A Theater Worthy of the Seven Kingdoms
April 25, 2019
Author: Erin Phillips Photos courtesy: Joe Hillard
Forget the Iron Throne. One GoT superfan builds a home cinema that offers everyone the best seat in the house, with an experience powerful enough to shatter the White Walkers.
According to Entertainment Weekly, viewership of HBO’s Game of Thrones hit an outstanding 30 million spectators during the season seven premiere and will likely see an even higher uptick in the eighth (and final) season upon release in 2019.
However, for some, simply watching the show is not enough. I’m talking about those superfans who want to be transported directly into the world of Westeros; to be completely surrounded by the excitement, consumed by the atmosphere. Every sound. Every visual. Every emotion.
Jacob Abbott, president of Visual Concepts in Nashville, TN, knows one of these Game of Thrones superfans quite well. In fact, he was tasked with an opportunity to bring an extravagant GoT-inspired theater dream to life in one of the most unique and jaw-dropping in-home cinemas we’ve ever seen.
The homeowner had a vision for his Game of Thrones and “Spartacus”-themed home theater that was nothing short of spectacular. Before approaching Visual Concepts, he had already sought help from two other custom install companies, but neither company had the capability or creativity to build the theater he was looking for, nor did they offer the audio/video equipment that provided the level of performance and immersive experience mandated. This customer wasn’t just looking for great sound—he was looking for the most resolved, clear, and powerful sound system available; sound that would completely blow his guests away when fire-breathing dragons roared overhead, or thousands of horse-mounted warriors clashed on the battlefield.
Abbott and the rest of the team at Visual Concepts were more than up for the Game of Thrones theater challenge. “Listening to and truly getting to know your customer is incredibly important when designing custom home theaters,” said Abbott. “In my nearly 20 years of doing this, never before have I worked with a more avid movie buff/audiophile that had such cool memorabilia that he wanted to incorporate into the space. We knew we needed to think outside the box—be inventive and over-the-top—from the equipment specified, to the automation, and to every last detail in the interior design in order to nail this project.”
Visual Concepts worked with local theater designer and builder Donny Hackett Design to conceptualize the renovation of the room. After taking measurements, they kick-started the development process using a sophisticated CAD (computer-aided design) program to model the theater. By special customer request, the theater was to be a detailed replication of a scene from Spartacus or Game of Thrones. “Hackett’s team let their imaginations run wild,” said Abbott.
“Knowing nothing suggested would be seen as too much, his team considered every detail of the room from the complete reconstruction of the stairwell, ceilings and walls, to rich fabrics, plush furniture, specialized lighting, and even theme-specific automation features that incorporated the customer’s medieval memorabilia and collections from other fandoms.”
Visual Concepts specified a 7.2 Pro Audio Technology sounds system to meet the customer’s high expectations. “Being a fan of Game of Thrones myself, I was blown away by the creativity and attention to detail that Hackett, Abbott, and his team put into this project,” said L. Paul Hales, Owner and Product Designer of Pro Audio Technology. “We are gratified that the PRO system was able to exceed the high expectations of the client.”
For video, Visual Concepts was able to get their hands on one of the first 4K Wolf DLD-280FD laser DLP projectors in the industry with ProScaler MK III, along with a Seymour AV screen and Helix media server. The entire AV rack, including four Pro Audio Technology PMA amplifiers and a Marantz pre-amp, is hidden behind a seven-foot-tall motorized door that can be unlocked only by lifting the end of a customized skeleton key installed on a nearby shelf.
The theater is situated above a garage and needed a significant amount of soundproofing, so Visual Concepts used Dynamat to get the job done. Together, with Hackett’s team, they also completely rebuilt the stairwell and motorized lift-gate entrance. After a significant amount of concrete work, the staircase was transformed into a spiral staircase resembling that of a castle.
At the top of the winding stairs, visitors are greeted by a wooden arched double-door entrance. To the left of the entrance is a custom-made bar atop whiskey barrels, antiqued to give it an authentic look. The dramatic vaulted starlit ceilings and side panels of the theater also feature backlit DMX RGB lighting that, much like all of the theater devices and components, can be controlled by one, easy-to-use automation system from Control4.
Taking the automation experience to the next level, Visual Concepts worked with the designers to incorporate the customer’s sword collection into six individual motorized columns throughout the room, each lit from within and timed so that when switched on, one-by-one the columns rotate and light up to reveal the sword within.
The theater also includes a coffee table with a CNC-machined (computer numerical control), back-lit map of the Game of Thrones world. Knocking three times on the coffee table unlocks and opens it to reveal the customer’s hidden gaming consoles. The designers also built wings for the customer-supplied dragon head, which are mounted on the wall directly above the projector screen with eyes lit by pin lights mounted on the projector for visual effects, and a full suit of armor cleverly named “Ser Duncan the Tall” stands on guard at the rear of the theater.
The entire project design, construction, installation, and automation took over twelve months, with dozens of hands on deck. From the very first step of the stairwell, the Spartacus & Game of Thrones theme is apparent. Visitors are immediately transported through time as they walk below the lift-gate and up the candlelit cement castle stairs, complete with backlit varnished rope handrail, to the otherworldly theater above.
“Our client was extremely specific right down to the most minute details, but as the popular Game of Thrones saying goes, 'the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword,' and so we did," said Abbott. “Each challenge the client presented gave us the opportunity to build something bigger and better than anything we’d done before. Not only is the Game of Thrones theater by far the best-looking and best-sounding room we’ve ever built, but the real satisfaction comes from seeing the look of pure joy on our client’s face. He was completely and totally blown away by the final product.”
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