Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Film Place (TFP) Audio & Projector upgrade:




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After months of application and hard work by the BCA and TFP steering committee we finally got word the new screen fund could be applied to areas other than the screen This is great news as I had written a report outlining improvements across the board for this erstwhile and appreciated Cinema venue at Buckingham University (In my role as technical consultant for the charity).

Audio Hardware/Booth racking:

The original Audio surround system had been running based on a high end Yamaha AV amp; providing all amplification except for an active FBT Jolly LF speaker unit.  This high value and good performance system had served well but the time had come for a very real upgrade in performance.

The actual processing performance of this excellent machine would still be utilised, however it was time to relieve it of amplification duty and beef up that side of TFP.

An 8 channel power amplifier was sourced and the signal outputs from the Yamaha were fed into specific stereo and bridged channels of our new Amplifier.

To cope with the new equipment and its installation a new shelf/rack system was required to hold the amps and our terrific new NEC projector.
Untitled-1The original amps and players were simply stacked allowing for air flow (left below);  the new shelving gives simpler adjustment, wiring and more secure placement and use – shown during install (right below).

 resized_IMG-20120702-00480  resized_IMG-20120704-00507

The NEC projector is a very capable HD machine and outperforms the original University lecture machine by a wide margin. Further after the new end wall screen is reworked during the Christmas break we will be able to open up the image size to some 6 to 7 meters wide (diagonal being much greater) pending ratio height tests. For now the machine is nestled in a bespoke mount I made to hold it centrally and securely within the booth:


The following image shows the leaps and bounds in presentation scale currently and soon to come at the TFP:

RED: Original image on drop screen
BLUE: Current image on wall/white paint
GREEN: Final image size approximation following Christmas break


Surround speakers/LF/Centre:

The additional Amplification meant it was time to enhance the surround speaker set – up. Currently a classic 5:1 system as illustrated by the simple diagram below:

Centre Channel upgrade:

The Centre speakers consisted of two JBL control 1s, however it had become clear that much more SPL (sound pressure level) would be required here.  The excellent University maintenance team had lent and constructed for me their tower therefore adding two more of the JBL to the existing wall bolted bracket was fairly straight forward.  With a simple dual parallel/Series wiring circuit I was able to run the one centre channel feed at approx 8 Ohms to suit the bridged amplifier stereo pair channels 1+ 2 approx 350 w RMS shared between 4 speakers. The additional performance here cannot be understated and really adds to the dynamic new presentation.


Surround speakers:

Again the trusty JBL control speakers had served us well. Fortunately TFP had purchased a job lot of used professional quality speakers to be re-tasked at TFP.  Primarily I had 7 Bose THX rated Surround speakers to choose from.  I selected and tested the best condition 4 for use as our new Front L+R, rear L+R. Due to the Gypsum board dry lined walls in the Auditorium I was asked to make a spreader board to take the load of the main front L+R speakers (below left); Rears can be seen in very top corners (below right):

resized_IMG-20120704-00521  resized_IMG-20120704-00531

LF (Low Frequency):

The crux of any sound system, in relation to Movie Sound tracks is the depth and extent of the Bass, known as the LF. I am very happy to report that TFP now has Awesome LF and it will indeed rattle your bones should it need to.

Here is how it was achieved:

Currently we have one 12” FBT Jolly active bass speaker at front of the auditorium, this has been very effective but also just on the limit of the minimum in terms of LF SPL (sound pressure level) required in our venue size.

As part of re-tasking the pro speakers I looked at the 3 JBL 15” speaker based LF cabinets. These are simply monsters and needed putting to good use.  I chose to use only Two of them at top and rear of the Auditorium and keep the FBT LF unit at the front. I removed the HF drive horns and tidied them up. Two, was more than enough…secured together and mounted just in front of the projection booth they will be moved to front of the Auditorium and discretely hidden in the new projection wall structure over the Christmas break.

The LF performance is now nothing short of mind blowing and the whole audio package working hand in hand with the recently improved projection size and quality have resulted in an authentic and professional TFP presentation.  Lacking neither scale nor clarity.  All that is left to be done now is the final stage, the huge screen wall creation and subsequent opening up of the NEC projector lens to its full potential. 

The final job was to set the power amplifier channel levels relative to a movie presentation; This allows a dynamic audio performance with any type of film soundtrack without excessive strain on the amplifier, speakers or, crucially, the audience. Followed by a little double checking to ensure all the new optical audio and HDMI Video cables were correctly connected and then some high SPL testing…


A further recent addition and improvement to TFP Auditorium is the installation and use of some very atmospheric side down lights. These make for enough light to seat and remove that feeling of a learning room, brightly lit. These will fade to black (soon) to allow the eye to settle to new lower light levels and fully appreciate the new movie watching experience.



In short, TFP is now a fully fledged Cinema and can slug it out with the best of them; I challenge you to go and see a film there and not be hugely impressed. 

So please use and re-use your local brilliant cinema as it is truly reborn Phoenix like as a better, bigger and even more enjoyable event with family or friends.  Bear in mind also that TFP was one of the earliest large public digital cinemas in the UK. Something I am very proud to be part of.

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See you there soon!

Richard Grant:  twitter-logo-small