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Topic: Need some help setting up my first basement home theater
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Joined: Sep 12, 2017
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So, finally about the time for me to be able work on my basement home theater and wanted some help/tips to plan it out right. The space is 11 by 22 with the height from floor to drop ceiling about 8 feet (about another foot or so from drop ceiling to 1st floor) and the basement is finished. The wall I'll be projecting on to is 8 by 11 (and has a glass block window) and although I'd like to have a huge screen I don't want a screen that doesn't make sense for the space or has other shortcomings. Also, I keep reading about projectors with a short throw and have seen ones that project from 8 feet away to 4 feet away, are the worth it? Better to go with ones that project from furteher away? Not looking for 4k display epecially given the price range (aiming for about a $1000 to $1500 budget for most of the setup, not sure that's too low?) but would love to have a 3d picture if possible. I plan on using the projector/screen to watch blu ray movies, football and hockey games (through directv) and to play xbox one on (mainly first person shooter games and the ability to use the Kinect) so would appreciate any guidance people can provide me in picking the right projector/screen for the space and needs.

The audio setup will be similar to my living room setup: Yamaha RX-V579BL receiver with two Infinity Primus P363 Three-way dual 6-1/2-Inch Floorstanding Speakers and two and Infinity Primus P163BK Two-way 6 1/2-Inch Bookshelf/Satellite Speakers (not sure about a center yet as I have a phantom center speaker setup in the living room)

Also any tips on how I should plan the space out (lighting, speakers, equipment, wiring) would be greatly appreciated. PS the space does have 2 glass block windows that are the only source of outside light and I imagine there are tricks to dealing with them as well. Thanks in advance for your help!!!!
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The two projectors that really come to mind for me are the BenQ HT2050 or the Sony HW45ES. There is a sharp price difference between these models and the Sony is a bit over budget, but is what I would go with in a good dedicated space.

The BenQ is on par with the models in the $1000-$1500 range, and there really isn't something better until you get to the Sony. Epson has some brighter models which perform better with some ambient light, or if you need a lot of placement flexibility, but that doesn't seem to be an issue for you.

Short throw doesn't typically make sense if you can avoid it. The screen requirements are tighter and the optics of short throw, while they are very good, can cause some image issues not typically found with longer throw models. So, I would stick with a standard throw projector.

You can read reviews of both the BenQ HT2050 and the Sony HW45ES online at any number of places.

I think a questionable step up would be the Epson 3100 or Epson 3700 both of which I think aren't really better performers than the BenQ. They are brighter, but they don't get better black levels, and they aren't going to outperform in other areas.

The Sony is the real jump in both black levels and overall performance and build quality. It runs nearly silently and should have no issue filling a 120" to 150" screen diagonal.

Room layout depends a lot on your desires and needs. There is a lot online of examples of theater setups, and how much effort you put in, or want to put in, is up to you. Tiered seating, wall sconces, lighting effects, etc. are all great, but very person to person dependent.

The rules on screens are pretty standard these days: About 10" to 12" of diagonal for each foot of viewing distance.

Get a 16:9 screen unless you are really knowledgeable about doing a different type of screen. Plan on 16:9.

Lighting should be broken into multiple zones of lighting on dimmers. Lighting over seating area should be very directional to provide lighting to move around, read, or perform in-room tasks easily, without casting any stray light directly on the theater screen. This is the lighting which allows you to 'hang out with the guys' without being in a pitch black theater space. Great for sports and eating popcorn.

Any windows or sources of ambient light should be covered with light blocking shades or draperies. Don't skimp on this if you want it to look nice. Though, I've seen people just cover it with cardboard to keep the light out. A good set of light blocking shades isn't the cheapest thing in the world.

Finally, consider the room color. A proper theater is dark. Dark ceilings, dark walls, and dark carpet. Hardwood tends to reflect both light and sound in uncontrollable ways creating a very 'bright' room for audio, and reflects more light onto the screen decreasing contrast.

Please take a look here for some information on lighting considerations and impact on the screen. Make sure you put in MORE lighting if the room is darker. You can turn lights off easily enough, but adding light to a dark room after the fact can be difficult.

http://www.avintegrated.com/lighting.html
AV Integrated - Theater, whole house audio, and technology consultation during the build and installation process in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
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wow, thank you so much for the detailed reply. I greatly appreciate it! The BenQ HT2050 is at the top of the list right now and looking a the price for the Sony one you mentioned (~$1800) is definitely over budget for me. Any thoughts on the Optama 1080 Darbee at all? Looks like the Darbee has a higher contrast at 30,000:1 as opposed to 15,000:1 in the BenQ. Also, the Darbee seems to be brigher at 3000 lumens as opposed to the 2200 on the BenQ but not sure this is a huge deal maker. I also saw a review for a Epson 2040 on you tube but it looks like it's an LCD as opposed to a DLP (I believe the DLP is better for what I'm looking to do correct?). So, I feel like the real choice is between the Optama and the BenQ.

In terms of the space, the walls are currently painted Tan but the plan is to paint all the walls a grey shade so I believe that should help with the setup. I'm still figuring out the lighting as there's 6 recessed lights in the area, 2 each for every 1/3rd of the room and am planning on installing dimmable blubs with dimmer switches. Currently I'm not planning on doing multiple row seating (probably in the future though) and am just planning on a few couches or a sectional for the area.

In terms of the screen, I'm considering the silver ticket STR-169120 (https://www.amazon.com/STR-169120-Silver-Ticket-120-Diagonal/dp/B00CYLOTPK/ref=sr_1_17?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1505238062&sr=1-17&keywords=projector+screen). Any thoughts on whether there's cheaper ones to consider or is this one area I should try to skimp on? Also, will the grey screen be better than the white one? I read somewhere that the blacks show up better on the grey screen and it's only $50 bucks more so it's not out of reach.

I'm planning on mounting the projector around 13 feet from the screen which seems to be about right for a 100" to 120" picture and am planning on mounting it to a piece of wood that I'll add between the joists.

Thanks again for all your help!
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I would go with the white screen. Grey screens tend to be for white wall/ceiling rooms without a lot of light control. The white screens are ideal for dedicated spaces.

The BenQ is better than the Optoma. Optoma, for some reason, pushes their lumens and fake contrast numbers over a RGB/RGB color wheel and more accurate image.

BenQ just does a better job because of the use of their RGB/RGB color wheel. It has a faster color wheel speed, and is actually BRIGHTER when in a theater and is calibrated. It delivers about 1,400 calibrated lumens vs. about 1,200 from the Optoma. I know that sounds weird, but it is because Optoma uses a 2x color wheel with a clear segment. The clear segment boosts light output, but only white light, not colors. With video, you need colors.

Anyway, I would give a lot of thought to your lighting in the room. With a drop ceiling, you get a lot of options for what you can do after the fact which is really nice. Just put cabling up above, and then you can go with whatever projector you want, wherever you want it.

The Epson is a nice enough projector, but doesn't have nearly the black levels of the BenQ. You have to get into the Epson 3100 to get closer, even then, it won't be as good with black levels.

The throw distance for the HT2050 is 10' to 13' so I would shoot for about the middle of that range if you can. That's a lens to screen distance. So, maybe 13' to the back of the projector as a target.

The HT2050 is a great entry level model. I use the older W1070 and am still pretty darn happy with it overall. But, when I upgrade, if I can't swing a JVC, then it will likely be the Sony that I go to.

Here it is on a 161" diagonal screen:
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/68-digital-projectors-under-3-000-usd-msrp/1720730-w1070-lights-161-screen.html
AV Integrated - Theater, whole house audio, and technology consultation during the build and installation process in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
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Perfect, thanks again for your help. Ordering the BenQ HT2050 shortly!