Santa Monica’s New Hat is a post-production/color correction facility comprised of post veterans—Darby Walker and Bob Festa—specializing in commercials and music videos. Recently, the 2-year-old company began branching out into feature film work, and they made the decision to enlarge one of five traditional color suites into a 5.1 surround DI theatre—which was not an easy feat as the room’s existing size and shape wasn’t conducive to its intended functionality. New Hat’s principals, including Chief Engineer Richard Alcala, did the initial room design and layout and enlisted studio designer Charles Pell, who brought along a team of specialists to make it a reality. That group included Aarmadillo‘s Colin Ritchie, who handled the room’s final design and construction, Bruce Black of Media Rooms Technology, who made the acoustic analysis and recommendations, builders Joe Purcell and Tim Fejtek, and Danny Kaplan who installed all the wiring and electrical devices along with Alcala. The finished suite showcases a Barco DP-1200 projector, a 12.5′ Stewart Filmscreen screen, a FilmLight Baselight 4 color correction system, and a Blue Sky 5.1 audio system comprised of a SAT 8, a SUB 212, a BMC, and four Blue Sky I/ON in-wall speakers for surrounds.

“When New Hat was initially built,” explains Alcala, “the facility itself was intended to have five color correction suites, four of which were going to be traditional rooms for doing commercial and music videos. The fifth room was slated to be a small theatre, either to color-correct commercials using video projection, or to handle feature films. With the four already completed and at full capacity, we’ve been talking about the fifth room project for about a year—discussing how we were going to equip the room, the size it would be, and so forth. Once we made the decision to move forward, the construction began a week before Thanksgiving, and most of the major work was finished before Christmas. The audio system was installed and tested about 3 weeks ago, and we’re really happy with the room. The fact that it grew into the large size and shape that it is now was a good thing not only the actual imaging, but also for the audio quality.”

The recommendation for the Blue Sky system came from Aarmadillo, who have worked extensively with the systems in most of their contracted installations. “New Hat’s work has typically not focused on audio; when we’re coloring, we’re working with sophisticated images. The addition of the Blue Sky system in the room sounds spectacular, and it will be nice to be able to hear our finalized projects in full 5.1 surround sound. The Blue Sky is a very good system for the price, and wasn’t a huge investment. I previously worked at Technicolor in their DI facility in Burbank. Their theaters were twice as large as we have here, and they had some very elaborate 5.1 surround systems. I can honestly say that our room here probably sounds as good, if not better, than theirs.”

Alcala says they’re starting work on their second independent feature film project in the new room, and looking forward to other DI projects for the future.

“We’re just getting started,” he muses. “Everything’s looking positive and the clients are happy in the room. We had an auction here to benefit Haiti a few weeks ago and a lot of people came through the theatre who were very impressed by the room in general and the sound in specific.”