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My Epson PowerLite S1 Home Theater
by Thomas Harding from New Hampshire, USA

Home Theater on a Budget

Let me start out by saying, my home theater is very modest by most standards. I started out with a 36" high def TV, a DVD player and digital surround system. After a couple years of enjoying this setup, I decided I wanted either a plasma or rear projection TV. On the plasma side, the ones in my price range ($3000 or less) were not high def, so that would be a lot of money spent, and a step backwards in a way. Rear projection though, is much cheaper and still high def. We all know the major drawback, narrow viewing field.

Before

Then I started reading about projectors. It seems they have come along way in the last few years, both in price and technology. I just assumed if the image was projected across the room, the quality of the image would suffer. But, after seeing a couple projectors in action, I was hooked.

Since my house is a small modest one, I do not have the extra space for a dedicated home theater. My living room will have to do double duty as theater and living room. What I decided was to mount a screen along the top of my entertainment center, so I could pull it down for movies, but still use the 36" TV for regular viewing and for my PC monitor (wireless keyboard and trackball from the recliner of course). My entertainment center is 7'x7' homebuilt from 5/4 pine and the room is 16x24. My first screen was a 6' pull down window shade. This worked well, but the brightness was diminished somewhat because the image went right through the screen. But it was enough to get me started in the beginning. I recently found a used screen in a second hand shop ($15!), and have found heaven on earth! Much better.

My projector is an Epson S1. I debated over this or an Infocus X1, but the possibility of rainbow effect scared me away. I just know I would be one of the lucky ones to see it. Although this is a budget projector, I just love the thing. DVDs are a joy to watch and High def TV is stunning. All in all, you have not lived until you get a REAL home theater setup. Bringing the movie theater experience to your home is just beyond words. Weekends are movie time at my house now.

After

My equipment is as follows, bear in mind, these are budget conscience items, but they really make a movie what it was intended to be, enjoyed!:

  • Satellite receiver- Dish network 6000
  • Home theater surround system- RCA STAV-3870 (350 watt)
  • DVD player- RCA DRS 7000 Progressive scan with built-in DVR (no monthly fee) ($269 on sale from Circuit City)
  • Speakers- RCA powered sub woofer ($60 on sale) - center channel- Pioneer ($99 on sale) - front and rear satellites- Optimus bookshelf speakers from Radio Shack ($50 each)
  • Projector- Epson S1 ($999)
  • Screen- 60" 3M ($15 from second hand store, probably came from a school or company, but in very good shape)

My future plans would be to make the screen motorized, and get a bigger screen, plus make some sort of stand or motorized coffee table to conceal the projector until it is needed. I currently have a home built home automation system with voice command and response, so a motorized screen and projector would really fit right in. Right now, I can say "Movie Mode" and a pleasant voice says "Entering movie mode" and the lights all dim, the fountain shuts off, and the voice of the Star Trek computer says "Program complete, enter when ready" (the same thing she says when someone enters the holodeck on the TV series, how cool!).