DIY Home Theaters
DIY Theater Sparks a Screen Company
Ruben Ortiz didn't just want to build his own theater and screen; he spread that love to others via SmX Cinema Solutions.
Ruben Ortiz Theater
Ruben Ortiz built his own garage theater from top to bottom, including a custom screen and starfield ceiling.
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March 16, 2009 by Rachel Cericola

AVS regulars may know Ruben Ortiz, aka SandmanX. This AVS Forumite not only has a construction thread with well over one million views (and 118 pages), but he took his DIY obsession to the next level—the professional one.

Shortly after creating his theater in 2006, Ruben founded SmX Cinema Solutions. “SmX started from an acoustically transparent screen surface I developed,” he says. “It was something I developed for my personal theater due to the existing screen companies’ screen surfaces lacking one thing or another.” Most of those issues had to do with alternative audio transparent screen materials. Well, Ruben must have done something right because, to date, there are countless numbers of people online raving about them.

Before he started the company, Ruben had a post-production A/V studio in New York City. He also had a hankering to create his own home theater.

Although many home theater enthusiasts use spare rooms or basements for a theater spot, Ruben sacrificed his 2-car garage. See, homes in Florida just don’t have basements. Besides, “we solely used our garage to store junk,” Ruben says. He dumped the junk and created a floor plan.

Because the theater was located in his garage, Ruben first needed a way to keep the sound from escaping into the neighborhood—or into his house. The solution was to create a “room within a room,” using double-layered Sheetrock, staggered studs and insulation. Aside from solving the sound problems, this addition will also make it easy to demolition the room (perish the thought!), if Ruben ever decides to sell the house.

Adding those extra layers led to one of the most challenging parts of the entire project: installing in the ceiling. At first, Ruben wanted 8-foot ceilings, so he made the walls eight feet tall and ran the ceiling joists. “Well, after all was said and done, I stood in the theater and realized I would risk hitting my head on the light trays when up on the rear platform,” he says. “Plus, the room felt a bit claustrophobic to me with the lower ceiling, because I am 6-foot-3.” He tore down the joists and built another 12-inch wall extension to add some ceiling height.

Naturally, that was far from the last of the challenges with this install. In fact, it seemed as though Ruben thrived on them. One of his projects was building a starfield ceiling. “It was a fun and interesting job,” Ruben says. “Plus, I really didn’t know of any companies that manufactured ceilings like that back then.” Of course, now there are many companies that make similar products, but Ruben’s is his own. “It was really spectacular to see it light up the first night we installed it.”

One challenge that wasn’t as fun or interesting: a hit from hurricane Wilma. Power outages in the area kept Ruben from working on his theater for about two weeks. He can’t complain, though. Only a bit of his roof and some outside lighting got damaged. It kept him away from the project, but that diversion wasn’t as difficult as the task of finding that perfect spot for the theater equipment. For about a year, the equipment sat in the theater room. However, the lights and fan noise became “annoying,” Ruben says. To keep the peace (and Ruben’s sanity), he took everything out and relocated it right outside the theater—not nestled in between the cars in the driveway, but right before you walk through the theater door. “I had to re-run all of all the wires to accomplish this, which wasn’t fun.”

Ruben kicked off his theater two years ago with an HD-DVD showing of King Kong. Fast forward to today, many large post-production studios, such as Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, Deluxe Color Labs and some of the world’s biggest directors and producers, use SmX screens to produce movies on. They aren’t the only ones that rely on Ruben; AVS members are still looking to his construction thread, as well as his screen company, to make some of their theater dreams come true, too. 

Click here to view photos of Ruben’s theater.

Quick Hits
Location: Boca Raton, FL
Year Completed: 2006
Room Size: 15 x 20 feet
Length of Project: 1 year
Total Cost: $75,000

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at

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