For many people, a state-of-the-art home theater is more than just a place to enjoy a great-looking (and sounding) movie. It’s also a place to show off a little, and maybe even experiment a little. That’s especially true when the owner also happens to be the owner of an automation company.
Being sort of in the business, Mario Cascio, who owns automation company Cinemar Solutions, knew what he was getting into before his started planning his home theater. In fact he did most of the design and plan work himself. When he and his wife built their home in 2004, he was already thinking about where the theater would go. It just took him six more years to actually get started on it. Life is like that sometimes.
Cascio spent about 16 months just doing pre-construction and 3D CAD designs. The prep work for the room involved installing an additional sump pump and incorporating a backup generator (for the theater and the rest of the house). But the fun stuff came when the actual room started coming together.
The focal point is a 136-inch, 2:35:1 aspect ratio Seymour screen that gets lit up by a Panasonic PT-AE8000U 3D LCD projector. “I was never really sold on 3D until I got that projector,” said Cascio. “Having a big 2.35 screen makes a difference.”
The screen is framed by custom cabinet work and highlighted by a stage. One-and-a-half tons of sand inside the stage ensure the foundation is acoustically sound. The screen itself is surrounded by flock light-trapping material made my Protostar—the same material used inside telescopes for peering at the stars—to absorb stray light and make the screen image pop.
But the big screen isn’t the only cool light show in the room. The ceiling features a hand-painted star field done by Night Sky Murals, crafted to look like the actual sky view where the home is located. Instead of LEDs, which many star ceilings use to make the stars shine, this one uses phosphorescent paint, which is charged by eight 4-foot black light tubes hidden in soffits. Also hidden in the soffits are LED lights, which add additional effects, all controlled from Cascio’s iPhone or iPad and his own Cinemar system.
(View images of this home theater here)
For audio, Cascio installed an 11.2-channel surround system made up of M&K speakers powered by Emotiva amplifiers. “M&K’s sound great, but they need a lot of power” Cascio says. A Denon A/V receiver acts as a preamp processor for the Emotiva amplifiers.
The room’s biggest wow factor was also one of the biggest challenges. Cascio likes to know he’s getting a special experience when he’s watching a movie, and nothing delivers that more than D-Box, the motion simulator seating system that does for your seat what 3D does for your eyes. The first row of seats sits on a floating D-Box platform with several actuators controlling three axis of movement. D-Box data—the programming that lets the seats know when to leap and shudder throughout a movie, gets automatically downloaded to the D-Box processor in the equipment rack (located in a separate room). This big challenge was to build a platform for the row of seats that was flush with the floor so guests wouldn’t have to step up to sit down.
Because sitting in your own private movie theater can isolate one from the rest of the house, Cascio programmed his security system to send him an alert when guests come over. A sensor in the driveway sends a message to the theater which briefly flashes some lights when a person is approaching. Just another flash of brilliance in this home theater.
Interactive Movie Poster
The pièce de résistance to the theater is actually something guests experience before they even step into the room. Outside the room’s lobby area is a “Now Playing” poster that’s not a poster. It’s a 40-inch LCD TV turned on its side and mounted in a frame to look like a classic cinema art. The TV, via the Cinemar system, is connected to a Dune movie server and displays cover art for the movie that’s currently playing in the theater. At the bottom of the screen there’s even a status bar that shows how far into the movie the seated guests are. Everyone who sees the system in action loves it, so Cascio thinks he might start offering a similar feature to future clients.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.