May 15, 2009
by Lisa Montgomery
An unfinished basement is an installer’s dream space for a home theater. Like painting on a blank canvas, he can incorporate just about anything into the room, and build it to the perfect dimensions.
For this home theater project, the homeowners had allocated a space 25 feet long by 14 feet wide. “It was the perfect size,” says P.J. Aucoin of Home Concepts in Calgary, Alberta. “We would have enough room for a few tiers of seating and a couple of subwoofers.”
Those plans were tossed aside when the owners decided to build a wine cellar in the back of the room. It was a decision that shortened the space by nearly 10 feet, making the dimensions almost square. “A terrible shape for acoustics,” says Aucoin. Now limited on real estate, Home Concepts went with a flat floor instead of tiers and cut back to one subwoofer.
Although the dimensions of the room were less than ideal, its small size turned out to be a blessing. “Because we were working in such a small space, it was far easier to calibrate the 6.1 surround-sound system than had we been in a larger room,” explains Aucoin. The stone wall and pillars the owners had planned for the room also presented a concern. “At first we were worried that those surfaces would be too reflective, but after talking with an acoustician, we learned that they would help diffuse the sound—a real benefit to the acoustics,” says Aucoin.
In addition to dealing with the room’s sonic imperfections, Home Concepts was faced with the challenge of concealing much of the equipment within the tight confines of the theater. A 119-inch acoustically transparent screen from Da-Lite Screen Company was selected so that the front three Klipsch speakers could be hidden behind it. The remaining speakers were installed flush with the walls.
A Panasonic 1080p video projector, meanwhile, was installed inside the wall above the doorway into the theater. To prevent the unit from overheating, Home Concepts added a ventilation and a cooling system.
Home Concepts freed up even more space by locating the source equipment, including a Panasonic Blu-ray player, high-def cable box and Denon receiver, in an equipment rack in the next room. The blank canvas got a little smudged, but this theater still came out picture perfect.
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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.