March 03, 2008
| by Steven Castle
Call it the ultimate multipurpose room. Sure, all it has are the usual rows of dedicated theater seating and a small bar in the back. But that front row of seats rotates 180 degrees to face the second row, so this home theater can be used for all kinds of parties and entertaining. “The room was quite large—28 by 20 feet—but the rest of the home was not,” says theater designer Donny Hackett of Casa Cinema in Hendersonville, TN.
“This was one of those times when one you wouldn’t want to give up a huge chunk of comfortable living space for a room you could only watch movies in. I thought, what if an entire row of seats could face another row of seats in a circular conversation pit arrangement for parties, games or get-togethers and then magically rotate to form two rows in front of each other for big-screen movie viewing?”
At the press of a button on the RTI T2-C touchscreen remote, the 16-foot circle of flooring does just that, thanks to four motors and some wheels beneath the steel frame of the floor. In addition, the 7.5-foot-wide semircircular door in the back of the room fans up from the floor in 12 sections, somewhat like a Chinese hand fan. When the door is open, the sections fan out to form a threshold. The RTI remote commands the motors of both the rotating floor and the door fan through dry contact relays that simply turn them on and off. The doors also open via doorbells on either side of the entryway.
“The rotating floor took two or three times longer that we anticipated, and we had to work through the night the last few days to get it done,” says Jacob Abbott of the electronics installation company, Visual Concepts in Gallatin, TN. And that was just one of the challenges in the room.
The sloping walls of this room above the garage provided some seriously reverberant acoustics in this large room, so first the floors were raised several feet. Acoustic treatment firm The Sound Answer custom-built six absorptive fiberglass acoustical panels that hang on the side walls like decorative elements. This helps control the sound from the 7.1-channel audio system powered by a Marantz SR8500 receiver pumping 125 watts to Atlantic Technology 4200 series speakers. Three of the bookshelf speakers are on stands behind the 12-foot-wide custom-built screen that’s perforated with tiny holes to let the sound through, and four Atlantic Technology surround-channel speakers are mounted on the side walls.
The triangular-baffled surround-channel speakers are dipoles, meaning they have two sets of speaker drivers, one set firing to the front of the room and one set to the back to create an ambient sound, the way bipole speakers do. But dipoles go a step further by having the two sets of drivers fire “out of phase”—think of it as a very slight delay—to create an even more ambient sound.
Supplying the high-def video is an InFocus SP777 three-chip DLP projector that Abbott likes for its brightness and picture quality on the large screen. There’s also an Escient FireBall DVD management system with accompanying Sony 400-disc megachanger.
All the lighting, including LEDs (light-emitting diodes) surrounding the rotating floor, on the ceiling and beneath the stairs, is controlled by a Lutron system, which is also operated by the RTI remote.
The theater was designed and constructed as part of the home built for a Parade of Homes showcase, during which visitors got an unexpected ride. “We would wait for them to come in and sit down, then without them expecting a thing, we would press the remote, and around they’d go,” says Hackett.
If that’s not enough to wow them, the 35-foot entrance hall to the theater features a starfield—not in the ceiling but in the carpet, giving the illusion of walking through space.
System Design and Installation
The Sound Answer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates