DIYer Upgrades to His Dream Theater


Morris Saad’s no stranger to home theater, and his current version is a stunner.

DIYer Morris Saad's acoustically sound home theater is the result of years of audio/video experiences.

Oct. 23, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

As we grow older, we tend to upgrade our cars, our appliances and our homes. And if you’re Morris Saad, you upgrade your home theater. Saad’s years of obsessive audio and video upgrades has led to his dream theater—at least for now. The professional-looking basement includes a 106-inch screen, a 1080p projector, distributed audio, 7.1-channel surround sound, theater chairs and a reclining sofa, a ticket booth and a concession stand.

It looks great. It sounds great. But the real shine of Saad’s theater comes from what he accomplished behind the scenes in the planning and design. Saad, 33,  says he put much more sweat equity into this project than he did in any of his previous audio/video efforts. He had greater consideration for the room’s acoustics, and he worked around particular layout problems to create a true cinema-like atmosphere.

Saad’s electronics upgrades over the years have included beefier speakers and A/V receiver replacements, as well as a 100-inch Stewart Filmscreen screen and Optoma projector. That came when he moved from his first condo to another, but in Saad’s mind it paled to what he could accomplish with a blank canvas.

“My friends thought I was crazy, and used to call me the upgrade king,” he says. “Everyone thought [the first projection setup] was fantastic, but to me it was a regular room, so basic.”

While living in that condo, Saad’s new home was being built, and he made sure to leave the basement blank. Then he enlisted a childhood buddy, Andrew Cammaert, who owns a home addition/renovation business, Focal Point Home Improvements, to help with the planning and construction.

Along with the dedicated theater room, the basement space would include a bar and game room, as well as a lobby area that leads people into the theater. The theater itself measures about 20 by 14.5 feet, with a ceiling of nearly 8 feet.

But Saad wanted to ensure that high volumes of sound would be contained within the theater. Without letting his budget spiral too far out of hand, Saad and Cammaert relied on a combination of methods to tag-team the acoustical treatment:

  • The walls and floors were decoupled from the rest of the house, with everything fastened by screws instead of nails, helping to reduce vibrations and leakage.
  • 22 bags of Safe’n’Sound insulation were used, doubling the amount in the walls and ceiling.
  • Insulation was sprayed around all of the door frames and electrical outlets for a tighter seal.
  • Safe’n’Sound doors and weatherstripping were incorporated to contain sound.
  • Heating ducts were insulated to prevent sound from traveling in and out of the room.
  • A half-inch-thick underpad was installed below the carpet for better absorption.
  • 15 bags of play sand were poured in the front stage to dampen the audio and reduce vibration from the front-channel speakers.

Upon the theater’s completion, Saad popped in a Blu-ray of The Hulk. “You feel him running around and stomping, and it’s very bassy and loud. I cranked it on the Pioneer [receiver], shut the doors and went upstairs, and all you could really hear was some muffled bass that wasn’t disturbing at all. In the bedrooms on the third level you couldn’t hear anything.”

Projector placement proved to be another well-planned solution to a potential problem. Bulkhead ductwork ran across the middle of the room, so a projector mounted behind it would have its image cut off, and there wasn’t enough throw distance to mount it in front. So Saad and Cammaert framed the 12-inch bulkhead into a soffit to make it look like a natural aspect of the room, then carved a V-shaped niche in front of the projector so the light beams through unobstructed. To minimize the soffit visually, a cove was framed into the rear half of the room, with can and rope lighting installed to emphasize that area.

Saad took more steps to recreate the theater experience by adding popcorn and candy and even a working ticket booth. “I realized there was some dead space underneath the stairs, so I can actually sit in there,” he enthuses, “and there’s a ticket maker so you can print tickets off the computer.”

But even this theater might not be Saad’s golden ticket, as there’s always room for upgrades. “Automated curtains and blinds triggered via remote, perhaps a larger screen and 2.35:1 aspect ratio and anamorphic lens—but I guess that’s OK, because I hope to have the opportunity to build another theater in the future.”

Click here to view additional photos of Morris Saad’s theater.

TOTAL: $39,600 (Canadian)
Electronics: $17,600
Seating: $7,500
Construction: $14,500
LOCATION: London, Ontario
ROOM SIZE: 20 by 14.5 by 8 feet
NICKNAMES: “Friends call me Moe for short, so we’ve called this the SilverMoe, the IMoe (like IMAX) and the CineMoe—the tickets say ‘The Cine-Moe Presents.’”

Epson Home 1080UB projector
Stewart Filmscreen Luxus Deluxe 106” G3 screen
Pioneer Elite SC-07 receiver
Pioneer Elite DV-05 DVD player
Sony PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Russound whole house, CAM 6.6T
Definitive Tech BP2004TL main
Definitive Tech CLR2002 center
Definitive Tech BP2X surround (4)
Monster Power center HTS 2000MK II
AudioQuest speaker and subwoofer cable
Monster Advanced 800HD HDMI interconnects (2)
Tributaries cable, component video interconnect
AudioQuest HDMI (2)
Lutron Spacer System (4)
Harmony 1000 Remote with extender
Bell’O Theater chairs (4)
El-Ran Reclining theater sofa

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