Building a home theater is definitely better the second time around. Case in point, projectors that can do 1080p high-definition resolution weren’t available to this New Jersey homeowner when he was watching movies in his previous house’s theater.
But oh the video options to choose from today! When the homeowner moved, he wanted to build a new, state-of-the-art theater. “He’s more into video than audio, and we did the 1080p projector when it was kind a new thing,” says system installer Bob Smith of Allwired Technologies. “The projector must have changed six times within the course of this project. I can’t remember exactly what he had in his old theater, but it was definitely not 1080p, and it was a smaller room with a smaller screen.”
What the installer and homeowner finally settled on for this new house’s fun and functional home theater was the Sony VPL-VW100 1080p LCD projector. They chose an equally stellar 123-inch Firehawk screen from Stewart Filmscreen to display the images.
The projector works so well that Smith says he even granted the homeowner’s request to incorporate a TiVo DVR; he upgraded to the high-definition version, complete with a DVD burner. “I normally don’t do TiVo because there’s only so much bandwidth, and the other (non-high-def) channels get limited. When they’re blown up to a 123-inch screen, you’re asking to see problems,” Smith says. “But the Sony [model] has a built-in scaler to upconvert the video, so even the low-res stuff looks pretty good.”
For audio, the homeowner stuck with the brand he loved from his old theater and had his heart set on again. This time, though, his Atlantic Technologies system was upgraded to a THX 9.2 surround-sound thumper that included three pairs of Atlantic’s 4200e SR matching dipole surrounds for the wall columns and a couple of Sunfire 1,000-watt 12-inch subwoofers. The old theater’s all-in-one receiver also earned a boost to a combination of preamp and 7-channel amplifier from Outlaw Audio.
For some extra shake in the sound stage, Allwired added the Butt Kicker LFE kit to the theater’s first two rows of seating, ensuring that the sound will not only be heard but truly felt. “It’s not too much money to add for a little impact,” Smith says.
The seating itself was optimized to eliminate any line-of-sight issues, as theatergoers can choose from four rows, including a back row of bar stools, with each resting atop a 12-inch riser all the way down to the first row and screen area. To accommodate the seating arrangement with top sound from the 9.2 THX system, Smith installed the front sound stage of speakers above the screen instead of below it, hidden behind woodwork and angled down toward the viewers. That way, there’s nothing to inhibit the audio from the risers.
Allwired worked with Acoustic Smart to deliver quality acoustic isolation and help turn what started out as a somewhat square space into more of a rectangular environment. “We wanted to take what he had before and step it up. His other theater room sounded good, but look-wise, it was not as functional and didn’t make a lot of sense,” says Acoustic Smart’s Rich Charschan. “And his first room he thought was incredible.”
It doesn’t compare to what Acoustic Smart put together this time, which included installing its Noise Barrier treatment product and own line of fabric to go on top of the columns and function virtually like a speaker grille. “He wanted a real traditional fabric, and we had started making our own breathable fabric,” Charschan says. “We took an extensive damask pattern from other designers and figured out a way to take the tight weave out, so if you put a speaker behind it, you don’t lose any of the sound quality.”
Since the home has three children, the theater also includes several special details that make for a family-friendly atmosphere, both practically and aesthetically. The screen opens behind a motorized curtain that is controlled via a Crestron system, which also works eight zones of Lutron lighting that bring out the ambiance in the ceiling, stage, platforms, bar area and more. The kids can eat pizza at the bar before playing their Xbox 360 on the 123-inch screen, and if that’s not enough for them, there’s always the adjacent bowling lane and pool table.
One thing’s for certain in this homeowner’s basement: There’s no mistaking that you’re about to get a true theater experience when you walk by the lit-up movie poster, around the replica box office and mannequin ticket taker, and under the marquee before taking your seat inside. Shhhhh—the movie’s about to begin!
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.