The way audio-visual systems are integrated into yachts has changed significantly. It used to be all about who had the biggest plasma screen, but today the yacht AV market – and particularly on board cinema – is flooded with new technologies which promise to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. From 9D action cinemas with dramatic special effects like fog, lightning, touch, feel and movement, to your own private IMAX theatre, it must be difficult to know what to invest in and what will be a passing fad which may leave you with redundant equipment in a matter of years. We asked Managing Director and Founder of Yacht Intelligence, Alan Bernardi, for his thoughts.

What do you think about emerging cinema technologies for yachts?

“I have an issue with so-called ‘cinemas’ on many yachts. I think many promise excitement but result in disappointment. Due to the restrictive physical environment, poor planning, a focus on gimmicky technology, and designers focusing on form rather than function, owners often compromise too much; they end up with an ordinary room with a large TV and speaker system in it. That’s not a cinema. It may well be a very nice room with acceptable sound but that’s all it is. The world is fixated on gimmicks – 4D all the way to 9D is being talked about, sold and tested – but in my opinion these novelties will soon wear off, not least when the realities of maintenance and support come to light. I believe that the investment should be focused on creating a luxury experience in keeping with the rest of the yacht. When a system is planned and engineered properly, enjoying optimum quality images and sound in a custom made cinematic environment becomes a unique and exciting experience”.

What should the ultimate on board cinema experience be like?

“The key to achieving an amazing cinematic experience on a yacht is to get everything right at the design stage by working closely with the interior designer, gaining their trust and helping them to understand our process. Our team works from a blank canvas and builds a custom installation from the backbone up. This encompasses cable infrastructure, ergonomic design, acoustic performance and interior finish as well as the hardware and software to create a luxurious and comfortable viewing environment. I firmly believe that intelligent lighting controls, the layering of wall panels for optimum acoustics and the materials used add significantly to the overall experience, without the need to invest in ‘the next big thing’ technically, that could be out of date fast. Positioning is important too: a lot of cinemas are automatically located on the main decks which ends up making them an entertainment space rather than a cinema. Ideally the lower decks of the yacht is a good use of space but, in our opinion, the experience should begin before you enter the lobby creating the ultimate cinema experience”.

Ultimately, is it all about the look and feel?

“Absolutely not! What we call the backbone – the cabling, communication systems and the way the system is engineered and installed – is absolutely critical to the end result. Often, streaming movie premieres shore side is possible in a private home theatre, but when you’re out to sea (when you want the entertainment switched on!) bandwidth speeds throttle performance. That’s one of the reasons why effective planning and management is important”.

How do you go about planning an installation?

“If I said we designed by numbers, it will sound like I’m oversimplifying, but seriously, the numbers need to stack up. The fundamental elements in creating a cinema room is image engineering and to determine the reference level; this is the optimum audio level at the listening position, which, in itself, is the best position in the room to view and listen to the movie. The size of the room should determine the size of the screen. This, in turn, determines the viewing distance and seating layout. This leads onto the power of the amplifiers needed to fill the space for perfect audio, positioning of other equipment such as filters and UPS systems, and also the choice of projector which is determined by the light output required. It’s only by working through this methodically that you can create the ‘wow factor’ that everyone wants to achieve in their private cinema. After conducting a full lifestyle analysis and listening to owner’s ideas, we present our plans as a 3D vision. To ensure that everything is correct, we draw the room in detail using CAD, visualising seating and showing where key equipment will be placed. We go through recommended hardware and assemble a product portfolio with full product specifications too. This process enables owners to get a clear understanding of what the finished product will look like and how it will perform”.

Tell us about Yacht Intelligence.

“I founded Yacht Intelligence on the back of twenty years industry experience of integrating audio visual systems into properties and yachts around the world. As a Director of a major AV systems company working in the marine market, I was responsible for many multi-million pound projects, leading a team that was responsible for creating some ground-breaking concepts. Today, I continue to work on multi-million pound contracts but do so with a much more personal service. Because we’re a smaller team, we are able to get really involved in the detail and we work hard to understand our client’s needs before proposing a bespoke solution. We provide a single point of contact for the whole project and take full project management responsibility through the installation phase and for ongoing support afterwards. It’s very important to lay down expectations early on, setting budgets and project managing in detail so that we can achieve best value at all times and work within any constraints money or time-wise. Over the years we have learnt to work with interior designers to achieve a luxurious, comfortable and beautiful finish but at the same time, enable us to engineer the system to the highest standards effectively. I’m not interested in rolling out the latest gadgets because we have a sales target to do so. I am interested in creating innovative, customised experiences which blow you away”.

Yacht Intelligence AV Nemo Room with IMAX screenYou’re well known as one of the companies behind the ‘Nemo Room’ project, the first IMAX Private Theatre on board a 150 metre yacht designed by Ken Freivokh. Is this as good as it gets for Yacht Intelligence?

“Not at all. Nemo Room was an amazing opportunity and one that we are extremely proud to be associated with. However, it is just one concept idea for one owner – and we have many more of those up our sleeves!”

This interview with Yacht Intelligence founder Alan Bernardi was published by Superyacht Times who asked our opinion on the latest cinema technologies and how to go about planning the perfect onboard cinematic experience. Thanks for a great article! Read it here.