Automated Shades Make Basement Theater Build Possible
Controlling light from big windows was key to this bar and theater space's success.
Good things come to those who wait. That’s one of the lessons that the owner of this media room may have learned.
For several years this space was simply a nice finished basement—a place to sit, watch TV and walk out the back door to the pool. It wasn’t the showpiece that it is today, complete with a 106-inch Draper projection screen, theater seating for eight, large half-circle bar, an additional sitting area with TV, a wine storage room and an adjacent billiards room.
Tom Kucsan, president of Advanced Residential Systems in Allentown, Pa., says that the homeowner had wanted an extreme home theater system for years, but was just waiting until the time was right. Luckily for everyone, the right time coincided with a few key innovations in home technology.
The first was window shade control. This room, a basement area that opened up to the pool and patio, was surrounded by large windows. In order to support a big projection system, something had to be done about all that light. Shade control of the sort that is now available from several companies, wasn’t an option when the home was built. Now it’s an essential part of this room’s success. Kucsan used floor-to-ceiling electronic shades from Lutron with an additional backing that would block out most of the light (a little may still slip around the edges, but not enough to make an impact). With an RTI control system, a user can open or close all of the shades or just select individual ones, depending on the designed use. For example, the homeowner had a party for the Masters Tournament in April. To keep most of the light off the screen, the window shades on either side of the screen and behind the bar were all powered closed, while the shades over the door to the outside remained open enough so party guests could come and go as they pleased. “We created a preset called ‘open door,’” says Kucsan, as an example of something a custom electronics pro can program for specific situations like that.
The other innovation that helped make this space happen was Digital Projection’s M-Vision projector. The room’s coffered ceiling made getting a direct line of sight for the projector impossible while still keeping the projector concealed. The DP projector’s large horizontal lens shift helped it overcome the wood trim that would otherwise be in the light path.
Audio for the theater is provided by 10 Triad speakers that are flush mounted into the wall, but don’t think of these as simple in-wall speakers. To conceal them, Kucsan created custom acoustically transparent fabric panels.
When not settled into the theater seats, guests still have a lot of entertainment at their fingertips. Flat-panel TVs near the bar and in the billiards room can play the same content as on the big screen or independent content. Sonance in-ceiling speakers offer ambient music from multiple sources, all accessed via an RTI touchpanel or remotes. When a guest needs to take a break, there’s no need to miss out on the program—a 12-inch TV is even mounted in the bathroom.
In addition to controlling the outside light via the motorized shades, the indoor Lutron lighting offers a lot of control and customization. With the remote, a user can select various scenes such as party, movie, pool party and of course, off. The lights in the theater zone and the bar zone can be controlled individually, and set to custom intensity, so people chatting at the bar can still see each other while people seating in the theater zone can see a crisp picture. Rope lighting around the coffered ceiling helps round out the luxury feel of the room.
Maybe the homeowners had to wait several years before the project finally happened, but the family is making up for missed time by spending as much of it as they can here now.
Rack and Roll
Squeezing all the gear into this newly appointed space was an unexpected challenge for Advanced Residential Systems’ Tom Kucsan. After the room was wired, a design change required the gear racks be moved from their originally planned location to a small area under the bar. “We had to shoehorn them into a cabinet,” says Kucsan, which required him to engineer appropriate air flow to keep everything cool. He notes that the Middle Atlantic pull-out racks helped a lot in this process by making the gear more accessible.
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