TapouT Theater Is a Mixed Martial Arts Knockout


Custom electronics pro enlists TruAudio to build custom speakers for MMA company’s Gladiator-themed Charles "Mask" Lewis memorial theater.

Mar. 16, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Punkass is how Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans know him.

He’s also known as Dan Caldwell, co-founder and CEO of TapouT, a company embedded in the MMA industry.

The fighter/executive set out to have an elaborate theater built at TapouT’s Grand Terrace, Calif., headquarters and enlisted San Bernardino, Calif.-based Audio Video Evolution (AVE) to install the electronics. (Click here to view additional photos.)

Why does a corporation need an elaborate theater? Well, TapouT — which says it manufactures a “countercultural” clothing line and produces a “raucous” reality show — isn’t a typical corporation.

A Little Background

Caldwell and a fighter called SkySkrape are both TapouT-sponsored MMA fighters.

A third TapouT-sponsored-fighter, Mask, a.k.a. TapouT co-founder Charles Lewis Jr., died after a car accident in March 2009.

“Movies have always played a big influence in Charles’ and my lives,” Caldwell says. “Movies can be escapism and have helped influence creativity. When everyone else was out partying and hanging out, me, Charles and Skrape would be watching the newest flicks at the theaters.”

When Marc Kreiner came on board as TapouT’s president, Caldwell says he and Lewis marveled at his home theater. “After seeing that, we said we were going to build a movie theater in our office one day.

“TapouT has always been on the forefront of Mixed Martial Arts and with that comes the responsibility of educating the consumer. Visual media is a big part of what TapouT does.

“We produce commercials, short documentaries and films — all used to help promote the sport. So building a movie theater seemed like a good fit.”

The project began just before Lewis passed away on March 11, 2009. “I know he would have loved to have seen how it came out,” Caldwell says. “When I sit in the theater it definitely makes me think about him and how he inspired people. We want to use the movie theater to continue to inspire everyone.”

As such, it’s called the Charles Lewis Jr. “Mask” Theater.

Tough Technology

The 93-seat theater allows TapouT to easily get its 150-plus employees in there in two shifts and keep them up to date. “It is a great place to show our new commercials and films, also to conduct meetings to keep our employees excited about what we do here,” Caldwell says.

Much of what the TapouT team watches in the theater relates to fighting, which influenced the audio and video choices. “I wanted the person to feel like they were actually there at the fight,” Caldwell says. “Because we needed so many seats in the theater, I wanted every seat to have the same experience. So the speakers needed to be clear and able to perform at high levels.

In terms of technology, AVE and TapouT chose:

  • TruAudio speakers, most of which had to be custom-created
  • A 197-inch masking Stewart Filmscreen (76.5-by-180-inch for 2.35; 76.5-by-136-inch for 16:9 aspect ratio)
  • projectiondesign Avielo Optix projector
  • B&K Reference 70 receiver
  • B&K Reference 200.7 and 200.5 amps

Tough Clients

You might think that building a theater for Caldwell might be intimidating. But it was more chaotic than intimidating, says AVE owner Steven Payne. “You never knew which fighter was going to show up. Tons of daily action. It was hard to stay focused.”

TapouT had a very specific vision for the theater’s design. “We wanted to do a Roman gladiator theme with chariots and lions,” Caldwell says.

The Cherryl Alan Design Group, which had done office designs for Tapout, went to work. “She made a chariot as the podium and seats in the shape of the Coliseum. There’s shields on the wall, lions in the cage — all of which give it a real Gladiator feel,” Caldwell says.

TapouT’s unique vision for a Gladiator theater, however, did present some challenges.

“When we all first sat down to go over the project design, the interior decorator wanted plaster with stone everywhere,” Payne recalls. “We ended up putting 1 1/2-inch foam board with a thin coat of plaster to give it that look. It turned out better than expected and sounds great.”

MMA Customer’s Always Right

The company’s specific dimensions for the theater made speaker placement difficult. “No one made a speaker for our needs. Design and space requirements required custom speakers for this project,” Payne says.

AVE, which is accustomed to working with meticulous residential clients, wasn’t fazed and set out to make it work.

Besides, when a guy called Punkass requests specific parameters for speakers, an integrator is inclined to deliver — regardless of the parameters.

Payne remembered seeing a TruAudio LCR speaker that was built to match the curve of the screen it was under and thought a similar solution would work for TapouT’s theater. He called St. George, Utah-based TruAudio, whose president Brent Howard has recently been promoting its ability to work with custom electronics pros on build-to-order (BTO) solutions.

Payne found the specific velour material used by the Stewart Filmscreen he intended to install and sent some off to TruAudio along with specifications. As soon as TruAudio saw the specs, “it was obvious that it had to be custom,” Howard says. “[AVE] got us designs, shapes, sizes and we got to work.”

Building to Clients’ Order

That’s not to say TapouT’s custom speakers were easy to provide. “The biggest challenge was that the front speaker, which was 15 feet wide, had the front, left and right channels built into it and we had to mask the cabinet to match the screen,” Howard says.

“Getting drivers to fit on a curve was challenging, but we were able to pull it off.” Designing that 15-foot-wide speaker took the bulk of the time, Howard says.

Payne says Howard personally delivered the BTO solution within four weeks, even though the drivers had to be imported from Denmark.

The BTO project was successful, Howard says, because AVE provided TruAudio with all the necessary information. “They got us the exact shape of the Stewart [Filmscreen] and even what it’s made of so we could wrap the speaker in that same material.”

For AVE’s part, the TapouT project was its first commercial theater. “It wasn’t much different than a home theater,” Payne says. “Just bigger everything.”

His client is pleased with the result. “We were absolutely blown away the first time we sat down in the theater and watched a movie,” Caldwell says.

“It’s not like sitting in a regular movie theater, because we can turn it up loader than most theaters. So it makes you feel like you are there. It’s insane.”

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