Crestron Programmer Adds Creative Tweaks to His Own Theater


Jonathan Danforth has Crestron control, a 139-inch screen, a waffle wall, and documentation in 14 parts.

May. 29, 2013 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Before Jonathan Danforth became a Crestron programmer for Kontek Systems in Durham, North Carolina, he worked with both the Philips Pronto and several Elan keypad systems. In other words, he’s worked on a lot of homes and a lot of control systems before. So when it came time to build his own basement theater, he wanted to savor the experience. He did just that, by documenting the entire process—in 14 parts.

Currently, the entire build is available, if you want to check it out on YouTube. Just don’t expect a step-by-step tutorial. It’s presented in a series of time-lapsed videos, for easy consumption.

“I loved the idea of documenting the entire process in easily digestible videos instead of still photographs, because I can convey more information faster,” Jonathan says. “Most people are interested in the process, but not interested enough to read 5,000 words about it!”

His project is also well documented on the AVS Forum, where he spent a lot of time gathering and bouncing ideas. However, his room has several perks that you wouldn’t find within the project section of that website. And there’s at least one we’d be hard-pressed to find in any home, anywhere in the world.

For instance, it would make sense that Crestron would be included in the build, so Jonathan put in the QM-RMC Room Media Controller and has Mobile Pro G software running on a first-gen iPad. It’s not exactly stuff that your average DIYer can order up online. Not that you’d really want to do that.

“Programming an easy-to-use remote interface is not, itself, easy,” says Jonathan. “I wrote my own Crestron code to control the theater, so it would be easy for my whole family.”

Jonathan says that he also has XBMC running—and that’s not exactly a plug-and-play program, either. “If it weren’t for my IT background, it would be very difficult to keep it maintained,” he says.

Of course, it would also make it difficult to experiment. Right now, he’s using a $35 Raspberry Pi Linux computer to intercept Siri requests from an iPhone. “By doing this I can instruct my theater to turn on, turn off, and play any movie on the XBMC simply by talking to Siri.”

With or without all of the geek speak, the room looks insanely cool. The room measures 24 feet and 4 inches by 16 feet and 8 inches. The ceilings are about 8-feet-and-1-inch high. It has a DIY screen up front, which measures 139 inches diagonal and is separated from the room by a little stage. That piece serves as a buffer between the screen and the audience. It will also make it more convenient to add more speakers, if Jonathan ever decides to put in another row of seats. Of course, it looks nice, too. “It projects a more theatrical atmosphere than just a screen floating in the middle of a wall,” Jonathan says.

That stage was also the root of one of his most frequently asked questions: Why the sand? Jonathan used 1.02 tons of sand to fill the stage, so that area won’t resonate when he’s cranking out the two massive subwoofers, which are located behind the screen.

Despite having that stage and a gorgeous Seymour Center Stage XD acoustically transparent screen up front, one of the room’s most eye-catching components can be found at the back. It’s Jonathan’s “waffle wall,” which features MDF panels that he actually designed and cut using a ShopBot CNC machine. “The wall panels serve no benefit except aesthetics,” he says. “They look cool: mission accomplished.” Inspired by Office dA in Boston and several other super-cool designs, Jonathan had originally wanted the same look for his theater’s ceiling. However, it took him an hour to cut each and every panel currently in the room. To do the ceiling, he would have needed 200 additional 4-foot-by-6-inch boards, with each cut slightly differently.

Besides hiring someone to do the carpet, Jonathan did most of the work himself. Well, he did have friends help out with the drywall and acoustic measurements and even enlisted his wife to help with painting. He’s happy with the end result, but has a pretty honest answer about what he would have done differently.

“There isn’t a single part of this process that I would do the same if I had to do it again. I didn’t exactly do anything wrong, but I learned a lot,” Jonathan says. “There’s always room for improvement!”

To get a closer peek at Jonathan’s build, check out our “Crestron Programmer Adds Creative Tweaks to His Own Theater” slideshow.

Equipment List

  • Apple TV (3rd gen)
  • Behringer DSP1000 Amplifier (for subs)
  • Crestron Mobile Pro G (running on 1st-gen iPad)
  • Crestron QM-RMC Room Media Controller
  • GIK Acoustics 244 Bass Traps (4)
  • GIK Acoustics Tri-Trap Bass Traps (2)
  • JVC DLA-RS45 Projector
  • Meridian 562V.2 Multimedia Controller
  • Meridian 568.2mm Surround Processor
  • Meridian DSP 5000 24/96 Speakers (7)
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Middle Atlantic Rack
  • Samsung Blu-ray Player
  • Slim Devices Squeezebox 2 Network Music Player
  • XBMC “Frodo” (Mac Mini 2011)
  • DIY “Lilmike” Cinema F20 Horn Subwoofers (2)
  • DIY Screen with SeymourAV Center Stage XD

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