven art/entertainment experiences in the home, again, helping to break the stranglehold of mass-produced genre-driven melodrama. It could also finally provide a way for architects and designers, who tend to look askance at the man cave and its descendants, to embrace cutting-edge video tech in the home.

 

Like I said—just a bunch of random notes as we begin to look into a development well worth checking out.

Michael Gaughn

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.

Ep. 9: New Frontiers in Content & Compression

The Cineluxe Hour logo

Episode 9 opens with hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger talking about Dennis’s piece
on the surprisingly high quality of 4K streaming when watched using the right device.

 

At 6:18, Cineluxe contributor Andrew Robinson joins Mike & Dennis to discuss how Netflix
might be a threat to both the TV networks & the movie studios but the really innovative
programming isn’t happening on Netflix but on YouTube.

 

At 33:22, Cineluxe contributor John Higgins joins Andrew, Dennis & Mike to discuss the
controversy set off by the literally unwatchable Game of Thrones “Long Night” episode
and whether we can expect to see compression problems disappear any time soon.

 

The episode concludes at 59:20 with everyone (except Mike) talking about the most
interesting things they’re watched, listened to, or experienced in the past two weeks.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT MORE EPISODES OF THE CINELUXE HOUR

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Andrew Robinson is a photographer and videographer by trade, working on commercial and branding projects all over the US. He has served as a managing editor and freelance journalist in the AV space for nearly 20 years, writing technical articles, product reviews, and guest speaking on behalf of several notable brands at functions around the world.

John Higgins lives a life surrounded by audio. When he’s not writing for Cineluxe, IGN, or Wirecutter, he’s a professional musician and sound editor for TV/film. During his down time, he’s watching Star Wars or learning from his toddler son, Neil.

Ep. 8: Who Needs 8K?

The Cineluxe Hour logo

Hosts Michael Gaughn & Dennis Burger open Episode 8 with an apology for the long gap between episodes, caused by a technical glitch.

 

At 4:39, Cineluxe contributor Adrienne Maxwell and Wirecutter senior staff writer Chris Heinonen—arguably the two biggest experts on video displays in the industry—join Dennis & Mike to discuss the emergence of and potential for 8K video.

 

At  26:37, Chris and Dennis discuss Chris’s online 4K viewing-distance calculator, and at 30:32, everybody talks about the movies, series, and books they’ve checked out recently.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT MORE EPISODES OF THE CINELUXE HOUR

RELATED EPISODE

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

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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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