Inside Michael Bay’s Barco Home Cinema
‘Seeing the film as the director intended it’ is an expression often thrown around in the cinema technology sector. For Barco and Jeff Cooper Architects Inc, this phrase took on a new meaning when tasked with designing a 40+-seat digital theatre for none other than blockbuster film director, Michael Bay.
Whether you call yourself a fan or not, anyone who takes an interest in cinema has heard of Michael Bay.
I can see you picturing nuclear-level explosions and impossibly glamorous woman in various disaster scenarios now; in short, he gives his following what they want.
You only need glance at his films’ box office results to see that this is a man who knows what he’s doing, so he probably isn’t too concerned that you didn’t care for Transformers: Age of Extinction – it made over US$1 billion.
Naturally, the director is a huge cinephile with a penchant for premium-grade film technology, so when constructing his new East Gate Bel Air, California property he knew that nothing less than a home cinema to rival all others would do.
It just so happens that Michael is a long time advocate of Barco, having relied upon the projector manufacturer’s handling of details, sharpness and colour for years.
“I’ve worked with Barco for 15 years; it’s my projector of choice,” says Michael at his unique California home. “When I present my large-scale films to audiences for screening, I bring in Barco equipment. I obviously wanted the very latest and best technical specs out there – and with the image being the most important thing to me – I knew my theatre had to have a Barco projector. It is simply the best.”
As the director desired a 25-foot screen, a Barco Ultra-Bright 4K DLP projector was chosen to fit the bill, providing the brightness, contrast and picture-perfect colour required.
“Brightness is the key for our eyes to see colour and detail – especially with 3D – and this is where Barco really excels,” he reasons.
The Barco projector occupies a new 40+-seat home theatre secured behind a solid sculptured steel door, nestled within a hidden moss tree garden, and was specially tuned for Michael’s home cinema in order to achieve the best possible image quality.
“Picture quality was of primordial importance and that’s where we came in,” Tim Sinnaeve, managing director for high-end residential at Barco, tells CE Pro Europe.
“He was expecting nothing less than the best image quality available on the planet today, with particular focus on stunning brightness, excellent contrast and picture-perfect colour.
“Mr Bay is well known for pushing the envelope, in particular in terms of technology. He wanted the very latest and best technical specs, with the image quality being the most important thing. With his expertise and experience with Barco projectors, he considered the Barco 4K projector to be the best available on the market.”
Designing The Theatre
Let’s start with the cinema – and what a home cinema it is.
Michael worked with renowned theatre architect and acoustical engineer, Jeff Cooper of Jeff Cooper Architects Inc for the conception of the theatre to ensure that all aspects met his expectations.
An area that can only be described as a ‘prop room’ can be found before the theatre entrance, kitted out with all things Michael Bay, including – of course – the vintage Camaro/Bumblebee from the Transformers series.
“He paid for the house, so he gets pride of place,” the director smiles.
The auditorium is in stark contrast to the ultra-modern home, exuding a more understated, old movie house feel with art deco flourishes and a huge dome sprinkled with twinkle-fibre optic stars. “This was a detail that I grew up with as a kid in the old Los Angeles grand movie theatres, so I wanted to create that feeling here,” Michael explains.
The theatre – which incidentally is the first private Dolby Atmos theatre in Los Angeles – boasts steeply inclined rows of curved stadium seating in order to maximise sight lines and assure optimum hearing lines.
By sculpting the rows in this manner, maximum screen size was achieved for overall dramatic impact. The medium back rocker seats are upholstered in purple mohair, custom manufactured by Irwin Seating.
“Due to the excellent sight lines, every seat in the house is a great seat,’ says Jeff.
Naturally, the screen in enormous. The Stewart Filmscreen 12 foot high by 24 foot wide monster conceals five front speakers and two subwoofers that are mounted directly behind it for accurate acoustic imaging.
The Microperf screen contains thousands of micro perforations to enable acoustic transparency, coupled with the highest quality video image.
Not forgetting the Barco 4K digital video projector mounted in the projection/machine room directly behind.
“Even for a high end luxury home theatre, the screen size is exceptionally large at 24 feet,” Tim admits.
“Achieving the required brightness for that size screen would be a massive challenge for any home theatre projector – and one that few could meet - especially when no compromise can be made on any other aspect of image quality: resolution, contrast, colour accuracy.”
The Barco projector was more than up to the task however, and was able to meet that challenge without compromise.
The theatre itself is built to the highest digital standards and is DCI compliant.
“This means that released and unreleased studio films can be stored in various technical formats (Dolby 5.1, 7.1 and Atmos) and played back on demand via the encrypted hard drive, which is rack-mounted in the projection/machine room,” Jeff explains.
“The sound and projection system can be controlled by the projectionist or remotely operated by the owner using a wireless Crestron system.”
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