Mirror Images Help Convert Theater to CinemaScope

Broadening this home cinema's horizons required going to CinemaScope lengths, including a special setup that reflects projected images off a mirror to the screen.


Credit: David Wade

It’s not exactly a magic mirror, but a mirror and some clever planning proved essential for this theater redesign.

Custom electronics (CE) pro Steven Spruell of TASC Design in Conroe, Texas, had updated the technology at this suburban Houston home over the years, most notably with additions such as Crestron automation and Kaleidescape movie server systems. But the kicker came after the homeowners accompanied Spruell to an electronics tradeshow and saw impressive CinemaScope screens that eliminate those annoying black bars from appearing during ultrawide movies.

The homeowners already had a dedicated theater room, which included a projection room behind a 16:9 Stewart Filmscreen rear-projection display. But they loved the idea of upgrading to CinemaScope, and they swooned over an audio demo from Professional Home Cinema.

However, they faced some room limitations. Their screen is flanked by columns already containing speakers, but which were not to be visibly altered—and TASC needed more room for larger speakers. Spruell and company were able to reconfigure the columns from behind to accept 12-inch mains stacked atop 18-inch subwoofers, and a 12-inch center channel was positioned under the screen and behind acoustic fabric.

Spruell gained 16 inches of space between the original screen and columns for a wider display from Stewart. He wanted to maintain the screen height, but the area was not quite wide enough to fit a true 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio. The compromise was a 2.07:1 screen that requires just a smidge of top-and-bottom masking.

The other hurdle? That’s where the mirror comes in. Adding an anamorphic lens requires a longer throw distance from projector to screen, and the old CRT projector was mounted against the back wall. “That left us with two choices: lengthen the room or use a mirror system. The mirror system won out,” Spruell says.

TASC mounted the projector—upgraded to a Digital Projection iVision—and Panamorph lens and sled near the screen and placed the stand-mounted mirror about two-thirds of the way behind it, so there would be adequate distance to bounce the image to the screen. “All the projector settings are set for front projection, because that’s what it acts like as far as the projector is concerned,” Spruell says.

The previous integration of Kaleidescape and Crestron offers another nifty trick: When the owners select a movie, Kaleidescape already has its aspect ratio stored and triggers the Crestron controls to slide the proper masking into place.

Breaking It Down
Retrofitting a home theater to support CinemaScope’s superwide aspect ratio can be pricey, especially if you want a state-of-the-art projector and screen. Here’s how TASC Design broke down the installation:

Approximate installed costs:
Projector and Scaler: $28,000
Speakers and Amps: $35,000
Mirror and Projector Mount: $7,000
4-Way Masking Screen: $14,000
Design and Engineering: $2,250
Acoustic Treatment (to re-treat front wall): $4,500
Calibration: $1,000
Control System Programming: $2,000

Approximate time invested:
Design hours: 18
Installation hours: 54
Programming and calibration hours: 22


Comments are closed.