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It’s exciting to move into a house that’s already set up with a media room, but like many amenities of an existing home, it never really feels quite your own. Rather than live with the established A/V arrangement, the owners of this 5,388-square-foot house undertook a major renovation project that would turn a simple 450-square-foot media room into a custom home theater that would better reflect their style and suit their entertainment needs.
The owners enlisted the help of Jeff Jenkins, owner of FX Pros in Little Rock, Ark., to handle the conversion, which would involve a lot more than a new coat of paint and A/V components. “The previous owner had the media room facing the short wall opposite the bar area,” says Jenkins. It’s an arrangement that makes sense if you want to sit on a barstool and watch TV, but in this room it also wasted a lot of space. The new owners wanted more seating for the theater, so Jenkins suggested reorienting the room. One downside of switching the layout was that none of the existing wiring could be used. “We pulled it all out,” says Jenkins.
While reorienting the room allowed for more seats and a better use of the space, it also presented some access problems at the screen wall. Jenkins built out the wall for the screen and speakers and did a lot of custom trimwork to make it a showpiece. There he installed a 120-inch Dragonfly screen and Episode in-wall speakers.
Speaking of gear, the homeowner came to Jenkins with some pretty clear ideas of what he wanted. He had done a lot of reading and had his heart set on an Epson 6020UB 3LCD projector. The projector’s split-screen feature, which would allow him to watch two sports programs at once, as well as the unit’s touted 3D capabilities, are what sold him. He also wanted audio that moved him. “I want to feel it,” he told Jenkins. Jenkins suggested Episode’s HT950s for the main stereo pair with an HT900 for the center. Also installed up front by the screen are two Episode 8-inch in-wall passive subwoofers. For the rear and surround speakers, Jenkins tucked Episode HT700s in the ceiling. He says this system gives the room a great soundstage and a response range of 30Hz up to 40kHz. For the added “feel” the client requested, “we added a reinforcement subwoofer in a custom cut-in cabinet in an adjacent wall.”
Because this space would be used for more than watching movies, an area at the back was given a small table and its own 50-inch Samsung flat-panel TV fed from the Zone 2 output of the room’s Denon AVR-3313 receiver.
The room came with a vaulted ceiling in the main area, so to set it off, Jenkins lined the perimeter with crown molding, and installed a dimmable LED lighting system. These lights, along with the front wall sconces, ceiling lights, and bar area lights are integrated into a ProControl control system. When the users put the room in movie mode, all the lights dim to a preset level. A sports viewing mode keeps some of the fixtures moderately lit so viewers can comfortably have conversations about the game and get up for snacks without tripping.
The entire A/V setup and lights are controlled with a ProControl remote system and the ProPanel iPad interface. The remote is the go-to controller for people situated in the theater seats, but an iPad mini was mounted on the front wall for quick access to the control menus.
Content is delivered to the video projector from an Apple TV, a Blu-ray player and a DirecTV Genie DVR, which is also distributed to A/V setups in other rooms in the house. A Russound system distributes music to speakers throughout the house, with the exception of the speakers in the theater.
Although the room is perfectly functional, and the homeowners use it frequently, it’s still getting upgrades. An 8-inch riser was recently added to the rear row of seats to improve the view. Other projects in the house are also ongoing, such as an outdoor entertainment area that will include plenty of A/V.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.