Two years ago, the home theater bug took a massive bite out of C.J. O’Neill—well, it was actually more like a bat. He knew he wanted a home theater, but it didn’t take long for him to dub the room, The Dark Knight Theater. “It started out as just a cool name, but slowly morphed into the theater’s theme,” he says. However, unlike a lot of theme theaters, C.J.’s space doesn’t have any collectibles lingering about. Instead, it’s just dark, slick, and full of power—like the Caped Crusader himself.
C.J. says the name came about because he was looking to design sort of a “bat cave,” where no light or sound would enter. “As construction progressed, I started to tailor some aspects of the theater to match the name. I wanted the atmosphere to be somewhat like that of the movie—a combination of dark, somewhat Gothic, architecture with high-tech features,” he says. “I tried to accomplish this with the combination of mostly dark colors and oil-rubbed bronze with modern gear.” C.J. also says he’d love to add a medium-to-dark gray for the trim, but jokes, “I haven’t gotten the okay from my wife yet.”
It was easy for him to plan this bat cave, using AutoCAD. The design was just one of the steps in his year-and-a-half planning process, which also included research on noise isolation, control systems, lighting, acoustics, decor, and even how to connect the basement system to the rest of the house.
This last piece turned out to be one of the project’s biggest challenges. C.J. had plenty of experience with control systems, having used them in his previous homes. However, he wanted only the best for The Dark Knight. “I felt that the older systems were too limited for what I really wanted to do,” he says. “So, for this house and theater, I decided to go with what many consider the best control system available.” That happened to be a Crestron system.
“I have always been an automation buff. When we built the house, I knew that I wanted to put in a Crestron system,” he says. Of course, Crestron doesn’t exactly cater to the DIY market, so help wasn’t always readily available. Instead, C.J. wrote several custom modules himself for equipment that was not on the Crestron database. He is extremely pleased with the end result, which includes a custom Dark Knight graphic user interface that’s used to operate the home theater system. The interface was designed by fellow a home theater enthusiast, as well as a home systems installer known as 39CentStamp on the popular AVS Forum (http://www.avsforum.com). “The interface is so easy to follow, my 6-year-old can use it,” C.J. says.
When it was time to isolate the noise his theater would surely create, C.J. had plenty of tricks on his utility belt. “I’d wanted to do a room-within-a-room construction, but the basement was framed during construction and there was not enough width in the room to do so,” he says. Instead, the wall studs were staggered so that the inside wall was decoupled from the outside. The ceiling was hung from RSIC (Resilient Sound Isolation Clips) to decouple it from the kitchen located above. The drywall was also placed in two layers, using Green Glue in the middle, and the theater door and threshold were designed to reduce sound transmission into the room. C.J.even made custom window plugs to block out both sound and light.
To prevent the technology from detracting from the Dark Knight decor, additional acoustic materials were hidden inside soffits, a riser and columns. The speakers are concealed, too, behind acoustically transparent fabric in the columns and behind the screen, which also features its own sound treatments.
Even the movies have their own spot on a 4.5-terabyte computer RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) array, which is played through a Popcorn Hour C-200 media server. The projector is tucked inside the soffit as well, and the equipment has its own spot in a room adjacent to the theater. C.J. made sure that each item was nestled into its own perfect place. “If everything wasn’t installed correctly, the experience wouldn’t be the same,” he says.
Total cost $22,000
room size 23 x 14 x 10 feet
Total project time 13 months
Berkline 13175 Reclining Theater Seats (8)
Crestron CHV-RTHS Temperature/Humidity Sensor
Crestron CHV-TSTAT HVAC System
Crestron CLS-C6 Lighting System
Crestron PRO2 Controller
Crestron TPMC-8X Touchpanel
Integra DTR-8.8 Receiver
Panasonic PT-AE3000U Projector
Popcorn Hour C-200 Media Server
SmX 120-inch 2.35:1 AT Screen
Sony PlayStation 3
Triad Classic Gold InWall Speakers (3)
Triad Gold InWall Speakers (2)
Triad Gold Satellite Speakers (2)
Triad THX Subwoofers (2)
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Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.