Theater Built Without Attachments

A room-within-a-room construction technique allows this theater to "float" within its home.

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Credit: Forest McMullin. Bewitched © 2005 Columbia Pictures Industries.

There’s no water or hot air involved. This theater isn’t even a part of a yacht or a cruise liner. But it definitely floats. “We designed the room so that absolutely nothing ties it to the structure of the house,” explains Michael Pope, president of Audio Video Interiors of Medina, OH. “In essence, it’s a room in and of itself.”

The practice of building a room within a room has been used widely among home theater designers as a way to prevent sound from the theater from seeping out and to keep extraneous noise from coming in. Because the room is completely reconstructed with new walls, a ceiling and a floor, it can be designed completely around the entertainment components (instead of the other way around), which helps achieve audio and video perfection. For example, absorptive materials can be applied behind the walls to insulate the room and to improve sonic quality. Audio and Video Interiors, with the help of acoustic engineering firm SH! Acoustics, went several steps further to create an ideal media space, however. The team utilized two sets of doors, each fitted with gaskets, to close off the space. They also built a special enclosure for the Runco video projector that would allow sound and heat generated by the unit to be vented away from the room. They even went so far as to retrofit a steel beam into the joist space above the ceiling to provide the necessary structural support. Last but not least, acoustically transparent fabric in a rich burgundy shade was stretched over the walls to conceal the acoustic treatments inside.

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With the structural and design elements in order, this home theater presented the perfect environment to show off some of the best equipment on the planet. And that’s exactly what the homeowners and the designers at Audio and Video Interiors did. A full-blown JBL Synthesis 1 audio system provided the amplification, equalization and processing power this space deserved. Six amplifiers drive nine JBL speakers and two JBL subwoofers plus a pair of Triad subwoofers. All of the speakers and subs, except for the front-channel speakers, are tucked behind the fabric walls. But even the freestanding front speakers go completely unnoticed. The trio sits behind the Cinemascope-size screen at the front of the room.

The screen’s woven material allows the sound from the ear-level-mounted speakers to pass through cleanly.
Stretching wider (2.35:1) than a standard widescreen (16:9) video display, and complemented by a Runco VC-60d Cinewide projector; a Kaleidescape movie server; and a pair of motorized draperies, the screen is the crowning jewel of the room. When its AutoScope lens is engaged the CineWide projector takes full advantage of the screen’s superwide shape by presenting movies originally filmed in a 2.35:1 CinemaScope format on the entire screen (no black letterbox bars) and in full resolution. Should the homeowners choose a 16:9 formatted movie from their Kaleidescape server, the projector’s AutoScope lens disengages and the screen’s side masking panels move into the appropriate position to change the shape of the screen to fit the 16:9 movie format. Before anything can be presented on the screen, the homeowners consult with their Crestron TPS-5000 touchpanel to open the drapes and peruse their massive movie and music library. The touchpanel, which is stationed on a small table on the second row of seats, displays the DVD art of each movie on the server.

As focused on cinema as this room is, it is still able to cater to a wide variety of activities. “This was one of the priorities of the homeowners,” says Pope. “They wanted the room to also function as a quiet sanctuary where they could read the morning paper with soft music playing or to have a conversation with good company without any distractions.” The electronic systems make the transition effortless. The homeowners can select a song to play throughout the theater and the entire basement—which also features a wine cellar, game room and bar—set the lights, adjust the temperature and view images from security cameras, all from the Crestron touchpanel. A special outlet also gives the owners the ability to send images from their laptop computer, gaming console or camcorder onto the big projection screen. While the theater is structurally independent from the house, the Crestron system offers a close connection to systems that reside elsewhere. You might say it’s the lifeline this high-caliber, isolated entertainment chamber needs to stay afloat— no matter how the homeowners choose to use the room.

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