EI was recently treated to a trip around the highly impressive Barco HQ in Belgium, including an exclusive look at the recently created high-end home cinema demo space.

The trip was hosted by various members of the Barco team – providing EI and a group of invited installers a full tour of this highly impressive HQ. The trip was arranged by Apex-Tech UK, a distributor for Barco Residential in the UK, so integrators could experience the updated Barco Experience Centre and residential cinema demo. Even before you enter the building known as One Campus, the scale and ambition of what Barco strives for is underlined by this futuristic building, created by renowned Belgian architectural firm Jaspers-Eyers, the co-author of the design was Pierre Lallemand. The building won the prize for Best Office Development at the International Property Awards and was nominated for Best Office Building. Barco is a big believer in providing an inspiring workplace and this building certainly does that. The environment fosters ‘chance encounters’, meaning it is has been designed so people can meet and talk to each other freely and in an informal way. Acting as the company’s official HQ, Campus One has approximately 1,200 people work there, with a further 3,100 worldwide, spread over 90 countries.

Are You Experienced?

The highly knowledgeable Liesbet Soenens, Customer Engagement, Inside Sales and Experience Centre Manager, led our group around the company’s recently updated Experience Centre, which was first opened in May 2016. In September, Barco refurbished the experience centre in order to further its mission of winning trust, convincing a faster upsell/cross-sell to customers for both partners and end users alike. The Experience Centre comprises of a series of impressive demonstration areas, complete with revolving room sets to fit even more equipment and information into the tour. The wider aims of the initiative include strengthening business relationships and loyalty, uncovering new opportunities for upsell, providing an immersive full brand experience and to capture the ‘voice of the customer’ helping to create a common language.

The Experience Centre boasts many high-tech demo areas, including a 160-seat movie theatre, state-of-the-art home cinema (more about this soon) enterprise rooms which show the company’s abilities in control rooms, large video walls, meeting room solutions, virtual reality and learning solutions. There is also a healthcare zone which underscores Barco’s offering in diagnostic imaging, clinical review and pathology, dermatology and surgical imaging. The Experience Centre also showcases the company’s involvement with immersive experiences and simulation, and image processing. Tours and special events put on at the Experience Centre serve as a way to engage with a mix of partners, distributors, resellers and consultants, but also many end-users. Ambassadors, government, C-level leaders and education establishments are also all regular visitors. If a visitor was not aware of the vast scope of Barco’s reach, and expertise, they are left in no doubt by the end of the tour. From EI’s perspective, the performance attained by Barco Residential is more fully appreciated when the full scope of Barco‘s technologies is explained.

The New Home Cinema Showroom

The main event for our tour was of course the newly created home cinema demo space and Bart Devos, Business Development Manager, EMEA, Barco Residential, was on hand to bring everyone up to speed.

So how did the project come about? Bart explains, “Initially the plan was to update the existing Barco Residential demo space as part of the overall revamp of the Barco Experience centre. Eventually though the decision was made to move to a larger space.”

The main event for our tour was of course the newly created home cinema demo space and Bart Devos, Business Development Manager, EMEA, Barco Residential, was on hand to bring everyone up to speed.

So how did the project come about? Bart explains, “Initially the plan was to update the existing Barco Residential demo space as part of the overall revamp of the Barco Experience centre. Eventually though the decision was made to move to a larger space.”

This initial ambition, however, changed considerably once the project got underway. Bart explains, “One could say it changed alright. The refresh was mainly going to consist of some cosmetics/design work and an upgrade of the projectors in that room. Eventually we went for a completely new room, to be designed and built from scratch, which is quite a bit larger than the old one. It was to feature both our Pulse Series as well as our Cinema at Home Series products since we wanted to demonstrate different performance levels, including the ability to watch DCI content in the comfort of your own home. To meet those requirements we selected our Njord Cinemascope and Freya+ projectors.

Neil Davidson, Managing Director of Apex-Tech UK, responsible for many aspects of the build explains, “Apex-Tech UK are a specialist distributor of home cinema and invisible sound. ‘Specialist’ means that we can assist our dealers to deliver the highest-level systems and leverage the wider capabilities of my group of companies that make it as easy as possible for the dealer to deliver to their customer. One example of this is our involvement in creating and constructing this wonderful new facility, incorporating several of our own brands.”

This laudable new ambition was however bought sharply into focus when the original deadline of 8 September remained in place leaving very limited time to get the project done.

Bart explains that interiors specialist int3, Apex Tech and the Barco Facilities team deserve huge praise for meeting this deadline. Together, they made sure that over a period of only a few weeks the required change in project plans was dealt with. The whole construction of the room and the installation of the equipment was executed in just 12 days. That meant very long working days, including working two weekends straight. Bart explains, “If it’s not some sort of world record then surely it must rank up there with the best!”

Neil adds, “The room features an int3 New Orleans room design which was tailored exactly to the Barco requirements and features a full modular isolated room system and acoustic treatment behind fabric. We really wanted those present to understand the flexibility and performance levels this system can deliver.”

Creating such a high-performance demo space of course cannot happen in a vacuum, the room still has to adhere to all the necessary requirements of any commercial space; power, fire safety, HVAC and so on. On the other hand, Barco wanted to make sure that the Residential demo space effectively felt properly residential.

Bart says, “At the end of the day, the idea is that it should be all about the experience. We want people who sit down for a demo to actually forget about the world outside for 10 to 20 minutes. That means a nice looking and comfortable space and no noise from outside the room leaking in, which would disturb the experience of course.

“Looking at the end result and the reactions so far, we like to think that we managed both sets of requirements very well with the only small concession made – being the sprinklers. But even those have been integrated very well into the actual cinema room.”

Just a few of the technological aspects of the space include the two projectors residing in a separate air conditioned equipment room on a Display Technologies electronic lift mechanism, allowing them to remain entirely separate to the viewing space, but also easily accessible. The equipment rack also resides in the same equipment room and includes a madVR Envy Video Processor, a Kaleidescape Compact Terra 12TB movie server and Strato C 4K movie player as well as a Barco ClickShare. The design team decided to locate the game consoles and Blu-Ray player in a credenza inside the cinema for ease of access.

Bart expands on the aims of the space, “One thing we were very conscious of was striking the right balance between performance and design. Of course, we wanted to make sure that the video quality was at the highest level possible, and likewise we wanted to provide a great immersive audio experience too, which thanks to the powerful 9.4.6 configuration we’re able to do. But we did not want a completely blacked out room – it needed to be a pleasant space where you want to spend time and not want to get up and leave at the end of the demo.”

Neil adds, “The biggest challenge is always to deliver the result that the client dreams of. In this case even the room housing the cinema needed to be constructed. The int3 Modular Isolated Room System was perfect for this and a key factor in the incredibly fast build program. The interior of the room was implemented using the int3 Adorno solution with no tuck fabric install fitted over the Adorno acoustic panels. The particular design chosen by Barco included Light Walls dynamic lighting which brings both functional lighting of different brightness levels and fully pixel addressable coloured scenes. Everyone notices when the interval lights come on as a moving fade from the top of the wall down.

Audio is at the heart of great cinema and the space features a fantastic TPI Cinema speaker system which delivers exceptional power, dynamics and envelopment. For image, it was essential to preserve the perfect image of the Barco Freya+ and Njord CinemaScope projectors. Display Technologies Port Hole Glass Double Glazed was used to isolate the seating area from the equipment area and a Dynamic-2S screen with ATPro image surface retains projectors sharp and impactful images.”

So, there is always a favourite aspect, right? Bart says, “It’s the fact that the room ultimately delivers on what we set out to achieve: a great private cinema demo experience. Since the opening for our Capital Markets Day, we’ve had a huge variety of people sitting down for a demo: lots and lots of Barco colleagues from across our organisation, but also investors, journalists, a first group of integrators as well as a few end clients. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with many commenting they’ve ‘never experienced anything like it before’.

Which just happens to be one of the things Barco Residential’s been saying for a long time: we show you content you know like you’ve never experienced it before.”

Barco is very keen to underline the impact a space like this has outside the inner circle of the AV world.

Bart argues, “As professionals in our industry, it’s sometimes easy to go down the rabbit hole in search of ‘the last word’ in audio and/or video performance – a lot of us have had the good fortune of being able to see or hear some of the best equipment on the planet (at any price level) multiple times over the years.

“But for lots of (potential) end clients setting foot inside a space like ours, it may very well be the first time ever that they’ll have such an experience. We believe that a lot of potential clients still don’t know that they can have this type of experience at home should they choose to. And in a lot of cases, all it takes is just one demo that can make the change from ‘We never knew this existed!’ to ‘We need this in our house/vacation home/yacht/…!’.

“Lots of those first visitors had in fact never seen what 4K HDR content can and should look like when you’re doing it at 50fL (post calibration) with accurate colors, sublime uniformity and phenomenal ANSI contrast.”

So, are the main business benefits Barco hopes to gain from the project?

Bart comments, “We hope that beyond ourselves, our entire industry will benefit from this project. By showcasing what is possible, we’re confident that more integrators will propose these solutions to clients, and likewise we believe more clients will be demanding this level of performance and execution from their integrators when discussing their next video entertainment requirements for their homes.

“Thanks to this new demo space we’re now able to show visitors how fantastic private cinema can be when executed properly. As for type of visitors, we’re looking at distributors, integrators, end clients, architects, interior designers. It is all about exposing people to what is available and what can technically be achieved. Seeing is believing, so what better way for people to see it than at our own headquarters?

A highly impressive visit, and a real eye opener into the wider world of Barco and how it achieves the levels of performance it does for its home cinema partners.

Read the original article in Essential Install Magazine, Issue 11/2022

For more details on mentioned products head here:

DT Port Hole Glass Double Glazed ≥ 90% transmisivity dual AR coated
DT Dynamic-2S – 2 way motorised side masking screen