Mix of Old and New Aid Budget Theater Build
With an eye toward high-quality HD video, the big chunk of this theater went into the projector and screen.
March 15, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

Wanting a new home theater doesn’t always mean leaving your old electronics behind. This homeowner wanted to add some spark to his existing viewing environment by upgrading to a two-piece projector-screen setup. He was plenty satisfied, though, with the Sony home theater in a box (HTIB) system he already owned.

So when it came time to outfit his previously finished basement, the homeowner contacted Aurora, Ill.-based Epic Integrated A/V to expand that HTIB into a full theater—at a matinee price. Incorporating the equipment he already owned helped keep costs down, thereby allowing him to splurge on his video wishes.

“I don’t think they had a specific budget, but we went through a couple of revisions on quotes, and he ended up telling me he wanted to make use of the speakers [and other HTIB gear] to save on cost,” says Epic’s Joel Hawbaker. “His priority was more looking at it as a whole theater experience with that big screen, because the rest of the house had regular TVs. We didn’t want him to compromise on the video and later regret it.”

With that in mind—and keep in mind that this project was completed a couple of years ago—more than half of the budget was devoted to the projector and screen: a $3,000 InFocus DLP high-definition projector, and $1,200 Draper Onyx 92-inch fixed-frame screen. At the time, 1080p HD resolution was still pricey, especially in the projector market, and the InFocus 720p model fit the bill.

“There wasn’t a lot of other money spent,” says Hawbaker. “The room was completely blank, so we retrofitted the wire and mounted everything, and the labor wasn’t too expensive.”

The system design, installation, setup and basic calibration amounted to about $1,400 of the $7,625 spent on the room. The drop ceiling made fishing wire easy, and the single day’s work included ample time to mount the screen, speakers and projector.

A basic equipment rack and shelf assembly went inside the doorway of an adjacent utility area (another doorway to the dedicated theater is toward the rear). Epic saddled a Middle Atlantic Slim series rack with the electronics and surge protection, and used a steel frame model rather than “spending twice as much” on a wood version in the series or cabinetry. The owner also didn’t mind opening the door to turn on the gear and pop in a DVD, so Epic did not need to include an expensive RF (radio frequency) remote.

The homeowners used their own seating, though basic theater chairs or a loveseat could have kept the room at around $10,000—and they eventually bought leather chairs online in another cost-effective move. Even a suitable audio upgrade at the time would not have pushed the budget much over $10K.

Of course, like any happy theater owner, “he might upgrade in the future,” says Hawbaker. “We’re talking about it.”

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

Systems Design and Installation
Epic Integrated A/V
Aurora, Ill.

InFocus SP7205 DLP Projector ($2,999)
Peerless Projector Mount, Extension and De-coupler ($315)
Draper Onyx 92-inch Fixed Screen ($1,195)
Middle Atlantic Rack, 21U Frame with Shelves and Hardware ($410)
Panamax Surge Protection for Rack and Projector ($64)
Key Digital 30-foot HDMI Cable ($285)
Bulk Cable: 14/2 Speaker Wire, RG6 Coax, Cat 5e ($197)
Other Hardware, Materials, Expenses ($357)
System Design, Installation, Setup and Basic Calibration ($1,410)
Sales Tax ($393)

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