To the Bat Cave ... for a unique home theater experience
By Jeff Salton
August 20, 2009
Ever wanted to say: “To the Bat Cave …” but felt a bit of joker uttering those words out loud? Well, riddle me this … how does a home entertainment enthusiast 'Down Under' in Melbourne, Australia, get away with saying it? Holy Bat Cave replica Batman, he built his own … sock, biff, pow!
Constructed in the owner’s home basement from scratch by Frankston HiFi, this CEDIA award-winning special installation had to be built from the ground up, literally. The carpet was the first thing to be laid inside the ‘concrete cabin’, then the walls were constructed on top of that. Last thing to be installed was a special 10ft (3m) curved screen (the first one installed in an Australian home).
And because of the low headroom, efforts were made to remove any feeling of claustrophobia by taking a sensitive approach to furniture placement, this included using special room analysis software to determine the correct seating locations.
Entry to the ‘secret location’ is via a remote-controlled pneumatic sliding door (unfortunately, not bat poles). A touch of the panel outside and the door opens, the lights turn on to a predetermined level, the projector and scaler come to life, and the processor goes into action. So, by the time you’ve chosen your movie and had your first mouthful of popcorn, everything is humming along, just like a well-oiled Batmobile.
Director of Frankston HiFi, Chris Selby, who worked on the project, says that while the design may look a little ‘different’, the material from which it is made works extremely well as an acoustic diffuser with little or no slap echo or reverberation. “To sit in the room is surreal,” Chris said. “The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s much bigger than it looks, around 8m x 5.5m (26ft x 18ft). It has a great feel to it, even when there’s no movie playing.”
Chris explained how the home-owner came to him with a brief for “something different with wow factor, something themed”. Not long after the idea of a Bat Cave was conceived, almost coincidentally with the release of the movie Dark Knight.
Chris said that while he was convinced he could deliver on the client’s electronics expectations, “getting the walls to look like rock was a real challenge. “It took some a real effort to source the right materials so it didn’t look fake. And without any right angles in the room, we had a challenge locating the speakers so that the acoustics would be right. We hid the front speakers and sub woofers behind the front screen wall and the surround speakers were positioned strategically around the seating area.”
What the images don’t show is a full wet bar off to one side (with a bathroom through another remote-controlled sliding door) and all the equipment which – apart from the projector and lens – is housed in a separate room next to the Bat Cave. Chris says it looks like a mini communications room. Projector and screen
Chris says the curved screen, which measures 10ft x 4ft (3m x 1.3m) is perfect for cinemascope movies, the format preferred by most Hollywood movie companies for their theatrical releases which later move to DVD. But the screen automatically masks back to 16:9 if the viewer selects TV mode or Pay TV in that format. To achieve the best possible viewing experience, Chris chose a Blackwing III DILA Cineversum projector paired with a Schneider 2:35 anamorphic motorized lens, which enlarges the image to fit the right format. It glides automatically into place in front of the projector when cinemascope format is recognized by the DVD player.
“It’s the perfect combination,” says Chris, “you don’t even have to think about it. The anamorphic lens slides into place and the screen masks pull back to full screen – all silently and all without having to touch a button.”
Overall, Chris says the experience of watching any movie in the cave is sensational and that the customer was blown away with the results.
The room build took around 20 days while the installation of the equipment and acoustic set up took another eight full days.
Components (not to be carried on your Bat utility belt)
- Audio visual
The Bat Cave won the highly commended prize in the ‘above $100,000’ category at CEDIA Asia Pacific annual awards.