The Terminator Comes Alive in Home Theater
With the new Terminator movie set to open this week, we're taking a look back at our favorite cyborg-themed theater.
That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.
That’s fine and dandy for the Terminator, but for Darren Mortensen, that mantra made for the perfect home theater—as well as the opportunity for a career change.
When Mortensen first thought about creating his own home theater, he wasn’t working as a Christmas elf; he was a respiratory therapist, specializing in acute cardio-pulmonary support and trauma. A noble profession is no match for the home theater bug, however. Soon Mortensen found himself designing a nice room with a built-in CRT TV, A/V cabinets and a hidden door for access to A/V components. As the project progressed, so did Mortensen’s plan.
With no knowledge of CAD, Mortensen drew this in-depth theater design freehand on paper. Early drawings even included a “Jurassic Park” theme, with giant dinosaurs busting through the walls.
However, cool looking just wasn’t cool enough. “I studied the characteristics of sound waves and how the construction of a room can alter the absorption and refection of sound,” Mortensen says. “I wanted the room to sound as good as it looked.” This meant designing and building panels to assist in the dispersion and separation of the surround sound effects. He also used aluminum tread plate for acoustical reflective panels.
The aluminum also lent itself to the look that Mortensen was working into his room, which is now dubbed “Cyberdyne Cinema.” Cyberdyne Systems was the fictional company depicted in “The Terminator” films. However, this project wasn’t meant to harm humans, only to entertain them.
Cyberdyne Systems may want to keep some of that doomsday information classified, but Mortensen loves to show off his stuff. “The majority of the equipment is located on glass shelving within the recessed A/V shelving at the front of the theater,” he says. “I did this intentionally to lend to the industrial look and feel of the theater.” The equipment is then obscured when the mammoth 159-inch Da-Lite screen is activated; this prevents distraction from equipment lighting.
However, there is a little magic in this ode to movie monsters. Behind the display of drive-in movie speakers, there’s a nifty hidden equipment door. This allows for easy access to the back of each component, making upgrades and maintenance a breeze.
The equipment is certainly impressive, but it’s the theme inside this 470-square-foot home theater that keeps us coming back. Aside from the obvious “Terminator” connection, the room also includes a life-sized Darth Vader, letters from Viggo Mortensen (Aragon from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), and other memorabilia. “The Cyberdyne Cinema was designed from a concept I always had of the old-time sci-fi and horror movie sets,” Mortensen says. “The cinema is really a salute and celebration to a genre of movies that I have enjoyed watching as a young boy on our old black-and-white Zenith console television.” Even the movie-poster cases are made to look like hydraulic presses—as a nod to both “The Terminator” as well as “The Fly.”
Movie monsters are huge, not unlike Mortensen’s project. However, this didn’t keep the enthusiast from completing most of the installation himself. At one point, he did call in Trammel Construction to help with building a wall and solid core door entry. “At the time I was out of state tending to my son after a traumatic car accident,” Mortensen says. “Trammel Construction stepped in and provided their services under my remote direction.”
Thankfully, Mortensen’s son was OK, and so was the theater. Promising himself (and his wife) not to take out loans or use credit for this project made choosing the equipment a challenge—one he took on alone. He worked extra hours, saved for purchases and soon had the big screen, and other equipment, which included Rotel for the audio portion. Aside from the sound, Rotel provided both the individual components and the industrial design that Mortensen wanted for his theme theater. “Needless to say, each and every component was carefully selected and scrutinized before it was allowed to be integrated into the Cyberdyne system.”
The theater was completed five years ago, but Mortensen wasn’t ready to say “Hasta la vista” to the home theater game—so he formed Cinema at Home, LLC. “I created Cinema at Home to provide unique and tasteful entertainment environments for the Kansas City area,” he says. “Many of the systems I saw being installed in my area were less than adequate, and had that cookie-cutter feel and look.”
From there, Mortensen studied anything and everything associated with audio and video. “I found myself becoming a sponge,” he says. After jumping through a few hoops, he joined the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association and became a certified CEDIA installer. However, his education is still ongoing. “You cannot become complacent or stagnant in this field; technology moves too fast—with or without you.”
Now he uses “real” software programs, which could possibly be used in the theater’s upgrade. Although he’s pleased with his theater’s “simply surreal” experience, Mortensen wants to replace brands and models to reflect what his company currently offers so clients know he truly stands behind his work—even if it comes in a full metal jacket.
Click here to view additional photos.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in December 2007.
Systems and Room Design
Cinema at Home, LLC
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