Great Dane Cinema aka Brent's Budget Theater - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 224 Old 01-27-2010, 09:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello fellow AVS members! Ive been a member for quite a while. Like many others, Ive spent lots of time dreaming and planning my own theater. I'm starting this thread in hopes to keep myself motivated to complete the room. I have already started constructing the room and have some of my equipment gathered. In addition to the theater, I will also be finishing the rest of my basement. My house was originally built around 100 years ago and has already gone through a few remodels before i purchased it so there are more than a few oddities in existing construction to work around. So far its been a wonderful but slow experience getting everything completed. I have added a bathroom, and nearly completed a bedroom in the basement already.
Currently, my theater is functional. But no where near finished. I committed the worst sin in HT construction about 2 years ago when i temporarily mounted my projector. And guess what..... Yep you guessed it! virtually no progress since then... Time for some motivation to get this thing done!... Oh.. there is one catch though. I'm on a super tight budget (Divorces suck.. but they are worth it). I will be doing as much of the work myself as possible and probably cutting a few corners here and there. I'll be utilizing eBay, garage sales, free stuff, etc. Sandman's theater will be my inspiration for the design. Hopefully mine will come out looking nearly as good, for a much lower cost.

On the the basic details and plans!
Room size is approx 12.5' x 22'

Things I want to have in my theater build:
2.39:1 DIY screen.
7.1 speakers, hidden in columns
If i can find room for it, a TubaHT subwoofer.
Fiber optic star ceiling.
Basic acoustical treatment.

Current Equipment List:
Old Sony 5.1 receiver.
old Sony 3way towers for the front left/right channels.
Yamaha NS-FP9500 speakers for the center and surround channels.
HTPC running XBMC
xbox360
Panasonic PT-AE700u LCD projector

The HTPC streams movies off a media server. I love this solution! There is no need to dig through DVDs all the time and even my 6 year old can use it without me worrying about discs getting scratched or snapped in half. Plus its just cool. I also have an HTPC in the living room connected to a 50" Panasonic Plasma and one in my bedroom. its GREAT!

I know my sound system is subpar by today's standards. But honestly, it sounds pretty decent and i don't need anything that will blow the doors off the place. The receiver will need to be replaced, but im probably going to keep the existing speaker setup for a while. Ultimately I'd like to build my own. but that will be on like phase 6 of this project.

Right now the theater is framed and partially sheetrocked and I have my riser built. (pictures to come) My first obstical is where to put the equipment. Once thats figured out i can run the conduit ad finish my sheetrock. Originally, I planned to have a false wall in the back of the room with a rack flush mounted in it. Now i feel like that would take too much space away from the rest of the room. So, options for placement outside the room include my server rack on the other side of the basement, or hidden in a cabinet under the bar, right outside the theater. Directly outside the theater seems to make the most sense since cable runs will be much shorter, but it will take away some storage space in the bar. For those of you who have a rack outside the theater, whats a reasonable distance to run all the cables? How about controlling everything? I know i can get an IR extender for the remotes. Do you find it problematic to not be able to see the devices display? like for changing sound settings on the receiver... or radio stations/input modes. Do modern receivers show all that information via on screen display? A while ago i was looking at getting an Onkyo TX-SR606. They are pretty reasonably priced on eBay now. would that still be a good choice for a receiver if it will be in a separate room?

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post #2 of 224 Old 02-09-2010, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
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OK.. i finally have some pictures to put up. This is the state that my heater has been in for about a year and a half. Its functional, but obviously not too pretty.

This is a shot of the back of my theater. I already have some changes in mind for the riser, namely the steps are too shallow (front to back) and are awkward to step on.


Here is a shot of the current screen. Its just blackout cloth stapled to the wall. not optimal, but not bad considering it was dirt cheap. You'll notice that the ceiling is insulated, but not yet sheet-rocked. I've started some bass traps as well. Eventually they will extend up to the ceiling and i'll put treatments on the wall too. there will be a false wall about 2ft out. The final screen will be acoustically transparent with the speakers behind. Im also thinking of building a THT sub to put back there too.


Here is the screen wall with the lights off.


I drew up a rough approximation of my basement in Sketchup. Im building a bar/concession area right outside the theater.
Here is the basic floorplan. note this sketch isnt complete, there are some exterior walls not shown.


Here is a shot of my rough plan for the bar.


Inside the theater, showing location of the door.


...and the screen wall. This part of the drawing really isnt complete, but i figured I'd post it anyway.


Im having some trouble determining where to place my components. I was considering putting everything in a small rack mounted under the bar. You can see one idea for placement in the sketchup model. Another option, is to put it all in my server rack. But that's not really close to the theater, as shown in my rough floor plan. the third option is in the theater itself. I dont want to take up room for components in the back of the room. I could put them in the front of the room, maybe hidden behind a removable panel on the screen wall.
Any ideas on this will be greatly appreciated. I'm hesitant to do more work until I have a more solid plan.
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post #3 of 224 Old 02-09-2010, 06:09 PM
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Another Wisconsin build - welcome! What part of WI?

It may help if you post a floor layout of your entire basement, with measurements. You'll get some great ideas on where to place your equip room. Most like to keep it close, not only for running wiring, but for convenience in operation.

How will you run all your wiring if you already drywalled?

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The Schmidt Haus Theater (Temporarily on hold - obamanomics :-)
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post #4 of 224 Old 02-09-2010, 06:29 PM - Thread Starter
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The room is already wired for electrical. 2 20 amp circuits and a separate 15 amp for lighting. There are outlets in the back of the room and the front. so power wont be an issue. As far as wiring for lights, the ceiling isnt closed up yet. If i decide to place equipment in the front of the room i can still easily run conduit for AV/speaker wire where the soffit will be.

As far as equipment placement. I dont have space for a dedicated equipment room, unless i put it all in my server rack. that would be about a 40ft cable run to the projector though. Directly behind my theater is a bedroom, so cant put anything there. The only nearby location i can think of outside the theater, is in the bar. That location may work out well, since i want to have a lcd there that can mirror the output in the theater.
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post #5 of 224 Old 02-09-2010, 06:33 PM - Thread Starter
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post #6 of 224 Old 02-09-2010, 06:49 PM
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Can you notch out part of the bedroom behind the theater? If not there, then I'd go with the bar area second, and the actual rack third. The rack isn't a bad option, other than physically changing discs. Perhaps you could use your HTPC even more, and then really only need to get to the rack to change games in the Xbox.

I guess part of it is do you want to see the gear? Then back of the room. If you don't need to see it, but want it close, then the bar, and if you want it away and quiet then the server rack.

Your distance is fine for cable runs, plenty of theaters have runs of much farther distances. You'll be ok with any of your locations re: cable runs.

For control, you can get IR repeaters or you can get RF repeaters. Depending on your devices, you can get on screen feedback for things like volume, switching sources, etc... My personal preference is to have the equipment not visible in the room, both for the issue of the lights of the equipment and the sound of the equipment.

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post #7 of 224 Old 02-09-2010, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Warren, that's almost exactly everything Ive been debating. I'm just not sure whats most important. My original plan was to put it all in the back of the room, I decided against that since it would take up space and I'd rather move the seating back a bit more.

I dont really want to see the equipment and I do plan to get a receiver with on screen display, ir repeaters, etc. I already use the HTPC almost exclusively for movie playback, so changing discs isn't really an issue.
What about things like gaming systems though? occasionally i will want to play xbox360 and maybe Wii in the theater. Has anyone experienced issues with controllers working with the consoles in a rack a little ways from the theater?
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post #8 of 224 Old 02-09-2010, 07:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meyer64 View Post

...
What about things like gaming systems though? occasionally i will want to play xbox360 and maybe Wii in the theater. Has anyone experienced issues with controllers working with the consoles in a rack a little ways from the theater?

The 360 is supposed to have a range of around 25-30 feet. Maybe you can test that by putting the 360 where the server rack is, hooking up a temp monitor/tv, and trying it out from your theater location. Someone would have to watch the monitor for you... I have a 360 at home, but don't think I've gone beyond 20 feet with it.

I don't know the distance of the Wii controller. You can get the wireless sensor bars, so that part is easy, but the controller distance, that I don't know but my guess is around the same as the 360.

Do a quick temp setup and test it out. If it works, to put your mind at ease, maybe even go a bit farther, into the room behind the theater and check it from there.

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post #9 of 224 Old 02-10-2010, 08:51 AM - Thread Starter
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OK. I did a test and my 360 controllers do work on the other side of the basement, So im thinking I'll put the equipment in the server rack. This will keep it out of sight, noise will be reduced, and since my rack has a set of fans, i dont have to worry too much about things getting too hot. And it will fill up empty space in the rack that is otherwise wasted. The only issue is cable length. Before i started this project, I ran Cat6, cat3 and RG6 to every room, including multiple runs to my theater location. So I can utilize that existing wiring for my IR extenders, and maybe HDMI over Cat6.
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post #10 of 224 Old 02-23-2010, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
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I have moved my components to my server rack and ran a whole bunch of cable over the weekend. The room is now wired for 7.1 surround with all the wires routed through a conduit to the rack. Video is currently supported via a 50' HDMI cable to my HTPC. Component cable will be run soon for the wii. Im going to pull a couple of my cat 6 cables to the projector location as well.
I am VERY happy with my decision to get the components out of the theater room. Picture is perfect over the 50 foot hdmi run. Its only 720p for now, so its unknown if higher resolutions would be problematic or not. Its great to not hear any fans while watching a movie or playing a game. My rack is 42 U also, so i shouldn't have to worry about running out of space for new equipment either.
I have an IR repeater on the way from amazon as well.
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post #11 of 224 Old 01-11-2012, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, I think its about time I update this thread. A lot has happened in my theater building adventure.

First the reasons for delays, a pictorial:



Ahh... there is is a leak, 10ft underground.


Leveling a floor....


laying down oak laminate....


all perty like!


new carpet in the play room:



and now.... on to the theater updates!

Equipment upgrades:

I have rebuilt my media server (which was hosting my pics, i'll fix the links in old posts when i get around to it). More accurately, I decommissioned my desktop and used its components to upgrade. The server now sports 6TB of storage space, a Core2Duo E6600, 6GB ram and a BluRay drive, running Windows Server 2008 R2. It runs XBMC on the console session connected to a touchscreen in the game room area. Its video output can also be mirrored on the new 40" LCD in the bar.

I have also upgraded the HTPC for the theater. Its nothing fancy but will at least play back full 1080p over HDMI, something my old one could not do.

The receiver for the theater is now a Yamaha RX-V867. I love this thing and i got a fantastic deal on it, snagged from a pawn shop for $350, still in the box. It allows dual HDMI output to the theater as well as a second zone to the LCD in the bar. So no one will miss the movie if they want to grab a drink or snack.

Speakers have all been replaced with Polk Audio Monitor series. Not top of the line, but plenty good enough for me and its nice to have a matching set.

I have also built myself a subwoofer based on lilmike's F-20 design. It produces the best bass I have ever had. although I am still looking into an EQ for it.

Automation:
I have started making extensive use of eventghost to automate my theater. I have written a Python script that detects when media is played, what type of media it is and adjusts the scene on the grafik eye via a USBUIRT, sets the audio mode on the receiver using its network control feature and determines the positioning for my DIY masking solution (Work In progress). when the movie plays the lights dim, press pause, the lights raise a little. when the movie is over they come back to full on. All 100% automatic. There is a similar mode for music using different scenes. Oh... and I can control everything on a web interface on my iPhone. Its pretty slick.

A similar script detects when something is played via the touchscreen in the game room area and makes sure the amp is turned on. and shuts it off after no audio is played for an hour.

The theater room itself:

I have decided to not worry about soundproofing very much at all. After putting the subwoofer in place, its pretty obvious to me that i wont be able to acceptably contain the sound produced in the room without spending significantly more time and money than i am willing to right now. It would take a quite a bit of effort and I'm willing to live with sound escaping the room.

I have changed my design for the color scheme a bit and purchased fabric for the walls. Stage construction has commenced. The new renders are below.







I may have settled on a name. How about the "Great Dane Cinema", in honor of my most loyal helper:
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post #12 of 224 Old 02-16-2012, 02:46 PM
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It's looking good. I like the room layout, looks familiar....
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post #13 of 224 Old 02-16-2012, 02:48 PM
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A blue merle dane ! We had one of those, Molly was a heck of a dog.
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post #14 of 224 Old 02-16-2012, 04:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes, Great Danes are fantastic dogs! Madi truly is a gentle giant.

Here's what Madi and I have been working on:

Outside the theater, in my bar area:
I built a recessed niche in my bar area for the touchscreen monitor there. The surrounding part of the column will be covered in stone veneer.



Progress building the stage:




And how it sits today. I know its the best way to slow down progress, but i like to put the room back to a functioning state between stages of construction. This way i can use it, and get a feel for how I like the most recent changes in practice.



I also put together a quick and dirty masking system using a panel track curtain system from IKEA and a traverse rod. You can see the panels to the side of the screen in the previous photo.
I connected the traverse rod to the panel track using blocks of wood. simple and cheap, but effective. I had doubts before, but i am now a huge proponent of masking. even a basic solution like this makes a huge difference, total cost was around $80. I plan to experiment motorizing it with an eagle aspen ROTR100.

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post #15 of 224 Old 02-16-2012, 07:26 PM - Thread Starter
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the old pics that were missing are now back online... wow things sure have changed since then. even though its not finished yet, the stage and screen wall have a huge effect on the feel of the room.
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post #16 of 224 Old 02-16-2012, 11:06 PM
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AGREED! good lookin stage, good luck with the build bro!
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post #17 of 224 Old 02-17-2012, 07:27 AM
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Once you get all that automation working you will have to show me your secrets. I keep thinking about trying to do some of that but every time I start I run out of ambition and money!!!!!!

Mainly I want to PC to run my automated masking when a movie starts and stop and run the lighting, but I don't want to pay for a Grafik-Eye system

Good luck with the masking and the Eagle rotor, it works but can be a head scratcher some times. I went through two of them getting it to work. Mine is a little different then most because I can close my screen all the way, but right no I only use it to go from 16:9 to 2.40. For what ever reason if I close it all the way it only opens part way about 1/2 the time, been too lazy to try and trouble shoot it much yet.

Need someone smart to program a controller ment to do this, man I just need alot more time, work gets in the way of everything.
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post #18 of 224 Old 02-17-2012, 09:35 AM - Thread Starter
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The thing that really makes the automation work well is that I use XBMC as my HTPC software. It sends out an http message broadcast every time an even occurs. This allows me to use scripts in event ghost to act on those events using the xbmc listener plugin.
So, the general picture is this:
1. play a movie or song.
2. xbmc broadcasts a message that is playing a new media type.
3. eventghost receives the message and activates a python script in the event tree.
4. the script detects the media type (movie or music) based on the event string sent by xbmc and invokes an appropriate action, such as activating the music or movie scenes and sending an IR signal to the grafikEye. This also selects the appropriate sound mode on my AV Receiver (using IP control, but could be done via IR).
5. in the event that a movie is played, another script in eventghost connects to the xbmc database and looks up the aspect ratio information. Right now i just have it invoking an action that does nothing, but someday it will adjust my masking for me by sending an IR signal to the ROTR100 controller.
6. if i press pause, again an event is sent to eventghost and an appropriate lighting scene is activated.
7. once the movie is finished or i press stop, the lights come back on. Im considering adding a delay for this though, so the lights dont come on and off all the time when im watching movie previews or short clips.


It turned out to be a very powerful and flexible solution, but it still has a few quirks to work out. In its current state I consider it to be a functional proof of concept that still needs some refining once i get the time.
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post #19 of 224 Old 02-17-2012, 10:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meyer64 View Post

The thing that really makes the automation work well is that I use XBMC as my HTPC software. It sends out an http message broadcast every time an even occurs. This allows me to use scripts in event ghost to act on those events using the xbmc listener plugin.
So, the general picture is this:
1. play a movie or song.
2. xbmc broadcasts a message that is playing a new media type.
3. eventghost receives the message and activates a python script in the event tree.
4. the script detects the media type (movie or music) based on the event string sent by xbmc and invokes an appropriate action, such as activating the music or movie scenes and sending an IR signal to the grafikEye. This also selects the appropriate sound mode on my AV Receiver (using IP control, but could be done via IR).
5. in the event that a movie is played, another script in eventghost connects to the xbmc database and looks up the aspect ratio information. Right now i just have it invoking an action that does nothing, but someday it will adjust my masking for me by sending an IR signal to the ROTR100 controller.
6. if i press pause, again an event is sent to eventghost and an appropriate lighting scene is activated.
7. once the movie is finished or i press stop, the lights come back on. Im considering adding a delay for this though, so the lights dont come on and off all the time when im watching movie previews or short clips.


It turned out to be a very powerful and flexible solution, but it still has a few quirks to work out. In its current state I consider it to be a functional proof of concept that still needs some refining once i get the time.

I use Media Browser so don't know if the same can be done or not. I might have to look into XBMC some more, sounds like a good next winter project. I do have everything pretty well automated using my Harmony Remote other then lighting. So haveing the PC send out simple IR commands will make everything work.
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post #20 of 224 Old 02-17-2012, 12:20 PM - Thread Starter
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I didn't mention it before, but there is another nice thing about my XBMC/eventghost automation solution. It doesn't matter what starts the media playing. Its not dependent on any specific control method. I can use a remote, a wireless keyboard, or my iphone and the automation scripts all still run since they are only dependent on xbmc playing the media file. If i choose to use a different remote or a tablet to control my HTPC in the future, the automation side of things does not need to change at all.

Mopar,
If you decide to get a grafik eye, I highly recommend looking on eBay. I got mine off there a few years ago. It was used, but works perfectly and was a fraction of the cost of a new one.
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post #21 of 224 Old 02-17-2012, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
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I didn't mention it before, but there is another nice thing about my XBMC/eventghost automation solution. It doesn't matter what starts the media playing. Its not dependent on any specific control method. I can use a remote, a wireless keyboard, or my iphone and the automation scripts all still run since they are only dependent on xbmc playing the media file. If i choose to use a different remote or a tablet to control my HTPC in the future, the automation side of things does not need to change at all.

Mopar,
If you decide to get a grafik eye, I highly recommend looking on eBay. I got mine off there a few years ago. It was used, but works perfectly and was a fraction of the cost of a new one.

Yea I will have to keep looking. I watch from time to time on E-bay, seems to be a ton of different models from old to new. Which one do you have? I need atleast 4 zones.
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post #22 of 224 Old 02-17-2012, 01:29 PM - Thread Starter
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I think the one i have is a 3104. Its a 4 zone model.
My zones are split up as follows:
1: step lights
2: main lights/sconces
3: screen wash accent lights
4: star ceiling/rope light

I got a great deal on mine. less than $200 if i recall correctly. but if I did it again, I'd go with a 6 zone though. better to not use a zone or two that wish i had more.
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post #23 of 224 Old 02-20-2012, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
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With the help of Mopar_Mudder, I am in the final stages of finalizing the layout for my star ceiling. As long as he has no objections, I'll post a CAD file and PDF of my layout once I'm finished.
With that, i am in the position to start buying more supplies again and I need some advice on what to get first. I still have a lot of work left to do. Before I can put up my star ceiling I'll need to finish framing out my soffits though. Once thats done, Should I put up the ceiling right away or leave that until last?
I have noticed a lot of people put them up early in construction. Whats the reason for this? any reasons I should wait? such as concerns about sawdust getting everywhere while im making frames for my fabric panels.
I am most excited about the star ceiling. And I'll probably spend more time working in the theater if I do that first. But if i buy the fiber an illuminators, i wont have much funding left for wall fabric, carpet or other supplies, and the theater will have a bit less of a completed look for a while longer.
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post #24 of 224 Old 02-20-2012, 01:51 PM
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Post away I have no problems with it.

I did my star ceiling pretty much first thing after the drywall taping was done. My reasoning was that I needed access to the back side of it for hanging it and the illuminators. I could have done it after everything else but wanted to build in in the theater room and didn't want to do that after all the walls were done and make a mess.

I built it as one complete 8x8 octagon that went up in one piece. Because it wall all one piece I wrapped in on plastic before it went up. Then after EVERYTHING else was done I cut and pulled the plastic off and it was perfectly clean.

Being yours is bigger I think you would want to do it in two sections. The 8x8 was all three of us wanted to handle and then some, was a but scarry at times trying to get it up their.

8x12 ceiling is going to take you awhile. I spent pretty much evey night for a couple of weeks push fiber in. Can only do so much of that before you go nuts
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post #25 of 224 Old 02-20-2012, 01:51 PM
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post #26 of 224 Old 02-20-2012, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm envisioning doing it in three 4'x8' sections. I'll wrap each section with velvet so the only seams will be where the panels meet and I wont have to worry about trying to sew or glue a nice looking seam. I should be able to butt the panels up nice and tight against each other.
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post #27 of 224 Old 02-20-2012, 03:23 PM
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Can't wait to see the finished product.
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post #28 of 224 Old 02-21-2012, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, I ordered some goodies today. I have an Eagle Aspen ROTR100 on the way so I can play with automating my masking. Also placed an order for 2 CoolSky LED illuminators for my star ceiling. I'll be ordering the fiber optics soon. Hopefully I can stop by a Joann's tonight and look at some stretch velvet.
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post #29 of 224 Old 02-22-2012, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
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I was planning to cover my ceiling in stretch velvet. I know others have used velvet or other fabrics on their ceilings as well. Honestly, how big of an issue is the fire rating on things like this? It seems like some people are die hard, by the book, everything must be perfectly to commercial code types, and others really dont care. I did a rudimentary test using a blow torch and some of my samples of various fabric types. All of them burned, or melted as polyester type fabrics do. This included the FR701 GOM, Dazian Janus, Dazian Celtic Cloth, Joann's stretch velvet and some Joann's suiting material i liked the look of. None of them, including the stretch velvet, had a flame spread more than a 1/4 inch outside the area where i was directly holding a blue hot flame torch. the suiting fabric I'd say performed the worst and had a bigger flame than the the others before it extinguished. The GOM performed the best and it took a bit longer for it to ignite. ALL of them would self extinguish within a few seconds as long as i didnt hold the flame on them long enough to get to the 'melting point' of the fabric. If they got hot enough to melt, none of them self extinguished completely within 10 seconds, including those that are supposedly fire retardant. In my testing, and I am no expert, there doesnt seem to be a significant difference in the fire spread between the Joann's stretch velvet and something like Dazian Janus. So is it really that big of a deal? As far as safety, if there were a large-ish fire in my theater, Im not sure that any of the fabrics would be entirely safe and in the event of a small flame from a cigarette or something, im not convinced that any of them would spectacularly burst into flames. Am I missing something?
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post #30 of 224 Old 02-22-2012, 04:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I just performed another test. It occurred to me that the extreeme heat and force of using a torch might have caused the fabrics to melt before they really got a chance to fully ignite. So, I used a BIC candle lighter instead. I did not retest all fabrics this time, just the GOM, the suiting fabric and the stretch velvet. The first thing I wanted to test was how long it took each piece to actually ignite when in direct contact with the flame. I was surprised by my results in this test. it was difficult to get the velvet to ignite. Once it did, the flame spread about as it would burning through paper. the suiting fabric was easier to ignite and the flame spread at a similar rate. The most surprising result came from the GOM. It was the quickest to ignite. thats right, from a normal BIC lighter, the GOM, the only officially 'flame retardant' fabric in this test, caught flame the fastest, and spread at a rate no slower than the other two fabrics until the entire sample piece was gone. The results of these tests really make me question if paying more for the flame retardant fabrics buys me anything in terms of safety.

As far as aesthetics, I like the suiting material the best for the lower parts of my walls, and the stretch velvet for the star ceiling. they also happen to be the cheapest options by far.
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