There’s no way this theater could ever be described as plain or ordinary. And that’s exactly the way the owners of the renovated basement space wanted it. Sure, killer equipment was a must for an awesome viewing and listening experience, as was comfortable seating, but what really sets this space apart is the blue LED lighting that adds a level of sophistication, spaciousness and drama to the approximately 17-by-24-foot room.
So of course the incorporation of the LED lights had to be one of the most challenging aspects of the project. “The A/V equipment was the easy part,” says Lance Anderson, president of Admit One Cinema, Edina, Minn. “There was lot of trial-and-error that went into getting the lights to cast smooth, consistent illumination.”
Built into the 225 linear feet of LED tape are hundreds of individual LED bulbs. The trick, explains Anderson, was to install the tape in a way that would hide the bulbs but would still adequately illuminate the area. The solution came in the form of a specially constructed molding. Conceived after several month of testing at the Admit One offices, the wooden molding was hollowed out so that the tape could be nestled inside, hidden completely from view.
In addition to providing general illumination, the blue LEDs define the perimeters of several columns and steps, and add definition and depth to an oval-shaped fiber-optic starfield on the ceiling. “The use of the fiber optic starts and blue LED lighting makes the ceiling look higher than it actually is,” says Anderson.
The theater is just as stunning when the blue fades to black, and the visual eye candy switches to the 12-foot Stewart Filmscreen Cine-V screen. Admit One Cinema selected a curved, super-wide CinemaScope model for an “epic video experience,” and added a fabric masking system (see sidebar) that would allow the homeowners to alter the 2.35:1 aspect ratio (best for viewing of newer movie releases) of the screen to a 16:9 aspect ratio (more suitable for TV programs). A signal from an RTI T2C+ color touchscreen remote initiates the shape shifting. The T2C+ is also the tool for activating the Runco LS10i 1080p video projector and JBL Synthesis surround-sound system. Just as they did with the LED tape, Admit One Cinema concealed the speakers behind the room’s fabric walls and the acoustically transparent screen.
(View images of this home theater here)
A custom-built “hush box” holds the projector and adds architectural interest to the room. Lastly, the components, which include an Oppo Blu-ray disc player, Apple TV and a high-def DVR, are neatly organized in a rack in a nearby mechanical room. We might not agree about the “easy” part, but the result sure is epic.
Vertical vs. Horizontal Masking
Just like people, video content comes in all shapes and sizes. Blu-ray movies can be shot in a wide, panoramic 2.35:1 format, while sporting events are typically broadcast in a more standard high-def 16:9 shape. And those old analog TV recording you might still own, those most likely were shot in the squarish 4:3 format. Since one screen may not fit all video, horizontal fabric masking systems have become popular for home theaters. In many cases, black fabric panels move over the screen from both sides, effectively making a wide screen narrower. Several stopping points can be programmed into the system, creating several different aspect ratios. It’s an extremely versatile solution … and also expensive and sometimes unnecessary, says Lance Anderson, president of Admit One Cinema. For this theater project a vertical masking system was incorporated. Instead of the material moving in from the sides, it rolls down from the top of the screen. Usually, this means only two screen aspect ratios are possible (2.35:1 or 16:9), but for this project it saved the homeowners $7,000 (for screen and motorized masking). Given that they don’t watch much 4:3 material, having only the 2.35:1 and 16:9 options suffices.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.