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DIY Home Theaters


Building an Affordable High-End Home Theater

Chris Fink
5/1/2010

Building a home theater is not as difficult as it seems. This book will share my
project experience while building my dream home theater. I'll go into detail on my
construction techniques, design considerations, and share my final product with you.
By sharing my experiences I hope to give you the confidence to DIY and build the
home theater of your dreams.
Building a Home Theater www.diymovierooms.com

Table of Contents
Introduction .............................................................................................. 4
Preface ................................................................................................... 4
Design & Planning ...................................................................................... 6
Planning ................................................................................................. 6
Room Shape and Size ............................................................................... 6
Speaker Configuration / Channels .............................................................. 9
Speaker Placement ................................................................................ 11
Screen Aspect Ratio ............................................................................... 14
Screen Size ........................................................................................... 16
Functionality & Features ......................................................................... 18
Construction ............................................................................................ 24
Framing ................................................................................................ 24
Front Stage ........................................................................................... 25
Rear Riser ............................................................................................. 26
Front Cabinets ....................................................................................... 27
Equipment Room ................................................................................... 28
Electrical Rough In ................................................................................. 31
Wiring & Conduits .................................................................................. 33
Lighting ................................................................................................ 35
HVAC ................................................................................................... 37
Insulation and Sound Proofing ................................................................. 39
Drywall ................................................................................................. 41
Painting ................................................................................................ 43
Trim ..................................................................................................... 46
Carpeting .............................................................................................. 54
Equipment ............................................................................................... 55
Equipment Installation ............................................................................ 57
Integration (Audio/Video, HTPC & Remotes) .............................................. 58
The Finishing Touches ............................................................................. 62
Seating ................................................................................................. 63
Finished Room Dimensions ...................................................................... 64

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Pictures 64
Breakdown 376
Materials and Costs..... 376
Summary.. 377
Final Tips and Advice.... 378
Appendix..... 379
1A: Construction Costs.. 379
1B: Equipment Costs.. 380
1C: Cost Summary.. 381
2: Proposed Basement / Theater Plans. 382
3: Proposed Electrical Plan. 383
4: Final Wiring Diagram.. 384
5: Proposed Step Lighting Plan. 385
6: Final Step Lighting Specifications... 386
7: Early Stage and Screen Designs.. 387
8: Very Early Seating Plans. 389
9: Early Rear Wall Design... 390
10: Early Side Wall Design. 391
11: Early Proposed Seating and Riser Design. 392

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Introduction
Building a home theater is not as difficult as it may appear. When you look at my finished
project the first thing that may come to mind is How did you do this all yourself and This
must have taken forever My responses always come as a surprise to my friends and family.
Seldom do people ask about the cost, they probably just assume the worst. My response is It
doesnt have to cost a fortune and It was not that difficult. With some planning and some
basic skills you can build a home theater of your dreams and Im going to show you how I did
it, step by step.

A successful home theater can be as simple or as complex as you make it. Everyones
definition of a home theater differs; some may prefer to go extravagant while others like to
keep it simple. Whatever works for you is fine. I think many people get intimidated by the
appearance of some home theaters, especially when making a decision to do-it-themselves.
When you break the project down into individual pieces the tasks will become less daunting. A
major part of building a successful home theater is planning. This book breaks down some of
those barriers and gives you the confidence to get started on your project. Even if you are
having a theater built professionally you can use this book to see what I did and perhaps
incorporate some of my designs and concepts into your space.

Preface

When taking on projects of this size please put safety first and follow all of your local building
codes. Obtain permits where necessary. If you are not sure, check with your local township.

When I claim building a home theater is not as difficult as it may appear it does take some
basic skills and construction knowledge. I have no experience in the construction field at all -
None. I am a software engineer by trade. I do consider myself handy and ambitious and will
generally tackle almost any task as long as I first do my homework and understand the tasks
involved. I didnt just pick up a hammer and start framing. I used a few reference guides
along the way but figured out all the tasks on my own. If I didnt feel I could achieve the
same end results as a professional, I would not have taken on the task. If you do not follow
code, or take shortcuts, your end result may actually devalue your space, require tear-down,
or significant rework. The tasks that were beyond my capabilities were contracted out, all of
which are pointed out in this book; both costs and efforts.

The theater build occurred over a 90 day period, starting in June 2007 and ending in
September of 2007. In addition to the theater, the remainder of the basement was also being
finished at the same time. This book will only focus on the theater.

When I hired a professional, I hired them for both the theater and the remainder of the
basement; I sold the job as a basement remodel rather than a theater build. Efforts and costs
that are represented for the theater are very accurate, however does not represent the actual
cost I paid to the contractor. To provide accurate representations of just the theater cost, I
had to estimate some of the costs. These estimates were based on cost per square foot, and
in most cases, I over estimated the cost of the subs on the theater to be safe.

The cost to finish my entire basement was $36k (including the theater but excluding the
carpeting for the remainder of the basement). As youll discover throughout this book, the
theater construction cost alone was about 50% of this budget. The square footage of the
entire basement is 1800 square feet with the theater and equipment room taking up a little
less than 350 square feet. Again, the purpose of this book is to focus on my theater
construction, not the rest of the basement. I just wanted to clarify this since many of the
pictures show the additional work going on in the background.

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And last, this theater build was not actually my first one. In my prior townhouse, in 2003, I
built a basic home theater in my unfinished basement.

My first theater was not nearly as elaborate; it consisted of a single room with a screen hung
on the wall and the projector mounted on the ceiling above two sofas. I acquired most of my
equipment in 2003 and just transferred it over to my new theater in 2007.

All of the equipment was in a cabinet, in the same room, but behind the sofas. Most of the
integrations I will discuss, such as the remote and home theater PC, were already in place. I
learned a lot in my first theater but all of the work was done by a professional; a single
contractor did the framing, drywall, electrical, and trim. Once the room was done, I installed
the equipment and did all the setup myself. In fact, the contractor never even knew the room
was going to be used as a theater. In the end, this project cost me under $10k and the entire
construction only lasted 2 weeks. I enjoyed this space for several years, but was constantly
thinking about the plans for my next home theater.

My first theater, built in 2003. The equipment was in the same room.

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Design & Planning


Planning
In 2006 we moved into a single family home and the reality began to sink in that I was going
to have my chance to redo the theater, this time literally from the ground up. I transferred all
of the equipment and was tasked with building a room around it. The existing screen was
100-inch diagonal and the projectors throw distance was 9-13 feet. The goal was to build a
dedicated room in the basement, rectangular in shape, and design it to accommodate all of
the existing equipment incorporating several new design ideas.

I had a few years of enjoyment from the first theater; however, I wanted to do things a bit
differently in the new one. The early design ideas/goals included:
1. Dedicated room
2. Secluded equipment room
3. Seat 5-7 people comfortably
4. Two rows of seating, the rear on a riser
5. Stage area to hide the speakers
6. Make it look like a real movie room

I considered this list the essentials for the new room. As time went on, this list would grow,
but this list served as the foundation for finding the appropriate space in the new house.

Room Shape and Size


The shape of the new home theater was a very important decision. A properly shaped room
will dramatically improve the acoustics and help optimize the sound system. Often audio
problems such as difficulty understanding the dialogue are a result of improper room design.
With these simple tips you'll be able to design a properly sized room, achieve the most out of
the audio system, and build an affordable home theater.

If you've ever researched acoustical science and optimal room setup you'll quickly become
inundated with technical jargon and discover that many companies want to charge you a
fortune to configure your room. You don't need to hire a pro to get the best results... In order
to keep your home theater in budget all you need to do is follow a few key, simple rules and
you will be off to a great start.

Avoid building your theater in a square-shaped room

Sounds simple...well it is. When your room is a square, the sounds emitted from your
speakers "build up" and bounce off the walls, creating an effect similar to "singing in a
shower". However, if you don't have this option and you decide to keep your room square you
can minimize this affect by placing acoustical panels, furniture, or other padded surfaces in the
correct locations to absorb this reflection. This will dramatically improve your sound quality.

Next

Always Carpet your floors when building a theater

Always! No exceptions. Hard, flat surfaces should be avoided, as they will also contribute to
standing waves. Carpet will dramatically improve your acoustics and will also provide the
added benefits of warmth and insulation. If you decide not to use carpet, expect to spend a

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large portion of your budget on acoustical solutions, such as sound diffusers, bass traps, and
wall panels. Pictures of carpeting below (Pictures A and B).

A: Carpet padding installation B: Carpet installation

Back to the principle of keeping your theater space rectangular. If you can go the rectangular
route, the ideal ratio for your room shape is as follows:

Room width should be 1.6 times the height and the length
should be 2.6 times the room height...

This acoustic room ratio, deemed the perfect ratio, will give the room the very best acoustical
properties.

The dimensions of my home theater are as follows:

21 1/2 feet long


12-14 feet wide
8 feet high

Using the perfect ratio, it recommends my room width be 12.8 feet (1.6 times my 8 ft ceiling)
and my room length be 20.8 (2.6 times my 8 ft ceiling). My room is pretty close to these
measurements; I'm about a foot longer than the recommended length and my room width is
right in the middle.

I've minimized the hard flat surfaces with several techniques. I've broken up the large
sidewalls by making the front of my theater narrower than the rear and incorporating trim on
the walls that breaks up the flat surfaces. The ceiling height also varies, ranging from 6 1/2 to
8 feet. I was able to accomplish this by the use of a rear riser and creating two tray ceilings
surrounded with perimeter soffits. These simple and effective design considerations
tremendously contributed to my room's acoustical properties; and I was able to save money in
the process by doing it myself.

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Achieving good room acoustics does not need to be a budget breaker. By following these
simple rules on room shape I was able to design the theater properly and achieve amazing
results. The room size allows me to comfortably seat 7 and also accommodates a large 100"
screen with two rows of seating (Pictures C and D), the second row seating 4 on a 12-inch
riser platform. The screen size is proportional to the room size and the acoustics sound
amazing! In fact, I had a friend bring over his high-end speakers and I did not even notice a
difference (he calls my speaker's entry level)...

C: 7 seats with rear 4 on 12 riser D: 100 Screen

Other important considerations we'll discuss include speaker placement, screen size, and how
to determine the proper seating distance.

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Speaker Configuration / Channels


Typical home theater setups are configured with 5.1 channels. The 5 denotes the use of 5
speakers or channels; right front, (front) center, left front, right rear, and a left rear. The .1
indicates a subwoofer for the low-frequency effects.

For most home theater setups, 5.1 channels is adequate. However, some common
configurations add an additional two surround channels, called Dolby Digital Plus 7.1. These
additional channels include a left side surround and a right side surround. Butthe fun does
not end here.

Newer configurations allow for 9.1 channels, known as Dolby Pro Logic IIz. This configuration
adds two front channels placed above the front speakers and angled down towards the
listening area:

Front left effect speaker (LFE)


Front right effect speaker (RFE)

The intent is to add the feeling of space and depth to the found field by placing the effect
speakers up high, above the existing front channels.

Deciding which configuration to choose for your home theater is not difficult. I love a good
setup and put a lot of emphasis on acoustics. However, in order to achieve outstanding
results you should not get caught up in all the hype you dont need 9-channels! In fact you
dont even need 7. For most theaters, 5 is perfect.

Going with 5.1 will accomplish the acoustical result you desire and save you money in the
process. As you add more channels, youll need to increase your budget. With additional
speakers, more demands are placed on your receiver. If you are concerned about missing out
on all the new sound effects offered in the latest films, dont worrymost are still recorded in
5.1. Most importantly, I am confident you wont even notice a difference in adding the extra
channels. However, if your intent is to build a very large theater with ceilings higher than 20
feet, you may want to explore 7 or 9 channels.

During my design and planning, I decided that I wanted to stick with 5.1 but also keep my
options open in the future in case I changed my mind. To accommodate this, I fitted my room
with conduit pipes (Pictures A and B).

A: Conduit to front speakers B: Conduit to projector

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Knowing that the studios are always trying to create and push new sound mediums for the
consumer I decided to future proof my room the best I could. I accomplished this by running
extra speaker wire, in the 9-channel configuration, and installing PVC conduit in my ceilings so
I could quickly and easily run new wire in the future. The extra cost was minimal and I highly
recommend it to protect your investment in the future. Plus, if a speaker wire ever fails, it
can easily be replaced.

To complement my 5.1 setup, I added an extra subwoofer. An extra sub is not necessary, but
two are usually better than one for a couple reasons.

Improved bass response


Smooth, evenly dispersed bass

Assuming you are using the same make and models, an additional sub will yield significantly
better bass response. The sounds will be smooth, more evenly dispersed, and the listening
area will be wider. The quality of the sound will extend to all of your seating areas and youll
have a very hard time determining the source of the low frequencies. Often with a single sub
the bass may sound good from one seat and lumpy from another. Assuming proper
placement, one sub is good but two are even better!

In summary, when designing your home theater all you need is a 5-channel setup; dont get
caught up by all the hype on adding extra, unnecessary and costly channels. If your receiver
supports the use of two subwoofers, go ahead and add an extra. And last but not least, dont
forget to future proof your room by adding some extra wiring and conduits. These are a few
of the principles I followed when building my dream, yet affordable, home theater.

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Speaker Placement

Proper speaker placement is essential to achieve the best home theater sound. Although the
5.1 specifications clearly state where the speakers are located, well fine-tune the exact
placement in relation to your room configuration to get the most out of your equipment.
Most importantly well keep it simple, allowing you to do it yourself, which will allow you to
build a custom, yet affordable high end home theater.

Proper placement of your speakers is paramount to achieve their highest quality. Even high-
end speakers will produce an inferior sound field if positioned incorrectly. Following are the
steps I took to find the correct location for my 5.1 speaker configuration (Picture A).

The key to proper setup is to first find the sweet spot in your room. In my home theater I
have two rows of seating, 3 chairs in the front and 4 rows in the rear. The sweet spot, best
sound location, is in the front rows center chair, or the center of the room/seating area.
Using this location as a reference point, speaker placement should be as follows for a 5.1
setup:

Looking at the screen from a seated position:

Place your center-channel speaker at 0 degrees.


Place your left and right front speakers at a 22 to 30 degree angle from your
reference point.
Front speakers height should be around ear level.
Measure the distances from the left and right speakers to your reference point.
Make sure they are equal; just a few inches off could throw off the sound.
Limit any objects, such as furniture, etc that may be blocking the area
between the speakers and the seating area.

The surrounds should be placed on the back wall; however, keep in mind that
surround speaker locations are more flexible than the fronts.

The left and right surrounds should be placed at an angle of 135 to 150
degrees from the front center/reference point. Placement is usually at the
respective ends of the rear wall.
Rear surrounds should be positioned above ear level, ideally 2 feet or more
above the highest seated positions ear level. A good reference is to place
them at ear height from standing position. Proper height is important to
ensure that the surrounds do not over-power the fronts.
If your speakers can be aimed, aim them towards the reference point with a
slight angle downward. This will help to diffuse the sound field.

The subs location is the most flexible of all the channels. Experiment to find a
location where the sound is deep and clear, but not boomy.

Place it on the floor and close to a corner. If it sounds too boomy, proceed
to move it away from the wall until the boomyness subsides. Usually
anywhere from a few inches to two feet from the corner is adequate.
Add a second sub to help smooth out the bass for other listening locations.

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A: My Home Theaters Speaker Placement Diagram

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These guidelines generally provide an excellent setup and will help you to maximize the sound
from all of your speaker locations. However, all rooms are different and you may often have
to make some adjustments to achieve the best sound.

If your receiver has an auto adjustment feature or manual adjustments, configure it properly
to adjust to your room size. In addition, use of acoustical panels on walls or rearranging of
some furniture may be necessary for best results.

I was able to achieve superior results by simply placing the speakers in the correct locations;
but this was attributable to good initial room design. Just be aware that many of the decisions
you make while piecing your home theater together are inter-related; a decision now will
affect certain things later. For example, your initial room shape and design decision determine
your speakers placement and location. The placement of your speakers also affects the
placement of your seating. It does not have to be difficult. If you keep this in mind and take
your time by planning out your project properly, Im confident youll be able to build your
dream home theater affordablyand it will perform with the best of them.

Next, lets transition from the audio and focus on the video aspects

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Screen Aspect Ratio


When you are setting up a home theater, one of the early decisions is the size of your screen.
The aspect ratio is a measurement of the screens width and height. The most common setups
are wide-screen (16:9) or standard (4:3). There are several other aspect ratios that exist;
however, most content is designed to fit best on one of these two formats.

Wide-screen, or 16:9, offers a larger viewing area than standard and is best suited for HDTV
programming and most DVDs. Offering a larger viewing area than standard 4:3, a wide-
screen picture is wider and is rectangular in shape compared to square. All of the newer TVs
you see in your local stores are wide-screen while the older, outdated sets are 4:3.

However, it is important to understand the different types of content that you will be watching
in your theater and how it will display on your screen since not all content will fill a 16:9
screen entirely.

I watch DVDs (standard and blu-ray), television (broadcast and cable), and surf the web from
my home theater PC. It is important to keep in mind that each source has its own aspect ratio
setting. For example, your DVD player can be set to output a picture in either wide-screen or
standard. Make sure that you set each of your devices output to match your screens aspect
ratio, 16:9 in my case. This will ensure that your content will look its best and youll be
utilizing the full vertical resolution of your wide-screen image.

Still, not all content will look the same. Depending on the source, there may be times when an
image does not fill the entire screen. High Definition programming, or HDTV, is broadcast in
16:9 and will fill your entire screen (assuming you use a 16:9 screen). Older TV
programming, prior to the HD revolution of the past few years, will display a standard 4:3
image on your screen, a square. This square shaped image will display in the center of your
screen leaving two horizontal bars to the left and right of the picture. Again, you can make
adjustments to your source to make it fill the entire screen, essentially stretching it to fit; but
in my opinion that only distorts the image.

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Id prefer to view the content the way the director intended it to be viewed. The black bars do
not bother me. Plus, when you are in a darkened room with a dark front wall, the image
disappears into the wall and you wont even notice where the screen edges end.

DVD content comes in several formats. Most will fill your screen, while others will leave black
vertical bars at the top and bottom of your image. Some images are intended to be wider
than a 16:9 screen can handle (letterbox), so the top and bottom bars are larger in some
instances. In the last few years, there has been a big push to put lenses on projectors to fix
this issue; resulting in the image filling the screen better. Again, the bars do not bother me so
I just stick with the 16:9 format while the war wages on.

My recommendation is to just go with a 16:9 screen. It will accommodate all the formats and
you wont have to spend a fortune in complex solutions that adjust the image size from the
projector using a lens or mask the screen to fit the image. Paint your screen wall a dark color
and get a screen with a black, light absorbing frame such as the Stewart Firehawk screen.
Youll find in most settings you dont even notice where the image drops off versus the edge of
the screen.

Next, lets discuss screen size and selection. The bigger the better, right...?

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Screen Size
In my home theater, I selected a 100 Stewart Firehawk 16:9 screen. This screen was
selected to match my projectors light output and has a black, light-absorbing border to hide
the picture during over-scan. The screen also has a gray background that helps make the
dark images appear blacker. Most DLP projectors need help in achieving true blacks and the
screens gray color assists with while reducing reflections back to the viewer.

The beauty of designing your home theater with front projection is you can pick your screen
size. Some people may like a huge screen while other may prefer a wider angle of view.
Whatever your selection just make sure you dont overdo (over size) it. Too big can be as bad
as too small! When you are choosing your screen size you are essentially determining your
seating position, so it is a very important decision. On DIYMovieRooms.com, you will find a
useful tool in determining the proper viewing distance:

As you design your theater, keep in mind that a larger screen is more demanding on the
viewers. If you choose a screen that is too large, or position your seating too close to the
screen, your viewers experience will be greatly reduced. If your viewers have to turn their
heads to view the content, youll find that after 30 minutes or so they will become disoriented
or fatigued, dramatically reducing their overall experience. As we discussed earlier, one
design decision will affect another. In this case, the size of your screen will determine the
distance to your front row seats.

In my theater, I purchased two rows of seats, each of which have to be properly spaced (front
to back and side to side). Before you select a screen you should start thinking about your
seating. Screen size selection really is important and it will vary room to room. Often I see
incredible rooms but they failed to pick the right size screen. The whole purpose of the room
is to watch the screen so choose wisely.

Screen height and resolution are other important considerations. If you find that you need to
bend your neck upwards to view your screen you may want to consider moving your seating
position back or lower your screen height... or select a difference size screen. Granted,
everyones preferences are different, but generally you should place your screen at a position
that minimizes head movement, both upward and side to side.

Pixilation is another factor that determines screen size. Pixilation is not something you can
necessary control, rather it is determined by your projectors resolution and image quality.
The higher the resolution of your projector, the closer to the screen your viewers can sit
without noticing pixilation or reduced image quality.

Pixilation is when you can actually see the grid or individual squares that make up the image,
a clear sign you are sitting too close to the screen. A projector with higher resolutions will
allow you to view a larger image and sit further away without noticing any artifacts or image
problems. Most projectors today are either 720p or 1080p that limits this problem, however,
if you decide to go with a 480p projector, you will have more limitations with screen size and
seating distances. When picking a projector buy the highest resolution you can afford. I
recommend at minimum 720p, but a 1080p model is ideal.

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The techniques I used on determining screen size were pretty unscientific, which youll see
throughout the pictures section. Using a large cardboard square, I approximated an area on
my front wall that mimicked a 100 screen size. I then referred to this template to determine
the seating location and projector placement. Remember, I already owned a 100 screen and
my hope was to reuse it. But if my new space could have accommodated a larger one, I
would have considered it. 110 inches sounded good.

The simplistic approaches continued. I experimented with a foldable chair to find the best
seating positions. I marked lines of the floor to determine the riser size and seating areas.
Overall, my goal was to maximize screen size but I did not want viewers to move their heads
to view the image. As I moved my seating distance back I was able to determine that I could
increase my screen size, and visa versa. Once I had a design in mind, I verified it with my
viewing distance calculator.

These simple, yet practical steps helped me ensure that I used the right size screen for my
space. The screen size is a very important decision, critical to achieving the best experience
from your home theater. Choosing the right size screen with the right aspect ratio will have a
huge impact on your long-term enjoyment of your theater. Take your time and consider all
your options and youll be on your way to building the theater of your dreams.

Next, well discuss the features and functionality of my home theater

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Functionality & Features


With most of the core decisions made we can now move onto our options. These options or
features will add functionality and enjoyment to your home theater. These decisions,
although important, are not as critical as the core decisions that we made earlier in regard to
room size, speaker placement, screen dynamics, and seating distance. However, some of
these features should be designed into your home theater before construction begins while
others can be done a few years down the road; the important part is that you do your
research and plan the features that you want beforehand.

To gather option ideas for my theater I hit the magazines and local theater show-room floors.
One thing I had on my side that proved an advantage was time; my house was still being built
at the time of my design which left me almost 12 months to research and plan my home
theater. During this time, I was able to come up with a comprehensive list of ideas; some,
which stuck, and a few I decided to discard or postpone. Knowing what I wanted was critical
and helped me limit any costly rework during the construction process. Now lets discuss the
options in more detail.

Front projection

Choices in video equipment are vast. Front projection, rear projection, LCD, DLP, LED, etc.
Based on my room layout, I decided that a DLP Front Projector was best suited for the theater
room. The plans were to mount the projector on the ceiling initially, but also provide the
functionality to mount it in the rear equipment room in the future. Mounting it in the back was
my goal, but it did not work out due to the throw distance of my particular projector. At a
required distance of 23' (to mount it in the rear equipment room), I would have had to spend
much more money on the projector or invested in a lens to increase the throw distance of my
current projector.

In the end, I made an economical decision to ceiling mount it initially while retaining the rear
mounting options in the future. In order to accommodate a future rear-mount option, I had to
carefully design the back wall and equipment room. These design considerations allowed for
mounting the projector at the correct height and also provided a space in the rear wall to
make an opening for the projector lens. However, for now, I would ceiling mount the
projector, which required a distance of 11 to 13 feet. This placement worked out fine for my
layout, but placed the projector above the seating area. Projectors can be noisy and emit heat
by for the time being Ill just deal with it. Eventually, when I need a new projector, Ill mount
it in the rear room which will solve my concerns.

100" Screen

The screen size is what sets off the tone for the rest of the room. My goal was to go as big as
my room would accommodate without negatively impacting the rest of the rooms dynamics.
As previously noted, screen size determines the proper seating distance and the throw
distance of the projector; so be sure to take your time and do this correctly.

Sound Containment / Acoustics

We watch lots of movies in the evening. However, it was very important that the room be
enjoyable during the day. In addition, we didnt want to disturb others in the house with the
noise. Sound travels, especially from the subs. Consequently, a room that contained the
sound, while providing the best sound quality, was another important factor. The location of
the theater was critical; 12" concrete walls provided a good starting point. By adding
soundproofing and following proper construction techniques, I was able to accomplish my
goals. By designing simple, yet practical sound containment designs into the room, we are
able enjoy the room anytime, especially while the children are sleeping.

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Hidden Speakers / Wired for Dolby 9.2

I didn't want to see my speakers. I'd prefer that they be hidden, but I did not want to sacrifice
the sound quality or spend a fortune on them. I also wanted to start out with a 5.1 setup but
future proof it enough to accommodate new formats in the future... Dolby 9.2? That does not
even exist.... but when it does I wanted to be ready for it.

My initial 5.1 setup consisted of 3 front speakers (left/right/center), two rear surround
speakers, and a single sub. To be honest, I felt that this setup is adequate for a room this
size. However, I wanted to plan for adding additional speakers in the future; perhaps two
additional front effect speakers, two side surrounds, and a second sub. Bottom line, with this
functionality in mind I was able to accommodate this into my design and construction.

Speakers hidden in the stage

Rear Riser for 2nd row seating

I wanted every seat in the theater to be enjoyable. Sitting in the back row should have an
unobstructed view of the screen regardless of how many tall people are sitting in front of you.
A riser platform provided this functionality and it also added to the overall room's appearance.

4 rear seats on 12 riser

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Floor Lighting.... just like the real thing

I enjoy the feel of the real movie theaters...but without the distractions of cell phones, etc. I
also wanted a way for a viewer to leave the theater quietly and safely without disturbing
others. A Step lighting system was the answer; and as it turns out, the stuff I installed is the
same stuff you see in your local theater. This is something that could have been easily
overlooked, but it really made an impact on the finished look of the room.

Rear risers step lighting

Zoned Mood Lighting: Wall lighting, ceiling lighting, etc

Proper lighting is essential. Lighting sets the mood and really helps to set off the space. My
goal was to have several zones of dimmable lighting that I could configure for different
settings; bright when people enter, dimmed when watching previews, and different levels of
dark for watching a movie versus watching TV. Lighting design is huge! Controlling it from my
seat was also another important design consideration, or feature.

Lutron Grafik Eye controls all the zones

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Separate Equipment Room with easy access

Equipment: It's noisy, creates heat/light, and can be a distraction. Although it looks cool to
see a large rack of organized equipment stacked neatly, I wanted it out of the way yet keeping
it accessible. A rear equipment room was the perfect solution

With a hidden door, I was able to design an entry door that blended seamlessly with the walls
and trim; and when opened it first appears to only be a rack of components in the wall.
However, utilizing a wheeled-rack, it can easily be pushed back allowing entry into the
equipment room from the theater. I also wanted to vent this room to exhaust all the heat
and design this room as both the theater's and entire home's distribution center / server
room. This room often goes unnoticed, as was my intention, and also serves a critical role in
the design of the home theater.

Equipment room with hidden door to theater

Infra-Red Distribution

A theater can become complicated to operate. Turn on the projector, DVD player, computer,
lights, switch sources, etc. A well thought out design is often overlooked. An infra-red
distribution system is the backbone that allows a device, usually a remote control, to control
all the devices that are out of sight in the equipment room. It is not as complicated as it
sounds, but it requires some planning. Incorporating this into the design was yet another
important feature. An IR system also facilitated the location of the rear equipment room.

IR Receiver hidden in upper soffits emblem

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Conduit for Wiring

Wiring...lots of it. I wanted to be able to pull and add new wires at any time. As technologies
advance, I want to be able to swap out audio and video cables as required. I addressed this
problem by incorporating conduits into the theaters design. Conduits will ensure that the
theater can accommodate the latest quickly and easily. Conduits are usually cheap and easy
to installa must for every space.

Conduit run between ceiling joists

Styling / Decor / Wall colors

A large part of the overall planning was spent on the styling of the home theater; wall colors,
trim, etc. Factors that were most important to included dark colors to absorb the reflections,
a stylish design that would give the room a theater feel, and a proper layout that would
provide the best acoustics. In the finished design, you will notice that all of the sconces are
on small bump outs - a 12" wide box that extends from floor to ceiling. At first it may appear
as though this was incorporated into the design just for appearance, but that is not the case.
These bump outs serve as acoustic deflectors by breaking up the sound waves and preventing
them from bouncing all around the room. The rectangular shape of the room also assisted with
acoustics.

Wall design

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Future Star Field

During my visits to local retailers there was one demo (retail) theater that caught my
attention. Although smaller than my design, it incorporated a fiber optic star field into the
ceiling. It was really a cool feature but I was not sure if it was something I wanted to
incorporate at the time. Given my indecision, I planned on skipping this feature, but I
designed the capability to add this later on. By allowing for the future fiber runs, planning a
transformer location, and accommodating an additional zone to my lighting plans I was able to
accommodate a future star-field.

For the past few years I've been close to doing this addition, however, I just have not pulled
the trigger yet. Regardless, I'm glad I planned for it.

Star field would be installed in the drop ceiling

Theater Ergonomics

Theater ergonomics define the way you use the space; theater entry, room navigation, guest
comfort, and rooms overall purpose are all important considerations. A big decision in my
plan was the location of the entry door. A rear or side door was ideal since it would eliminate
distractions as guests come and go. Another important consideration was the overall use of
the theater. I wanted to design the theater for watching movies, TV, playing video games,
surfing the web, and even for conference calls. In addition, heating and cooling the room was
very important to keep the guests comfortable.

With all of these features in mind, it was time to begin the construction. In the next section,
well walk through the construction of the theater.

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Construction
Framing

Framing of the theater involved building 4 walls.

I started by attaching 2x4x8 pressure treated lumber to the concrete walls in the front 12
area of the theater. Attaching them to the walls maximized the width of this space. Each
piece was glued using construction adhesive and then nailed to the wall using a concrete nail
gun. Picture (A).

The remainder of the walls was built using standard 2x4x8 framing, 16 on center. The
bottom plates were pressure treated, which were glued and nailed into the concrete floor.
Each wall was built on the floor, cut to size, and then raised and fastened into place. Picture
(B).

With all of the theater walls in place, framing for the equipment room was completed. This
room shares the rear and right wall of the theater. To complete this room, two additional
walls were constructed to close the space. Picture (C).

With all the walls in place the construction of the soffits began. The soffits are standard 2x4x8
framing; attached to ceiling joists and wall framing with screws and/or nails. Soffits were
constructed around the entire perimeter of the theater. In addition, soffits were framed to
hide the rear HVAC ducts and the horizontal I-Beam in the ceiling, in the middle of the
theater. When the soffits were complete, they formed two distinct ceilings in the theater; one
in the front and one in the rear. Picture (D).

A B

C D

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Front Stage
With the wall and soffit framing completed, the next step was the construction of the front
stage. The front stage is 2x4x8 pressure treated framing; covered with tongue and grove
plywood. Plywood was glued and screwed to sub floor (framing). Front of stage is wrapped
with standard plywood, bent to conform to curve. Pictures (A), (B), (C), (D).

A B

C D

To make the angle for the front of the stage, I marked the center point of the stage and then
used a 6 foot metal ruler as a guide to form the angle. I positioned one end of the ruler on
the center point and then bent the ruler to form the desirable angle. With the ruler bent in
place, I penciled the curve onto the floor and marked an outside reference point along the left
wall. For the right side, I transferred the left walls reference point to the right wall and again
bent the ruler into place on both reference points and marked the line on the floor. This
ensured my angle was symmetrical and to the shape I desired.

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Rear Riser
The rear riser is 2x12x8 pressure treated framing, 16 on center; covered with tongue and
grove plywood. The plywood floor was glued and screwed to the sub floor. The rear riser has
two steps built on each side of the riser, each step 6 high. Due to the weight and size of the
riser, it was not necessary to fasten it to the concrete floor. Pictures (A), (B), (C).

The riser beams run from the front to the rear of the room to accommodate an HVAC duct.
The HVAC duct is installed in the front center of the riser (Picture B red circle).

To transition the riser into the equipment room, a 12 platform and single step was built in the
equipment room (Picture D). The top step is grooved to accommodate the racks wheels. The
top step is 26 wide (as pictured top to bottom) and the bottom step is 24 wide.

A B

C D

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Front Cabinets
The front speaker cabinets consist of three modules; left and right speaker cabinets and a
middle speaker cabinet. The left and right speaker cabinets were framed using 2x4x8 framing
and covered with plywood on all sides except the front. The front serves as the cabinet door,
which was framed with a solid piece of plywood with a rectangular hole, cutout in the center,
and attached to the cabinet with hinges; like a thick picture frame. Using a thin layer of car
roof fabric, I covered the frame in preparation to receive the final finished fabric. This thin
layer of foam provided a cushion like feel and also helped to soften the edges.

I then proceeded to cover the entire piece with the finished fabric, using staples to fasten the
fabric on the backside of the panel. Last, using speaker fabric mesh, I covered the opening,
again using staples to secure the piece. To hide the staples, I covered it with trim; the same
box trim I used throughout the rest of the room.

The center cabinet was built using the same methods as the left/right speaker cabinets,
however, with 3 openings instead of 1. Instead of using hinges, I fastened the door using
Velcro.

All three cabinets were attached to the front stage and side-walls and fastened to each other.
Each cabinet includes adjustable shelves which allow me to adjust the speaker height
independently. Last, I wanted to be able to fish wire from the left cabinet to the center and
then to the right. To accomplish this, I drilled 2 holes inside of each piece and inserted a 2
PVC conduit in each hole. This conduit ensures that the wires do not snag when they are
being pulled.

Picture (A) shows a right/left cabinet being built. Picture (B) shows the completed cabinets,
awaiting fabric. Pictures (C), (D) shows the screen area and upper soffit.

A B

C D

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Equipment Room
The equipment room is essentially a large closet with two doors and a drop ceiling. The
dimensions of the room are: 3ft 8in wide by 8ft 6in deep by7ft 6in high. Picture (A) shows the
room unfinished and (B) is finished.

A B

The equipment room is located directly behind the theater with the hidden equipment rooms
door on the rear 12 riser. The hidden door has no knob, but it does have hinges, to best
conceal it into the rear theater wall. A spring latch is used to open and close the door; all that
is required is a firm press on the door to trigger the latch. With the door opened, the first
thing youll notice is a tall equipment rack. In fact, you would not expect that a room is there
at all. Upon closer inspection youll find that the rack is on wheels and can be pushed back
into the equipment room 2-3ft, allowing entry into the room. To keep the rack in place, I cut
two groves into the floor to serve as a track to guide the rack back and forth.

As you enter the equipment room from the theater, youll note that the rack is on a 12
platform, even with the theater riser, and then steps down to ground level. This was
necessary to make the rack level with the door opening and to also transition the equipment
room into the theater properly. At the far end of the room is the second door which exits to
the rest of the basement.

The equipment room was built to house all of the theater electronics, home networking
equipment, and the projector (someday). I also use this room as storage: extra equipment,
surplus wiring/cables, etc. The bottom line was this: I built the room to 1) isolate the noise
generated from all the equipment and 2) keep all the heat generated by the equipment out of
the theater. Additional benefits included a single place to store and connect all my hardware,
and with everything in one place, I could now vent all of the heat outside.

As I write this article, several years after my theater was completed, I still consider this
equipment room as one of the best things I did. During the silent scenes of a filmthere is

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complete silence; no humming of equipment or buzzing of a noisy computer fan. My advice is


to find a way to isolate your equipment youll be happy you did!

For a list of equipment please see the equipment section.

In the rear wall of the equipment room is my wiring panel (Picture C). This panel serves as a
central location for all of my network/phone/speaker jacks and also all of the rooms electrical
receptacles (more discussion on this in the wiring section).

For the equipment rooms ceiling, I installed a drop ceiling. This drop ceiling provides easy
access to both conduit pipes that run to the front speaker cabinets and the projector location.
In addition, I installed a small shelf in this area to house the theaters step lightings low
voltage transformer, which is wired and controlled by the Lutron Grafik eye in the theater.

Both conduit pipes are 4 in diameter. The one that runs to the projector holds all the video
cables (HDMI/DVI), an IR emitter for the projector, and a power cable to the projector. The
conduit that runs to the front speakers holds the speaker wires needed in the front cabinets,
including both subs. When running the wires you should also run a long nylon string to assist
in pulling future wires; just leave it in there. When you run a new wire, make sure you run a
new nylon string; and use tape to keep it in place.

Last, due to the amount of heat generated by the equipment, I installed a 6 aluminum pipe in
the ceiling that runs to the exterior of the house. Although not currently used, my intention
was to have the capability to later install an exhaust fan to vent the heat from the room, if
needed. In the interim, I installed a thermometer on the wall, which I use to monitor the
rooms temperature. This thermometer has a high/low needle that I can use to judge the
temperature ranges in the room. Over the past few years, Ive determined the temperature
range to be acceptable (averaging 65 degrees F); however, if I ever need to use a fan all I
need to do is install one above in the drop ceiling. Yet another important design consideration
that is easier to install during construction than after the project is complete. Bottom line,

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your equipment is a large part of your investment and its important you keep it cool to ensure
best performance and longevity!

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Electrical Rough In

Although I consider myself pretty handy with electrical work, I decided to hire an electrician to
assist me with my project. During my design, I decided that I needed the following electrical
work done:

Receptacles
4 receptacle outlets in the theater, as per code, run to a 15amp breaker
2 receptacle outlets in the center stage cabinet, each on a dedicated 15amp breaker
for the subs.
3 receptacle outlets in the equipment room, each on a dedicated 15amp breaker for
the equipment.
2 receptacle outlets to control the 7 recliners. One placed in the front of the riser and
the other on the back wall, both located behind the seats and out of sight.

Lighting
9 sconce hookups
6 recessed lights, 4 in diameter, placed in the perimeter soffits
3 eyeball lights, 4 in diameter, placed around the stage. Two were placed in the
perimeter soffits and the third above the screen and behind the curved front soffit
wall. The Objective was for these three lights to be angled on points around the stage
to give depth and showcase the stage area.
1 Lutron Grafik eye hookup
1 recessed light in the equipment rooms drop ceiling

Other
1 wire run from the Grafik eye to the step lightings low voltage transformer in the
ceiling of the equipment room.
1 wire run off the equipment rooms recessed light to the exhaust fan (which was
capped off for future fan installation).

With this project plan in mind, I had three contractors bid on the work. I emphasized to them
that I wanted to save money in this project and help out best I could. In the end, the
electrician I choose provided all the wiring, breakers, and did all the wiring with the exception
of the light and receptacle hookups. Believe it or not, with the amount of hookups in my
project, this saved me considerable amounts of money. The electricians total bill was $550
and he used 3 men to rough-in the wiring just a few hours.

Before the drywall was hung, I installed all of the receptacle boxes and recessed lights myself.
I took my time and spent about 4 hours in the process. Several days later after the painting
was completed, I installed all the receptacles and finished the lighting trim and sconces; which
only took a few additional hours of work. By doing the easy electrical work on my own, I was
able to reduce the cost of the sub by about 50%.

Before the carpeting I installed the step lighting. The step lighting is very easy to install and
is simply done using low voltage wiring (2 wire 16/18 gage wire without ground) connected to
a low voltage transformer for power (using 14-3 romex). Again, I did all the low voltage
wiring and had the contractor run the 120V line from the Grafik eye to the transformer.

When I ordered the step lighting from ML-Lighting Inc, all the pieces were ordered to size.
The dealer was very detailed and requested diagrams and rough plans to verify all of the
dimensions before the order was placed. Upon receipt of the materials, all I needed to do was
minor cutting and mitering of the pieces using a miter saw. After the pieces were dry fit and
wired together I installed them to the floor using standard floor adhesive and used some
staples for additional measures.

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I must say the step lighting was a feature worth every penny! The lights are LED, so they run
cool and are very bright not to mention they will last forever. You can quickly and easily
change the LEDs color and replace them when needed. When attached to a dimmer switch,
Lutron Grafik eye, you can dim the lighting which provides an amazing affect! When in the
theater, the step lighting is always on; providing safety to my patrons as they navigate in and
out during a film.

The total cost for the step lighting was just under $1000 and the install was very straight
forward. When designing step lighting into your theater be sure to plan ahead and measure
carefully. As mentioned earlier, my lighting was made to order so it took a few weeks before
it arrived.

In the end youll be surprised what people first notice; often its the little things that make the
most impact! In my opinion, step lighting is an important option to consider in your design;
both aesthetically and from a safety perspective. Its especially important if you decide to
build a riser or a stage.

At the conclusion of the project, I asked the electrician to come back to wire the Grafik eye
and check on all the electrical wiring I had done; which was included in the original bid.
Overall, the process went smoothly and I was very satisfied with the outcome.

Pictures below show the electrical rough-in. (A) shows the step lighting low voltage wiring and
(B) shows the wiring of the recessed lights and sconce electrical boxes.

A B

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Wiring & Conduits

Theater wiring includes: speaker and IR wiring, video and networking cables, plus the
electrical work completed by the electrician. The wiring is the backbone of the theater and
rest of the house so its important that you give it some thought. Organize and label your
cables and create a wiring diagram (A) for later reference. You probably wont have to reroute
or change cables often, but a wiring diagram will prove critical when troubleshooting a
problem or performing an upgrade.

A: Wiring Diagram
(Full size in appendix 4)

Speaker and IR wiring runs from the equipment room to the front right speaker cabinet. In
total there are 7 speaker cables and 1 IR cable in the conduit. The 7 speaker wires are
standard 14/2 wire (14 gage, 2 wire red/black) and each cable is cut to the same length of 30
feet each to ensure the best audio quality possible. Also run through the audio conduit is a
single IR cable that runs from the IR block to the IR receiver above the stage. The 7 audio
cables consist of:

1 front right speaker


1 front left speaker
1 front center speaker
1 sub woofer #1
1 sub woofer #2
1 run for a future left front effect speaker
1 run for a future right front effect speaker

I also ran speaker wires for 4 surrounds (2 rear and 2 side in-wall speakers). These cables
were not run in conduit; rather they were just fished through the walls/studs to their final
destination. I did not install side surround speakers, but added the wiring to allow for future
expansion. I don't see myself ever using it, but perhaps the next owner will.....

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The video conduit runs from the equipment room to the projector location, currently the
center of the theater. The cables in the video conduit include:

1 15' DVI cable


1 15' power cable from the projector to the power conditioner
1 IR blaster from the IR block to the projector (to control the projector via IR
commands)

As with speaker cables the length of the runs for video cables should also be taken into
consideration. The main difference, however, is that youll notice right away if a video cable is
too long. With digital cables such as DVI, the symptom will be obvious; no picture signal.
With video cables it is important to understand that each cable type has a maximum length
limitation. For example, the limit for a standard DVI cable length is 5 meters. However, the
actual maximum length depends on the cable quality and signal bit-rate. The higher the
resolution you are running, the more demands you'll be placing on your cable. When building
your theater, make sure you know the limitations for each cable type. Minimizing the length
of each cable run will help save you money. As your demands for cable length increase so
does the cost of the cable.

The length of my DVI cable is about 15 feet. To ensure the highest quality, I looked for a
cable that was tested to at the maximum bit rate (4.495Gbps for single link and 9.9Gbps for
dual link DVI). As long as your cable can perform at this bit rate for your desired length you
should be fine. If you find you are having problems, you can install video amplifiers in-line
with the DVI cable to increase the effective length; but I've found this unnecessary in my
setup.

When shopping for any type of cables, do your homework. More expensive is not always
better. Lower end cables will often perform to the same specs as the higher end cables.
Buying a name brand cable usually just costs you more money and does little or nothing to
improve the overall quality.

All of the rest of the wiring includes electrical, networking, and coax (television) cables. The 4
gang wiring panel in the back of the equipment room wall routes each network and video
cable to a destination in another part of the home. As discussed earlier, the wiring diagram
(appendix 4) displays each cable type, source and destination.

The electrical room referenced is located in another part of the basement and serves as the
entry (demarcation) point of television/phone/internet into the house. Coax (television) and
phone wiring originates in the electrical room and is run to locations throughout the house,
including several in the theater. Networking cable originates in the electrical room but is
rerouted to the equipment room, which serves as the main distribution point for everything
network related. A (network) router and switch in the equipment room then connect to the
wiring panel to distribute the network signals to the remainder of the house. Consequently,
both the electrical room and equipment room work together to integrate the entire home and
home theater together.

From a distance the wiring may seem like a daunting task. It helps to think of the wiring as
several different projects; network, phone, television, and speakers. Design each system
individually, but in the end make sure that they all work together. Make sure you document
all the wiring with a wiring diagram. I laminated mine and hung it in both the
equipment/electrical room for reference. Another good idea is to document the walls in which
the cables route; this way you know where they are. Rather than running wires all over the
place, its best to consolidate/group the runs together. Last try to keep your low voltage
wiring 12 away from your electrical wiring to minimize noise and interference.

In the next section well discuss the theater lighting.

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Lighting
The heart of the lighting system for the home theater is the Lutron Grafik eye (Pictures A and
B). With 5 zones and configurable presets, the grafik eye can independently set each zone to
a preset level based on the desired ambience. Essentially, at its heart, the grafik eye is just a
glorified programmable switch, 5 switches in total. Each switch can control a set of lights,
called a zone. My theater setup has 5 zones:

Zone 1: 6 perimeter soffit recessed lights


Zone 2: 3 stage eyeball lights
Zone 3: 9 Sconces
Zone 4: Step Lighting
Zone 5: Unused (wired for a future fiber-optic star field)

A B

Now the power of the grafik eye comes into play. The grafik eye has 5 presets. Each preset
can set the intensity, or dimming level, for each of the 5 zones to create a mood. My theater
presets are as follows:

Preset 1: Clean Mode


This preset sets each of the 5 zones to 100% brightness. I termed this clean since its
only used when the room is being cleaned.

Preset 2: Preview Mode


This preset sets the mood for when watching movie trailers, before the movie starts.
This gives the room a well light appearance, but keeps it dark enough in the front
(zone 2) for the picture to stand out. The sconces, recessed lights, and step lighting
are all on but dimmed to the proper mood.

Preset 3: Movie Mode


This preset darkens the room for movie viewing. All of the recessed lights and
sconces are off but the step lighting is set to a low level to assist with
navigation/safety.

Preset 4: TV Mode
This preset is similar to preset 2 but gives a little more light for tasks like surfing the
web or using a laptop. Unlike preset 2, zone 2 is off to provide for best screen
appearance but zones 1, 3, and 4 are higher than normal to provide enough lighting to
view a keyboard, read a book/manual etc. I call this TV mode since I often find myself
multi-tasking when watching TV. I also use this preset when on a conference call or
doing a work related item.

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Preset 5: Not in use


Design is to use this for a future ceiling fiber optic star field.

One item on my design wish list that was excluded was the installation of a fiber optic star
field. I thought it would be cool to add a 5th zone to my lighting that would light up the ceiling
like the night sky. The drop ceiling would be filled with realistic patterns of stars and
constellations, with the occasional shooting star (yes, this is an option). This was something
that I designed into my theater, but decided to do it at a later time. Its been several years
and Im still undecided when and if I will pursue this. My hesitations are the cost (around $1-
2k), the difficultly of the installation (tight drop ceiling), and Im not sure Ill get much use out
of it. I dont envision I would want it on when watching a film; that would be too distracting
but if and when I decide to do anything, Ill update my site or blog with the details.

The Lutron grafik eye is a powerful controller capable of integrating with your remotes and
controlling all of the lighting in your theater. Different models exist which add more zones and
functionality, however for the size of my room, 5 zones was more than sufficient. More of this
will be discussed later in the Integration section.

Installing the finished trim (light bulbs and recessed can trim) for the recessed lights and
sconces was quick and easy. All that was necessary was snapping in a spring loaded trim
piece and installing a light bulb. The sconces were not much more difficult, just needed to
connect the wiring and mount them on the wall. Recall that I choose to do this myself to save
money on the electrical sub.

Once the lighting is complete, you really begin to feel like your theater is progressing. At this
point you are almost done and all of your hard work and effort is starting to show!

Next, onto the heating and cooling (HVAC) decisions

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HVAC

Just like the electrical, I decided to contract out the HVAC (heating and cooling) for the
theater. Given that my theater is in my basement and about 50% of the room is below
ground, the need for temperature control was not that important for most of the year. On
average, temperatures would range in the high 50s in the winter and low to mid 70s in the
summer, with the average being 65 degrees. But in order to keep the room comfortable and
usable all year round it was important to install a single forced air vent in the room.

Using the existing 5-ton unit (HVAC system) in my basement, my design was to tap off of the
trunk to run an additional line into the theater. As with all HVAC systems, they are designed
to fit your current home size. When planning an addition it is important to do the calculations
to determine if your unit can support the added space. This area was out of my expertise
zone, so I called in the professionals to get several opinions on design.

I had several contractors come out to assess my project. In the end, the best advice that I
was given was to run a single, damper controlled duct off the main trunk into the floor of my
12 riser. By installing a separate thermostat in the theater, I could adjust the temperature
for just the theater. When I called for heating or cooling in the theater, the damper would
open and send conditioned air into the space. However, when I called for it in other parts of
the house, the theaters damper is shut and no money would be wasted on heating or cooling
a room that is not in use. Most importantly, since the theater rarely needs conditioned air the
damper keeps the existing 5-ton unit unchanged in design since the added run is closed off
99% of the time.

It took me a few weeks to process all this information and make a final decision on the duct
layout for the theater. Ultimately, I decided to take their advice. It only took a few hours, but
the crew came in and ran a flexible duct off the main trunk, below my riser, and placed a vent
in the front center of the riser. They installed a pneumatically controlled damper at the
entrance of the new duct and placed a new thermostat on the wall and wired it all into the
existing 5-ton unit and controller. They also ran a 6 aluminum duct from my equipment
room to the exterior (for future venting) and capped it off with an aluminum cap/door on the
back of the house. As stated earlier Ive yet to install the fan but Im glad I have this option
as my equipment room grows. They were in and out in several hours and did an impressive
job, both before and during the job, to ensure that my system worked as designed.

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Below, Picture (A) shows the dampers installed in the equipment rooms ceiling. Picture (B)
shows the HVAC duct run in the rear theater wall and under the riser.

A B

If I had done this work myself, I probably would have not installed a damper and would have
located the HVAC vent for the theater on the wall. To my surprise, the floor mounted duct
location turned out to be excellent for all the reasons the contractor stated initially. The last
thing you want to feel in the theater is the draft from the forced air, especially with the duct
location in the seating area. By installing it on the floor minimized the draft and also provided
a good look. Functional and stylish: a good recommendation in my opinion.

When all was said and done, I paid the contractor $600 for the theater portion. To be honest,
this was more than I had budgeted for but I felt better in the end knowing that the work was
done right and sized correctly.

The bottom line when building your theater, have a professional evaluate the need for heating
and cooling. Its important that your guests are comfortable when viewing a film thats the
real reason why you go through all this effort. And remember, if you want it to be like a real
movie theater, you can crank the air up and make everyone shiver (smile). And one last tip,
have several blankets handy since everyones definition of proper temperature differs. For
my room, I color coordinated the blankets with the rooms dcor. Again, its the little things
(the attention to details) that make the difference.

Next, lets help keep the conditioned air in the theater and give it some sound proofing at the
same time.

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Insulation and Sound Proofing

The soundproofing of a room is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of a home
theater build. At first consideration, most people probably decide to omit this because the
task sounds expensive and/or complicated. If you do your research on this topic, youll
probably be led to believe that it is. Wellagain, this is absolutely untrue and you can easily
do this job yourself.

First, let me explain why soundproofing is important. When I built my first theater, I sound
proofed solely because I didnt want to disturb my neighbors. At the time I lived in a
townhouse and shared a wall with a neighbor. Soundproofing the room then was important so
I could enjoy movies (loud) and not disturb my neighbor. However, when I moved into my
new house this was not really a factor and I could have easily skipped this step. At the time I
didnt see the immediate need for it, but I went ahead with it anyway. Several months after
my theater was complete we had a daughter, and the real benefits of the soundproofing are
starting to show again.

A B

C D

Pictures (A-D) show the insulation installation.

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Even though my theater is in my basement, sound tends to travel. Not to mention, I like to
play my movies the way the director intended which is loud! Without the proper sound
levels, you may miss out on a special effect or have a hard time hearing soft dialogue. My
theater is also used to host sporting events, etc which often go late into the evening when my
family is sleeping. This is another reason to focus on a sound proofing solution.

Bottom line, whether it is a newborn or guests, you should at least take some effort to isolate
the sound in your theater room. Its a great feeling being able to watch a movie at 9pm, at
proper volume, and look into our baby monitor and see our daughter sleeping soundly.
Anyone with a newborn knows the consequences of waking a sleeping baby. In my case, it
would be no more movies later in the evening.

Lets discuss the techniques for soundproofing. If youve done your research youve probably
discovered the methods for building two walls, using rubber gaskets, or using expensive
soundproofing materials. Im not saying that they are not more effective, but for most
applications it is just not required.

For my theater, I used standard 2x4 framing and filled the walls thoroughly with a standard
sound absorbent insulation from the local hardware store. This insulation looks and feels just
like standard insulation, but just a little denser than normal. Be sure to take your time and fill
the voids properly with the insulation. Make clean cuts and cover the stud openings from floor
to ceiling; no different than using standard insulation. Believe it or not, the results of this
effort are amazing. I did not achieve complete sound isolation, some sound does leak, but it
is very muffled and reduced dramatically. Just be sure to insulate the walls and ceiling and
you should be in great shape.

Sound insulation does not have to be expensive. If you follow my approach it will be fast,
cheap, and effective. To install the insulation in my theater it took about 3 hours and cost less
than $150. If you want to take soundproofing to the next level, you can double-up on your
drywall or install a layer of plywood beneath the drywall. All these methods should get you to
a good sound isolation level quickly and with minimal expense.

And one last tip: Make sure you fasten everything down!!! Use screws in place of nails where
applicable and its even a good idea to glue the drywall to the studs. When your dual subs are
pumping out the bass youll be glad you went the extra mile and so will your children,
guests, and neighbors!

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Drywall

Drywall was the one task I would not be tackling in my home theater project. Nonetheless, I
decided to contract it out. Following my standard protocol, I got 3 bids for the work. The
scope of the work was just to deliver and install the drywall, tape, mud, and sand. I wanted
the room to be paint ready, i.e. I would apply the primer after they were done with their work.

Of all the quotes I received, the drywall seemed to have the largest variance. In the end, I
ended up going with the cheapest quote. Normally you hear you should never go with the
lowest, but let me rationalize my decision.

The quotes ranged thousands of dollars. The high bid was from a 1-man outfit; his experience
and credentials seemed legit but the catch was it would take 1-2 weeks to complete the job.
The middle of the road quote had a small crew, but they could finish up the job in just a few
days. The crew I selected, again the lowest bid, said they would finish up the job in 3 days;
pretty normal for a job this size. In addition, his crew was huge and they just happened to be
dry walling a house down the road. He extended an offer for me to stop by and check out their
work. I had trust in this guy and decided to go with my gut. Another important factor in my
decision was I wanted the crew to be focused on my job and not be multi-tasking me with
other clients. When a contractor turns a 3-day job into several weeks, I get nervous.

A B

Picture (A): Drywall prep


Picture (B): Drywall installation

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The drywall was delivered a few days later. Having the experience of seeing my house built
from the ground up 12 months earlier, I knew how fast the framing and drywall goes up.
Although this job was much smaller, this crew did not approach the job differently. To my
surprise, the drywall delivery came in on a semi and was craned up over the backside of my
house and placed right by my rear basement walkout. Within 30 minutes all the drywall was
unloaded and staged, ready for the work to begin the next day. At this point, I was confident
this job was going to be high quality and fast.

The next morning, my basement was buzzing with drywall workers. By the end of the day all
the drywall was hung. Over the next 2 days, the crew got smaller, and they wrapped up the
remainder of the work: taping, 3 coats of mud, and sanding. As soon as the job was
complete, I was able to begin applying the primer.

Ive installed drywall in the past. Hanging it is not that difficult, but there is a technique to it
to ensure that it looks perfect. Its the taping and mudding that I have problems with. When
the job is done, you should not be able to see any seams. Even though my walls were going
to be covered with trim, I just wanted to be positive the job was going to be done correctly. A
poor drywall job reflects poorly on your entire project. In the end, I was very happy with the
job and have concluded that my drywall days are over forever!

C D

Picture (C): Completed drywall, left wall


Picture (D): Completed drywall, back wall

With drywall complete, the next step was to prime and paint the theater.

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Painting
Painting was not my favorite part of the project, but it was easy and only took a few days.
Most of the painting was done after all the drywall was installed, but some items like the
inside of the cabinets, trim work, and drop ceiling were done later on.

As soon as the drywall was completed, I applied a primer basecoat to all of the walls. The
primer seals the drywall and assists with and prepares the walls for paint. I applied 2 coats of
primer to ensure solid coverage. Pictures (A) and (B).

A B

The next day I began the paint for the theater. This consisted of three coats of the yellow
base color that on all the walls around the room (Picture C). Two coats were applied on the
same day a few hours apart and the last and final coat on the next day.

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Now that the room is yellow, the next step was to pencil the trim boxes (Picture D). Once the
marks were on the wall, my wife did a faux paint pattern on the inside of the boxes (Picture
E). The faux paint consisted of three steps: a tan, light colored base coat followed by a darker
cork colored topcoat. With the topcoat still wet, a ragging off technique was used to rub-off
some of the darker color that allowed the lighter undercoat to show through. The overall
appearance was a cork like finish. In fact, we get many comments on this. Many people think
it is an actual layer of cork and are very surprised when they find out it is just faux paint.
When you rub your hand over it youll even notice a texture to the paint. Overall, it turned
out really well. Credit goes to my wife for this one!

D E

Now just imagine the state of the room; yellow walls throughout, with a bunch of dark cork-
like squares all over the room. It actually looked pretty good, but in need of trim. As my wife
was doing the faux, I focused several days to sanding and preparing all the trim work for
stain.

The trim was stained using an oil-based wood stain with a top gloss coat. I applied the stains
to the trim using a foam brush with an even stroke, following the grain of the wood. In order
to achieve a darker appearance, I did not brush off the excess. Instead I let it dry and
continued to add coats until the desired darkness was achieved. Last, I applied a final coat of
semi-gloss to give the trim a wet-look. I was careful not to make it too shiny to avoid
reflections when the projector was running. Pictures (F) and (G).

F G

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During the cabinet building stage and before the fabric was installed, I decided to paint the
insides of the cabinets a flat black (Picture H). My intention was to make sure that if any part
of the wood was showing it would look finished. I also extended this flat black color to the
front wall, surrounding the entire 100 projection screen. This flat black color is important to
eliminate reflections and keep the viewer focused on the screen and not the surroundings.

H I

Later on, I painted the equipment room a flat gray color (Picture I). I figured this was a
server/equipment room so I wanted to remind myself of that. To give it some flare, I added
some silver metallic flakes into the paint which makes it shine a bit. It was a cool affect,
although subtle. The drop ceiling and baseboard in the equipment room are painted white; a
gloss white for the baseboard and the ceiling tiles left their default flat, white color.

One of the last painting projects was the infamous drop ceiling. Recalling the design of my
theater, its ceilings are divided into two separate ceilings; one in the front and one in the rear.
Both ceilings are irregular in shape, the one in the front more like a square and the rear like a
rectangle with some sharp angles. I wanted both ceilings to be as high as possible to
maximize the spatial affects. A drop ceiling also provided access to the ceiling space, although
I should not need it with 2 conduits, and the panels did have some sound proofing properties.

Nonetheless, the panels that I decided to use came in white. You could special order black but
the price was much higher, mainly due to the special order. Using both a roller and a brush, I
spent 2-3 days meticulously painting the individual tiles prior to the install. The tiles have a
rough sandpaper-like texture, so getting the paint to cover the panel completely took several
coats. I used a flat black paint, the same used for around the front screen wall, to paint the
panels and rails. After the ceiling install, I had to do some minor touch-ups with the panels in
place. As the panels rub during the install, some material would flake off and the base white
color would show through. It took some patience and time, but the end result was a solid flat,
black ceiling that looked great.

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Trim

Before this project began, I knew that it was the trim that was going to be the focal point for
my theater; I was just not aware of how elaborate my design would turn out to be.
Regardless, I was looking forward to the trim. Ive done many trim projects in the past,
nothing like this, but I knew I could install the crown and other moldings without too much
difficultly. Again, the key to success is to take your time. Measure three times, cut once. Ill
admit, some corners were more difficult than others, but overall I was able to get the job done
myself and make it look like a professional had done it!

The scope of the trim project was extensive. Following is a list of the tasks, in order of
installation.

Trimming the sconce bump-outs

Prior to the trim, the sconce bump-outs are just standard 2x4 framing wrapped with drywall
on the front. In total, there are 7 bump-outs, each with dimensions of 16 inches wide by 4
inches deep. The height varies, depending if the bump-out is on the floor (7 9) or the riser
(6 7). The bump-outs also attach to the perimeter ceiling soffit. To trim out each involved
the following:

Using a 4 wide by 8 long by 1 thick piece of red oak, I cut the piece down to size to
fit on the sides of each bump-out. Each piece was dry fit and stained prior to
installation. See Picture (A).
Using 12 wide by 6 tall by 1/2 thick piece of thin red oak, I then cut the piece down
to size to fit both the top and bottom of the bump-out. The top piece will be partially
covered by crown molding and the bottom partially by baseboard. The purpose of
these pieces is to provide a frame for the interior bump-out molding. See Picture (B).
Using 1 wide decorative red oak trim, I created a box in the center of the bump-out.
This really gave the bump-out the old-school look I was hoping for.
The interior of the box was painted. More on this in the painting section.
The top of the bump-out was trimmed with crown molding. The bottom with
baseboard. More on this in the trim, crown, and baseboard sections.
The bump-outs served as a great location to place electrical receptacles due to their
spacing and dark faux interior color. Using dark cover plates and dark receptacles,
they blend right into the dcor.

A B

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Crown Molding

With the sconce bump-outs trimmed, I can now proceed to the crown molding (Picture C).
The crown molding was also red oak, 4 in height and comes in both 8 and 12 sections. The
crown molding wraps around the entire perimeter of the theater and is fastened to both the
ceiling and the wall at a consistent angle.

The way I approached the crown was to start in the front left side of the theater and then
proceed counter-clockwise around the room. Before any cutting, all the trim was stained and
finished. The first piece was then cut and fastened in position. With this piece in place, you
can then proceed to measure your next piece and repeat this pattern for the remainder of the
crown installation.

If you did a good job framing, your trim work will prove to be much less difficult. When
working around the bump-outs, if they are square and plum, all of your outside miters should
be 90-degree angles or 45-degree cuts; same with the inside miters. Just be sure to keep
your crown level. Draw a reference line on the wall and follow it. This will ensure that your
crown does not slope or rise along the wall. Having a clean, level crown line is critical. In
addition, take the extra time to make sure that all the angles butt-up flush against each other.
Outside miters are most important, but both inside and outside can be caulked to hide some
imperfections. Find a good stainable caulk and test to make sure it blends in with the wood.

Crown molding work can be tedious. Buy some extra wood because youll make some bad
cuts, especially if you are like me. As you get your first few corners done, most of the work
will become repetitive and your progress will speed up. If you are unhappy with a cut, take it
down and redo it. It will haunt you in the future and now is the best time to make it look
perfect.

Overall, it took me about 3 solid days to install the crown. For my project, the crown was an
important part of my design and tied the sconce bump-outs into the ceiling. If you get stuck,
get a book at your local hardware store or search the web. There are many helpful resources
out there that will assist you. Keep in mind, crown is the most difficult of the bunch; so if you
need help dont be afraid to ask. The key to success is patience.

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Baseboard

The baseboard trims approach was the same as the crown, except you dont need a ladder
and the cuts dont require a compound miter. Baseboard trim installs flat against the wall,
unlike crown, which makes the task much easier. I used 4 decorative baseboard and I was
able to install all the baseboard trim in under 8 hours.

If you have a riser in your design, youll have to make a decision on how you want to trim out
the steps with the baseboard. I played around with a few different designs (the hard way),
but in the end was most pleased with a level approach. As the rear riser meets the step, my
final design decision was to continue the baseboard level until it hit a wall or sconce bump-out.
Empty space that was below the 4 baseboard was filled with a solid red oak piece to give it
the best appearance. I actually had to do a little bit of demolition to get to this proper design,
but in the end it was only less than 1 hour of rework and well worth it.

D E

Picture (D): Baseboard prior to fix


Picture (E): Baseboard rework in progress
Picture (F): Finished, correct, baseboard.

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Wall Box Trim

Wall trim everywhere! For this part of the project I used thin, decorative trim.lots of it.
In fact, I had to go to four local hardware stores to get all the pieces I needed. Installing this
trim was a breeze; it was all done using adhesive. The cuts were very repetitive. The key
was positioning. If a single box was not level or perfectly square, it would stand out like a
sore thumb. To guarantee perfect results, I used templates and lots of pencil lines.

Before a single piece of wall trim was cut, I spent three days penciling lines on the walls: very
tedious indeed. Pictures (G) and (H). The challenges that I had in placement were how to
transition the trim with two varying floor heights. Another challenge was to create the proper
symmetry around the room. I wanted the walls to mirror each other the best I could. Again,
this was a challenge since the right wall had a door and the left did not. In addition, the rear
wall had the hidden equipment room door.

G H

To solve these challenges I determined that I would need several types of boxes. Each box
would follow the same pattern; the only difference would be the height and width of the
boxes.

In the front of the theater all the boxes would mirror each other; one larger box between the
sconce bump-out and two smaller ones on the outsides. The height to the crown and to the
baseboard would be exactly 4 inches, giving it perfect symmetry.

Where the room transitions from the front to the rear, the room goes gains about 2 feet in
width. Each of these sidewalls would receive a solid box, mirroring the interior of the boxes.
Again, 4 from the floor and ceiling trim since the floor height has not transitioned yet.

In the rear of the theater, I had to contend with the 12 riser. Fortunately, this is where my
earlier decision to keep the baseboard height level pays off. Again using the 4 baseline, I
placed the top of the box 4 from the rear ceiling crown and 4 from the rear floor baseboard.
The rear left and right walls had no chance of being perfectly symmetrical so I just filled out
the boxes between the sconce bump-outs just like I did in the front; 4 on all sides. To clarify,
this means 4 from the sconce bump-out on the left or right and the same applies for a wall.
As I drew the pencil lines on the wall, I saw it all come together and knew that this was the
best approach.

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The rear wall did not have bump-outs, but there were two sconces. I wanted to give the
appearance of bump-outs, again to keep the symmetry, so I used the same wall trim from
floor to ceiling to give it the same appearance and painted the interior the same faux color
as applied to the sconce bump-outs. Picture (I).

To determine the size of the rear wall boxes, I decided to use the equipment room door as a
reference. I surrounded the door with box trim to disguise it the best I could, and then
transferred the box size over to the far side of the rear wall; again using 4 as my top to
bottom and side-to-side spacing to provide perfect symmetry. Granted the box sizes were not
exactly the same size as the rest of the room but they were the perfect size for the back wall.

I filled the remainder of the back wall with two additional boxes and did a solid center piece,
mimicking a bump-out again, directly in the center of the rear wall. The plans for this were to
eventually cut a hole in the wall for my projector to be placed in the rear equipment room
(future hole to be placed at Red Dot noted in Picture I). In addition, two rear surround
speakers were placed in the rear wall, their size and placement fitting into the rear wall box
design (above green dots in Picture I).

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This really was not difficult. It just took a lot of planning and testing. Once I was able to get
my pencil lines on the wall, the task of cutting and installing the wall box trim was very simple
and repetitive. Yes it was tedious and it did take me several additional days to cut and glue
the box trim in place. By placing the trim directly over the pencil marks ensured that
everything was perfectly positioned, not to mention it saved me from erasing my pencil
marks.

There is one last thing I want to mention about the box trim installation, which is very
important. All of this work was done after the walls were primed and the finish paint applied.
Before penciling the lines for the box trim, all the walls were given their yellow final coat. After
the lines were penciled in, we went back and applied the three-step faux cork brown colored
paint. All the painting was 100% complete prior to the box trim install and the trim was
stained and finished prior to installation. In my opinion, there is no way you would be able to
paint clean, crisp lines around the trim after it is installed. Painting first saved me lots of time
and aggravation and really made the finished project look clean and crisp.

J: Finished Box Trim

K: Finished Wall Trim

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Door Trim

Its funny how things turn out sometimes. The door I ended up with is actually not what I
ordered, but it turns out I got lucky. The door is a solid core door, very heavy, with the
intention of providing good sound isolation for the theater (I also love the sound a heavy door
makes when it closes). It took several weeks to order the door, and when I discovered it was
wrong, I just went with it. It was actually fancier than I wanted.

When it was time to complete the box trim, I was fortunate that the door had a decorative
inset, an inset on the upper and lower portion of the door. Following my box trim motif, I just
boxed the door out with a similar pattern and fauxed the interior to match the rest of the
room. It actually turned out to be a perfect fit. The only problem I ran into was the top inset
of the door had a large curve which I had to conform the molding to the red oak trim is
pretty hard and does not bend well.

In order to get the thick oak trim to follow the curve I did some homework and decided to cut
small groves into the bottom of the piece every or so using a hand saw with a very narrow
blade. With these small grooves, I was able to bend the piece, and the gaps were filled as the
wood compressed. I sanded the piece, nailed and glued it on the door, and stained it in place.
This is the only piece of trim I stained in place. I used blue painters tape and gave it three
coats plus gloss and it turned out perfect. Again, the door was painted first.

L: The finished door trim, top curve

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Speaker Cabinet Trim

Using the same box trim, I boxed out the front speaker cabinets in the same fashion. The
trim served as a great transition from the speaker grille fabric to the yellow fabric covering the
cabinets.

After the cabinet doors were wrapped with yellow fabric, a large opening was left in the center
to apply the special speaker grille fabric. I cut the speaker fabric to size, just slightly larger
than the opening, and fastened it along all the edges to the cabinet using staples. I then used
the box trim to cover the staples and serve as a transition from the black speaker fabric to the
yellow cabinet fabric.

This was simple and only took me an hour or so. Most importantly, it transitioned the box
design from the side and rear walls into the stage and cabinet area.

Trim in general

Installed using a pneumatic air-nail gun with trim nails.


Prior to staining, I sanded the trim, and cleaned it using wood cleaner.
Each piece of trim was stained. I applied three coats, allowing each to dry overnight.
To give it a glossy finish, I applied a final topcoat. My goal was to obtain a dark finish,
allowing some of the wood grain to show through but not too much. I also wanted a
sheen on the wood, but again not too much, to avoid reflections from the projector
bouncing off the screen and onto the trim work.
Nails only work when there is an underlying stud/support to fasten to. When doing
extensive trim work as in this project, youll often be without this luxury. Instead, use
a good trim adhesive to fasten your trim to the wall where a nail wont work. If you
can, using both trim adhesive and nails work best and will ensure that your piece will
remain tight into the future. I heavily relied on liquid nails. The stuff works great and
adheres quickly!!
Be sure to select the same type of wood for all your trim if staining. For the stain to
look its best, go with a high quality hardwood. If you cant match all the wood trim,
test out the stain prior to installing to make sure the finish looks similar. If you decide
to paint, choose the least expensive trim possible since you wont see the wood grain
when complete.
To ensure clean cuts, use a fresh blade on your miter saw. As soon as you see chips
or splinters from your cuts, change your blade! I was able to use 1 blade for all my
trim.

After the trim was completed, the next steps involved front cabinet wrap-up, step lighting
installation, and finally carpeting. Weve already discussed the front cabinet construction (see
front cabinets) and step lighting installation (see electrical rough-in) so in the next section
well discuss carpeting

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Carpeting

After the room was painted and trimmed it was time to find a carpet. At this point in the
project, everything was done all that remained was to install the screen and fill the server
room with equipment. With samples of all the room colors in hand, my wife and I went carpet
shopping.

We had a brief idea of what we did not want for carpet. We did not want a plush or thick
carpet that would show tracks. On the other hand, we wanted a cushioned carpet that
provided some insulation against the cold concrete floors. Most importantly, we wanted a
carpet that fit in with the dcor of the theater. Given the complicated dcor of the theater, I
thought this would be a difficult task. It proved to be pretty simple. We were able to find an
office carpet that had a linear, square pattern to it that would blend in almost perfectly with
the walls/trim. The carpet was not cheap though, coming in a $6.49 per square foot (B). We
were only carpeting 250 square feet, which helped with the cost.

In addition to the carpet purchase, we also requested premium padding (A). This was critical
in providing a good cushion against the concrete floor and also provided some insulation in the
winter. We had the carpet professionally installed for a small fee. The salesman, knowing the
details about our project, used their best installers for the job. Even with the complicated
design, the installers were perfect; installing the carpet in perfect alignment in the room.
Before the install they even made a decision for me regarding the direction of the pattern;
they thought it would be best to go lengthwise to give the theater a longer look and direct
your eye to the screen rather than the left/right walls. They were nice enough to show me the
difference and I trusted their opinion. In the end we were very happy with our selection of
carpet, even though it cost us a little more than anticipated.

To match the equipment rooms plain look, we picked a black flat carpet. Yes black. It actually
turned out great and this was purchased and installed by the same company. The carpet
techs were able to wrap the carpet up the platform and even cut some grooves for the racks
wheels. This black carpet was also used on the theaters stage. The black color matched the
screen wall and also provided a good transition from the patterned carpet to the cabinets.

Everything was installed in a half day and once they left I knew I was only hours away from
turning everything on. The only problem, the chairs were in transit from overseas so I would
have to postpone the official opening for several more weeks. I still watched a movie that
evening, just not from the comfort of a black-leathered Berkline powered recliner.

A B

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Equipment
With the carpeting installed the theater is finally ready for equipment! Most of this equipment
Ive owned for years. In my prior house, some of this equipment was in my office while the
remainder was in the theater. At this point, I was very anxious to get everything organized
and setup. Next, Ill list all of my equipment, which includes all items through April 2010.

Following is a list of all of my equipment in my rack:

Middle Atlantic Rack, 6


Monster Home Theater Reference Power Center, Model HTS5100
APC Backup UPS, Model ES-750
Sony Digital Satellite Receiver, Model SAT-HD200
Yamaha A/V Receiver, Model RX-V690
Custom Built Home Theater PC
HP Media Smart Server, Model EX475
D-Link Wired Router, Model EBR-2310
D-Link Gigabit Switch, Model DGS-2208
Linksys Cable Modem, Model BEFCMU10
Linksys VOIP Phone Adapter, Model PAP2
Logitech Bluetooth Dinovo Keyboard / Charger Base, Model Y-RBG93
Phillips Pronto Remote, Model TSU7000 / Charger Base
Zantech IR Emitter (1-zone Amplified Connecting Block), Model 79144
(4) IR Emitters (attached from connecting block to rack devices)
Wiring ID Chart
IBM ThinkPad , Model R52
Uniden Wireless Phone / Charger Base
Olympus Digital Voice Recorder, Model VN-100

And Behind my rack:


3 Dedicated 120v AC outlets, each on a single pole 15A breaker
Quad Wiring box, wall unit that includes
o (9) CAT6 Jacks
o (1) Phone Jack
o (5) Coax/RJ6 Jacks

Conduit run wires extended up through the ceiling, in corner of room, which includes:
(7) Speaker wires
(1) Cat 6 cable (used for IR system)
(1) Power Cord (to projector from power conditioner)
Video cables (DVI). Other wires left in conduit (HDMI/RGB/Component/S-Video, etc).
(1) IR Emitter (to projector via video conduit)

Misc Stuff in the equipment room:


5 boxes
o 2 to store extra computer parts, network equipment and cables
o 2 to store extra audio/video cables
o 1 to store extra power supplies and power misc equipment
o small box with all my remotes not in use
o 2 keyboards and a 19 Viewsonic VX910 display (attached to my HTPC)
o Extra APC Battery Backup, Model Smart UPS 700 (needs new battery)
o Flashlight
o Min/Max Thermometer (attached on the wall)

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To control all of the equipment and also protect it, I installed both an IR system along with a
power conditioner. An IR system is a necessary component when designing an equipment
room or when you decide to locate your equipment out of sight. However, the single most
important thing you should do is to protect your equipment by using a power surge or
conditioner device.

From within the theater, I like being able to view all the high tech equipment that runs a home
theater. But, once the movie starts, I dont want to be distracted by the lights, noise, or heat
that all this equipment generates. By placing all the equipment in a rack, locating the rack
flush up against the rear wall, and concealing it all with a hidden door, I was able to achieve
the exact results I was looking for.

However, with the door closed, controlling the equipment is difficult since you lose that direct
line of sight between the remote and the component. Not to mention, with all the equipment
youll need numerous remotes to control the devices. You know that feeling when you have 3
remotes and need to toggle between each to perform a certain function; its no fun.
Integrating all of the gear to work seamlessly with one remote should be your goal. Keeping it
simple is equally as important. To accomplish this, I installed an IR (infra-red) distribution
system with programmable remote; more details on this in the integration section.

Power conditioning and protection is another important consideration. To protect your


equipment, it is best practice to plug your high value devices into a power surge strip to
ensure that they dont get fried in an electrical storm, etc. Other risks to devices include
fluctuations that occur to your homes power source. Due to varying power loads throughout
your house and neighborhood, you will find that the power sent to your device is not
consistent. Assume your projector consumes 400 watts of power. The power that is sent to
your projector may range above or below that requirement, which damages your expensive
gear. Power surges can shorten the life of your equipment, decrease the picture quality, or
distort the sound the device is producing. When you turn on a power hungry device in your
house, power may temporarily fluctuate. More importantly, when an outside power line is hit
by lightening it can cause a spike to surge through your housepotentially destroying your
equipment. Ever have a light bulb die or blowout during an electrical outage? This is the
result of a power surge. To solve this problem, I decided to invest in a Power conditioner
(Monster Home Theater Reference Power Center).

Power conditioners both protect your equipment from surges and also keep the power at a
steady, consistent level. Most power conditioners also warrantee your equipment from surges.
In my opinion, it is a necessity. In my neighborhood we lose power on average 3-4 times a
year and I needed a way to protect my investment. Additionally, power conditioners also
claim to clean up your audio and video signal; personally I dont notice the difference but its
an added benefit knowing your equipment is running at full potential.

To take full advantage of my power conditioner, I plugged all my critical devices into it: the
projector, my home theater pc, receiver, etc. The power conditioner then is connected to one
of the three dedicated outlets on the wall. I purchased the power conditioner in 2004 and it
cost me roughly $550.

The APC backup UPS is essentially a large power strip that has a battery backup inside. You
plug devices into it and when the power goes out, the devices immediately switch over to the
battery and continue to run. When powered, the battery continuously charges keeping you
ready for the next outage. An indicator on the UPS notifies you when the battery requires
replacement, which is approx every three years. The APC unit costs under $100 and a
replacement battery is about $35. The battery runtime depends on the attached load; in my
case it will run all of my networking equipment (router/modem/phone) for about 1.5 hours. I
just bought the APC backup in March 2010. Although its not directly related to my home
theater project, it does help keep my network up and running when the power goes out.

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Equipment Installation

Installation of the rack and components took 3-4 hours. Once the rack was installed I needed
to rack the components, wire them up, and connect them to the power source. Wiring
basically came from three sources: the audio conduit, the video conduit, or from component to
component in the rack.

The audio conduit is a 4 PVC pipe that runs the length of the theaters ceiling, between the
joists, on the right side of the theater. The conduit is about 20 feet long and contains all of
the speaker cables that run from the front stage to the equipment rooms ceiling. Once the
audio cables exit the conduit, they are neatly fed down the corner wall, labeled and tied into
the rack using Velcro ties, and fed into the receiver. Generally, once your audio wiring is set
you wont find yourself touching it again unless you upgrade or add speakers. The conduit
allows you to easily upgrade wires in the future, when needed.

The video conduit is also a 4 PVC pipe that runs in the center of the room, but terminates in
the center of the theater, directly above the projector. This conduit is about 10 feet long and
contains all the video, power, and IR cables needed for the projector. My projector is a Runco
CL-710 and has several types of video inputs, with the best one being DVI-D. I wired the
video conduit with several types of video cables, the most important being the DVI-D cable
since it provides the highest quality image. The DVI cable exits the conduit and follows the
same path as the speaker cables, and is connected directly to my home theater pc (HTPC).

Other cables that extend through the video conduit are the projector power cable (with an
extension) and an IR emitter. The IR (infrared) emitter attaches to the projectors IR port and
connects to the IR Hub; a component of the IR distribution system I will discuss in the
integration section. This IR emitter is the only one that extends outside of the equipment
room and is on a 20-foot extension due to the length of the run.

The remainder of the wiring was connected from component to component in the rack. To
give the installation a professional look I used Velcro ties to neatly tie all the wires to the
racks vertical rails. All wires were labeled and I created a wiring diagram hung as a reference
on the rack. I refer to this all the time!

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Integration (Audio/Video, HTPC & Remotes)

My home theater consists of two main integration points.

1) A programmable remote to control all the devices


2) A home theater PC (HTPC) to deliver all of my video content

Both integrations were very important to achieve superior results and usability for my project.
Of the two, the programmable remote is the most important. The HTPC, although very
common, is not necessary and you have several other options including a cable box, TIVO,
etc. Next, Ill discuss both of these integrations in more detail.

A programmable remote to control all the devices

A programmable remote is probably the best solution to integrate all of your components
together. You will no longer need to fumble around with several remotes to control your
equipment. If programmed correctly, your remote should be easy to use and require little or
no direction for use.

I decided to use a Pronto Pro TSU-7000 remote made by Phillips (Picture A). This remote cost
me about $600, but you can purchase one for less than $500 as of April 2010. Before you
cringe at the expense, let me state that the remote you pick depends on the level of
integration your setup requires. Some setups may be fine with a sub $100 remote, but if you
do decide to go with a Pronto, rest assured that this puppy can control any IR/RF that you
throw at it.

A: Pronto Pro Remote

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I could literally devote an entire book to the capabilities of this remote. In fact, the best way
to learn more is to Google it and download the product guide. The power of this remote is
its screen customization and memory capabilities. The Pronto comes with a powerful software
package that is not that difficult to program; you dont need to be software engineer to figure
this one out. The software allows you to create your own screens and map buttons to either
default IR codes for your devices or teach it new ones. Learning a new code is the same as a
basic remote. Point the remotes together and press the learn button.

What makes my Pronto powerful is that it controls all of my equipment. Ive defined macros
that are nothing more than a group of commands that allow you to turn on/off all the
equipment with a single button. Ive also defined screens for each of my devices that contain
all of the important functions for the OEM remotes. The pronto controls the projector, the
receiver, the HTPC, the lighting via the grafik eye, and any other device that works via an
Infrared (IR) or RF (Radio Frequency) signal.

My website has a good article that contains screenshots from the Pronto. To view it, please
visit: http://diymovierooms.com and look in the remote control section.

In order for the pronto to deliver commands to the devices it requires a direct line of sight.
Just like you need to point your remote at the TV, you need to point the pronto at the device
you want to control. If this doesnt sound practical, you are correct. Does that mean I need
to turn around and aim my remote at the rack with the equipment in the rear room? What if
the door is closed? How will the signal make it to the device? These are all common
questions and the solution is to use an IR distribution system. It may sound fancy and high
tech, but its really not.

An IR distribution system is easy and relatively inexpensive to install. For my installation I


used a Xantech IR System that cost under $100. An excellent store to purchase this
equipment is http://www.smarthome.com. The system consists of three main components:

1) The (IR) connecting block or hub ( Picture A)


2) The infrared (IR) emitters (Picture B)
3) The infrared (IR) receiver (Picture C)

A: IR Block B : IR Emitter C: IR Receiver

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The IR receiver is essentially an eyeball, or receiver, that accepts your remote signals. This is
the device that you will point your remote to control your equipment. You will want to install
this receiver in the front of your room, either above or below your screen. I located it above
the screen, on the curved soffit, and disguised it using a decorative wooden emblem (Picture
D). The IR receiver is smaller than the size of a dime and usually emits a red or green light
when it receives a command. The IR receiver connects to the IR Hub via a standard 3-wire
cable. My run was through the audio conduit, about 30 feet, and I used a basic security cable
purchased from a local hardware store. This saved me $20 or so, the alternative would have
been to spend double the price to buy an extender cable.

D: IR Receiver Location (location noted by the white dot).

The IR Hubs job is to receive the IR command from the remote and then blast it to all of the
attached devices. Hubs come in many sizes and can be configured for multiple zones. The
hub I picked has a single zone and is used to control just the theater/equipment room. Some
installs could be configured to control your entire house overkill for my application. I placed
my hub on my rack by using zip ties to fasten it to one of the vertical rails. Most hubs have a
red indicator light that will blink to indicate it is processing an incoming signal.

The IR Hub has several outputs, which are used to run an IR emitter from the hub to a device.
For example, to wire the hub to my receiver I just plug in an emitter to the hub and then stick
the emitter onto the receivers IR port/lens. My Hub has 10 outputs, which means I can
connect it to 10 devices. I am using 4 emitters to connect to the projector, receiver, and
HTPC (which has two emitters). The IR Hub requires a power connection and you just need to
plug the DC power supply into an outlet (IR equipment is sensitive to power fluctuations so I
recommend going into the power conditioner). I learned the hard way and have blown 2 DC
power supplies over the past 2 years.

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Its really that simple. You press your remote and create an IR signal that is picked up by the
IR receiver. The receiver sends the signal to the hub and the hub blasts the signal to ALL of
the attached devices at once, hence the word IR Blaster. Each device needs to have a unique
IR signal else the signals will activate more than 1 device! This is never a problem since each
device always has its own unique codes.

IR distribution systems are very common in high-end theater setups. Now that you
understand how its done you realize its not as difficult or as expensive as it sounds. IR
systems are critical for integrations where your equipment is not in direct line of sight with
your remote. Remember, if you can, place your equipment outside of your theater and invest
in an IR system; youll be happy you did it. TRUST ME.

A home theater PC (HTPC) to deliver all of my video content

A Home Theater PC is a very powerful device that is nothing more than a standard PC built to
deliver TV/Video content to your projector or TV. It is very similar to a TIVO, but in much
more powerful and configurable. You have the choice to either buy (prebuilt) or build one
from scratch. Youll save hundreds of dollars doing it yourself, but this job is not for
everyone. Buying a pre-built one makes this integration very simple and quick and that would
be my recommendation for most people. This section will briefly discuss my efforts that went
into building one from scratch.

HTPCs are very powerful. You can use them to do everything you do on a normal PC plus the
added functionality of adding a TV tuner to time-shift your content. Time shifting is
synonymous to a TIVO; pausing live TV, recording stations for viewing later, etc. Unlike a
traditional TIVO, you can add more than 2 tuners to an HTPC allowing you to record numerous
shows at once. The features and options of an HTPC are just too numerous to mention.
Following is what I use my HTPC for:

1) Watching Blu-Ray, standard DVDs, and content from the web (YouTube / Netflix /
Blockbuster / Cinema Now)
2) Watching / Recording TV. This includes both free high definition content and paid HD
content.
3) Surfing the web, video conferencing, playing PC games, etc.

One cool advantage of an HTPC is that it can be your single and only source to your projector.
You dont need to switch sources from your DVD player to your TV, etc. Just run a single DVI
or HDMI cable from your HTPC to your projector and you are in business (for audio, you just
need to attach your HTPC to your receiver).

Other benefits of an HTPC are that you can use software to up-convert your standard DVDs
to high definition, tweak your picture, and pick your own time shifting software. The options
really are limitless. I use Microsoft Media Center for my software, which has an excellent user
interface and integrates well with my IR system and remote.

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To receive TV content on your HTPC you need a TV tuner card. The card or cards you buy
depend on the TV source you want to watch. In order to get free broadcast HD content youll
need a card capable of decoding over the air (antenna) signals. If you want to watch content
from your cable provider youll need a digital card that supports a cable card. With a cable
card youll be able to watch all of your paid content, including HD, from your cable subscriber.
Analogue cards have also been traditional options, allowing you to watch analogue channels
from your cable provider, but dont go this route due to the low video quality).

My HTPC has two tuner cards: one to receive free over-the-air HD content from an antenna in
my attic and a second to receive standard cable channels. The only TV content I watch is free
HD. I always record my favorite shows and sporting events and usually watch them later in
the evenings. I love it. OTA (over-the-air signals) are super-crisp and unbelievably clear!
Sitting 8 feet from a 100 screen and watching TV or a sporting event on my screen will just
blow your socks off. The picture is just stunning; and Im only watching it in 720p!

Another recommendation: go with an HD OTA (over the air) antenna! Its free and provides
an unbelievable better picture than paid content. The only downside is that your channels are
limited. If you cant live without them, go with an HTPC with a cable card tuner

An HTPC is probably one of the few things I could not go without in my home theater. Ive
become so accustomed to it over the past few years, that getting rid of it would be almost
impossible. Building one is not for everyone but I think its something, once you have one,
youll never be able to live without.

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The Finishing Touches


Seating

The original design of my theater was to seat 7 to 8 comfortably. With everything in the
theater complete, it was time to start shopping for chairs.

Using the web and visiting several local retailers, I was able to get a feel for the design and fit
that I was looking for in a home theater chair. Having my exact measurements in hand was
critical in proper seat selection. I wanted to make sure that viewers in the back row could
fully extend their chairs and not interfere with the front row. Another important decision was
the height of the chairs; a chair that is too tall in the back will affect the viewers audio
experience. Most important was the comfort of the chair. If you can its best to test them
out before you purchase since the cost of the chairs consume a large portion of your budget;
in my case it was around 20% ($3500).

A: Seating for 7

Ideally, you want to find a chair that is both comfortable and the right size for the room.
Luckily Berkline has a huge selection of theater specific chairs, several models that would have
worked well for my room. In the end, I decided to go with the Berkline (Picture A), which has
armrests on each side, a cup holder, and an electric recline mechanism. I highly recommend
going electric mainly for comfort reasons. Youll find that manual recliners are hard to recline
halfway and usually they are most effective when in the upright or fully reclined position. An
automatic recliner, however, will provide a full range of positions that will not require any
balancing from the viewers part. I highly recommend going electric, but keep in mind that
the motors will eventually need replacing.

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The motors that power the recliners are usually pretty inexpensive and should not be a
deterrent in your final decision. Most are very durable, but its best to ask your sales person
specifically about the motor replacement and warranty before you make a final decision. My
Berkline motors are inexpensive to replace (less than $75), easy to get the parts, and
something you can easily do yourself. I have not had any problems with my chairs so far,
which I purchased in late 2007. I expect the motors to fail eventually, but its reassuring to
know that I planned ahead and asked the right questions prior to the purchase.

When planning the layout of my chairs I decided to go with a straight configuration: 4 in the
back and 3 in the front. My room was too small to go with a curve, but my intention was to
keep them straight from the start. Berklines website has an excellent tool for configuring
your seating and testing out different layouts. In the end the tool will provide you will the
exact measurements required for your seating, which I found very helpful.

Once you have the make, model, and configuration determined, see if you can visit a local
retailer to try them out. I found all of the Berklines to be very comfortable. At the retailer,
test out different colors and styles of fabric or leather. You may also be able to save some
money by going with a leather/vinyl combination; the leather is more durable and is usually
present in all the seating areas while the vinyl is reserved for the backs and the sides. In
most or all cases, you will not notice the difference. I decided to go with the Black
leather/vinyl combo. The leather is high quality, very soft and extremely comfortable.

Overall, Im very happy with both the chairs and the configuration. Often when I find
someone sleeping during a film I dont know how to react, especially knowing that I did all this
work for our enjoyment. I guess thats just one of the downsides when picking a
comfortable chair

Finished Room Dimensions

The dimensions of the theater are:


21.5 feet long
12 14 feet wide
8 feet high

The dimensions of the equipment room are:


8.5 feet wide
3 feet 8 inches long
7 feet 4 inches high
Top step is 26 inches wide, bottom step is 24 inches wide
Exit door (to basement) is 32 wide x 80 high

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Pictures

As my house was being built I was planning and designing the theater. I was hoping to
locate the theater in the area marked with the red dot. The equipment rooms future location
is marked with a green circle. These reference points will continue for the next several
pictures.

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Footers being poured.

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Thats mestanding in the theater. I had ideas for my theater at this point, September 2005,
but would have never guessed I would have taken it so far.

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Stone base completed. The screens location is marked with the red circle.

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Im thinkingand hoping it will fit the predefined space. Im a little worried this space will
not be wide enough.

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The foundation is being poured. Its amazing how fast they work. They had it done in 1 day.

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With the foundation walls in place you can now get a good view of the theater and the large I-
beam that I had to deal with. To cover this beam, I wrapped it with a soffit which formed two
distinct ceilings in the room; one in the front and another in the rear. Future screen location is
marked with a red dot and the entry door will be to the right.

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Several months later, we moved in (evident by the clutter in the basement). I was still
concerned about the rooms width and planned on widening the room a few feet to give it
more space (note the dotted yellow lines which mark the future walls which will expand the
theater from roughly 12 to 14 feet in width).

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A picture of the house near completion. The solid 12 poured walls surrounding the theater
gave me a head start on sound proofing.

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Above the theater is the sunroom, which opens up into the kitchen. Theater still marked with
a red dot.

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Framing begins! The theater I-beam is boxed out and you can see a large piece of card board
taped to the wall, the future location of the screen.

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Framing of the sconce bump-outs and stage cabinets. Standard 2x4x8 framing with a
plywood covering provides excellent strength. Pressure treated lumber is used whenever in
contact with cement wall or floor.

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To maximize the width of the theater I fastened the studs to the concrete foundation using
nails and glue. I used rigid insulation and expanding foam for insulation. At this point Im
starting to plan the screen size and seating distance, evident by the temporary card board
screen hung on the wall.

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A view of the equipment room located in the rear of the theater (the theater will be located to
the left and a wall will shortly be going up to close off the far end of the equipment room and
also extend to become the side wall (entry) to the theater.

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A A

Framing of the theater continues. The faint red lines on the floor indicate the placement of the
rear riser with a single step on either end. A is the soon to be riser steps and B is the
future hidden door to the equipment room.

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Slow and steadythe framing progresses. In this picture you can see how I widened the room
by about 1 foot on either side. This turned out to be a key decision, giving the room better
acoustics and dimension. The front ceiling is boxed out and the stage is completed. Note the
chairs to the right these were used to test out the front rows seating distance and riser size
and placement.

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Both the HVAC ducts and I-beam posed significant design challenges. Here I am starting to
build the rear soffit that will hide the large HVAC ducts and eventually lead to the creation of a
rear tray ceiling. Creativity was important since I did not want to give the impression that I
was concealing things.

In total, I spent almost 30 days framing the theater alone; a pro could do it in just a few
daysIf I wanted to save money and build an affordable dream theater, I had to tackle the
tasks I could do myself.

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This picture was taken before the front stage was framed. Note the blue lines on the floor
which I used to plan the stages curve, depth, and future cabinet locations. In order to make
these decisions, I first needed to know the screen height and size.

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The HVAC soffit is completed and the rear ceiling framing is in progress. To hide the fact I
boxed out a large duct, I added faux corners to the rear ceiling and made sure everything was
symmetrical. If done correctly, youll never know this was all done to hide structural work.

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Another view of the equipment room. Shortly a wall will be going up at the bottom of this
picture to close off both the theater and the equipment room. The equipment room will have
two doors, one that exits into the basement (A) and a hidden door that provides access to
and from the theater (B).

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The HVAC soffit is complete.

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The equipment rooms floor is in. I cut two grooves into the floor so I could slide the
equipment rack back and forth to give it the appearance of being flush against the theater
wall. To the left is the theater, entry onto the 12 riser, which will seat 4.

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Another view of the equipment room. I had to create two steps to provide transition from the
12 theater riser to the basement floor. To the left, youll notice the HVAC duct that was run
below the riser and terminates in the center of the riser floor, between the first and second
rows of seats.

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Framing of the stage was done using pressure treated 2 x 4 x 8s.

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To perfect the stages curve, I used a 6 foot long metal ruler that I bent from the center point
of the stage to the side wall. With the ruler at the proper bend/angle, I penciled a line onto
the floor. I then proceeded to cut the stages 2 x 4 x 8s to size.

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Since the stage was to be carpeted, I needed a flat front edge that followed the curve. I
ripped plywood to size and screwed it into place. Later, Ill attach tongue and groove plywood
on top to create the stage floor.

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The stage is almost complete. Next step will be attaching the left, right, and center speaker
cabinets.

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The blue lines are reference points for where the cabinets are to be placed. But first I need to
install the floor.

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The cabinets are all installed. I didnt want the screen to be too far back (deep), so I framed
out the center portion and covered it with plywood. The plywood will provide an excellent
backing to fasten the screen to and not limit me to fastening it only to a stud. Shortly, all of
this framing will be covered with drywall.

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The equipment room door has arrived and Im anxious to install it, but first I need to get the
12 riser ready.

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The front area of the theaters framing is complete. Electrical rough-in is scheduled in a few
days, so I need to hustle and get the rear of the theater completed.

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Another view of the completed stage. The curved upper soffit follows the exact same curve as
the stage and was built using plywood cut to size with studs every 16. To follow the exact
curve, I used the stage as a template.

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The rear ceilings soffits are being boxed in. To soften the square shape, I added small corner
angles. The duct in the back is for the dryer, which I had to modify slightly to make room for
the framing.

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Again, softening the angles for the rear ceiling. This corner piece is right above the entry
door. Above youll note a conduit (the white pipe is the speaker conduit). The other pipe
(silver) was built with the house and runs to the sunroom HVAC duct. Luckily, no modification
was needed.

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Here I am installing the projector mount in the ceiling. I made a sled that slides between the
joists so I can easily adjust the distance. I wanted to make sure that my projector would be
able to clear the middle soffit and also ensure the throw distance was accurate for the screen.
I wish I could have set my projector in the equipment room, but my projector cant throw that
far unless I buy a lens (not in the budget). The design will accommodate a future projector in
the equipment room, just not this one.

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The speaker conduit runs from the equipment room into the right speaker cabinet. Its just a
4 diameter PVC pipe fastened to the studs using straps. Make sure everything is tight! You
dont want any vibrations!

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Here is the video conduit and the equipment room exhaust pipe. The video conduit goes from
the equipment room to the projector using 4 PVC pipe. The exhaust pipe goes from the
equipment room to the exterior of the house. The plans are to use it to exhaust heat from the
server room, if ever needed. Ill monitor the rooms temperature and hookup a fan in the
future, if necessary.

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Another view of the conduit run between the joists. Well worth the effort (easy and
inexpensive)!

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Heres the sled I was talking about. It allows me to slide the projector forward and
backwards. I anticipate this wont be used much, but it was easy to build and made from
scraps leftover from the framing. Note the video conduit. Eventually all of this will be hidden
with a drop ceiling.

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I had to be very careful to measure the exact center of the room (width-wise) to ensure the
projector was mounted properly. As you can see the center was close to a joist, but it made it
by a few inches.

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This is the ceiling of the equipment room, again to be hidden with a drop ceiling. Above you
can see the metal exhaust pipe (fan TBA), and HVAC run that was tapped into the existing
trunk and run into the theaters riser (note the damper the silver flying saucer looking
object). In the corner youll see several speaker cables already run through the audio conduit,
waiting for connection to the rack/equipment.

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This is the equipment rooms door that will exit to the basement. Above youll see the location
for the step lighting transformer. If I ever do a star-field, Ill place its transformer up here
too.

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The electrician has finished up his rough-in. Here you are looking at two of the sconce bump-
outs, the upper blue gang boxes to be the future location of the sconces.

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Two additional sconce locations. The riser is built and the floor is installed.

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The rear of the theater, looking at the entry door to the equipment room. When completed,
this door is going to be hidden so it blends in with the wall. When opened, it will display all of
the equipment, flush against the wall.

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To the left is the main entry to the theater. The 3 gang box is the future location for the
Lutron Grafik eye.

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A view of the HVAC soffit. The wiring that goes left to right is not theater wiring, but it does
go from the equipment room to other parts in the house. Ill use some of these to control
speakers on the deck and patio some day.

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This is outside of the theater. These are the steps going from the basement to the 1 st floor.
To the right is the equipment room. The wire bundle goes from the equipment room to the
homes demarcation point (electrical room). These cables are network and coax types.

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This is a view of the theater standing in the entry door. The insulation is in progress.

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Insulation continues. The drywall crew will be here soon, as indicated by the 5-gallon buckets
of mud left on the riser.

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Before the drywall is hung, I need to get the recessed lights up. To the right is the eyeball
light near the stage.

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Another view of the lights, this view showing the opposite (right) wall. The eyeball lights will
allow me to control the direction of the light, illuminating the stage or walls at the correct
points.

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Here are the speaker wires that will be used to connect to the low voltage step lights. These
needed to be ready before drywall (as with all the in-wall wiring).

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More step lighting wiringI fastened them down to make sure they did not get lost behind the
wall during the drywall. Ill remove the staple/tape after the drywall is done.

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A closer look at the audio cables exiting the conduit and hung in the equipment room. Note all
the labeling! Be sure to label everything and create a wiring diagram! The next owner of your
house will thank you!

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To get free high definition broadcast content, install an antenna. My antenna is located in my
attic and runs to my media center in the equipment room.

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Mounting in the attic is a much better option rather than on the roof. Not only is it concealed,
it gets excellent reception. Your success will vary depending on the distance to the broadcast
stations. This antenna is capable of picking up stations 25+miles away.

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Not only is HD content free, but it is much better quality than most or all cable broadcasts.
The only downside is youll be limited in the number of channels you receive.

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Antennas are all the same. There is really no such thing as an HD antenna. Antennas come
in different sizes and all are capable of receiving both digital and analog signals. Generally,
the larger the antenna the better the range.

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The electrician did all the wiring and breaker connections. I did all of the lighting connections
which saved a lot of money. Before the drywall was installed, the lights needed to be working
so they could see what they are doing. Install cheap 60watt lamps in all of your housings
since most are likely to be damaged throughout the construction. When the job is done you
can install your finished lamps.

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The equipment rooms 3 dedicated receptacles (top) and a 4 gang box (bottom) for the
network and coax connections. Dedicated circuits will help eliminate noise and ensure you
dont trip a breaker; however, its not a replacement for a power conditioner.

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R13 insulation provides both thermal and acoustic properties that will make your theater space
both quiet and comfortable. Even if your room has outside walls that are insulated, dont skip
this step; do it strictly for the sound isolation it provides.

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Be sure to insulate both the walls and the ceilings. In my case, it was code to insulate the
ceilings and this step was done prior to my project. Note the front stages upper soffit wall. It
is curved and has a gang box ready for the IR receiver. I decided the best location for the IR
receiver was up high, above the screen, and in the center of the room.

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Another view of the video conduit. To position it properly, I installed several 2 x 4 cross
beams between the joists and fastened it tightly using glue and straps.

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A good view of the equipment room from the front of the basement. The theater is located
behind the insulated wall and the equipment rooms door is located on the left center.

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A view of both the video and audio conduit from the equipment room. By installing a drop
ceiling, both pipes will be accessible and also hidden.

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A view of the theaters front ceiling. The front ceiling is a square with a curved front soffit.
The silver pipe is the equipment room exhaust. Plan is to install the drop ceiling as tight as
possible to the ceiling to maximize the height as well as provide a depth to the inner front and
rear ceilings.

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Standing in the theater on the rear riser you can see the HVAC vent installed which runs under
the riser. To the left is a speaker wire to be connected to one of the rear in-wall surrounds
speakers. To the left is the door to the equipment room.

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To the left is the main entrance to the theater. The two double doors lead to the rear yard,
requiring 5 steps to walk-up to grade.

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The rear riser is 12 high and will seat 4 chairs. The riser was built using 2 x 8 x 12 pressure
treated lumber. If I had used standard lumber instead, it would have saved me several
hundred dollars but it was not worth the risk.

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A direct look at the door to the equipment room. Shortly all youll see is the flashing of the
equipments lights; but once the show starts Ill close the door and control the theater through
the use of a touch screen remote.

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The drywall was staged throughout the basement. Over the next three days, it will all get
hung, tapped, mudded, and sanded. I hired professionals for this task.

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More drywall staging. Over the next few days, I planned on taking a break and watching
other people work for a change. A vacation for me!

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Drywall everywhere! To the right is the home theater door that showed up early! Its a solid
core door and very heavy; a perfect door for the theater entrance.

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Earlier today, the drywall was completed. This is a view of the theater entrance, looking into
the theater. At this point, Im over half-way through the project.

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The drywall was completed to perfection. No seams and hung perfectly.

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The orange marks on the ground are reference points for the drywall contractor to locate the
electrical lights and receptacles. Its a good idea double check they all get cut out properly.

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Another view of the completed theater drywall.

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Here you can see the angles in the rear ceiling and the sconce bump-outs. The contractors
blew through all the cuts and corners in a single day.

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A view of the theaters entrance (bottom) and the equipment room (top).

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A view of the rear theater. The two blue boxes were future sconce locations. I later had to
reposition them to accommodate the box trim; that only set me back a few hours.

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All of the theaters lighting is from the perimeter soffits. Lighting up the walls provides a
dramatic effect and it helps showcase the trim work.

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A great view of the theater screen wall (right) and the curved upper soffit. I installed an
eyeball light behind the soffit, in the ceiling, and plan on pointing in down onto the stage. In
addition to this light there will be two other eyeball lights to the left (lighted) and right of the
stage to assist with the illumination.

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Another view of the screen wall, curved soffit, and IR receiver box (center top).

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A good view of two of the eyeball lights and curved soffit.

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A good look at the rear ceiling and projector mount.

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The equipment rooms 3 dedicated outlets (top) and network/coax panels (bottom).

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Another view of the equipment room. The opening to the left will be the hidden door.

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A great picture showing the entire equipment room; viewing it from the rear entrance. Two
steps were needed to transition to the riser. The rack will be located on the top step.

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Another view of the stage area and right soffit lights.

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To save some money on the drywall, I decided not to go with a dumpster. Instead, I bagged
the excess and used my local trash service over the course of the next few weeks. In total
this saved about $400.

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Looking down the left perimeter soffits recessed lights. The primer has been sprayed and the
next step will be to paint.

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My wife assisting with the primer coat. We purchased a sprayer which we used for the entire
job but ended up selling it when we were done since its an impractical tool in a finished space.
Make sure you wear old clothing and a paint suit get ready to get messy! A mask and
glasses are highly recommended!

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Primer completed. All applied with the paint sprayer.

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Its beginning to look like a finished room

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The dirty camera lens tells you its a dirty job. It goes fast with a sprayer though. Youll go
through a gallon bucket in 5-10 minutes and have your entire basement primed in a few
hours. With a roller this would have taken days!

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More Primer.

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The equipment room door covered with plastic sheeting for protection.

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My wife and I after a spraying session. I found plastic wrap to be more effective than goggles
since you could tear if off and replace it every few minutes. My wifes goggles were clear at
the start of the job.

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The trim work has begun. The first task is to wrap the bump outs with a red oak surround.
Prior to staining, all the pieces were first cut to size and dry fitted.

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Dry fitting continues towards the rear theater. My miter saw is going to be very busy for the
next few weeks.

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Most of the trim was cut before the yellow basecoat went down. As paint was drying, I would
multi-task from wall painting to trim cutting and eventually to staining.

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Trim dry fitting continues Testing the yellow basecoat color which will go up very shortly

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Back to cutting and dry fitting.

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More cutting...more fitting

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As trim was drying in the other room, I did all of my miter cuts in the theater. This is just a
single days worth of saw dust. A clean work area is a safe work area so at the end of each
day I would do a quick cleanup.

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The last of the dry fitting.

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The theaters yellow basecoat is going up. The white areas will all be covered with trim so
there is no need to waste time or paint cutting these areas in.

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The yellow basecoat continues The unpainted white areas are the bump-outs which will be
trimmed and painted a different color

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The theaters entrance door viewed from the riser.

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Painting continues

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This angle shows the difference in door size between the entry and equipment room. The
equipment room door will be a tight squeeze.

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The bump-outs will soon receive paint and trim.

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The equipment room door is finally getting paint. This side will face the theater. I did not
plan on having a door knob so I had to go back and fill the hole and do some touch-up over
the next two coats. The door will be locked via a spring loaded mechanism; just press the
door in to open and push the door in to lock. Hinges will be required, but they will be
concealed with trim and match the surrounding colors.

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At this point, Im testing colors on the theater entrance door.

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The base coat for bump-outs is being applied. My wife assisted with this.

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The finished equipment room with the drop ceiling installed and ready for the equipment. The
white trim and grey walls gave the room a distinct look; unusual, but appropriate for the
rooms purpose.

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Trim stain was applied using foam brushes and a plastic tray. I probably went through two
dozen foam brushes

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I stained all of the theaters trim in an area outside of the theater. The area directly outside of
the theater was tiled and is planned to be a bar/concession area someday.

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The staining of the trim has begun. Ill spend the next few days just preparing and staining all
the theaters trim.

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The staining stations were busy. I could not find enough room for all the trim to dry which
slowed me down a little. Often I found myself applying three coats in a single day, 4 hours
apart.

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I would stain the pieces on the saw horses and then move them onto the buckets to dry.

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Unfinished trim in the background waiting to be stained. I was not concerned about making a
mess on the floor since it would all be carpeted soon.

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The staining of the 4 wide bump-out sides. I used a dark stain to help disguise the grain but
I still wanted it to show through.

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With all pieces cut and fitted beforehand, I eliminated the need to re-stain if a chip or knick
occurred during the cutting.

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These pieces were used to box out the interior of the bump out. Inside of these pieces is the
faux paint pattern.

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More trim waiting for stain. I needed so much trim that I actually had to go to several stores
in the area, multiple times, to get all the materials.

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Before the crown was installed, I needed to have the sides and tops of the bump-outs
installed. The crown would use these pieces as a fastener but to the bump out these pieces
were decorative and provided the edges for the interior trim.

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The front theaters bump-outs were a little larger than the rears. A subtle difference, but
necessary to accommodate the larger walls and higher ceilings.

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With the bump-outs partially completed, I could begin the crown molding.

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The bump-outs bottom plate needed to be in place before the baseboard started. All bump-
outs housed a sconce up high, and several, a receptacle down low. In the front, where wall
framing was limited, the bump-outs provided a location for an outlet that otherwise would not
have been possible.

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The crown molding was one of the more challenging parts of the trim work. Each bump-out
involved inside and outside cuts, but when properly framed, it made the job much easier.

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A good view of the crown molding applied to the top of the bump out. Eventually, all the nail
holes will require caulking, sanding, and touchup.

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This is the rear wall sconce location that required relocation. Just a few inches to the left was
all that was required to accommodate the box trim and rear surrounds...All in the name of
symmetry and proper speaker location. Luckily no sacrifices or compromised had to be made.

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The baseboard trim work continuesThe trim surrounding the equipment room door will soon
be torn down and replaced with a more subtle look; a look that hides the door rather than
accents. Ultimately, this entry door will look just like the standard box trim found all
throughout the room.

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Baseboard was easy and went fast, especially along the riser.

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This is what the base of the bump-out looked like prior to my fix. Instead of wrapping the
baseboard up the wall I decided to terminate it into the extended footer of the bump outA
huge improvement in my opinion!

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Another view of the incorrectly installed baseboard

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Another view of the baseboard following the wallprior to the fix

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The crown is almost complete

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Note the baseboard again following the wall. Mistake that will be fixed shortly

I didnt like how the 4 trim transitioned into the wall and decided that it needed another piece
of 90-degree trim to fill out the trims transition to the wall. Back to the store to find new
trim!

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The baseboard fix. This was an area I decided to tear down and redo. I decided it would be
best to extend the bump-outs foot into the floor giving the baseboard a taller look.

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This change was a minor setback; only a few hours of rework.

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The stage will soon get some attention

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My wife applying the three-step faux paint to the bump-out. Most of the crown and baseboard
is installed.

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A single bump-outs coat took about 10 minutes each, with each requiring three coats.

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The last coat required a top coat that was applied and then ragged or sponged-off. This
technique can be done quickly and easily.

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Two bump-outs with their faux paint completed

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A look at a finished bump-out waiting for a sconce.

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This is a close-up of the bump-outs finished faux paint. The faux pattern consisted of three
coats of paint and has the appearance of cork. Many people cant believe it is just painted
drywall.

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With the box trim template on paper, I began to stencil the patterns onto the walls using
pencil, rulers, and templates that I made.

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The templates were all consistent, but changed slightly as the ceiling height transitioned from
the front to the rear of the room.

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Ill be dreaming of box trim in a few daysIll admit it, it was tedious and I was looking
forward to finishing up this part. The results kept me going.

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Determining the proper symmetry for the rear wall was a challenge. I often found myself
pausing for a few hours making decisions on placement. I had already made a few minor
mistakes that I had to correct (baseboard and rear door trim) and did not want to incur any
additional ones at this point.

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Will box trim ever end?...

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I spent several days just penciling in the lines for the box trim. These lines were my final
guides and were to be covered by the edge of the trim. These lines were also needed to do
the faux paint before the trim was installed so they needed to be perfect.

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More pencil lines

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With penciling completed, the 2nd coat of paint was applied to the box trim interior. In
addition, the equipment rooms surround has been fixednow with a more subtle and
consistent trim. The door hole has also been filled in, the latch installed, and a handle in
position to open the door from inside the equipment room.

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Faux paint patterns are everywhere and needed to be done before the trim was installed.

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Box trim was first done on the outside perimeter. I would use spacers cut to size to
consistently place the trim at the right distance from the wall/baseboard/crown. It was
important that all pieces were levelbut if one piece was off it was better to continue that
pattern as long as it does not become noticeable. Luckily, everything kept level.

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The size of the box trim varied, but remained symmetrical to the opposite wall.

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The lutron grafik eye is installed along with the thermostat. Box trim is still going up (left side
still missing).

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Finally, the theater entry door was installed and trimmed. It followed the same pattern as the
box trim with the exception of the upper curved piece. It took me a while to find a way to
bend the trim, but my approach turned out to be easy and successful.

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The cabinets have received their base fabric but are waiting for their speaker mesh grilles.
Step lighting is being tested to ensure everything works prior to installation.

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A larger view.

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Cabinet door prior to fabric.

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Right speaker cabinet prior to door. Note the speaker conduit.

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Stage area painted flat black to absorb reflections.

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Middle speaker cabinet work begins.

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All three front stage doors are complete.

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A side angle view of the finished stage cabinet doors.

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Middle speaker cabinet will house two subs and a center channel. In the right-most area you
can see an electrical outlet for the sub and a small 2 hole to fish the speaker wire to the left
cabinets.

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Left speaker cabinet with the door hinges attached. Hinges will be hidden by fabric.

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Painting the cabinet doors black before the fabric installation.

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A closer look at the left cabinet, painted black.

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By painting the front wall black, it helps to reduce reflections from the projector and screen.

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Construction of the speaker cabinet shelves. Each shelf will be adjustable allowing flexibility
in speaker height.

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Painting of the cabinet doors.

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Painting of the cabinet doors.

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Step lighting wiring, waiting for the step lighting connection.

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Step lighting installation along the curved stage.

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The step lighting is flexible and is easily bent to conform to the curve of the stage.

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Step lighting along the riser required some minor cutting. All pieces were custom ordered and
required minor adjustments to fit.

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The outside corners required an angle cut in order to piece them together.

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The step lighting has both upper and lower lights with diffusers along the riser to shine the
light towards the floor. Most of the riser lights will be hidden behind the chairs, but the tread
lights will be visible.

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The tread lights help illuminate the steps when the room is dark.

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To fasten the lights, I glued and stapled them to the subfloor. Be careful not to hit a wire.

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The front stage lighting is complete.

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Another view.

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Carpet selection was challenging. Although this is close, we did not go with this one.

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The one in the center was a good fit. Pricey, but we decided to pick this one.

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Carpeting padding is being installed.

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Padding will help cushion the hard floor and also provide some warmth in the winter.

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Carpeting was installed by professionals.

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Padding completed in the front theater.

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Padding continues in the equipment room.

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Carpeting finally going in! The design pattern will go from front to back of the theater, giving
the room a longer appearance and drawing your attention to the screen/stage.

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The front theaters drop ceiling is installed and painted flat black to match the front screen
wall. After it was in place, I had to go back and do some additional touch-up.

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A view of the rear drop ceiling. The rear surrounds are installed and covered with protective
plastic. Sconces will be installed shortly; Im having difficulty selecting the right style and
color.

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Completed picture of the theater!

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Good view of the theaters transition from 12 to 14 wide. The box trim was done a little
differently to accommodate this.

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A view of the projector in place.

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Front stage with lights on clean mode.

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The three front eyeball lights help illuminate the stage.

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A closer view of the screen.

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View of the stage from the equipment room door.

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Another view of the stage from the equipment room door.

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View of the stage from the theater entry door.

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Left speaker cabinet with eyeball light illuminating the box trim.

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Middle speaker cabinet.

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Right speaker cabinet.

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Center eyeball light illuminating the stage.

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Entire stage area with a 100 screen.

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Middle cabinet door open showing two subs and a center channel.

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Closer view of center cabinets hidden speakers.

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Right speaker.

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Left speaker.

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Speaker fabric on the center cabinet (left side).

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Speaker fabric on the center cabinet (right side).

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Left speaker cabinet partially open.

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The speaker cabinet followed the same motif as the box trim.

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View of speaker wires and conduit in speaker cabinet.

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Audio conduit feeding the speaker wiring into the right cabinet.

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Decorative trim on the top of the center cabinet with door open.

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View of stage from second row seating (from 12 riser).

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Four second row seats looking at left wall. Above is soffit that hides the homes main HVAC
trunk.

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To the left is the theaters entry door, to the right is the equipment rooms door (opened).

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Close up of the ceiling mounted projector.

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Another view of the projector.

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To the left is the theaters entry door, to the right is the equipment rooms door (closed).

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A view of the projector and rear wall. Someday, the projector will be relocated into the
equipment room.

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Looking at the 7 seats from the stage.

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Theater entry door from the basement.

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Many are surprised when they open the doorwere you expecting a closet?

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A view of the theaters entrance from a distance. Someday I plan to make this area into a
concession/bar area.

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Theater Door.

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Close up of theater door.

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The theater door has a lock to keep out unwanted visitors.

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I have a few movie posters in the rest of the basement.

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Another view of theater door and exit to outside (double doors).

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1st floor entry to the basement.

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View of front ceiling, sconces, and wall trim.

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Close up of box trim, sconces, and recessed light.

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Box trim and faux paint (looks like cork)

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View of rear theater with all 5 lighting zones set at 100%.

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View of rear ceiling and entry door.

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View of left wall from the stage.

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Theater door partially opened.

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Theater doors box trim follows the same motif.

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Rear ceiling (screen is to the right).

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Another good view of the rear ceiling. Note the symmetry and the effects the lights have on
the soffits. To the rear is the HVAC trunk and the front the I-Beam, both hidden with soffits.
The left and right soffits are fake but necessary to create the illusion, form the symmetry of
the ceiling, and house the recessed lights.

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The front ceiling is square with a curved front soffit that matches the stage.

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Sconces dimmed.

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More pictures of the sconces. Note the two on the back wall are on fake bump-outs (they are
flat).

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The equipment rooms hidden door (left) blends in with the wall.

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Another view of the rear ceiling and painted drop ceiling.

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Step lighting viewed from the left step. Note how the lights illuminate the rear of the chairs.
When dimmed, this affect is minimized.

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View of right step and entry door.

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Left step and view of how baseboard fixes turned out.

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Left step and view of the narrowing front theater.

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The HVAC duct installed in the riser. Step lighting on 100%.

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Right step and view of baseboard fix.

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Another view of right step and rear equipment room door.

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Theater entry door.

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View of rear riser from equipment room door.

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Equipment room door opened and view of rack mounted equipment.

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Equipment room door is open.

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View of equipment room with rack pushed back, allowing entry into the room.

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View from entry to equipment room from basement, rack pushed back allowing entry into
theater (to the left).

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Cable coming from ceiling is from video conduit (running some new cables).

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Equipment rooms black carpeting and steps that transition to the theaters riser.

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Equipment rooms thermometer keeps track of minimum/maximum temperatures. If it ever


gets too hot, I may install a fan to exhaust the heat. The switch is to turn the light on.

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Wiring behind the rack.

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Close up of equipment rooms three dedicated outlets (top) and network and television panels
(below).

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Rear of rack.

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Rack pushed forward, flush against theater wall.

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Equipment room door from basement.

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Equipment room is located behind the wall with the HVAC duct.

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Close up of equipment room door closed. Even the bottom of the door is concealed with
continuous baseboard trim.

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Equipment room door opened.

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Equipment room door partially opened.

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Equipment room door partially opened.

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Monster power conditioner and networking equipment.

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Lutron Grafik Eye.

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This sconce did not make the cut.

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Right eyeball light illuminating the box trim.

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Recessed light illuminating the box trim.

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Soffit lights illuminating the entrance.

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Another view of the lighting.

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Another view of the lighting.

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Electrical outlet in the bump-out.

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Another bump-out electrical outlet.

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Above is the HVAC soffit.

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To give the ceiling some depth, I raised the side soffits a few inches above the HVAC soffit.
This simple design idea made a huge impact on the rear ceiling.

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In-wall rear surround speaker.

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Left wall.

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This sconce made the cut.

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Another view of the seating area.

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With the sconce dimmed it begins to look like similar to the faux cork paint on the bump-out.

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Left wall.

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Rear wall.

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Front stage upper soffit, center eyeball light, and IR receiver.

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Front ceiling.

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Demo with lights on preview mode.

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Pronto Pro remotes touch screen illuminates the area when in use.

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Step lighting with lights in movie mode.

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Logitech Dinovo keyboard also is back-lit.

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Projector onlights dimming

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HTPC on and lights still dimming

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View of HTPC running

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View of HTPC running background images change every day.

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Lutron Grafik eye (left) and thermostat (right).

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Breakdown
Materials & Costs
The following tables have been attached in appendix 1A, 1B, and 1C to show the total project
costs.

Appendix 1A: Construction Costs

This table lists all of the tasks performed along with the associated cost, effort, and materials.

Appendix 1B: Equipment Costs

This table lists all of the equipment and the associated costs. As with all electronics, their
values quickly depreciate and they become much cheaper over time. To give you an accurate
representation of my theater equipment cost (as of May 2010) I added a column and
calculated the new values for each.

Appendix 1C: Total Costs

This is simply a summary the total costs to build my theater today. These costs represent my
actual costs. If you decided to build a clone of my theater today and take on the tasks in the
same manner, I expect your cost to be very similar. However, if you take on more of the
tasks yourself, you can save even more money and build the same theater ever cheaper!

By evaluating these costs, you may determine that you dont need certain features or
equipment. By removing certain options, such as the step lighting or high-end projector, you
can dramatically reduce your expenses.

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Summary
Remember, the point of this book is to demonstrate that you can take on a project this size
and do it yourself, affordably. Your first impression may be I could never do this or This
must have taken forever; I hope this book proves otherwise.

Granted, building a home theater does not have to cost $20 to $30k. The bottom line is the
amount you save when you do it yourself. If I had subbed out all of this work to a
professional contractor the costs would have easily doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled!

My main motivation to take on this project was to prove it to myself. After it was all done, the
results exceeded my expectations and I honestly have a hard time believing I did all this. I
hope this book motivates you to get started and show you that you dont need to spend a
fortune! YOU CAN build an affordable, yet high-end, home theater on your own.

I hope you enjoyed. If you have any questions or comments, please visit us at
http://www.diymovierooms.com. And please share your projects with us!

Enjoy,
Chris Fink

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Final Tips and Advice


1. Planning and Design is critical to success. Before you build know exactly what you
want.
2. Sound Proof. Its a minimal expense and will dramatically improve your theater
experience.
3. Build an Equipment Room. By placing your equipment outside of your viewing area
youll make the experience much more enjoyable. An equipment room or small closet
will do.
4. Build a riser. If you have a second row of seating, use a riser to improve the viewing
experience.
5. Lighting. Lighting is critical to setting the mood. Use several zones of dimmable
lighting to create the proper setting.
6. Darkness / Light control. Controlling the amount of sunlight in your room will allow
you to enjoy your space anytime. I prefer the bat cave approach, but use proper
lighting to liven the space up.
7. Carpeting only. Never go with anything but carpeting. Hardwood floors, tile, etc are
not an option.
8. Give some attention to acoustics. You dont need to hire a pro, but do some
calculations to determine best placement of speakers and minimize reflections with
sound absorbing materials, where needed.
9. Proper Screen size. Select the proper screen size for your room. Too big can be just
as bad as too small.
10. Proper Seating distance. Make sure your seating distance is not too close or too far
from your screen. Proper distance is determined by the screen size.
11. Paint colors. Select proper paint colors to minimize reflections. Pick a dark, flat color
for the front wall and ceiling. You can be more creative with the side and rear walls.
12. Safety. Consider how your guests will navigate your dark theater. Use step lighting
or wall sconces to provide some light when a film is playing.
13. Integration. Use a single remote to control all of your equipment.
14. Ease of use. Ensure that your theater is easy to use. The remote should be intuitive
and not require any instructions.
15. Future Proof your room. Use conduits for the speakers and projector runs. Conduit to
projector is most important since youll certainly be swapping out cables in the future.
16. Ask other theater owners what they would do differently if they could do it over again.
Believe it or not, I would not change a thing, but it is a great question to ask.
17. More expensive is not always better. Expensive speaker cables, high-end DVI/HDMI
cables are usually just a waste of money. Speakers and audio equipment varies do
your homework first. Id prefer to see you budget more towards a high quality
projector and screen.
18. Protect your equipment. Using a power conditioner or surge protector will protect
your gear from damaging spikes and power surges. If you decide to go without, you
are just waiting for a disaster.
19. Last, enjoy your project and share your experiences with others. Visit our website and
share your experiences.

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Appendix 1A: Construction Costs

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Appendix 1B: Equipment Costs

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Appendix 1C: Cost Summary

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Appendix 2: Proposed Basement / Theater Plans

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Appendix 3: Proposed Electrical Plan

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Appendix 4: Final Wiring Diagram

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Appendix 5: Proposed Step Lighting Plan

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Appendix 6: Final Step Lighting Specifications

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Appendix 7: Early Stage and Screen Designs

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Appendix 7 (continued): Early Stage and Screen Designs

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Appendix 8: Very Early Seating Plans

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Appendix 9: Early Rear Wall Design. Trim/Projector/Sconces/Speakers

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Appendix 10: Early Side Wall Design. Box Trim / Steps / Sconces

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Appendix 11: Early Proposed Seating and Riser Design

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