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A High Tech, High Contrast Home Theater
Don't be deceived by the simplistic scheme of this home theater. What it lacks in hues, it makes up in technology.
A High Tech, High Contrast Home Theater
Building a black and white only theater is not as easy as it may sound.
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June 26, 2008 by Steven Castle

That’s right, it’s a black-and-white theater—as in black, and white. No gradients of gray. In fact, the whole house is like this. Just outside the theater is a black-and-white game room, a black-and-white bar area and a black-and-white exercise room. Elsewhere in the house, there’s a zebra suite (enough said), a black-and-white living room complete with a black-and-white globe, and a black-and-white puzzle room.

Get the very high-contrast picture? We thought you would. It’s pretty black and white. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

North Carolina homeowners Ray and Shelley bought this contempo southwestern-style home, and upon entering, noticed that everything was done in white. So the couple decided to go with it. They also own a Florida condo that Ray says is just the opposite, decked out in bright colors. He jokes that when they get bored with one place, they hop on a plane and fly to the other.

“Living here is a lot of fun,” Ray says. “We’re on top of a hill and we have mountains outside, so when we get sick of looking on the inside, we look outside. There’s so much color outside, we don’t really miss it on the inside.”

A lot of the house was already decorated when Ray and Shelley called Harmony Interiors in Asheville, NC, to install some home entertainment systems and a home theater. “We had an unfinished basement we wanted to turn into a fun area. We came up with a home theater, wine cellar, big game room and a bar,” says Ray.

The instructions to Harmony’s Scott Varn? You guessed it: black and white, no gray. Once Varn entered the house, he realized how strict those criteria would be. He still didn’t think it would be that challenging, until he and his team started working on the designs. “If you do too much black and white, your eyes start popping out. Everything becomes a zebra, and when you move your head, you can create unwanted illusions,” he says.

Because there would be no gray, the solution was to use different finishes of black, like gloss and matte, which stand out against each other in the light. Three pieces of wood were used on the columns, and the layering helped achieve some depth and variety. Atop some of the columns aren’t lights, but polished white alabaster stone illuminated by ceiling lights above.

A powerful JBL Synthesis Three System is tucked into the space, with the front left and right speakers behind the grille cloths flanking the screen and the center channel behind the acoustically transparent 106-inch Draper screen. Beneath the screen, the stage doubles as a hiding place for the audio/video components and two subwoofers. The stage rack is vented into a room beneath an adjoining staircase. Four surround speakers are cut into the Acoustic First acoustic panels on the side walls and remain invisible behind the wall fabric, to round out the 7.2 speaker system.

Theater-goers can relax in white leather Cineak Fortuny recliners when appreciating the picture from the JVC 3-panel 1080p D-ILA (Direct-drive Image Light Amplifier) projector. D-ILA is a variant of LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), which is sort of a cross between DLP and LCD technology, offering a smooth, filmlike picture. “So, um, Scott, … we almost hate to ask, but how are the blacks?”

“The blacks are fine on this,” Varn says. “It’s a great projector, and the picture is as good as any I’ve seen. It’s not a very bright projector though, so any ambient light will wash it out. But this is a dark room.”

He’s got that right. In fact, a black-walled room is a home theater aficionado’s dream, reflecting virtually no light back onto the screen. We never thought we’d see it.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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