College basketball fans typically point to the NCAA tournament as the most exciting weekend of the year. There’s a reason the tourney has become known as March Madness. Three or four games are played simultaneously, with upsets waiting to happen (plus the fate of all those office pools hang in the balance). For many, it’s the apex of the sports calendar.
Count the owner of this theater among that group. That’s why electronic systems installer Audio Video Concepts of Columbia, IL, dubbed this particular project the March Madness Theater.
The setup is enough to make any sports fan drool, especially one whose thumbs get tired from remote clicking on any given Saturday. There’s a 135-inch screen that makes watching the big game that much bigger. And a press of a button retracts the screen to reveal an even juicier setup, with a 60-inch TV sitting beneath three 32-inch sets.
“We typically talk to the homeowner to try to find out what kind of use he’ll get from a theater room,” says Audio Video Concepts president Rob Roessler. “His big thing was March Madness. He’s a huge college basketball fan, so we wanted to incorporate that, but he also wanted to watch movies on a widescreen.”
Because the homeowner is also a fan of Sony, that company’s mark is all over the video in this room. A Sony VPL-VW100 SXRD (Silicon X-tal [Crystal] Reflective Display) projector handles the images to fill the Stewart Filmscreen motorized screen, and the four TVs are Sony XBR series models. There’s also a Sony 400-disc DVD/CD megachanger and a BDP-S300 Blu-ray player for high-definition movies.
“Our favorite part is the multiple screens,” says the homeowner. “It’s great to be able to keep up with several games at once or even several different sporting events and switch back and forth during commercials or if a game is getting more exciting. And then to be able to bring the movie screen down really makes the game or movie come to life.”
Along with college hoops, the homeowner and his wife ardently follow Big Ten college football on autumn Saturdays, and sports such as golf and baseball will fill the screens as well. A Crestron matrix switcher serves up video to the monitors from four satellite receivers, allowing them to spread multiple games from DirecTV’s college basketball and football packages across the displays. If a game on one of the 32-inch TVs looks exciting or is winding down to the final play, the homeowner can easily swap signals to make it the source on the 60-incher or even drop down the screen in a jiff.
Roessler’s team programmed the owners’ Crestron TPMC-8X touchpanel to make operation of this best-of-both-worlds theater a slam dunk. A replication of the wall layout is on the screen, so all the homeowner has to do is click on the TV icon that matches which one he wants to watch—the monitor in the upper left of his wall correlates with the icon in the upper left of the touchscreen, for example—to control that set. The surround-sound audio (James Loudspeakers front channels and Paradigm in-walls and subwoofer) is only linked to the big TV or the screen, so if he wants to hear what’s going on in a peripheral game and it’s on satellite 2, for example, he just presses sat 2 and big tv, it’s switched and that game would show on the 60-inch TV as well as the 32-incher it was originally on. Should he want to really blow up the action, there’s a projector icon in a corner of the TPMC-8X screen that powers off the TVs, lowers the screen and fires up the projector.
“We’ve done multiple TVs before, usually in theater rooms with a large screen in the middle and 42-inch plasmas on the sides, but the difference is that typically the screen will be fixed in the middle,” Roessler says. “With this room, it’s like two separate theaters built into one, because depending on whether the screen is up or down, you can look at two different pictures.”
Audio Video Concepts had to ensure that the screen would not bump into any of the TVs on its way down. The installation included an extra foot between the TV area and a trough surrounding the opening, so when the screen drops, it creates an apparent wall that no one would suspect had anything hidden behind it.
For either setup, the homeowners wanted to maintain a somewhat traditional living room feel. Rather than placing chair after chair in the space, the two rows of Berkline recliners feature separate seats on the aisles, and two are combined as loveseats in the middle. There’s also a sofa in front of the two rows for more relaxation. The mix of beige, cowhide and maroon creates a warm decor that helps make it a nightly destination for the family.
“We had huge expectations of our theater, and it has certainly lived up to them,” the homeowner says. “It’s very functional and great for private viewings or for having friends over for the games or movie night. And my 6-year-old daughter loves to have her friends over to watch Disney movies on the big screen.”
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.