Home cinema install: C'est magnifique!

This elegant high-end cinema room snuck into an 18th-century French chateau

AV install specialist Finite Solutions has offices in London, Cheshire and Leeds, but its work isn't limited to just the UK. This dedicated cinema room occupies what was formerly the billiards room of a chateau in rural France. C'est la vie.  

The owner, a huge music and movie fan, already owned a high-end stereo music system from British brand Linn (plus a large collection of films and albums) and approached Finite Solutions demanding a cinema room with the same emphasis on quality. In short, he wanted a room where the image and sound performance had to be truly remarkable. And, judging from the kit installed, money wasn't much of a concern...

Akurate audio performance

Once 3D modelling had been completed and a final design agreed upon, Finite Solutions set about bringing in the hardware. The room sports a 7.2 speaker array, all drawn from the Linn product stable. The company's high-end Akurate speakers and power amplifiers are used for the front left, front right, centre channel and dual subwoofers. For the rear and surround channels, Linn Majik speakers and amplifiers are employed. 

The floorstanding Akurate 242s, on front left/right duty, are deliciously over-engineered. Designed to be equally at home with hi-res music as movie soundtracks, they marry dual 6.5in bass drivers with the company's proprietary 3K Driver Array, a trio of high-frequency drivers mounted tightly to provide point-source dispersion. You can get these £7,500-per-pair speakers in any of 200 finishes. Here, they've opted for traditional wood.

Unlike most other professional makeovers, none of the speakers are housed in-wall or camouflaged in custom cabinetry. They're all on show. This is a consequence of the property itself – Finite Solutions had to ensure the installation was sympathetic to the original décor of the 18th century building, and the owner's personal taste.

Tying the audio system altogether is an Anthem AVM 50v processor. This heavyweight slab offers the brand's ARC room EQ system, hi-res audio decoding and twin bespoke DSPs. Feeding this is an Oppo universal Blu-ray layer, plus an Apple TV set-top box, Canal+ satellite receiver and a PlayStation 3.

The projector is JVC's DLA-X75, a £7,000 model with the second generation of the brand's e-shift uprezzing technology and a barnstorming performer. And its visuals are given real space to impress – the room is dominated by a gigantic projector screen, chosen once room size and throw calculations had been taking into account, from Screen Research. A high gain fixed-frame model from its Supreme Series, it measures 3.5m wide. 

The cinema features discreet sound treatments to get the best from its high-end audio setup. All of the walls are covered with absorption material, to deaden it acoustically, and these are finished in a dark blue fabric to build upon the room's unique styling. In fact, the owner insisted on having little in the room to detract from the image on the screen. 

At the business end of the cinema, there are no pictures, images or lighting, and the installation team worked to eradicate any reflections from a window or picture. 'There's not a single ray of light,' explains Finite Solutions' Design Director Phil Cotton. 'So many cinemas are a bit bling – a bit MTV Cribs  – whereas this is understated and elegant. 'Nothing is just for show. It is streamlined and expressly lacking in superfluous room jewellery. The choice to decorate the room very simply with no frills – just comfortable furniture – was a deliberate one.'

Taking control

'No frills' isn't a philosophy that extends to system control. Individual hardware handsets were put in a kitchen drawer and a Control 4 system was implemented to both provide ease-of-use (vital as guests would often be using the cinema room) and joined-up hardware functionality.

Two controllers are used, a 7in touchscreen model and Control 4's SR250 remote control. Apparently the owner prefers the former while his wife likes the more traditional handheld option. Selecting content from any source and firing up the PJ becomes straightforward.

The lighting array is also controllable using the Control 4 remote controls, as well as a Lutron Grafik Eye QS. Everything except the 'All Off' preset, actually. With its tiered seating array and slender stairway up the side of the room, the decision was made to keep the step-lighting on at a low level whenever the cinema space is in use, to avoid anyone tripping over in the dark during the interval. 'These lights can only be turned off at the doorway as the cinema is being shut down,' explains the installer.

The seating – a mixture of luxurious-looking period style pieces – provides room across three levels for around a dozen movie fans, and there are additional chairs on hand should even more guests show up. Aesthetically, admits Finite Solutions, it is rather 'eccentric', but is exactly what the owner wanted. 'He loves it!'

And the resulting audio-visual experience is, we're told, rather special. 'This system can effortlessly handle anything you play on it, from action movies to delicate classical music,' explains Cotton. As for the owner, he simply says it's 'amazing!', particularly the epic effect of that truly large screen with hi-def material.

And it might not be the end of Finite Solutions' work across the Channel. With this picture palace going down such a storm, the owner is now considering a similar project for his holiday home on the Cote D’Azur. Naturally, Team HCC is open to invitations...

Installer info

Finite Solutions
0207 371 8761

Kit list

Screen Research: 3.5m fixed-frame high-gain Supreme Series projector screen
JVC: DLA-X75 projector
Oppo: BDP-103EU Blu-ray player
Sony: PlayStation 3
Apple: Apple TV
Linn: 2 x Akurate 242 floorstanders; 4 x Majik 109 bookshelf speakers (rear and surrounds); Akurate 225 centre speaker; 2 x Akurate 226 subwoofers; 4 x Akurate 4200 power amplifiers; 4 x Majik 4100 power amplifiers
Anthem: AVM 50v surround sound processor
Control 4: Control system incorporating touchscreen/handheld remotes; HC250 processor
Lutron: Grafik Eye QS