One of the easiest places to install a theater is in a basement. That wasn’t the case in this particular home, however. A sloped floor would throw a huge monkey wrench into the subterranean design plans, as would a brick chimney, and several steel support beams. After plugging all of these roadblocks and room dimensions into a special computer program, the custom electronics professionals (CE pros) at The OneTouch House, Victoria, British Columbia, decided that the best solution was to rebuild the room, essentially constructing a completely new structure within the existing boundaries.
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For this, The OneTouch House would need the help of a seasoned home builder, G.E. Miller Builder and Contractor, who recommended constructing two large wooden platforms and placing them near the back of the room where the floor angled downward. Although this helped even out the floor, it also shortened the ceiling height to about 6-1/2 feet, leaving The OneTouch House no choice but to place the CinemaScope-size screen at the other end of the room were the ceiling height was a more comfortable height of 7-1/2 feet.
Next on the contractor’s to-do list: hide the brick chimney. Located on the front wall, right where the screen would go, it was a feature that somehow needed to disappear. A false wall built over the chimney did the trick and provided a 2-foot-deep storage area for some of the A/V equipment and the back sides of the front three of the seven surround-sound speakers.
Structural beams, meanwhile, where concealed behind a newly constructed ceiling and side and rear walls.
The space between the old and new walls gave The OneTouch House a place to tuck in the remaining four speakers, as well as some much needed acoustical materials. Even with the new walls and flooring placed over the existing concrete shell, sonically, the room was still very “live,” explains manager of installations Martin Engelbrecht. When a room is live, the sound tends to echo and distort. The acoustical materials minimize those problems by absorbing some of the harsh audio reflections.
One piece of equipment the team wasn’t able to tuck in anywhere was the Panasonic projector. It hangs from the ceiling at the back of the room, “far enough behind the back row seats so that no one bumps their head on it,” says Engelbrecht. A vent in the ceiling just above the projector extracts warm air from the unit to prevent the unit and the room from becoming too warm. “G.E. Miller’s team worked very hard to ensure the fan was not an intrusion by placing the fan (via a ventilation tube) as far away as possible from the ventilation vent in the wall. They then taped the exterior of the ventilation pipe to further muffle the sound. By installing a control knob on the fan, they allowed me to set it at a level that keeps fresh air in the room without being noisy at all,” says the homeowner, who can turn the ventilation fan off and on via a wireless Control4 touchpanel, just as he can with the A/V equipment. All the basic commands are at their fingertips, as well as special setups (see below) that help erase all memories of the room’s previous life as an odd-shaped, concrete storage bunker.
As important as the gear that makes your home theater hum, are the commands that make it easy to operate. Commands referred to as “macros” are particularly helpful. Custom-programmed into a remote or touchpanel by a custom electronics professional, a macro button when pressed launches a string of instructions to several pieces of equipment. MOVIE is a macro commonly used in home theaters, which, depending on your needs and entertainment system, could rev up the video projector, activate the A/V receiver and dim the lights. In this theater, the owners can launch the following macros from their Control4 touchpanel: Prepare, Good-bye, Watch movie, 16x9 aspect ratio.
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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.