Basement Makeover Offers High-Tech Fun for Entire Family
Photos: Ryan Herd
Carefully constructed 2.35:1 theater shares lower level with kids room, with music and lighting control all over.
This basement media room looks like it was built as part of a newly constructed home, but it’s really a renovation of an existing residence. Sure, the original finished room’s walls and ceiling might have sufficed in creating a basic home theater—affixing a projection screen to the wall, placing speakers on the floor or wall, dangling a projector from the ceiling, stacking components in a cabinet—but this approach would have created quite an eyesore in this modern, elegant house.
Ryan Herd of 1 Sound Choice, Pompton Plains, N.J., designed and constructed this beautiful basement makeover with aesthetics in mind and concealed everything except, of course, the projection screen. Since the home theater would share space with a kids’ playroom, at least one area would be assured of staying tidy and uncluttered.
“The first thing we talked about with the homeowner was how he thought his family would use the area, the entire basement,” says Herd. “From that standpoint, we talked about three distinct sections—from a fully enclosed traditional theater concept, a family room concept and then a hybrid, which is what we ended up settling on.”
The finished result gives little indication of the planning and labor (all of three weeks, remarkably, from design to completed room) behind it. The 125-inch Dragonfly screen, and its 2.35:1 super-wide aspect ratio, along the front wall of the theater area is really the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, to everything in here that you can’t see. From an electronics standpoint, that includes the 11 Episode speakers and subwoofers plus an Epson projector installed into the walls and ceiling; new lighting scheme; all the wires and cables that needed to be snaked through the walls and ceiling; and stowing a rack of equipment behind a storage space under the stairs.
And all this was the easy part. More grueling details came in aspects such as building and rebuilding the walls and ceiling; insulating them; shortening HVAC ductwork; creating a tray ceiling; adding a seating riser; implementing acoustical panels; and finishing it to match well with the rest of the home decor. For instance, a false wall was constructed to house the three front speakers and two subwoofers behind the screen, while the existing rear wall was brought in a foot not only to accommodate two rear surround speakers but to provide the necessary depth for a full bookcase in the playroom on the other side.
The ceiling took care; the original soffit area on the right (looking toward the screen) was shortened, and Herd added soffits to the other three sides to produce the tray effect. “We created the tray ceiling to give it balance, and dropped the ceiling down by three inches to feel right. The ceiling looks very even, but you need symmetry and sharp, clean lines,” Herd says. “When I’m sitting in the back of a theater, I want the impression of balance—it’s very important to deal with HVAC even if it’s just a couple of inches to get the net result correct.”
The installation of the Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 6020 projector required some extra planning within the ceiling work, too. When Herd introduced the owner to the 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio theater screen, he was hooked with how immersive it felt. So during the construction process Herd included a Panamorph anamorphic lens to the projector mockup and Chief mount to see just how much depth would be needed within the ceiling to hide the entire video package—an access panel under the projector, in the tray, allows Herd to reach it if adjustments need to be made or the bulb replaced.
A final bit of coordination was tying the lights and A/V into a control system, so that the appropriate lighting and audio environment (Herd added three more audio zones besides the theater, and used one of Sony’s new receivers with Control4 built-in) could be set at the press of a button or two. Perfect harmony, all around.
During the construction of the theater area in this basement, custom electronics pro Ryan Herd of 1 Sound Choice made a couple of switches that seem to have worked out for the best. Ordinarily he will use direct-radiating speakers to point at the rows of people, he says, but in this case the second row addition caused the front row to sit where one side only had a lower-half wall. His compromise was installing the two Episode “side” surround speakers (the rears are in the back wall) within the tray ceiling, but being able to place them where they would be angled down at the seating in a relatively similar fashion to his traditional solution. Another change was that the OmniMount equipment rack originally was going to face into the theater, parallel to the rear seats. This wall required an acoustical panel, however, so Herd spun the rack toward the seats at the bar instead. It has a glass door that’s lockable, so guests and kids can’t open it.
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