DIY Home Theaters
Basement Theater No Sweat for DIY Couple
How's this for teamwork? While Paul Hayes mounted the projector, his wife Cindy built the 104-inch screen from scratch.
DIY Basement Theater
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September 08, 2008 by Krissy Rushing

Hailing from Manchester, sadly enough Paul Hayes had to replace his entire DVD collection with Region 1 discs when he moved to the states. I guess that is what you get when you are a die-hard movie fan. Luckily, if he ever moves back overseas he no longer has to worry about such problems thanks to Blu-ray disc’s regionless functionality. But a move isn’t likely, as Paul has the perfect wife and the perfect home theater to keep her happy. In fact, Cindy Hayes is as much into movies as Paul is, and that shared interest is one of the main reasons that the couple hit it off in the first place. Paul likes movie so much, he makes it his day job: He’s the editor of a movie-review website, Ascully.com.

A few years ago, Paul purchased his first home in Jefferson City, Missouri, and one of the main criteria was that it have a large basement that they could convert into a theater. Fortunately, the basement was already somewhat finished, so construction was not as intense as it can sometimes be on these basement-to-theater remodels. “We did absolutely everything by ourselves. We had to build the screen and mount the projector, plus decorate the room with the various movie memorabilia,” says Paul. Of course, no do-it-yourself theater would be complete without a little help from one’s friends, and Paul’s is no exception: He had a friend make some custom DVD shelves and install them in the room.

These small tasks still managed to pose big challenges for the Hayes, who had never designed a room like this before. “The most challenging part of the job was mounting the Sony VPL-AW10 Bravia projector inside the suspended ceiling,” says Paul. “Mounting the projector to the joists was easy enough, but the Sony does not feature lens shift and the mount we bought was fairly cheap and hard to get level. It drove us mad for a few weeks as it was never square or straight on the screen, but eventually it ended up working out.” Overall, he couldn’t be happier with the picture quality from the Sony. “This projector retails at under $1000, and to my eye is pretty amazing for the price,  project onto our homemade 104-inch fixed frame screen,” says Paul.

The Hayes project the Sony onto their home-made 104-inch 16:9 fixed frame screen. And when he says homemade, he means it. In the face of a pervasive “my wife won’t let me” world view, Paul chose his mate well: His wife Cindy didn’t just buy a screen and install it, she actually built the screen from scratch and integrated it into the room herself, saving money in the process. “We sit about 8 feet away from the screen, and it’s incredible how well this emulates a real movie theater,” says Paul. He uses a PS3 connected via HDMI to view Blu-ray discs, a Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD player to view upscaled DVDs, and an Xbox 360 to play games on the big screen. All the cables from the projector to the system rack are routed through the suspended ceiling, out of harms way.

Audio is handled by Polk Audio M20 floorstanding speakers for the front and rears, and a Polk CSM center channel. Again, Paul went with more budget-minded choices, but he “hopes to inspire people with small budgets to go ahead and build a system using lower-end components.” According to him, you don’t need a bottomless wallet to build a nice theater.

Aesthetically, Paul left the room largely untouched. “The room is still done up in the typical ’70s-looking wood basement style you find in this part of the USA,” says Paul. “One day I would like to rip all the wooden panels out, put in drywall, and make it look more like a real theater. But for now the wood will have to do.” And with the lights down, one of Paul’s 1,000 movies playing, and an image this good, who’s looking at the wood?

Quick Hits:
Room Dimensions: 17 feet wide x 23 feet long x 8 feet high
Starting Budget: $5,000
Ending Budget: $7,500
Length of Project: Two years

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Equipment List

Sony Bravia VPLAW15 Projector
104-inch Fixed Framed Screen
Sony Universal Remote Commander
Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD Player
Pioneer VSX-816 Receiver
Polk Audio M20 Floorstanding Speakers
Polk Audio CSM Center Speaker
Polk Audio M20 Floorstanding Surround Speakers
MTX SW2 12-inch Subwoofer
Sony PS3
Microsoft Xbox 360


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