Well, it has been a little while since my last post, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy! Something that has been bothering me ever since the bulb burnt out in my old Sanyo PLV-Z1 years ago was the lack of a movie theater experience when watching TV. Then about 6 weeks ago I spent a week in Toronto at our new office doing the infrastructure fit up. The thing was our new floor included an 80 seat Movie Theater which was left behind by the old tenants. The Theater was complete with two actual film projectors in the projector room, a slanted floor, theater seating and even sound design. Not surprising given that the old tenant was in the Film industry. Although the room was a bit run down, we had our contractors clean it up and install a digital projector along with all the amenities for data projection and some basic amplifiers to the existing speakers. Of course I told everyone I was going to be the first person to use it and one late night around midnight after the contractors had left we fired up a PC and streamed a few episodes of TV before calling it a night. BUT not before first running over to the Cineplex theater to get some massive pop and movie theater popcorn.
A few weeks later and I still had the popcorn in my head. How was it that it tasted so much different than what I made at home? After a few wrestles nights and a bunch of internet research I eventually came up with the ingredients I needed and began my experiments to identify the secrets of Movie Theater popcorn! Unfortunately, I still wasn’t satisfied and the whole experience left me wanting more, I thought to myself why not revive that old Home Theater Build? It couldn’t cost that much eh?!
And so it began, kind of like a viscous circle. One thing leads to another. First some research. I quickly nailed down that my old projector just wasn’t going to cut it. Maybe some new speakers? Are mine really still ok? The kids poked at them when they were younger, so I’d better at least research them… Dolby Digital 5.1 or should I go 7.1? Can you believe for the past three years (since we moved) we have only had 3 channels connected? No Sub and no rear channels! YIKES! I’m almost embarrassed…
Well, the one thing I didn’t research but knew would be the biggest challenge was wife approval. You see the old Sanyo projector bulb only lasted about a year because she had taken that year off on Maternity Leave and the projector ran for around 12 hours a day… Not surprising it didn’t last. At the time I could not convince her that the $450 replacement bulb was worth it and we ended up reverting to a small little CRT until we could invest in something better. And so began the slight remarks until the right moment when the conversation felt right. Well, it turned out the above projector research was what clinched her because I argued that the new projector was “relatively” inexpensive, the bulb lasted much longer, was much brighter, had much better resolution AND I was going to get a spare bulb on eBay for under $100. When I finally got a reluctant yes, it wasn’t long before I started tearing the room apart and ripping into the ceiling to begin figuring out runs etc. Sure I was in no position to complete it right away, however, I knew that once I started, there was no going back and decided to cease the opportunity!
It has since been almost a week and I have been lurking in the AVS Forums grabbing ideas and recommendations from the countless builds it contains. Special thanks to all of those that share their experiences, it helps us lurkers indulge without getting too involved. Oh wait, isn’t that why I decided to keep my blog in the first place? To share my ideas and projects with everyone? Hmm….
Well, since this is my Home Theater Build Kick Off post, I guess I will highlight where I am and encourage suggestions, please point out any mistakes you see etc.
Existing Room Layout for Home Theater
I know that I am supposed to sound proof the room and there are many ways to decouple the entire room from the existing structures etc, but I’m not sure I mentioned above that I am tying to do this economically. If there is a dead requirement for something and it must be done than I am all ears, however, I can appreciate the benefits of this process, but I feel the cost and time commitment will be more than I can handle. I would prefer looks over functionality in this case. That said, the general room layout is on the smaller size in terms of home theaters weighing in at 10.5′ wide by 16.6′ deep by 7.5′ ceilings being that it is in the basement. There is a window on the left wall, an enclosed electrical panel on the back wall and the door way opening needs to be about two thirds down the right hand wall. Obviously not optimal, but I think I can make this space work.
Equipment for Home Theater
Mirage Omni 50
- Omni Directional Book Shelf Speakers
- I love these things and my mother claims they are one of the few speakers she can hear clearly (hearing impaired)
- Have had owned for 12 years but am not sure if they will fit the theater / style
Yamaha 7.1 Receiver (Model – Gotta Go Look)
- This isn’t that old (2 years) and I think it will fit the bill just fine!
- Multiple HDMI inputs / output
- Includes a calibrated microphone for speaker calibration
- 7.1 surround capable which should beat my existing 3.0 setup!
Acoustic Profile Center Channel PSL-C2
- Again, an older speaker, but one that I have never had a problem with.
- Something I figure I will integrate into the final designs
Nuance CX-100 Sub Woofer
- 100 watt self powered
- Affectionately Nicknamed “The Evictor” and is something I don’t recommend for apartments.
- Something I think I would like to keep
BenQ w1070 Projector
- Just ordered it from Best Buy so I should see it in the next week or so
- DLP wasn’t going to be my first choice, but the reviews seem pretty good and the price is certainly right
- Great bulb life and the replacement bulbs can be inexpensive
- Much brighter than what we used in the past
Fluance 2-Speaker Bipolar Sound System (AVBP2)
- I just ordered two sets of these (four speakers) and think they should make decent rear and side channel speakers
- Hard to tell if I will like them until I receive them as they are only available online so you can’t go to the store (at least not here) to listen to them
- They are certainly priced as budget speakers but the reviews seemed to indicate they weren’t too bad. Only time will tell
- They should look really sharp on the walls although I have not decided on exact placement yet.
- XBOX One, DVD, BlueRay, HD PVR Satellite Receiver, PC with HDMI / Plex media library, etc
- A little bit of everything
INSTEON Dimmer Switch (2477D)
- I have ordered an Insteon 2477D and intend to order a controller to test light automation.
- If all goes well I will order more of these.
Planed Home Theatre Room Design
OK, so this is where the AVS Forums really shined for me! The Dedicated Home Theater Build category has a lot of photos as people build there rooms. I have used some elements of the various theatres that people have built.
Fake Theatre Columns
I really like the fake columns along the side of the room. One of the benefits of this is that I can use these columns to hide the fittings for sides of the blackout blinds I plan to install. The biggest downfall will be the weight of lugging the MDF from the store to my basement and the time it will take to build them. That said, I have convinced myself it will all be worth it in the end! The size, location and quantity of these columns still needs to be worked out in detail, but I like the general design I have drawn. One of the issues I need to keep in mind is what to do when one lands on the entrance doorway and see if I can work around this issue while keeping them evenly spaced apart along both walls. I ordered some speaker cloth for the front columns and intend to also cover the interior panels of the side columns.
Rear Seating Riser
Since the drawings I used this riser calculator http://calc.xn--f5a.net/riser.cgi and figure I am looking at about 9″ of riser required. Much less than the 20″ I had drawn! LOL I have two younger children hence the shorter rear measurements. I used worst case numbers and I plan to sit in the front row! The kids will have to sit close to the rear wall / speakers as the room is only so big… But I guess that’s the perc when you get to pay for everything! 😉 The Riser Platform design and height is still undecided. But it is limited as a result of the location of the entrance to the room. I only have 60″ to the start of the doorway from the back of the room and that is without the fake columns being included. I do intend to have the underside of the step ledge light up with LED rope lights and will have a switched outlet installed under the platform to accommodate these lights.
Front Home Theater Stage
This is another area which may be a bit ambitious and was certainly not something that I had initially convinced my wife about but it is something that I think will really bring the whole experience together and ties the front projector wall to the entire room. I am still undecided on how to handle the AV Equipment Rack / Shelf but am thinking that I
can either build a curved cabinet to match the stage or something simple like the one in my drawings. The front stage will also have LED rope lights on a separate switch from the rear LED rope lights on the steps. I have not decided if I will actually go to the trouble of sand filling the stage. How important is this on a scale of 1 to 10? I should read into bass traps as I don’t fully understand them. But honestly I am a bit undecided on where to place my sub as well… Another decision yet to complete is whether to carpet the stage or simply paint it flat black which I think is my preference. Another key feature of the front stage I have planned would be corner posts which I can use to conceal what ever front speakers I decide on. While I aesthetically like the design I have drawn this is definitely an area I was hoping to get some feedback on. My drawings show the speakers at a 45 degree angle and I am afraid this is too much as the lines don’t intersect at the sweet spot on the first row couch. I plan to inset speaker cloth covers to hide the speakers behind and I suppose I can just have bookshelf speakers on a shelf in there angled properly, but then I am afraid of what distortion might occur from having them inside this column and not mounted right against the speaker cloth. Thoughts?
DIY Home Theater Projector Screen
OK, I know this is definitely an area where you can spend a fortune or you can got the Do It Yourself method. I am certain that I can live with the later. After some basic research I have purchased a sheet of 4′ x 8′ x 1/4″ Hard Board as well as a quart of Behr 770-E flat Silver Screen paint. This will be my first experiment and if I am not happy it was a total of $35 wasted and I can always go back to the drawing board after the project is done and try something else. I’ve read many of the options such as Vinyl Floor to spandex projector screens so I know there are many options. A couple of my friends use a plastic material that was intended for covering walls of barns / garages that is easy to “wipe down”. Long story short, I will worry about this are later in the project when almost everything else is complete.
Ceiling And Lighting
Well, I’m not sure exactly where to go with this subject. LED pot lights are extremely expensive. I love the look of soffits but the ceiling height and the height of the side window is a bit of a hindrance and is making that pretty unlikely. I think I am leaning towards relying on the rope lighting along with a ceiling fixture at the back of the room. I would install wall scone lights but the width of the window kinda makes that a non starter. I ordered a INSTEON Dimmer Switch (2477D) and have plans to locally source an Insteon starter pack so that I can see if this is something I want to fully integrate. If so I will order more in the future.
The whole lighting automation reminds me, this is something I need to research some more. I have a whole box of old x10 equipment I never used from 10 years ago because I wasn’t happy with what was available at the time.
Home Theater Seating
OK, I’ve seen everything from milk crates to expensive cushy theater seats and even some home built ones that looked great. But again, economy is the name of the game here. We seem to have agreed on a couple of reclining couches from Leons.ca as being the most economical and best fit for our family. One of the contenders is the The Delmaro Collection Reclining Sofa.
Home Theater Acoustic Treatment
As mentioned earlier, I am not intending to soundproof the room. I also don’t currently have any plans to acoustically treat the walls or ceiling. I am not yet sure if this is a mistake, but I am hoping that the fake columns and the small size of the room are enough to minimize potential problems. This isn’t an area I have really found to be a problem in the past, I don’t think I am what they might call an Audiophile! 😉
Well, it’s a start any ways! I will do my best to keep a running build log here as I go through the project. Below are a couple of renderings of what the finished project might look like. Keep in mind the paint will not be gloss, I just can’t figure out how to change it.