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
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).
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.
[Edited by 2003Summit on Jan 14, 2007 at 10:58 PM]