July 22, 2010
| by Lisa Montgomery
It’s hard to believe the original plan for this theater was to cart in the owners’ existing 60-inch TV and put in a small surround-sound system. The owners felt the setup would be perfectly adequate for their newly finished bonus room … until they met with the custom electronics professionals (CE pros) at Gramophone, Timonium, Md.
“After showing them what was possible, they saw the light,” says sales manager Jeff Hudkins. Soon, the basic plan grew into a “theme” theater, complete with controllable colored LED lighting.
It’s mainly Star Trek inside the 23-by-30-foot space, including wall designs with views of space and the Enterprise. The entrance to the room, however, is fashioned after the British TV show, Doctor Who. The two themes complement each other well, says Hudkins. “We made the 8-by-4-foot entrance look like Doctor Who’s Tardis, the telephone-booth style time machine he would use to go backward and forward in time.” (Click here to view additional photos and info.)
Just as Doctor Who would, the owners step through the Tardis to be transported to a new world—the sci-fi theater. To emulate the Tardis “in flight,” occupancy sensors set off a swirling light show and an audio clip from the Dr. Who show.
As it does in the Tardis, colored LED lighting plays a big part in the portrayal of the sci-fi theme in the theater. Wall sconces, cove fixtures, and twinkling fiber-optic ceiling lights all contribute to the effect. The owners can choose from any of five preset lighting scenes, or tweak the color, pattern and intensity of the lights individually from a wireless Crestron touchpanel.
The sophisticated lighting system helps this room look and feel its sci-fi best, but it had the Gramophone team scratching its head when it came to the layout and installation of the theater gear. The installers couldn’t hang a video projector from the ceiling as they normally would because it would distract visually from the fiber-optic light show on the ceiling. Even if they could have, the rest of the room lighting—both artificial and natural from the room’s exposed windows—would have washed out the image as it traveled from the lens of the projector to the screen.
The best option, therefore, was a rear-projection system where the projector would be positioned in an enclosed space behind the screen. Since the room was unfinished, Gramophone was able tuck the projector behind a newly constructed false wall (all of the audio/video components, three B&W surround-sound speakers and two Velodyne subwoofers reside here, too). A 100-inch Runco screen was mounted directly in front of the projector cavity. As for the windows, Gramophone designed removable paneling that could be placed over the panes whenever the owners wanted to watch a movie in the dark.
The room can be darkened further by pressing a few buttons on the Creston touchpanel. The owners can instruct certain fixtures to dim; others to fade out completely. Plus, they can press MOVIE to activate the appropriate A/V gear: Rotel and Velodyne amps, Sony Blu-ray player and high-def cable box.
In addition to enhancing the room design and movie viewing, the lighting in this theater helps the family communicate better and stay true to its religious beliefs. When the doorbell rings, for example, red LED lights flash. Since the walls of the room are stuffed with sound isolation materials, this is the only way the family can “hear” the bell. Also, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, the same sensors that set off the light show and audio clip disable the theater completely whenever someone steps through the Tardis. The time machine may not be real in this theater, but even if the family could jump forward five years, this theater would still feel fresh, fun and functional. The lights, the video and the audio all work together to create a space that’s as timeless as it is unique.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.