Guy Singleton had a problem: As the owner of a small company that specialized in high-end, dedicated cinemas (designing, building, and calibrating correctly only two or three per year), he knew that part of his process was fairly inefficient.
The step that slowed Singleton down the most? Creating the proper CAD drawings and renderings quickly enough to effectively share his ideas with his customers.
“Somebody said the one thing that people can't buy on eBay is you,” Singleton remembers. But Singleton felt that he wasn’t communicating his concepts, his expertise, and his years of experience in a manner that ensured he’d never leave money on the table. It would frustrate me sometimes when people beat me to a job,” says Singleton. “So about four years ago decided I needed a quicker way to churn through documentation that looked professional.”
Singleton then embarked on creating a software package he dubbed “The Cinema Designer.” TCD (initials that now stand for the “The CEDIA Designer” — more on that at the end of the article) outputs all manner of critical documentation at the very start of a job.
“TCD is really lots and lots of elements…there’s a technical element to designing cinemas, there’s a visual element to designing cinemas, and then there's monetary data and a bill of materials and the like. I knew that it had to be standards based: It's not subjective; it's not my opinion on things. I further knew that it had to be as efficient as it was accurate.”
The result? A tool that can generate everything from two-dimensional, on-the-fly schematics to fully realized renderings of a home theater — all while letting the space dictate an end result that’s of top quality.
“An important function of TCD is really the ability to let the room decide — the room relationship to the seating area, the distance to the side walls and the back walls, respectively — it allows the room to say, ‘Hey, we've looked at the seating area, we've looked at the number of seats, the distance to the ceiling, and this is the number of speakers that you require,’ for example.”
Archimedia’s Peter Aylett (an early adopter of TCD) has firsthand knowledge of the tool’s effectiveness.
“If you just say to a customer, ‘This projector's better, or this amplifier's better, or this speaker is better’ — what does ‘better’ mean to someone who's not technical? And the nice thing about TCD is that, as you spec different products, you can see, almost in real time, exactly the different levels of performance that those different products will give you.
“It will not allow you to specify, for instance, a projector that really isn't bright enough for the size screen that you want. It will not allow you to specify some loudspeakers that simply will not deliver the required amounts of sound pressure at all of the seating positions. It will not allow you to specify an amplifier that doesn't have the headroom to drive those speakers to those sound pressure levels. It is very engineering led, and, from an engineering perspective, it stops you making those mistakes. From a sales process, it's really obvious to a client by just looking at the numbers that TCD outputs exactly what the performance benefits are when they spend more money.
“The nice thing about TCD is that, as you spec different products, you can see, almost in real time, exactly the different levels of performance that those different products will give you.”
And should the dimensions of the room change at any point during the build, TCD can adjust all the corresponding data accordingly.
Singleton — who notes that the average CEDIA member firm has six employees — sums up the tool’s benefits:
“If you're only a six-person company, you don't have the luxury of time. You've gotta do this yourself. So the time savings will be immense, and, when it comes down to all our businesses, the only thing that you can never, ever buy more of is time. The time saved in what TCD is going to do for you means you can spend that time on marketing, you can spend it on communication, you can spend it on programming, you can spend it on bookkeeping…you name it. It's free time and that's the most valuable commodity we have.”
Now that CEDIA has acquired TCD, special pricing is a member benefit. Guy Singleton remains affiliated with The CEDIA Designer, acting as a continuing consultant and developer.