In the beginning, there was abundant confusion coupled with a great desire to learn and build. The battle of ignorance and imagination fulfilled looms ahead... and I, for one, can't wait to see which one rules in the end. I also look forward to the input and wisdom of those who have traveled down this road before.
Where to start... well, I guess with a few of the basics.The Room
: My room is approximately 17'W X 20'D X 9'H, with a hallway and closet off to one side. (See pics and drawings below.) The room is in the walkout basement of my new home construction. Two walls of the home theater (HT) are made of ICF (Insulating Concrete Form... concrete Legos with foam on the outside), which is great for certain kinds of sound isolation, but not low frequencies.... more about this later. The other two walls are framed lumber... 2 X 6 and 2 X 4. The 2 X 6 wall has a drain pipe in the middle of it... another challenge.Knowledge Acquisition
: My builder is an Amish guy who, in my view, is the best builder in town... but knows very little about home theater. I began by reading a few build threads on the AVS site, but, frankly, a lot of it was over my head... and I'm not a handyman. I did, however, start to understand a few basics. I then stumbled upon "The Home Theater Book" by Warren Peterson (The Book), a virtual gold mine of information for the Newbie or Semi-Newbie. I wish I would have found this book a couple of months earlier... but such is life.Sound Isolation
: This is a big subject and you'll find plenty of great information on this site, The Book and, in my case, from the folks at The Sound Proofing Company. Sound insulation is quite different from sound treatments and acoustics. I decided to "decouple" (add space and reduce connection to other material) all four walls and the ceiling with sound isolation clips and furring/Hat channel... and to use two layers of 5/8ths inch drywall with Green Glue, a viscoelastic compound which is not green or glue, in between. This is called "DD GG"... double drywall and Green Glue. Sound isolation keeps the sound in your home theater. Good sound islotion is often measured by an STC rating (Sound Transmission Class)... the higher the rating, the better the sound insulation. However, STC really doesn't take into account low frequencies or bass... thus, decoupling the walls and the ceiling allows them to flex a bit to hlep reduce the bass noise from traveling to other parts of your home. If you're serious about sound, you'll also need to concern yourself with every orifice in the room, including doors, electrical outlets and such. And windows... well, fortunately, my room has none to battle.The Screen
: This is another big decision that's not quite as easy as it seems. I've decided to go with an acoustically transparent (AT) screen with a 2.37:1 aspect ratio (most modern movies are in this format, while your HDTV is in a 16:9 ratio)... a constant image height (CIH). Acoustically transparent means you can place your speakers right behind the screen (well, at least 6" behind the screen). AT screens are, for me, the way to go. The voices sound like they are coming straight out of the mouths of the people on the screen. In fact, all three of my speakers will be behind the AT screen. Some will say, probably correctly so, that my 120"W X 50.6"H and 130.2" diagonal (D) screen is too small to place all the LCR (left, center, right) speakers behind the screen since it's on a 17' wall. (I may even move to a 130" W screen in the end.)
While watching content in a 16:9 format, the picture will be 90"W X 50.6"H... and 103.2"D. There will be black bars on the left and right sides of the screen while watching in this format. See below for the screen drawn on graph paper. (For some reason, my scanner isn't working right today, so I had to take a picture with my iPad.)
I am planning to go with the Enlightor 4K as my AT screen. For those of you trying to decide between solid screens and AT screens, the solid screens generally have a better picture quality (PQ). Here's a report on screen materials that I thought was particularly helpful.... http://accucalhd.com/documents/accucal_front_projection_screen_report.pdf
For those of you trying to decide on screen size and aspect ratio, I recommend the following articles from Projector Central... Choosing the Right Screen Size http://www.projectorcentral.com/build_home_theater_screen_size.htm
and Selecting Aspect Ratio http://www.projectorcentral.com/build_home_theater_screen_aspect_ratio.htm
These articles really brought clarity to what were, for me, very difficult decisions... and there is no "correct answer." I choose the 2.4:1 aspect, while most people have gone with the 16:9 ratio.
One more issue before leaving the topic of screens... screen gain. Here's an article that helps demistify this confusing topic.... http://hdliving.com/learning-center/2011/07/01/home-theater-tech-screen-gain-explained
Here are are a couple of big picture thoughts... Screen gain and projector performance are joined at the hip. Also, I refer, once again, to the projection screen material report above... screen gains are nearly always lower than advertised... and "off axis" viewing (not sitting front and center) measurements are important. If you are sitting in the "money seat" (the front and center seat from which audio and visual measurements are done) and no one else is in the room, you don't have to worry about this issue... however, this is an important issue if mulitple people are in the HT room.
As you will no doubt note, my screen is not centered on the wall... it's centered on the seating area. This lack of symmetry can present design and audio challenges. I have a friend/interior designer who has plans to fix the visual design issue... so people won't walk into the room and immediately think, "Your room is off center."
Here's my proposed screen location on the wall using graph paper. The screen will sit 24" off of the floor. The dashed lines show the 16:9 format on top of the wide screen format... and the little rectanges inside show where my speakers will go... you want to aim the tweeters at ear height... in the case of two rows of seating, I split the difference between ear heights.
There is a pesky drain pipe running right through the ceiling and one wall of my room. Although I plan to have a sound insulated soffit built around the drain, I wasn't comfortable that this would be enough... so I used Dynamat to wrap the 3 1/2" PVC pipe... it's not cheap, but I'd rather correct this potential big sound problem now before the drywall goes up.
You will notice masking tape on the future screen wall. It's 110"W and in a 16:9 format in this picture. I sat in a chair one day and stared at the wall from several positions. I came back another day and stood in several positions...and finally decided to go with a 120" W 2.37:1 format.... at least for now. I plan to repeat the exercise later when I have a projector and electricity.
Here's the hallway I mentioned earlier... and not in my graph paper drawings. It's about 9'+ wide... and will have a closet/equipment room on one side. I'm still thinking about what to put on the other side.