Overcoming a Low-Ceiling Theater Design
Where do you hang a projector when the ceiling's just 7 feet high?
Credit: William Psolka
November 10, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

Who wants to get out of their comfy theater chair and bump their head on a projector? Especially a five-figure projector with some pretty sharp corners. Ouch.

The challenge in turning this unfinished basement, with a mere 7-foot-high ceiling, into a high-performance home theater hinged largely on projector placement. To complicate matters, the homeowner had selected a Runco model whose throw distance from the back wall—the next obvious placement option—wouldn’t jive with the room’s 17-foot length and plans for a 110-inch screen, according to Ross Anderson, the project manager for custom installation firm Electronics Design Group (EDG) of Piscataway, N.J.

“The main challenge of this room was its unconventional size,” Anderson says. “This complicated the projector placement and the audio engineering process. No projector could be fastened to the ceiling, due to the extremely low height. So a floor-mounted cabinet was selected as the most effective option.”

But thanks to some interior designer intervention, as well as a new Runco model featuring a greater throw distance, rear-wall placement was finally an option. No floor cabinet was required, the potential for head injuries was eliminated, and the upgraded projector produced a better HD picture.

EDG constructed a separate enclosure to house the projector, a Runco VX-22d, on the back wall. This served to enhance the theater’s clean and contemporary look.

On the audio side, EDG installed a sophisticated and high-powered solution featuring seven Genelec AIW25 speakers and RAM2 AIW25 amplifiers, plus a Genelec HTS3b subwoofer and Lexicon MC-8 BAL processor. Four ceiling panels and 17 acoustic diffusor panels from RPG help deliver smooth audio coverage, which EDG calibrated and programmed using a Nady DSM-1 digital SPL meter.

The seating arrangement isn’t as sophisticated, but Anderson notes that because of the low ceiling, tiered rows were not considered. Instead, the owners created multiple sight lines to the screen—using pod-shaped gamer seats in front. Earth tones throughout provide the finishing touches and allow the vivid HD colors to stand out even more.

Labor Pains
This exhaustive theater construction took a total of 226 man hours to complete, from EDG’s first talks with the homeowners to their training after the installation was complete. Here’s a breakdown by step:
Homeowner interviews – 18 hours
Electronic design and engineering – 19 hours
Proposal and system documentation prep – 8 hours
Pre-wire/rough-in – 12 hours
Trim-out – 8 hours
Shop time for racking and testing – 22 hours
Programming – 20 hours
Final installation and calibration – 88 hours
Client instruction – 2 hours
Interior design and architecture work – 10 hours

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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.

System Design & Installation
Electronics Design Group
Piscataway, N.J.

Stern-Ring Associates
Florham Park, N.J.

Interior Design
Karen Bowen Interiors
Short Hills, N.J.

MDK Contracting
Livingston, N.J.

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