City Home Cinemas offers a vintage theatrical experience for 21st century enthusiasts

posted on Tuesday, 11th October 2016 by Geny Caloisi

Rako  Control4  City Home Cinema  Digital Projection 

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City Home Cinemas (CHC) recently invited Inside CI to experience first hand what a spectacular home cinema can be like. Boasting a Digital Projection 4K laser projector, Oppo’s 4K UHD Bluray Player, 3D audio and a Stewart acoustically transparent film screen, we watched documentary footage, films, cartoons and even YouTube clips. All content provided an optimal viewing experience, and the icing on the cake was the unique vintage décor.

Peter Walker (pictured below), founder and MD of City Home Cinema, a self-confessed cinema addict, opened the demo session with ‘Welcome to my world of dreams.’ The septuagenarian, who had lived through the golden era of cinema as well as through its worst period when television replaced cinema outings, believes home cinemas can re-kindle the true magic of the moving pictures experience.

CHC Peter W

“Going to the cinema used to be about an evening of entertainment,’ recalls Walker. “When I run my independent cinema in Camden in the mid-eighties, I made it into a success because the whole experience was about entertainment. Before the lights were switched off for the movie, I would talk to my customers, we would have a band in the foyer, ice-cream girls and raffles amid luxurious and sparkling surrounding. I made them feel special and welcomed, like I felt on my first cinema outing. The Camden Parkway cinema was restored to its original Art Deco style and customers queue to come in and experience a real night out at the cinema.”

Walker run Camden Parkway cinema for ten years with outstanding success, having won the title of ‘Best Cinema in London’ and receiving a recognition from the British Film Industry for its ‘Services to British Cinema.’

Premiers at the Camden Parkway were selected and planned meticulously. Walker’s aim was to attract ‘thinking people’ to his cinema, not necessarily the 15-20 year-old bracket that Hollywood seemed to be most interested on. Films such as David Lean’s ‘Passage to India’ were the ideal movies to show. Now Walker has found a formula to replicate this in the heart of the home. 

The CHC showroom in Eltham is decorated on a theatrical Art Deco style, using white, blue and gold. The eight-sitter cinema has a 3.7 metres wide screen, 2.40:1 auto side masking, which is unveiled when the curtains are drawn. As soon as you entred this room you feel that you are in for a treat. The décor, the smell of the leather seats and the changing lights colour scheme open the door to the time machine. The technology is totally invisible.

There are 17 Wisdom Audio speakers discreetly installed in walls and ceiling as well as 4 Wisdom Audio RTL  subwoofers. A 24-channel cinema surround processor from Datasat, coupled to Datasat amplifiers provide the audio. Rako has been used for the LED 4 channel dimmer module and the control system bridge. The changing colours on the room make it look diferent all the time. All converge on the Control4 HC800 main control processor. There are also Control4 panels through out the showroom to manage the individual areas.

The Digital Projection ‘114 821 Insight’ 4K and 3D laser projector gives an impeccable image quality with full 4096 x 2160 4K resolution. Being laser, there is no lamp to replace and it has 20,000 hours of illumination life. Although it’s not a compact projector it was invisible within the room, just a projector porthole as it would be on mainstream cinema.

Peter Walker CHC Copy

As Walker pointed out, the surroundings, with the attention to detail on its Art Deco style, and its invisible AV equipment, is where the entertainment starts. Once the lights are out, it is the movie that needs to capture the audience. However, if the quality of the video and or audio is not optimal, the magic doesn’t happen.

At one point while watching one of the clips, there was the sensation of a breeze, which all-present thought perhaps the air-con has come on. In reality it was the particles of air moved by the speakers. Object based 3D audio gave the sound a sense of directionality but it didn’t detract the attention from what our eyes were taking in.

The cinema also has a Lumagen 4K scaler, brand new from Radiance Pro 4K. This unit scales all its inputs to a 4K output as required (full HDR/HDCP2.2/HDMI 2.0 compliance) adding video calibration features and picture improvements and of course, the ability to instantly switch aspect ratios (mainly 1.78:1 and 2.40:1 but also 1.33:1, 1.85:1 etc) without having to use very expensive and artefact inducing anamorphic lenses and sleds. The Lumagen does such a good job of normal blu-ray and broadcast tv, that it is almost as good as a native 4K blu-ray and sometimes indistinguishable from the UHD version. 

Graham Goodbun, CHC’s Technical Director, explained that the room was designed to give optimal audio and viewing experience from every seat.

All movies and documentary content was managed using a Kaleidescape server and to see what other sources might look like, CHC has Apple TV, Sky HD and internet sources.

Whether it was widescreen ratio or  full cinemascope, the immersive experience that CHC has to offer, I would say, is better than what one might get at in a commercial cinema.

CHC welcomes visitors by appointment only. If you want to head to South east London to experience it yourself, check www.cityhomecinemas.co.uk.

Geny Caloisi

Geny Caloisi is an accomplished technology journalist who has worked in a variety of AV industry publications. 

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