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On the surface this room seems like a comfortable place to kick back with a few friends for some relaxing conversation over cocktails. There’s the intimate seating area with cozy club chairs, leather-upholstered walls, a rich color palette and a bar at the back with an ample assortment of libations. “It exudes the look and feel of a traditional gentleman’s lounge,” says Josh Christian of VIA International’s Los Angeles branch. The only element seemingly missing from this swank men’s hangout is a big screen to catch a flick or sporting event … or is it?
On the command from a Crestron handheld remote stationed conveniently on the bar top, the room transforms from a stylish social gathering spot to a high-end home theater in a matter of seconds. The remarkable conversion begins as a platform holding three JBL Synthesis speakers and dual subwoofers rises into view from beneath the hardwood floor. Also attached to the “jig” is a metal housing for a 12-foot (diagonal) Stewart Filmscreen screen. When the platform is in place, the screen rolls down from the housing, putting the screen-and-speaker arrangement into the perfect listening and viewing position.
At the back of the room other mysterious changes are taking place. Motorized, retractable leather wall panels behind the bar part to allow a commercial-grade Barco D-Cinema projector to beam images onto the screen through a pane of glass that separates this convertible space from a cinema-style projection room.
How to Hide a 12-foot Screen
Stretching the wingspan of an albatross, the Stewart Filmscreen screen chosen for this space would not be easy to hide. A pitched roof was unamenable to the addition of a mechanism to roll the screen down from the ceiling, and the layout and design of the room prohibited the addition of special cabinetry to house the massive display. Plus, says VIA’s Josh Christian, with a functional projection room already situated behind the bar, the only viable place to stow the screen would be beneath the floor. The crawlspace wasn’t the appropriate environment to accommodate an open, fixed screen, so the solution, explains Christian, was to roll the screen into a slim housing and attach it to the top of a metal jig on a motorized platform. As the platform (which also holds three speakers and two subwoofers) ascends, a relay triggers the screen to roll down automatically from its housing. Viola! A 12-foot screen appears and is ready to present a larger-than-life movie.
The electronically triggered lift and wall panels were already in place when the custom electronics (CE) professionals at VIA were hired by the homeowner to update the technology in this room, as well as elsewhere in the house. The homeowners spared no expense on the lounge-turned-theater makeover, choosing a massive 2.35:1, CinemaScope-format screen to replace an existing 16:9 screen, and a high-end DLP projector to take the spot of an old-school 35-millimeter projector.
The Barco DLP machine is part of a D-Cinema package that includes a specially engineered Dolby media server, 3D Dolby pro sound system and JBL Synthesis sound system. Combined, these components allow the homeowner to watch first-run movies—this, and the fact that he’s a member of Hollywood’s exclusive Bel-Air Circuit. This elite group of Hollywood bigwigs has enough clout to have hard drives of movies couriered to their homes to watch in their own private theaters on the same day as the movie’s release to commercial cinemas. The panoramic screen befits many of the new blockbusters being filmed in the super-wide format, but black masking panels in this media space can be triggered via the Crestron control system to slide over the screen automatically to alter its shape for a 16:9-format movie.
To stay on par with the dynamic video, VIA installed a high-end 7.2 surround-sound system composed of JBL Synthesis speakers and two subwoofers. The three front speakers and subwoofers are mounted within the metal jig that moves the video screen housing; the side and rear Revel-brand speakers are tucked into the walls, with only decorative speaker grilles giving away their presence. The speaker setup is powered by several JBL amps and an Integra processor, which VIA racked neatly in the spacious back-of-bar projection room along with the video components and a Crestron automation processor. When the owners aren’t watching a commercial movie release that’s been loaded onto the Dolby hard drive, they can tap a button on the handy Crestron MTX-3 remote to cue content from a Kaleidescape media server, Oppo Blu-ray disc player, Apple TV or DirecTV receiver.
Although the mysterious, rise-from-the-depths, pro-grade home theater system steals much of the limelight in this house, the Crestron automation system added by VIA plays a huge role in creating the appropriate room environment. The same remote that activates the motorized lift and panels, and kick starts the projector, amps, and processor, can just as easily dim the lights and close the motorized window shades, making this room transformation complete from A to Z.
More home theater and entertainment articles:
Soundbar or Soundbase? Which Speaker Style is for You?
10 Tips to Make a Family Room Look Like a Theater
7 Most Important Features in a Media Manager for Music and Movies
9 Overlooked Home Theater Features
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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.