May 06, 2011
by Rebecca Day
How can a family of sports fans in Kansas follow their beloved Iowa State Cyclones, as well as other competing colleges in the Big 12 Conference?
Carmi Swift, owner of electronics installation firm Home Connections KC in Fairway, Kan., designed a theater that not only delivers their sports fix, but makes them feel like they’re on the 50-yard line. This ultimate sports haven provides four simultaneous football games, a killer sound system that keeps them glued to the action and a refreshment bar with food and drink always within reach.
The concrete was poured before the theater was designed, so Swift had to do some serious math to make everything fit into a tight space. The ductwork lining the top of the room challenged installers to position a projector while providing clear sight lines. The only location a projector could fit was in the soffit at the back of the room. The raised platform for the second row of seats reduced the headroom and would have made the 6-foot-4-inch-tall homeowner hit his head on the projector.
At the front of the room, the screen had to be low enough to accommodate the soffit and the trio of Samsung LCD TVs. With such strict parameters, the sight line drawings were critical in making all the variables work. Swift says the project would have been a failure had she not taken into account every inch needed for room dimensions, equipment and HVAC requirements. “I worked closely with Runco’s and Stewart Filmscreen’s support teams to make sure we would be dead on,” she says.
The three Samsung flat-panel TVs above the main 110-inch screen keep tabs on secondary games so that the homeowners never miss a play. When it’s time for a night at the movies, the Runco projector at the rear of the room switches to the Blu-ray input and automatically scales to anamorphic (superwide CinemaScope) mode for the ultimate movie experience.
The TVs weren’t the only tight fit. The homeowners wanted an eight-seat theater in a space only 19 feet deep. Swift snuck in a couple of extra seats near the granite-topped bar, ensuring a clear line of sight for everyone in the room. The prime front-row seats were built to order from Fortress Seating, each boasting an extra 3 inches across to accommodate the tall owner and his two best friends. The remaining seats were custom-sized to fit the room. The arms for the theater chairs are removable so viewers can stretch out across the seats.
Lighting scenes are handled by a CentraLite system that offers the homeowners a range of settings, depending on the activity. A movie mode brings the lights down to near dark to preserve the contrast ratio and black levels of the projected image. An intermission scene brings the lights up slowly to 25 percent to allow audience members to acclimate to their surroundings. A sports scene sets the lights at a comfortable level for socializing. And a cleaning mode turns the lights on bright to enable a thorough cleanup after a day of entertaining.
All programmable electronics, including lighting scenes, are operated by a Universal Remote handheld controller, which enables users to choose a TV channel, set a lighting scene or play a movie with a simple click.
Swift stacks the 7.1-channel sound in this theater against any around, including the local cinemas. Credit the Arcam AVR600 audio/video receiver, for starters. The Arcam can make “even a pair of average speakers sound like ones twice the price,” Swift says. She also gives kudos to the Tannoy speakers, citing the dual-concentric design of the DC8i front-channel speakers and the iW63DCs surrounds, which deliver “dynamic sound and clear detail.”
Before the sound could do its thing, though, Swift had to treat the room to create the best acoustics possible. She selected gray Auralex acoustic panels to line the three side walls, mounting them between strips of Brazilian cherry to help break up the walls visually. The sound-absorbing acoustic panels were custom-fitted with fabric panels to allow sound to pass through freely. The panels also help keep bass frequencies tight, reducing wobbly-sounding standing waves that can occur, she says. Auralex’s SpeakerDudes were placed under each speaker and subwoofer to isolate their sounds and reduce mushy audio. Just how good is the sound? “The owners don’t want to go out to the movies anymore,” Swift says. EH