My NEC HT1100 Home theatre
by Adrian B.

Since before I was able, one thing I always pined for was a completely black room - a room that would disappear when the lights go out. It amazes me how much time and effort people can put into their theatre rooms - yet the room itself is almost completely left out of the equation!

So the big question - how do you keep your living room liveable, but get it out of the way once it's time to start watching?

Simple...just add curtains. In my case, it's a white 7.5metre-long, 3.7metre-wide room with big windows and plenty of light. The pictures below give you an idea. Great during the day - but a disaster for bouncing light around when you're projecting a picture. My solution was to put up small white curtain rails along the side walls, then make black curtains out of inexpensive cotton calico from the local material-mart. It took about a day total to put it all together. The result is a room that transforms completely in 10 seconds, mostly vanishes, doesn't reflect light back onto the screen, blocks out the windows, acoustically deadens the room, and makes the screen appear larger and brighter as nothing else is competing for your attention. Obviously, you can choose better material, perhaps a more theatrical deep red or something thicker for better sound absorption. Just make sure it's as non-reflective as possible. Unfortunately, my light carpet and ceiling are still the weak-points, as it's not a dedicated theatre room, but they have far less effect on the presentation than the side walls, due mostly to the workings of peripheral vision.

Other huge improvements, just as crucial...

1. Have a dark backdrop behind the screen. It may be black material as I've done here, black paint, or very dark non-reflective theatre curtains. This makes an ENORMOUS difference to the overall feel and apparent quality and brightness of the picture. Hell, unless you want to hide your screen, you may as well make a "feature wall" out of it !

2. Get some screen-masking. Please. Most people are put off because they think it's expensive or too much hassle. I have a 112 inch 4x3 pull-down screen (matte white, no-gain). I simply got the local blind-shop to make a matte black roll-blind. I then screwed it into the top of the screen-case. Completely killing the letterbox bars by pulling up the screen and pulling down the blind takes 5 seconds but makes an INCREDIBLE difference. My NEC-HT1100 projector is 4x3 / 16x9 switchable. But this means I'm changing between 3 aspect ratios. People who have 16x9-only projectors only need to switch between two - 1.78:1 and 2.35:1 for cinemasope films.

The above two ideas are cheap and easy to do, but the results are absolutely worth it. When I first put them in, my friends thought I'd upgraded to a new projector, such was the difference. Some say it's the single best feature of the home-theatre, more so than any of the equipment, which is.....

* Projector: NEC HT-1100 dlp (fantastic)

* DVD / media player: Home theatre PC with ATI / M-audio cards and TheaterTek software.

(Audio goes out via a coaxial cable to the surround processor. Vision goes out via a 10metre DVI-D cable to the projector. Windows desktop rez is 1024x768 - the same as the projector. Refresh is 50Hz for PAL DVD's and 60Hz for everything else.)

* HDTV set-top box: DGTEC DH-2000A+

* Speakers: VAF Research DC-X ( Generation IV ) for the front three speakers (ABSOLUTELY fantastic). DC-7 for side-surrounds. DC-6 for rear surround.

* Subwoofer: With these speakers, and a home-unit, I'm hapilly doing without one.

* Audio front-end:

NAD T-163 surround tuner / pre-amplifier (great)

Rotel RB-993 (3x200watt) power amp for the front three channels

Rotel RMB-1075 (5x125watt) power amp for the surrounds (Rotel is unmatched for the money)

Creek OBH-22 passive pre-amp (for stereo music listening - REAL transparency)

*CD player: Arcam Alpha 8 modified with an LClock X03 (still awesome)

Below are some badly-taken pictures of the room in its various states....