If you’ve ever tuned in to a renovation project show on TV or been involved with one in your own home, you know how plans can change like the wind. Sometimes it happens mid-project because of an unforeseen obstacle; sometimes it’s merely re-evaluating the original idea and one-upping it. The plans behind this nifty sports haven took its twist while still in the design phase, so major construction hassles were avoided, and the unique result might have you changing your own ideas for a killer mancave.
The homeowner had enlisted Excelsior, Minn.-based Union Place to breathe some new life into a lower level that had served as a hangout for his teenage son, who was now in college. What better opportunity to reclaim the room and add some modern technology to immerse yourself in sports action properly—in mega-screen, high-definition glory? He even had the whole multiple-display concept, for viewing more than one game at a time (or playing video games while watching a sporting event), already planted as part of a basement version 1.0. Now with a custom electronics pro in the mix, basement 2.0 was about to blow the original away.
“It featured nondescript walls, aged technology, mismatched furniture, a support beam exactly in the middle of the space, a sparse-looking fireplace and a bland color scheme,” Union Place’s Brian Duggan says of how the basement used to be. Now it’s a destination rich in woodworking, decor and big-screen multi-viewing … it just took some re-planning to get there.
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The original renovation design was going to be an updated take on the multiple TVs rig, with the added attraction of a big bar area and room behind that. The owner is a local businessman who’s put together a nice memorabilia collection featuring area sports stars, and he wanted a good way to display this as well. The new TV wall—pitting an 80-inch centerpiece with three smaller sets, built into a cabinet—would be shifted in 45 degrees from where it sat adjacent to the fireplace.
As you can see, this is not how the room turned out. In that plan, Duggan would still have to figure out what to do with the support beam in the middle of the room; meanwhile, the owner was worried about what to do with a seldom-used entertaining space behind the proposed bar area.
So Duggan tweaked the drawing board—Union Place works as both technology integrator and interior designer on projects—and also had further tech talks with the owner during meetings at Union Place’s showroom. There, Duggan says, the owner also got the projection bug the more he saw it. “Why can’t we do something like this?” the owner asked Duggan, whose creative juices started flowing into an entirely new plan, and it was a home run.
The new design involved flipping the room, so the viewing area wound up being opposite the fireplace wall instead of next to it. And instead of having three separate TVs create a multi-viewing effect, it would all be done on one display—a 115-inch projection screen. “Probably 10 years ago, on one of our first theaters before HD was prevalent, a client wanted something like [multiple displays] and we put in an old security camera quad-viewer on a 110-inch screen,” Duggan recalls. “So it was like four 55-inch screens evenly split, with no manipulating—we did that way back when … what could be cooler?” It wouldn’t require building a new wall, and on the existing wall Duggan could maximize the space by cutting in cavities for front-channel speakers that he could hide behind an acoustically transparent screen, in this case an AcousticPro 4K from Elite Screens.
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The neat trick Union Place pulled off was using a screen with a super-wide 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio—ordinarily filled by movies that otherwise leave black top and bottom bars on a traditional 16:9 HDTV screen—to achieve the multi-view effect. By running video feeds through a Rose Electronics HD Quad View Processor, for TV viewing the JVC DLA-RS4800U projector can serve up images from four connected DirecTV receivers, in various arrays. “Originally we were going to do a fixed main image, with three stacked images on the left, and once that was done he saw that and kind of wanted them on the right. We told him we could switch, and then it was like, well, what else can you do,” Duggan says (see sidebar below).
The original support beam in the middle of the main basement area became a good place to divide the room under the new arrangement. Union Place worked with RG Home Improvement on custom cabinetry and woodworking that can be seen throughout the entire space, with the dark wood designs carrying through from the projection screen wall to the memorabilia display cabinet to the newly framed fireplace. In between, RG Home Improvement fabricated a pair of decorative beams to flank and mimic the work they did in enclosing the original beam, as well as construct a bar seating area. Under each of the outer beams are dual 8-inch subwoofers from Episode, covered with black/brown blended grille cloth, which fits in well amid the age-distressed woodwork. A constructed soffit running across the top of the beams keeps the projector relatively hidden from the sitting area, and allowed for the concealment of wire.
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Some local components, such as an LG Blu-ray player and PlayStation 3, which need to be easily accessed, are stored in the bar cabinetry, but most of the electronics reside in a Sanus rack housed in the utility room behind the fireplace. An older RTI remote can be used for control, but the owner has grown used to tapping his iPad for selecting A/V as well as commanding the Lutron RadioRA 2 lighting system. For background music, there’s also a Sonos system that can pipe into in-ceiling speakers in the sitting area plus the basement hallway, wine room and exercise room.
Many Points of View
Using a control driver from home automation manufacturer RTI, Union Place was able to create several presets for the Rose quad processor that routes DirecTV feeds to the JVC projector in this slick media room. The large image and three stacked side images keep the aspect ratio closest to 16:9 for each picture, but if the owner wants he can manipulate the screen to show two images side by side, or float two images full size and have them fade back and forth for one to go into the foreground, for example. Icons representing the different presets were implemented on an iPad for control; a user can tap the screen layout to select the main audio for any of the four images. Engaging the projector’s anamorphic lens via the iPad control menu fills the entire screen with a single image like a Blu-ray movie.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.