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.
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.
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.
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 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.