VA helps deliver Dolby Atmos at Tate Modern’s Starr Cinema

Veale Associates (VA) played a key role in the refurbishment of the cinema at The Tate Modern recently, providing acoustic design and treatment services for the 250-seat room – now renamed Starr Cinema – and handling the speaker design for its new Dolby Atmos system.

Stevenage-based VA worked closely with leading broadcast systems integration company IPE on the venue, which is one of only 26 UK cinemas to be kitted out with Atmos surround sound technology so far.

Before the technology design could be addressed, the building structure and acoustics required a major refurbishment and VA principal Eddie Veale liaised with Dolby’s studio certification department for several months prior to work commencing, due to the complexity imposed by the building constraints.

One of the many challenges for VA was to ensure that the reverb and acoustic performance would work for presentations and live performance as well as for cinema. Sandwiched between the Tate Café and the large Turbine Hall, the previous cinema struggled with sound leakage, which needed to be fixed.

VA was tasked with designing an acoustic setup that would combat the physical problems, while providing the fit-out company West One with robust finishes and at the same time meeting the architectural brief.

Bass traps were put in the wall and ceiling and the speakers were concealed so that they are not visible – a move that met the approval of Tate’s project team while fulfilling the concept of sound source transparency.

According to VA, the result is tightly controlled acoustics so that the visitor will hear everything, no matter where they are seated, and together with Dolby Atmos, the acoustic treatment ensures that the audience experiences a full and realistic sound that originates from the screen and tracks around the auditorium.

The cinema technology has been installed in such a way that it has cross-site capability. While it was beyond the original project brief, by working closely with Tate’s IT department IPE performed the task as an additional benefit. At the official opening night party for the new Tate Modern extension, live performances in the Turbine Hall were streamed back to the Starr Cinema for guests to enjoy in the comfort of the new surroundings.

“We are delighted to have been involved in such a ground-breaking project,” explained VA principal and APRS fellow Eddie Veale. “Tate Modern is an iconic building and as such deserves an acoustic treatment of the highest standard. After a four-month build, the Starr Cinema has emerged as a revitalised, top end, multi-function venue, offering facilities unique within the UK, and is one of only a handful of its kind across Europe. We are thrilled to have been part of the team that made it happen.”