by Garry Rush-Nelson
Idea: I became inspired by Joe Goldberg's Sony VPL-HS10 Cineza article, published on the Projector Central website in October 2003; however, mahogany is the wood of choice where I live (Hawaii) because of the prevalence of termites (and their distaste for mahogany over all other woods hereabouts). Mahogany is also relatively inexpensive in Hawaii, for a hardwood, as it is imported directly from Malaysia.
Electronics: I found a Boxlight XP-55m for $600. While it is only an EDTV projector, it has native XGA format and an SVGA input, which I was able to use with an appropriately high-powered video card in a new HP/Compaq computer (Asylum's GeForce FX5200 with 256mb for $130). DVD playback via this method is crisper than s-video connections to my Sony standalone DVD player. I plan on purchasing a HDTV pc card in the near future, to see if HDTV looks acceptable with the projector in "computer monitor" mode.
Rounding out our electronics' purchases was a stock Sony 5:1 receiver system for $300 (which included the standalone DVD player), an Interlink Electronics keyboard/mouse set for $80, and about $80 worth of cables. Total electronics cost = $1190.
Screen: Given that I could make my living room very dark using monks' cloth behind our bamboo blinds, I opted for the Da-Lite 8'x8' glass bead Model B manual screen (120" diagonal in full screen mode). I had to pop an extra $85 for shipping to Hawaii. Add in $5 from the local City Mill hardware store for ceiling anchors, and my total screen cost = $214.
Cabinets: My wife originally preferred stock kitchen cabinets, which are nice because they are modular, come in standard sizes, and can easily fit into just about any configuration. We figured that oak cabinets from the local Lowe's would cost about $900. Then I showed her Joe Goldberg's beautiful cabinets, and all bets were off. And thus 2 weekends were spent in the shop, building mahogany cabinets with bamboo inlays for the doors. The hand-built cabinets are solid wood throughout (versus MDF for most of the "oak" cabinets), and materials cost just under $600 total.
Other: My theater curtains and masking were assembled from $75 worth of black felt, two $25 wall shelf kits from the local hardware store, and two $8 curtain rods. The ceiling mount was assembled from a $5 white polyethelene cutting board and four $4 PVC pipes. There were a few other little odds and ends, and the total cost = about $200.
Satisfaction: Building everything myself kept costs to a minimum (about $2200 total), while providing for a quality experience. The Boxlight/Da-Lite combination works really well when the blinds are closed, and "bright" movies are watchable even when the blinds are open. Computer games are particularly enjoyable with this system, due to the Boxlight's native XGA resolution (which is what we normally use on our 19" computer monitor). If I had to change anything, I would spend a little more for Da-Lite's washable glass bead screen - I have 4 cats, and the cheaper screen is very hard to clean.
Thank you, Projector Central! Your site was invaluable in the creation of this project.