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Topic: Home Theater Room in Alberta Top to Bottom
Joined: Jan 14, 2007
Posts: 3
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Well, it’s about time I shared my design. I spent a lot of time on Projector Central dreaming about my perfect home theater setup. When my wife and I got engaged and decided we were moving to her house, it was time to share my dream and start the construction in the un-finished basement. Our home theater room was to be both a home office and a home theater. My wife and I worked on this project together.

We were lucky with the room layout, it was 12’ at the front, 15’ at the back and 28’ long. The odd room size with a diagonal side wall is perfect for breaking up standing sound waves. I covered the other wall with a large hand sewn quilt my mother made me, this also helps absorb sound.

The room was designed with a large built in unit to house the equipment and media right from the get go. My inspiration for this came from Tim Eckel’s Sanyo PLV-Z2 Home Theater design. I chose to locate it right by the door as I thought the first thing one would want to do when entering the room is load media. I made the unit wide enough to handle two stacks of equipment side by side. It has 5 very large drawers that are just the perfect height for DVD’s and CD’s stacked on end label side up. The rear of the unit is in the laundry room and has two doors covering it. So it is completely accessible from the back as is the un-finished area above it where all the cabling arrives. I built the unit myself, $1000 of oak and at least week of evenings. Well worth it even though I can never take it with me.

I designed a box in the ceiling to be right above the projector, it has 120v power for the projector and conduits to both the home office desk location and built in equipment unit as well as some space for bundles of cabling or whatever else might need to be there. This worked out great. I used in-expensive PVC built-in-vacuum piping for the conduits. During the construction phase I wired the room up with 7 speaker wires and several coax runs for subs both at front and rear, and 3 runs at the front for component video should a future owner not be using a projector setup. I used standard construction grade 14ga speaker wire as required by building code for in-the-wall construction. We mounted plywood backer boards at each speaker location to support speakers. I also ran power and control for an electric screen even though I wasn’t using one.

Because this room was in our basement and the living area just above, it was important for us to minimize sound from the home theater room reaching other areas of the house. (Actually mostly because we have a growing teen w/friends.) We used re-silent bars on the ceiling and hung drywall from them, we used quiet zone insulation in the ceiling and the wall adjoining the rest of the basement and most importantly I used plenty of acoustical sealant anywhere I could find a space between walls in the rough construction phase. We calculated the additional cost of sound dampening at about $300.00

We finished the drywall ceiling with a splatter texture and after much hesitation and bravery we painted it a deep chocolate brown to cut down on reflective light. The walls are a walnut color. We put recessed pot lights on two sets of dimmers, one for most of the lights and one for the lights just by the screen. This allowed us to have dim general lighting while the lights nearest the screen were completely off.

The projector is a Mitsubishi HC-3000 DLP. I choose it for it’s brightness and contrast after an acceptable review on Projector Central and viewing and comparing several models in a local store. I used a Da-Lite 133” screen, which is almost as wide as the front of the room. I have 11” to spare on each side, just enough for the side mount speakers. The AV receiver is a Yamaha RXV-657 7.1 channel and I am using Sinclair Audio speakers (which are made in Canada!). After I used the room about twice I went out and bought a Lutron light controller from Home Depot about as fast as I could drive. I have recently added a Logitech Harmony remote (really just to please the rest of the family).

**Note, in the pictures the projector is in Echonomy mode (dimmer) with irus closed (even dimmer yet, but more contrast) and it's fine at 133" for us.

Summary of costs:
Framing, Drywall, carpet, paint, pot lights: about $3500
Additional materials for sound dampening room: about $300
Built in equipment/media unit (marerials only): $1000
Wiring (speakers, coax, Ethernet, telephone) $200
Speakers: 2 SA towers, two SA sides, 2 SA subs and cheap center and rears $2800
Projector: $4500
133” Screen: $800
AV Receiver: $800
Lutron Light controller: $80
DVD Player: $200
Logitech Harmony Remote: $200

All pricing is materials only in Canadian dollars, I did the work myself (with the help of my future wife of course).

The Results:

We have used the room for 8 months now and we love it. The 133” screen size is great and together with the sound system we think it’s as good as the cinema. If your audience jumps and screams you know you have done well. If you scare yourself you feel really good.

The box above the projector and the conduits have proven to be very useful. I have already changed things a couple of times and the flexibility is great. The only thing is I wish I would have put it just beside the projector instead of right above it.

The sound dampening efforts were well worth it. Although it does not cut the sound from getting to the rest of the house completely we can have a quiet conversation just above the room and barely be aware that someone is watching an action movie just below at -20db on the Yamaha. On the second floor the system is un-detectable other than the occasional car bomb which is barely noticeable.

The built in “equipment and media” unit is fantastic. The unit looks stunning and has been incredibly nice to have. Lots of storage, easy to make equipment and hookup changes and doesn’t take up any “in room” space. An often overlooked consideration, I recommend the effort and cost to everyone.

The Lutron light controller is a must. It’s my most used remote, 10:1. It drove me nuts getting up to adjust lighting.

The dark colors and particularly the chocolate brown ceiling worked out well. It seamed risky at first but we like it. We went with a light carpet trying to keep the room brighter but we find it gets dirty easily. I wish we would have went with darker carpet.

Combining the home theater and home office has been great. I have quite a bit of media on my PC and it’s perfect when company comes over and want to see digital pictures. There has been little or no conflict with this either: when it’s time to work at home no one is watching movies anyway and visa versa.

The speaker wiring worked out well. I was quite worried because I have heard so many people say “don’t use ordinary wiring for speakers, you will regret it”. But our electrical code here requires a certain type of ordinary wiring for permanent installation so I went to a local wholesale electrical supplier I trust. He told me they had just supplied our large venue local concert hall (the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium) with thousands of feet for their renovation, and the rear speakers are on 300+ foot runs. If it’s good enough for them, it would be for me. The system sounds great; I can’t imagine what exotic wiring would do for me.

The screen is not a tensioned unit (as you can see in the bright "The Room" pic), and those wrinkles do occasionally show up on a homogenous image like a sky or water shot, but they are not bothersome and man a tensioned unit is big bucks. Unless I won a couple thousand on the radio, I don't think I would change this - but if you want perfection, go for tensioned. I don't wish I had electric though; I never seam to want to put it up even though there is a window behind there.

A couple of regrets with lighting. With a projector light control is everything and once you get your "night eyes" it takes minutes to recover after a brief flash of light:

1) After I built and used the built in, I realized I really needed task lighting to see the media in the drawer and work the DVD eject button. Often you have everyone sitting down and you want to change media and you can’t see, but you don’t want to blind everyone with main lighting. I wish I would have put a couple of 3” low watt pots above the unit on a separate switch. You may notice I have a clamp-light in the pictures to make up for this deficiency.

2) I also wish there was theater style floor lighting in the hall and stairs outside the room leading to the rest of the house. You don’t want to have the hall light on because it is too bright when someone opens the door but you feel like you are going to break your neck some days walking to get more popcorn etc. We didn’t do it because the fixtures are really quite expensive but now I wish we would have put at least two in.

Other than that, my only other regret is that the room doesn’t seat 20. It’s a big hit with friends and family and a great excuse to get together. The room in our next house will seat more!

I welcome quesitons or comments anyone has.

Thanks Projector Central.
Alberta, Canada
[Edited by 2003Summit on Jan 14, 2007 at 10:58 PM]


Rough in stage

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Rough in stage - Ceiling

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Dry wall stage

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Projector Mounted

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Room Rear

650 × 487 pixels (172.65 KB)

The Room

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PC Image

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DVD Image

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Workstation View

650 × 487 pixels (177.71 KB)

Built In Rear

450 × 337 pixels (91.12 KB)

Built In Front

450 × 600 pixels (155.51 KB)

Built In Drawers Open

450 × 600 pixels (155.16 KB)

Projector Box

350 × 262 pixels (59.22 KB)
Joined: Dec 7, 2006
Posts: 45
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Great Job! Looks awesome and you actually paid attention to not only the video, but also the sound of a home theatre experience.

Joined: Feb 22, 2007
Posts: 10
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Great Job. I plan on building a theater / office soon in my basement. It's nice you have your wife's approval. I have to twist her leg to get started.

I have a couple questions. Do you find your brown ceiling too reflective? I'm wondering what to put on the ceiling. I'm thinking of having a Cafe style ceiling. No Drywall, paint everything black (rafters). That would mean no insulation of course. I would drywall the walls and put a crown molding on top have a finished look?

Carpet. Too Reflective? You said wished to go darker. What color? I'm looking for ideas.

FINALLY your screen looks very HIGH for that projector. How far away is your projector. Does the image point below the top part of your screen?

It just seems you would need a lens shift to get that close vertically to the ceiling.
Joined: Jan 14, 2007
Posts: 3
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The brown ceiling is a higher gloss, satin or semi gloss I think. We had originally painted it with flatter paint only to see the roller track marks after it dried (maybe pushing to hard on the roller because of the texture). Darker paints are very hard to paint as well, very un-forgiving as you get darker. So we repainted with a higher gloss and no track marks now. There is a bit of reflection yes, but it is not distracting and the texture helps break it up. The bumps in the texture appear as little gleams of light (very dim/subtle) and it kind of looks starry. We actually like it.

The cafe ceiling sounds nice and I might even try it, but I would not trade the sound insulating qualities I have for a different ceiling. And I personally like the finished look. We have a kid and she likes to have sleep overs, and I like to watch TV/Movies at a good solid volume while my wife is enjoying her peace and quite upstairs. The sound dampening has worked out so well - I continue to be amazed. I have even come home late from work thinking the house was dead empty only to find my wife and kid watching in the basement. If you are going to sound dampen, do yourself a favor and read some how-to and best practices on hotel room sound isolating (Google for them). One drywall screw in the wrong place and it's 100% ineffective. If you can’t find good info on sound isolating ask me and I will tell you exactly what I did.

The carpet does become illuminated, but it does not bother me. The biggest reflections that will pollute the screen come from the sides or above as the light bounces directly back to your eye. I supposed darker carpet would improve the dark levels on the screen some though. The thing I most don't like about the carpet is how easily it gets dirty. One quick run with shoes on or if the dog comes in with slightly dirty feat and the carpet is a mess. This particular carpet looks gorgeous but only when it is clean. It was the wrong choice for such an active easy going area. We like this area to be care free, it's all about relaxing. We picked lighter carpet because it is a multi function room (office as well). And if it’s all too dark, it doesn’t matter how many lights you have on you will never get enough light when you want it. A bit of a compromise I guess.

Crown moldings are OK but think about this. They do add definition (I'm also a home renovator) and have become a staple of modern style again. They certainly can look nice and really add to a room. Crown moldings get used a lot because the corner at the wall and ceiling can be hard to do or sometimes even a real problem, and crowns cover this up. I am fairly good at corners so I didn't put them in. I also like the cleaner look and like the ceiling walls, and all my surroundings to try to disappear when engrossed in my on-screen content. While defining the edges can look nice, there is some worth to having it all try to be invisible as well. Crowns and trim tend to "define" space, and in a home theater I think you want the space to be un-defined or infinite in feel. For example when you see scene of a bright field you want to feel you are in a big space. It's a balance between still being interesting but being able to be easily ignored. I would suggest you try to make your transitions tasteful but quite subtle for a home theater room. My personal preference. One note though, when going from a light floor to dark walls, do not try to hide the transition there with muted trim (to blend the floor to the wall). A rule of decorating is that if you have a transition like that, don’t try to hide it, make it a feature. So bold trim there, we did gloss white at the floor and doors/windows. However, if you really feel your room will not be right without crowns at the top, remember it’s “your” room and you get the right to be most comfortable in it, do what makes you feel good.

The height and the drop. You would think so eh? The specs say so as well - this projector has no shift. I should have an 18" drop at that distance. However the guy I bought it from (I bought it retail from a very high end shop) said I can get away with tilting the projector up, and he was right. In reality I have about an 8" drop and the projector is tilted up about 2 degrees. It does key stone the image but it is very slight, about an inch fatter at the bottom. The "guy" even said I would not need keystone correction. Being a fanatic, I ran with it for a while, it was about a 2% correction. It worked pretty good (this projector is very good). After getting used to the screen I was able to detect very subtle imperfections from the keystone (most people would not see it). So I tried turning it off like he had suggested and it's working very well. The keystone is so small you never notice it. Even when playing 4:3 content or an excel spread sheet, you would have to go up there with a tape measure to find it. He was right, run it with keystone off and a slight tilt and I am 100% ok and happy.

Good luck with your space! It’s a lot of fun, I’m already wanting to move so I can build another…
Joined: Feb 22, 2007
Posts: 10
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Great thanks for all the input. BAD NEWS! I owe $3k on my taxes!!!!!!!! I was expecting $3k back. Crap no theater for a while.

I think I will try the Mitsu with the tilt. If I like it I'll keep it. If not I'll return it the next day. With an all day tuning session of course.
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