It’s not often you see a dedicated theater in a home that measures 1,200 square feet. With every square inch being fully utilized, there simply isn’t room to put one in … unless you consider the basement. Usually, a lower level is a great spot for a theater. It’s dark, set apart from the rest of the house and if it’s unfinished offers a plethora of design options.
Unfortunately, the semi-finished 12-by-27-foot basement area in this 60-plus-year-old house wasn’t so accommodating. “Once we started poking around, we discovered that the walls weren’t even studded out,” says Derek Stevens, owner of Total Home Audio Video, London, Ontario. Add an uneven floor, no insulation and below-normal temperatures that would make you shiver down there in the winter, and most custom electronics (CE) professionals would have run for the hills.
Fortunately for the homeowners, Total Home had craftsmen on staff who would be able to rebuild the room to proper specs before the electronic systems would be installed. New walls, windows, insulation, and heating and cooling ducts were added and the floor was leveled out as much as possible. Total Home also constructed cabinetry, a second-row seating platform and a bar area. After this, the focus was all A/V.
“The owners wanted the space to resemble a commercial cinema as much as possible, so we went with a projection system,” says Stevens. This included a 92-inch diagonal Cinema Contour screen from Da-Lite and a projector from JVC that includes its 4K processing. The screen was framed in black velvet to add definition and contrast to the image; the ceiling-mounted projector was strategically located between the back row of seats and the bar so that no one would bump their head on it, which would have been easy to do considering the ceiling is just 7 feet tall, says Stevens.
(View images of this theater here)
“We picked the JVC projector because it has such a wide zoom lens and several other adjustments,” he continues. “This enabled us to put it 18 feet away from the screen, which is the maximum for a screen that’s 92 inches.”
Also chosen for their ability to adapt to the finicky room environment were the surround-sound speakers from Current Audio. The front LCR speakers could be mounted horizontally or vertically before their Infinity Edge grilles were inserted and locked into place. “The speakers have no bezels so they blend in with the wall surface beautifully,” says Stevens. The front three speakers are accompanied by four in-ceiling surround-sound speakers and a subwoofer.
Although whipping the basement into shape required more TLC than expected, it did yield the homeowners and the CE pros some advantages: A rack of components, which includes a Yamaha BDA-1020 Blu-ray player, Yamaha RXA-3020 receiver, Furman Elite power conditioner and URC Total Control home automation system, could be built into a wall and easily accessed from the back via a furnace room. A custom-programmed URC TRC1280 remote adds to the cinematic effect by enabling the homeowners to dim the lights, lower the Lutron motorized shades, open the draperies that cover the screen (see sidebar) and kick start the projector and Blu-ray player. It all helps establish the room as a special destination, says Stevens, not just a place to “watch TV.”
Motorized draperies may not be the element you first think of in conversations about home theater, but they can contribute significantly to the overall design and performance. For starters, there’s the undeniable ambiance they impart. When a pair of draperies parts to reveal a big screen, you know you’re in for a good show. In this project, the draperies attached to a motorized Lutron track also enhance the acoustical properties of the room by providing extra sound absorption. And after they are opened, the drapery stack is hidden behind the front speakers’ cabinetry so all you notice is the big, bright beautiful screen.
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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.