Keith Yates Design

An interview with world-renowned home cinema designer Keith Yates.

An interview with world-renowned home cinema designer Keith Yates.


KEITH YATES DESIGN IS THE ACKNOWLEDGED MASTER OF THE SCIENCE OF PRIVATE THEATER DESIGN, engineering and calibration. For the past 30 years, spanning 12 countries, the KYD team has created over 400 world-class theaters and invested over $400K in the design software and world-standard Brüel & Kjær sound and vibration measuring equipment used on all projects to validate their engineering.

As part of our coverage on the Kaleidescape and KYD collaboration and the upgrade to Kaleidescape’s Movie Lab, I sat down with Keith to talk about reference home cinemas and his partnership with Kaleidescape.

“Kaleidescape’s vision has been about delivering an exceptional film experience and giving homeowners command of their video library, which aligned with our vision not to put them in a movie theater, but rather to put them in the movie. ”

Keith Yates

DOUG: Keith, take us into your world for a little bit and discuss your discovery process when you are approached by a prospective client. Are they and their architects aware of what goes into creating a reference home cinema?

KEITH: The number one thing that our clients need to understand is the size and shape of the room their theater will be located in. For most spaces in a residency, the architect can simply decide on the volume of the space and draw the lines for the walls. So if they think about a private theater for 16 people, they can guess as to the size of the room.

But in our world, we actually create a room inside of a room, if you will. Ideally, we’d start with 12-14 foot ceilings since we’ll be utilizing some space above and below the finished theater, and we’ll need at least three feet on the stage/filmscreen wall for our speaker baffle system, two feet minimum for the rear wall and a couple of feet on either side wall. There are a number of technical cavities for speakers around the theater as well as acoustical treatments for the wall materials, so we eat up a lot of space in the build-out of the theater to create this beyond-immersive space.

On any of our projects, it’s the most expensive room in the house per square foot. We actually create the quietest habitable rooms on the planet, as quiet if not quieter than recording studios. So when our customers step into this world, this experience, it goes well beyond an immersive experience. Our goal is not to build a movie theater, our goal is to put you in the movie!

As far as the aesthetics of the theater – and remember, these theaters are really about the lights out experience – we work back and forth with our clients and their design team on the look and feel of the space. We recommend that our clients work with professional technology design firms for the automation and control elements, so whatever whole house control system they specify and are comfortable with can give them a seamless experience when it’s movie time.
So when we’ve created this unbelievable baseline, a technically superior movie theater, we then consider the source material for showing movies. Because, not only is the theater space amazing and is designed to take your breath away, but when that first scene comes on we want people to experience something new and way beyond whatever movie experience they’ve ever had. We want to put them in the movie, which means we have to have the best source material, which leads us naturally into talking about our friends at Kaleidescape.

Doug: You go back a long way with them, don’t you?

Keith: Yes, I’ve know them since they started the company and I’ve been an advocate since that time. So I’ve been partnering with Kaleidescape since about 2007, and a large part of that is because our visions have always been the same. Their vision has been about delivering an exceptional film experience and giving homeowners command of their video library, which aligned with our vision not to put them in a movie theater, but rather to put them in the movie.

So if you go back in time, I had the opportunity to do private work for the founder of Kaleidescape and I got my hands on one of their products and was really amazed how great it was, and it became a reference tool for my team. For the past 30 years, when we complete a project the owners hold a viewing party to show off their new private theater. It’s a real party!

So I would bring in my Kaleidescape player, set it up and let them use it to demo material and wow their friends and family. And every time they would ask me, “what is that and why don’t I have one in my system?” [laughs] So the integrators would sign up as Kaleidescape dealers and take it from there. Eventually we would just specify a Kaleidescape system because once you’ve experienced it, you have to have it. Why would you go to the expense of creating a magical place for your movie enjoyment – where on those quietest of passages you don’t hear the HVAC system, a garage door, a toilet flush, anything – and not use the best source material?

And another big part of why we’ve championed the product over the years is that Kaleidescape has a smooth, natural way to interface with your movie collections without any lag or glitches. It’s very elegant and intuitive.

Doug: So, about the upgrade to Kaleidescape’s Movie Lab. What’s been your input on the project?

Keith: We worked to upgrade Kaleidescape’s reference theater in their previous headquarters building in Silicon Valley. And recently, we started discussions about a quality control lab. A room where the engineers do quality checks of every movie to ensure perfect, high resolution before they put it in their movie store. There is a process. It’s a lab. Form follows function.

So think of this movie lab as a dark lab. It’s a laboratory but the space is dark because you’re working on movies. It’s really exciting in its own way architecturally. There is a great sense of realism as you watch engineers work through a movie and the technical aspects of transferring mezzanine files into a finished, downloadable movie file.

I think both Kaleidescape and KYD resolve ourselves to keep pushing boundaries. They were pioneers in giving movie lovers a unique experience when it came to their movie libraries. Their UI gives you any number of ways to access your library – by genre, actor, director, etc. Kaleidescape can even send masking directions to the screen to adjust masking for that particular movie. So Kaleidescape has led the way in automation, whether it’s signaling the lights to go down as the movie starts, or bypassing all of the FBI warning and trailers and going directly to the opening scene of the movie – they really have been and continue to be the only reference video component we specify.

More info: