by Tyler Bennett
My theater has been complete for nearly a year, so I think I have enough data to share my overall experience.
This theater project was part of a basement finishing project. I've been building and upgrading the sound system for about a decade and decided that it was time to give it a complimentary display. Many thanks to all those pioneers before me that showed the consumer electronics industry there was a market for affordable front projection systems.
The goals of this project were: near theater quality experience, good sound containment, multifunctional room, basic enough for a novice do-it-yourselfer, all on a reasonable budget. My wife and I still argue about the success of that last point :-), but we both enjoy the room thoroughly.
To attain a theater like experience, I knew I needed good sound and a larger than life picture. My A/V system consists of:
Denon AVR-3803 (refurbed) - $750
Denon DVD-1600 (refurbed) - $250
Samsung SIR-TS160 HD DirecTV receiver (open box) - $300
Zektor HD4S HDTV switch - $300 (possibly, my best $$$ spent!)
Xbox w/HDTV output (gift from excellent in-laws) - free
Sony VPL-HS10 from a Sony dealer in Minot, ND - $2300 (thanks Terry!)
<insert obligatory 'priceless' comment here>
The equipment rack is built into a closet with access to cabling and in-wall wiring patch panels from the storage room behind. The camera flash exposes the black velvet hung between shelves to mask off all wiring.
The rest of the sound system was imported from my living room where a 27-inch TV was the video centerpiece. While the new room is wired for 7.1 channel sound, I am currently only using 5.1. My speaker array is:
Fronts - Definitive Technology (DefTech) BP-2002 (each contains a 125W powered 10-inch sub)
Center - DefTech C1
Rears - DefTech BP2X
.1 (aka LFE) - the left BP-2002 sub
To create the larger than life picture, I wanted 3:2 seating to screen width ratio. Room layout dictated a 12 foot seating distance, which resulted in an 8 foot wide screen (110" diag). Too cheap to buy a real screen, I framed the screen into the wall. By mounting some furring strips to the wall, I was able to stretch and staple curtain blackout material nice and taught for a perfectly flat screen. I finished it off with a black velvet wrapped 1x4 frame. While not as good as a nice GrayHawk screen, it does the job for less than $100 materials cost.
The flash produces too much glare off the screen to see the details; so, here is an off-axis view.
Much research was done on sound isolation. Unfortunately, I was too busy rushing to finish the project to take 'work-in-progress' pictures. The room is located in the middle of the house. This helped keep ambient light under control while helping contain the sound. My other option was the neighboring room of equal dimensions (17x13) with lookout windows and open air access to the upstairs. All theater room walls are insulated and sheetrock is hung on resilient channel. Interior of walls use 1/2" rock while outside use 5/8" to minimize resonance. Opposite the screen wall is the furnace room. To eliminate furnace noise, the screen wall is a double wall with an inch gap between. The ceiling uses acoustic tiles and is suspended between the soffets which contain lighting and mechanicals. Finally, the two doors are solid oak and weather stripped. Some of this may be overkill, but at full 85dB calibration, only a faint rumble is heard in the bedrooms on the other side of the house.
This picture of the entry door corner shows all the key details of the room (note my wife's brilliant 3 coat rag rolled paint job!)
The room has three dimming lighting zones: walkway lights for the between door corridor, wallwash lights for great movie ambience, and overhead task lights for boardgaming. The projector is hung on a home-made lift such that it can be recessed into the soffet when not in use (I have yet to use this feature :-)).
The experience is amazing. Thanks PJ-Central for being just a great resource. The HS10 is a hit. I've logged over 700 hours on the bulb without any major problems. While a little noisy, the high and behind location helps a lot. My only complaint is the lack of shadow detail. But I'm willing to compromise a little for the great price Sony brought the HT enthusiast. It's only going to get better as new generations of projectors arrive.
Finally, a screenshot. Forgive the fuzziness of the picture. It is a long exposure and I didn't use a tripod.