First real "home theater" project, or How Would You Do It? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 08-25-2012, 12:34 PM - Thread Starter
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I've been using the other forums here for a while, but only recently discovered this one. I'm currently in the process of moving into a new house and your threads here have become a constant distraction from more important things that need to be accomplished. I'm basically in awe of the work you people have done here, and would like a little input, if possible, on a room I'm trying to put together in the basement of this new house. First, I should say: it will be nowhere near the quality of any of your fine theaters. I'm severely limited by funds and time, but I'd like to do the best I can manage for now. Here are some pictures of the room in mind:


So hopefully I got those to load right, and hopefully now you realize who and what you're dealing with here. I tried using that GoogleSketchUp program but I don't think it was programmed with me in mind. Basically it's a big empty basement room. Low ceiling (89"), cement floors, lots of echo. From the terrible illustration at top, you can see that I'm currently planning on using the wall next to the door for my screen. That wall is 8 feet across. The rear wall is 12 feet, and the entire length of the room is 15 feet. The small room off the side will be a game table, probably.

So, my current plan is to seal the floor, paint the entire room a dark shade, possibly cover the walls with fabric of some kind (pleated?), put down carpet, remove the light fixture, and call it good. My riser is going to be 6" high... is that tall enough? I really don't want to push too close to the ceiling. I know you don't want to go all the way to the back wall with seating, but I'm not doing any surround sound (yeah I know, it's pathetic). The riser will mostly be overflow seating, with six theater chairs from a local theater remodel. There will be a couch in front, and either a loveseat or a couple chairs along the other side. I'll be blocking off the windows as well.

What I need (unless you have a better idea for laying out the room) are instructions on distances, how to position the projector (I am planning on just cutting into the ceiling and mounting it that way... is this a horrible idea?), and, probably, whether or not any of this is going to work. I guess I should ask if the projector will even be safe running in this basement... should I do something about ventilation or what?

Please tell me what you would do if you were given this room and an incredible small budget... say, $200. I already have the projector and the seats and the materials for the riser. I already have a screen built and painted but I will probably be doing a new one. Don't bother factoring in the price of those materials.

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post #2 of 5 Old 08-25-2012, 02:57 PM
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My first reaction is that I would do it with the screen at the other end. I have a couple reasons for that. First, with the door on the screen wall you push everything to the right. That would bother me. Second, it's nice not to watch people come and go while you watch a movie - let them enter in the rear. Third, depending on how it's built/hung, your screen can block the small window.

I'd put the equipment in the small area you were saying would get a game table, so the lights are around the corner and not distracting me, but that would necessitate an RF or IR-repeater for remote control.

The 6" riser might be high enough, but it's all down to the screen size, position, and relative heights of the seats in each row. Given your budget, I would probably build the riser on 2x6 framing and adjust the screen position to make it work. The sticky threads in this subforum have a link to the riser-height calculator that can show you the pertinent measurements.

I would skip the fabric wall ideas at this point. They are a lot of work and money compared to a couple gallons of paint. But before you paint, go ahead and at least wire for surround. You won't want to fool with patching drywall or matching colors or anything else once you have the room up and running, so get all the infrastructure in place first.

Which brings us to sizing and placement... The following suggestion presumes that two rows is important to you; it sounds like it is, but you may have an easier time and better results with only one row. For your room, I'd start by putting the front row just behind the middle point of the room - maybe the front edge of the sofa lands at 7.5 feet back from the screen wall. That should put your eyes about 9 feet from the screen. It will leave about 5 or 6 feet behind the sofa for the riser and second row - on which I would move the seats as far forward as is comfortable for walking around. Note here that one of the reasons for staying away from the walls is even bass response - even if there are no surround loudspeakers, there are sound anomalies along the walls. Then I would measure about a 18-24 inches behind the heads of the front row and wire for surrounds. If there were to be a wall plate or wiring coming from the wall, I would put it about a foot to 18 inches from the ceiling. While you're running wires, consider laying wire for at least three subwoofer positions - you may never use them, but it will afford you a great deal of flexibility and room for growth.

Screen size and projector positioning is going to be tough for me to nail down in an "I would do it this way" sort of way, but let's give it a shot. I would want a big screen - in fact that's the way my planning has gone - build for the biggest screen you could want and then mask down if appropriate. If you want 16:9, I'd say around 120" diagonal would be good. That puts you about one screen width from the image, which is close. Some people will tell you this is too much. Maybe it is. But, "I should have gone bigger" is a common complaint in the "things I'd do differently" thread.

Handy links I use:

Now the last part: where does the projector need to go. First, I would never recommend you hang the projector from anything but a proper mount. No one needs to accidentally drop their projector on their friends. Given your ceiling height, you'll need to find the lowest profile mount that fits your projector - which incidentally, I don't know what model it is. If you happen to have the common and affordable HD20, it will need around 14 feet of throw to get up to a 120" diagonal image. That would be great news, given the way I would do it, because it puts the projector slightly behind your second row. That way, even if someone tall stands up on the riser, they won't hit the projector with their head.

Then the last component, IMO, is acoustic treatments. The first step to good acoustics, I feel, is having speakers with good sensitivity (loud speakers) and controlled directivity. Once they are in place it may be necessary to absorb some of the reflected sound energy from them (to keep the room from sounding to "live"). It is common to find that absorbing the first lateral reflection is beneficial, but that's not guaranteed. Almost definitely, a room this size with a subwoofer or two will benefit greatly from some low frequency absorption, in the form of bass traps - this may be another good use for the space in the smaller room area off to the side. Also the exposed areas of the front wall are generally good candidates for absorption. In all of these cases, a product like Owens Corning 703 is a potential good material to use (except for maybe the bass traps), in as thick an application as you can manage (in general- think 4 to 6 or even 8 inches thick on the walls, though 2 may be good in some places) This acoustic treatment portion of the "what would I do" response is problematic, but suffice it to say I would plan on some treatment beyond a sofa and carpet, but I wouldn't commit to fabric walls and the whole deal, given your budget and approach to this.

So doing it my way, I don't think I could do it for $200. Just carpet will put you over that, even buying a remnant and installing it yourself (I imagine). Wood for riser, a couple gallons of paint and a hundred or 200 feet of wiring (HDMI, speaker cable, subwoofer cable, various wall plates and connectors) will probably eat up your $200 budget all by themselves. This isn't the end-all of plans, but I think it's where I would start.


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post #3 of 5 Old 08-25-2012, 09:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Fred, thanks for that response. My gut had been telling me to do it the other way, but my roommates and my desire for the most seating possible had it turned around. I've got the lumber already (2 X 6) for a 4' X 10' riser, so it shouldn't be too difficult to swap it for an 8' riser, and I may have enough lumber left over to raise that, should I need to. Only four theater seats will fit that, though, which will leave me a few extra. I should probably mention now that I'm a pretty bare-bones, thrifty-to-the-death DIY theater person. This is a rich man's game, really, and I live paycheck to paycheck, if that. I've managed to put a nice setup together, without getting heavily involved in the audio aspect, for very cheap. The projector is a Panasonic PT-AE 4000, and the screen will be another Silver Fire variety, from the DIY forum.

Your advice about prep work for surround is good... I hadn't really even considered that I'd ever make that switch, but I'm thinking I will take it to heart now. The room has such an echo that it could probably serve as a studio reverb room... I've been focusing on cutting that down first. This was the primary reason for fabric on the walls. That, and I figured it'd cut down on reflectivity of the screen. My roommate is a musician/audio expert, and had suggested the fabric idea as a cheaper yet still effective alternative to expensive foams and whatnot. He now says that carpet, a room full of furniture/people/equipment, and perhaps foam panels in the corners will suffice just fine in eliminating the echo. As for other acoustical properties, I will have to do more research.

The ceiling in this room is about an inch and a half lower than the exposed joists in the adjacent room, which leads me to believe that I could potentially cut a hole in it and find drywall or sheetrock or just plywood of some kind. From there, I could devise a plate to fit my projector, serving as a mount. I could bolt that to the joists and then attach the projector to the plate. Maybe that wouldn't work. Ideally, although I don't know why, I'd have a small shelf dropping down that I could sit the projector on, but that might get too low. I would assume that if I cut into the ceiling and attached straight into the joists, it'd be as solid a connection as possible, as well as having the lowest profile. On top of that, I would have difficulty easily accessing all parts of the projector if it were sitting on a small shelf. I think you're right; that is the best choice.

Projector calculator tells me that I can get as close as 12 feet to put up a 120" image, so I'm comfortable with the range there. Keeps the projector away from the heads of those in the rear and out of their line of sight. I, too, think that 9' is right about the perfect distance for the front row. Thinking about it now, I could use the extra theater seats along the right wall as you enter the room, and even construct a riser for them. Possibly two more seats? Hmmm. I'd like to use as many of them as I can for overflow, but I also want a living room feel to the inside of the room; comfort over space for the regular users. The extra seats are for movie nights, television premieres, and sporting events. The chairs are comfortable enough and fine, but I'm not sure anyone will ever choose to sit on them rather than the couch or whatever else is in front. I planned to use a riser because the new room is deeper than the one I currently use by just that amount, and so we wouldn't see a difference when sitting on the couch, etc.

I'll try to provide better pictures next time... it seems to be what this forum thrives on and I realize that it's hard to help somebody if you can't understand what they're talking about.

Thanks for the tips, very much.
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post #4 of 5 Old 08-26-2012, 05:59 AM
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I completely agree with Fred larger screen on the larger wall, the off center would drive me nuts
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post #5 of 5 Old 08-26-2012, 09:21 AM
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The first thing you need to do is find a prominent spot to hang the skiing Mona Lisa. If she doesn't find a home in your man cave, then honestly, the project just isn't worth doing.wink.gif

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