The dirty work is mostly complete inside the home theater and that means it’s probably about time for a project update! Things have been pretty smooth over the past couple of weeks and I am happy to report that the theater is now “operational”. While it isn’t complete by any stretch, it is now functional and has completed a couple of trial showings.
I have been discussing the project over on the AVS Forum here for anyone that might want to see some of the discussions. There are a few individuals that have provided some feedback and advice as I have been moving forward.
Below I will include some photos and provide a bit of dialog though out the post.
Before I begin I should probably state that this project has cost me a bit more than I had expected. Trips to pick out mouldings, pick up paint supplies, that extra box of screws, rope lighting, material for the stage or screen it just seemed like I was there almost daily… I will try and put together my total cost after I have “completed” the project (or at least this stage) but as anyone that has a home theater probably knows, a home theater is never completely completed!
The first stage of construction involved some minor work just to provide a basis for leveling out the walls. There was a ledge and a wall that wasn’t flat. 2×3 lumber was all I needed to provided a basis to overlay a second layer of drywall.
Once the leveling lumber had been installed I covered the ceiling and all sides of the room (with the exception of the back wall) with a second layer of drywall. While not the perfect solution to isolating sound from the theater from escaping to the rest of the house, it certainly can go a long way without getting into the specialized isolation clips, green goo etc. I am not sure if I will regret neglecting these “advanced” acoustical isolation techniques later, but I think this will help. Plus I was able to feel better about getting rid of the popcorn ceiling from this room and providing a clean look to the ceiling.
The next step in the build was to frame up a “stage” which would house the main right and left speakers as well as the A/V equipment, kind of like a highly glorified entertainment center. I even installed some rope lights just under the lip of the steps to provide a nice ambiance and some floor lighting in case someone needs to get up during a movie. After the framing was completed I decided that it would be easier to cover the speaker columns in drywall than it would be to lug home 5/8 inch fiber board from home depot and then try and figure out a way of cutting the edges to 45 degree angles. This would have been too much work considering the lack of a proper table saw and the drywall columns we a bit easier. At this stage I had some major reservations about the acoustical properties of this part of the build. Typically an enclosed hollow space in a theater is a bad thing. This whole unit was deigned to be easily removable in the event that I (or anyone else) decide the room will no longer be used as a dedicated theater.
EDIT: Because I placed the speakers so close to the opening and the bass port is on the front of the speakers I have not experienced any major problems with this design choice but I will reserve my judgement and reserve final thoughts until I have had some self appointed “audiophile” friends to judge the sounds for me. I do have a few possible solutions if I later decide I need to action it I can open the sides and apply speaker grills or I can stuff with fluffy pink insulation.
The next logical step was to build a riser platform which is also easily removable. This platform free floats on the floor and is simply used to elevate the back row seating by about 8 inches so that you can see over the first row. Pretty much the exact same concept as any movie theater. In the rear corners of the platforms you can see they are packed with play sand which is because the sub woofers will be placed directly above these areas. This is highly recommended to help prevent acoustical issues with the low frequencies. Think of this riser as a drum and a subwoofer beating on it. This could produce undesirable results therefore we pack it full which helps avoid the issue. The remainder of the platform received some Roxul Safe N Sound Mineral Wool insulation to also reduce any potential acoustical issues.
Decisions on how to trim and paint colour selections seemed to be the vein of my existence. After countless hours of contemplation my wife and I finally agreed that we would install wainscot along the bottom of the room and that we would include MDF columns to provide a visual vertical columns which would be used to mount the surround speakers on. If the room was larger I likely would have enlarged the column depth to about 8 inches and used some in wall speakers. We think the final results looked pretty impressive considering we chose to be cost conservative and went with very simply moulding and base boards. We have yet to install the crown moulding around the top of the room since I plan to use it to conceal the low voltage wiring.
Speaking of speakers, most of my equipment has been procured and is ready for installation at this point. Again, I tried to be frugal and found some deals and did a bunch of research on the projector.
Man, did you know painting is not not very fun?! This is probably the stage that seems to have taken the longest. While I knew in advance, I cringed as I saw the results of my drywall work. It certainly is not very bad, but every single little defect can be seen through the black paint. Not because of the paint job, but the way dark colours absorb the light.
Here you will see the custom (aka very cheap) projector mounting plate that I designed and cut out of 1/4 inch MDF on the laser cutter. Probably about $1 worth of material. Maybe $1.50 once I paint it! I am very pleased with it. It uses two butterfly anchors which allow for rotation to ensure it can align with the screen and once tightened down I use 4 drywall screws in the corners as a bit of an insurance policy. Very functional, very low profile and very cheap! I love it.
Finally, I will leave you with some photos of the home theater’s current state. “Operational” I am considering this phase as a trial period in which I am using to work out any bugs which I complete the finishing touches on the room. You will see that the DIY projector screen is mounted, all of the speakers have been installed and the furniture has arrived. I must say I am beginning to get a bit more rest and don’t feel as much pressure from the project but I know I am far from completing the project in it’s entirety. My closing list of tasks as of today is as follows;
– black 1/4 round under stage steps
– second coat of black on the walls / stage
– touch up paint
– crown mouldings and quarter round (will help hide those speaker wires)
– paint projector mount and move slightly forward
– divider panel in window to cover light leakage
– speaker grills (front and potentially on columns)
– fake speakers
– signage (Now Showing, Logo / Name, THX etc)
– thinking low voltage LED “exit sign” over the door
– install ceiling vents
-a couple cat 5e cable runs to the projector
– install new door and finish trim around it
– install x-box one and figure out camera placement
– calibrate audio
– change light switches to Insteon dimmers
– HTPC Automation / Remote Control
The good news is it is almost all finishing work and I can happily say that the entire family seems to be happy with the project so far! Soon I will be able to get back to thinking about popcorn! 🙂