The space that would become this award-winning home theater had sat for a while as an empty concrete room while the homeowner eyed its possibilities. It turned out that his eyes were bigger than his stomach. In other words, his home theater dreams were bigger than his future home theater room.
What does a person do in that situation? Why, call up the heavy equipment, of course. In this case, the heavy equipment meant an excavation crew to dig down past the existing foundation nearly another three feet. “It was extreme,” says World Wide Stereo’s Chad Snedaker, who helped usher the home theater project along for 18 months. “Most theaters have two rows of seats, but this homeowner wanted three, and to accommodate the sight lines we either had to go up or down. Since up meant going into the [home’s] living area, we had to go down.”
Busting through the foundation was just the beginning of what could be deemed extreme measures taken to create this personal movie palace. To accommodate the size of the screen he wanted—a 193-inch Stewart GrayHawk with full four-way masking—the room required more throw distance for the Runco projector than was available. The first idea was to actually build an additional projector booth, which would have meant excavating into the front yard. All parties decided that might be going a bit too far, so World Wide Stereo engineered a smaller projector booth and mounted the Runco SC60 (a 3-chip DLP projector with two lamps) on the floor, pointed the lens toward the ceiling and bounced the light beam off an angled mirror that then shoots the image though a projector booth window and across the room at the screen.
All that required precision planning, but being a bit of a tank (the Runco weighs 80 pounds) the projector also required its own HVAC system. Its booth includes an industrial grade cooling system, which not only keeps his projector running perfectly but is also set up to send the homeowner an alert if the temperature in the booth falls outside parameters.
A big picture was important, but this client knows his audio and was willing to take that experience as far as it would go. To that end, Keith Yates Design Group from Auburn, Calif., was called in to help with the planning of this Pennsylvania theater project. World Wide Stereo installed Bowers and Wilkins speakers and 14 JL Audio subwoofers, all surrounded by about 2 feet of acoustic material. The walls that guests see are actually made of acoustically-transparent fabric, behind which hide all the speakers. Even the ceiling is covered with speakers made ready for a Dolby Atmos system—when that technology becomes available for consumers.
The JL subs are hard workers, but they’re complemented by a custom-built “Uber Sub” made up of four 15-inch and four 14-inch drivers and 10,000 watts of power to deliver added earth-shaking punch down to 9Hz.
(Check out pictures of this winning theater here)
While the speakers are hidden behind fabric, the homeowner likes to show off his audio components, and who wouldn’t when they’re as stunning to behold as these McIntosh amplifiers. The McIntosh system is displayed in a temperature-controlled showcase in the theater’s snack lobby. Nearby is another rack of glowing blue components made of Kaleidescape severs and Blu-ray carousels (he has about 4,500 movies in his collection) and the Savant processor that allows him to easily operate the complex system.
And easy operation is especially important. The homeowner is restricted to a powered wheelchair and needs to be able to control everything with one hand. The Savant system allows him tremendous independence, giving him command over his movie and music collection as well as the home’s light and temperature systems.
The room did require some extra enhancements for the homeowner, such as a gap in the primary viewing location in the 19-seat (including his) theater for his wheelchair. The aisles and corners needed to be wide enough to allow him to easily maneuver into position, where he can soak in the home theater reality that became of those big dreams.
Lights, Camera, Action, More Lights
One of the more fun features of the room has nothing to do with the picture or sound. Under each hidden speaker is an array of LED lights. In normal mode, no one can tell that the walls are artificial or that speakers are concealed behind them. Via his iPad and Savant system, the owner can turn off the room lights and activate the LEDs. Suddenly each speaker gets bathed in a colored glow revealing them through the walls and even the perforated screen in the front. This trick never fails to bring out the oohs and aahs from friends and family visiting for movie night.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.