Midnite's DIY Theater Journal. - AVS Forum
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Dedicated Theater Design & Construction > Midnite's DIY Theater Journal.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 10:38 PM 03-20-2007

My Theater will be built as a partial DIY, partial hired help. I am currently in-progress building a new home. I will do my best to keep this initial post up to date with my design/implementation of the room.  I am designing the room in Google Sketchup. I also included something that some may find this useful as well, it is a Google sketch of a "THX Frustum" - put the center in your optimal position, and it will show you where your screen should go, how big it should be, and where you should put your speakers. Note that this was designed per the documentation on the THX site, so it uses the combined rear channel. You can find this in the sketchup model linked below. It is on the "THX Guides" layer.

Below are some screenshots taken from my Sketchup Model v. 2.1.0.

Design Information
This section will detail the design decisions I made for my home theater. I figured it may be helpful to others, and may even draw in some helpful comments before I get to actual implementation.  My current design is changing. I have been trying to come up with a theme for the theater and nothing really is cementing. So, I think I'll just steal from Ruben. His looks great, we'll see what I can do with my budget, which is clearly much less than his. Hopefully I won't be ripping things out quite as often, so maybe that will help. Once my sketchup re-design is done, I will post screenshots and an updated model here.

General Construction
The HT will be built on a concrete slab. The outer room dimensions are 27' x 16' 3". The bottom of the "upper" ceiling (room-in-room construction is planned) will be 11' 6" high.



Suggested Vendors:


For walls, I decided to go with a double 4" wall separated by a 1.5" air gap. I would have preferred a 2" air gap as is recommended by the Green Glue literature, but for space reasons, that extra inch matters. On the HT side of the inner wall I will place a 1/2" layer of Oriented Strand Board (OSB), Green Glue (GG), and then a 5/8" layer of Gypsum Wall Board (GWB). Most of the outer wall will be brick, but for those areas that will have GWB on the "outside" with respect to the home theater, 5/8" GWB + GG + 5/8" GWB will be used. In all cases, double GWB will use non-overlapping seams and have a layer of green glue using one tube of green glue for every 4'x4' section of wall. All walls will be insulated with standard el-cheapo pink insulation. During construction, the inner walls will be tied the the external walls directly. Then diagonal 10' metal straps will be installed on the interior of the room at the corners and a 18" strip of OSB will be installed along each wall on the top of the inner ceiling joists. The external wall tie-ins will then be removed and the inner wall will be tested. The room should be fairly stable at this point, when the OSB goes up on the interior it should be more than rigid enough.

There will be double ceilings just as with the walls - a complete room in room construction. The bottom of the upper ceiling will be 11'6" above the slab and this ceiling will be placed on top of the outer walls. There will then be a large (~5") air gap and then another framed in ceiling will be placed on top of the inner walls. No sound protection measures will be taken on top of the upper ceiling. The bottom of the lower ceiling will have OSB + GG + GWB, non overlapping seams, and 1 tube of green glue for every 4'x4' section of the second layer of GWB.

I will be using dedicated HVAC for the theater. There will be 2 high vents in the front of the room, 2 high returns in the rear of the room. There will also be a separate zone for the equipment closet with a vent at the top and a return at the bottom. My father-in-law is doing the HVAC and he has a system picked out. Hopefully we will be keeping the equipment closet around 60 degrees, the rest of the room 65-70 (I like it cold).


There will be a stage constructed in the front of the room that will house the front left and right mains as well as the subs that are built into the mains. It will be constructed using the following techniques:

  • Acoustik Mat placed directly on slab
  • Stage built directly on Acoustik Mat with at least 1/4" gap between all walls
  • Sand fill entire stage


This is based on information from: here and here



Acoustic Treatment
Really just getting started thinking about this, so this list will be evolving

Suggested Vendors:


A/V Closet
There will be an A/V closet built onto the room. This closet will be framed with a staggered stud 6" wall (2x4 studs). Standard pink insulation will be weaved through the studs. The inside of the closet will have the same double 5/8" drywall as the rest of the HT. An equipment rack will be placed in this closet. I will be using the Middle Atlantic AXS-40-26. I chose this unit over the rotating version to more easily allow access into the A/V closet behind this unit, the total closet depth will be 3', and I prefer to maintain the ability to walk into it. The 40 height unit is the largest, according to Middle Atlantic, that will fit in a standard 80" height doorway since the rack must be elevated by about 3".

Rack Equipment
Middle Atlantic AXS-40-26-GG (rack)
TRACK50 (pull-out tracks)
TS310 (3.5" - 10" telescoping support for TRACK50)
AXS-WT50 (Cable management tray for TRACK50)

I am currently working on screen design. I would like to use a SMX screen, but it looks like it is out of my budget. I have inquired about getting just the raw screen material, but have not yet heard back.


The current plan is to just use 4 wall sconces. I may add some floor/stage lighting as well, still debating.  As for sconces, I'm still searching. Our local theater has a light I really enjoy. I found this online, it is the closest I have found so far, but I don't want to spend >$400 per sconce.


To-Do List

  • Review SandmanX thread - Done
  • Review chinadog thread - Done
  • Review mbgonzomd thread - Done
  • Review Cathan thread - Done
  • Review BIGmouthinDC thread - Done
  • Review shawnwalters thread - Done
  • Review CJO thread - Done
  • Discuss HVAC solutions with contractor - In Progress
  • Design theater in SketchUp - Done Enough
  • Concrete Floor - Done
  • Framing - Outer Room - Done
  • Framing - Inner Room - Done
  • External Decking / Brick - Done
  • Door - Entrance - Done
  • Wall Insulation - Done
  • Electrical Rough-In - In Progress
  • Wall Layer 1 - OSB - In Progress
  • Attic Insulation - Not Started
  • Attic Decking - Not Started
  • HVAC - Not Started
  • Wall Layer 2 - 5/8" GWB - Not Started
  • A/V Closet OSB - Not Started
  • A/V Closet GWB - Not Started
  • Paint - Not Started
  • Framing - Riser - Not Started
  • Electrical Rough-In - Riser - Not Started
  • Decking - Riser - Not Started
  • Riser Component - Stair - Not Started
  • Framing - Soffit - Not Started
  • Decking - Soffit - Not Started
  • Framing - Stage - Not Started
  • Fill - Stage - Not Started
  • Decking - Stage - Not Started
  • Framing - Screen Wall - Not Started
  • Framing - Columns - Not Started
  • A/V Wiring - Not Started
  • Sound Treatment - Not Started
  • Equipment - Screen - Not Started
  • Carpet - Not Started
  • Equipment - Speakers - Not Started
  • Equipment - Projector - Not Started
  • Fabric Panels - Not Started
  • Electrical - Final - Not Started
  • Equipment - Rack - Not Started
  • Equipment - Seating - Not Started
  • Final Component Install / Calibration - Not Started
  • Enjoy HT!

I'd like to thank, first off, the general forum community. Without AVS, I wouldn't even know what I wanted, much less have any hope of attaining a theatre of the quality that I hope to build. But I would like to also thank, in particular, several users who have posted great threads that I have directly used for this project. Note that this list will grow as I go through this project, so don't be offended if you're not here yet.

CJO: Great OP for consolidating information
Sandman: Must read thread
chinadog: Another great indexed thread

MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 12:14 PM 06-22-2007
* This is the old first post of this thread, for archive purposes *

** Old First Post Below This Line **********************

Well, it's been a while. I started thinking of doing my own home theater a few years ago, got an enthusiastic start, and then got smacked down with life. 2 kids later (please don't read that as a complaint), I'm about ready to start. Here's the old thread:

Old HT Thread

Sorry, none of the links in that thread will work because my file server had a fatal crash a while back.

A few things have changed. It's no longer in the basement, but rather we'll be adding a ground level (flexible) exterior room. It's pretty much all up in the air. And yes, I've already got an e-mail out to Dennis.

I guess my first decision is, should it be a rectangle? I've found some suggestions that non-rectangle rooms have better sound, but then most of the gallery pictures I see seem to be rectangles.

I'm using 3D Studio Max to visualize the project. These links are to screenshots/movies that will be kept updated. They will always point to the latest version of the renders.

Full Movie (~20 MB)

* Original second post below *

Looks like budget might be tight on this. We've hired an architect to design our house. I keep waffling between adding Dennis Erskine (sp?) as a second architect to just do the home theater. In the end, doesn't it all just come down to hard-budget decisions. I'd love to have Dennis design it, but that's another $5k minimum, and if the room gets too far up in cost, it's a no-go.

On another note, I'm formally starting the seating search. I plan on doing seating for 8. There will be 3 tiers (2 raised tiers and ground level), and the rear tier will be full of exercise equipment.

So far, my list consists of:

Barcalounger (local dealer)
Palliser (current favorite)
Bass (culled for price)
Lovan (culled for options)


I'm just starting this, so please free to add to my list, I'd like to review all competent options. My budget is $400-$1000 / chair, although this is one of the places I plan to save money, rather than go hog-wild.
McCall's Avatar McCall 12:22 PM 06-22-2007
I'd say hiring Dennis would be money well spent, I was following your plan but you completely lost me with the excercise equipment. Too me dedicated theater and Excercise equipment don't mix. LOL
I went with actual Movie seating, partly for space and partly because I want a real movie theater feel, the only non Movie seating I would have considered is Cinelounger and they are insanely expensive, I am real happy with the Cinema Rockers I ended up with.

I think rectangular is the way to go for the best result.
Keep us posted what you decide to do.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 12:36 PM 06-22-2007
Well, I work out about 4 times a week for about an hour. My wife does the same (or rather will as soon as we build a house and get her elliptical walker out of storage). The house will be about 4000 square feet, so there should be plenty of room to put some equipment somewhere. When we sat down and started talking about where to put it, the HT just made the most sense. It's the most entertaining room in our house, and when you're spending an hour on an elliptical walker, entertainment is paramount (yes, that's a pun - she usually ends up watching Voyager while on the walker).

I'm not too concerned with a movie theater feel, or even the aesthetics to a huge degree. I'm a functionality kind of guy. I do want it to be comfortable. We're not dead set on the exercise equipment in the room, but I'm definitely leaning that way. I mean, it will be behind all the seating, so it's not like it will actually take away from the movie viewing experience. There could be some sonic issues I guess, so that might be a decision point.
CCDAstro's Avatar CCDAstro 12:46 PM 06-22-2007

I'm not too concerned with a movie theater feel, or even the aesthetics to a huge degree. I'm a functionality kind of guy.

If you are a functionality kind of guy then the movie theater should be dedicated to it's function, not something else as well. Movies and TV are very specific things that require very specific environments. IMHO, exersice equipment, foosball tables, pool tables, snack bars, and the like do fine mixed with each other but not with a home theater. I can say that because we just took our home from 2300 sq feet to 3600 in the last year. This included both a HT AND a combo room with a Precor strength trainer, a Precor elliptical, a pool table, and a plasma. A plasma or LCD are better for that environment and are dirt cheap these days. A much better fit than putting stuff in a HT that will interfere with TV and movies. With 4000 sq feet you should have plenty of room for this.

Just my .02

Galaxy Theater
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 12:54 PM 06-22-2007
Well, I could understand that if the equipment would actually interfere with the A/V experience. I just don't see how it will.

One thing I have thought of doing to mitigate the effect is to put up a movable wall / curtain that can hide the equipment. This might make things difficult for the rear channel though, but not impossible.
CCDAstro's Avatar CCDAstro 01:05 PM 06-22-2007

Well, I could understand that if the equipment would actually interfere with the A/V experience. I just don't see how it will.

Precor makes probably the quietest elliptical out there and I sure as heck would NOT want my Precor in a theater. In fact, what you are describing is not really a "Dedicated Theater" (this thread). It is more of a "General Home Theater & Media/Game Room" (another thread).

Do as you wish, but if you do it that way I will bet you wish you had not ....
McCall's Avatar McCall 01:06 PM 06-22-2007
Both the equipment and wall or curtain to hide it could do a number on your acoustics but if that does not bother you then go for it I guess. Are you doing 5.1 or 7.1? Back speakers would not be an issue with 5.1.
Be interesting to see what Dennis thinks of the equipment in the theater idea. I will be watching this thread for sure.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 01:11 PM 06-22-2007
I understand your point CCDAstro, but it's not like the equipment will be in use while I'm trying to have friends over to get a good movie experience. It seems to me it would enhance the experience while working out without detracting while not working out. Maybe I'm wrong, I'll give it some more thought. We're still a good 3 months from construction in a best case scenario. Even if I went this route and hated it, I could just replace the back row with seats, so it's not like it's a huge risk.

I'm currently planning on 7.1, which is why a curtain would be difficult. I think a movable wall could probably be fitted with some sort of sonic panels, but that would be a more expensive option.
johnny15's Avatar johnny15 01:12 PM 06-22-2007
Originally Posted by MidniteArrow View Post

Well, I could understand that if the equipment would actually interfere with the A/V experience. I just don't see how it will.

One thing I have thought of doing to mitigate the effect is to put up a movable wall / curtain that can hide the equipment. This might make things difficult for the rear channel though, but not impossible.

I've actually thought about adding a curtain to block off the back of my theater area. I know this goes against what everyone is saying here, but I have my treadmill at the back of my theater/rec area and it's fine. Granted I probably don't use it 4 times a week, but it's nice to have the open area.

IMHO, if you want the movie theater feel, don't combine rooms, but if you're looking for functionality and looking to get the most use out of your space based on what you like to do, then leave it an open design.

I left mine open because there is no way, with my family, that I could fit everyone into a dedicated theater......so like you, I was looking for functionality.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 01:23 PM 06-22-2007
CCDAstro - could you PM me? I wanted to pick your brain about ICF, but figured it wasn't very applicable to this thread (and you appear to have public PMs turned off).
CCDAstro's Avatar CCDAstro 02:09 PM 06-22-2007

CCDAstro - could you PM me? I wanted to pick your brain about ICF, but figured it wasn't very applicable to this thread (and you appear to have public PMs turned off).

Here is a contact page with my email address. I would be happy to tell you whatever I can about ICF. Overall it is a great material but does have some drawbacks.
ChipWV's Avatar ChipWV 02:39 PM 06-22-2007
I think the exercise equipment is fine, and had the same thought as McCall on the curtain, but she beat me to it (I think she lives on here).

I say damn the bulb budget! When it's 100+ degrees in Huntsville, AL and you're in your air conditioned room, imersed a nice scene of the Rockies in spring or winter at 130", doing your hour workout, it'll be much more motivating and enjoyable.

Just say the 3rd row is reserved for the butt kickers, I know they'd kick my butt

Good luck
McCall's Avatar McCall 03:30 PM 06-22-2007
Funny you should say that, I just told my husband last night that I DO live on here.
ChipWV's Avatar ChipWV 03:51 PM 06-22-2007
Originally Posted by McCall View Post

Funny you should say that, I just told my husband last night that I DO live on here.

Good thing too, somebody has to keep all us men out of the gutter

MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 09:14 PM 06-23-2007
I guess another decision point will be speakers. I currently have a NHT VT/VS-2.4 6.1 system. It sounds good enough for me in my living room (just 5.1, have the 6th for backup in case of failure). If I can pick up another VS-2.4, this could be a 7.1 system. I'm just not sure if it would be buff enough for a home theater. Right now I'm thinking the room will be around 25x20, but that's still up for debate.

NHT VT-2.4 Towers (1 pair)
NHT Vs-2.4 Center/Surrounds (2 pair)

I know from preliminary talks with Dennis that the room design will be a bigger factor than speakers. I just don't know if these are buff enough for a home theater or not.

If I replace them, I'm looking at the Onix Rocket line, but admittedly haven't done any serious speaker research lately.
Solodon's Avatar Solodon 09:17 AM 06-24-2007
Id opt for a separate space for the workout stuff.

With the prices of plasmas and lcd's you could easily get a decent workout area system for around 3000. 1500 for a lcd or plasma 42-50 inch, 500 for small 5 speaker system from polk or Klipsch and 500 for subwoofer, 500 for reasonable surround sound receiver and 100 for dvd player. Just run a line for cable and your all set.
Take this money out of the theater bugdet and youd be able to make a better more functional theater only theater. You could have more seating, better surround speaker options, more dramatic entry, better interior, etc... By combining, youd be at the mercy of these items in the future. Plus you get a place for your kids/spouse to hang out in the workout theater if you add a chair or couch in there, depending on size of room.
Gerry S's Avatar Gerry S 09:32 AM 06-24-2007
Here are my thoughts. In short, I wouldn't put the fitness equipment in the "theater".

I'm not sure what projector/screen size you are going with, but if you are using a large screen, ambient light may be an issue. Who want's to workout in the dark!

Also, what if someone wants to workout, while another wants to enjoy the theater? Or what if in the future you decide to get some other fitness equipment and it all does not quite fit?

So I say go with the biggest screen to immerse yourself in the theater experience, and if you can swing it, build yourself a smaller room with A/V equipment to workout.

Best of luck with your home,

MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 10:50 PM 06-24-2007
First off, thanks for the comments. All opinions are welcome, read, and contemplated.

Adding a room
The problem is that we do not have the budget to add yet another room to the house, and all the rooms are taken up with something. So we've got to stick the workout stuff somewhere. The home theater is the only room that has only a single story component. All other rooms either have a room below or a room above. So if I add 200 sqft to any of them for the equipment, this effectively kills our house floorplan, which is yet another reason the HT is an attractive option. Yeah, adding a dedicated gym would be great. So would having the 50k to do it. Our architect is already under orders to reduce the cost of the home.

I've already budgeted for 3 rows of seating, which means even with the equipment, I could do seating for 8-10. It would be very, very, very rare that I'd need more seating than that.

Yeah, that would kill the theater "feel" when you walk in the room and look at the back row. But that's not a factor for me. I'm not saying that's not a valid concern for some theaters, but for mine, I could care less. What I expect to feel when I look at that back row is, "boy, sure glad I don't have to drive to the gym".

Audio/Video experience
Now, what I will care about, is it negatively affecting the watching-a-movie experience with the caveat that there will not be any working out during movie watching. If just having the equipment in the room will cause a drop in the audio and/or Video quality, that would be a major strike against.

The pro-reason for this is that there's really not anywhere else for this stuff to go. Which means I'll still be stuck going to a gym. Gym membership is $45 / month. $540 / year. ~$15k over the lifetime of the home loan. Add in the value of the 30 minutes just getting to/from the gym takes out of my workday, at about $50/hour, and going to a gym costs a LOT of money. Essentially, not going to a gym almost pays for the equipment cost of the home theater. Easily pays for the projector and seating. And I've got a sneaky suspicion that if it doesn't go in the home theater, it won't be going in the house at all.

But like I said, nothing is final, and I really appreciate the input.
Gerry S's Avatar Gerry S 06:20 AM 06-25-2007
I don't think having the equipment in the room would have a negative impact on acoustics. The only thing that comes to mind is that if something was loose on the equipment, it may rattle when your sub kicks in.
Solodon's Avatar Solodon 08:42 AM 06-25-2007
Can you post the floorplan for your house? You have a 4000sqft home, i'll give suggestions on where you might be able to squeeze in the exercise equipment. If you want.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 09:08 AM 06-25-2007
Well, we've hired an architect (about 2 weeks ago) to finalize the plans, so the exact floorplan is in a state of flux. I'll post my current floorplan when I figure out how to upload, if that's even possible. I may need to get some fileserving service as my home webserver is on the fritz.

The thing to keep in mind is that we are talking about 150-200 sqft of equipment. We have a HUGE elliptical walker, and to stop going to the gym, I'll need freeweights and a few benches. I might could get away with a single machine, but probably not (I do so hate anything that slows down my workout).

4000 sqft was rounding - realistically it's currently about 3200 sqft + the home theater, which is estimated to be about 20x25. That may come down some depending on whether the architect can do it without sacraficing functionality, which hopefully he can.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 09:47 AM 06-25-2007
Ok, I hosted floorplan screenshots:

First floor
Second floor
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 02:03 AM 06-28-2007
Here's an initial floorplan for my thoughts. I'm sure it will get tweaked, tweaked, tweaked, Dennised, and tweaked.

Midnite's Home Theater Floorplan

Input welcome.

It's a little big, so I'll probably scale it back some due to budget. Although I really don't want to later wish it were larger. I'd rather just put in some OT to pay for it.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 01:04 PM 06-28-2007
Oops. I got a PM warning me that there may be a virus (probably not "virus" per se, but some sort of data phisher) in my screenshots. I put them in as hyperlinks instead of images with a warning so if you're confident in your virus blockers, feel free to look at them. I plan on running a full system scan as soon as I get home, but in the meantime, be warned, and I'm sorry if I infected anyone.
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 11:25 PM 06-28-2007
According to Norton, it was a false alarm. Unless, of course, Norton is weaky, weaky. But if that's so, blame Norton!
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 07:17 AM 07-02-2007
I got this all put into 3ds max and took a first stab at lighting. It's got ledge around the top with a rope light (think that's called a soffit) and 16 can lights throughout the room. Hopefully I can find some can lights with a similar light profile.

I updated the initial thread post with a link to the movie that I will keep current, not that I actually expect any of you to sit through the 20 MB download. It's WMV HD (WMV 9). Needless to say - don't waste time trying to stream this. Save it first and watch it local, although right now it's pretty boring.

Full Movie (~20 MB WMV 9)
MidniteArrow's Avatar MidniteArrow 09:31 AM 07-03-2007
I'm currently trying to decide a good screen width / speaker combo / room size. I sat down and put together a 3dsmax scene with my initial wants and the room ended up being a 20' x 30', with a 3' screen wall making the interior "room" 20' x 30'. This ended up feeling way too big when the final animations were done. So I've shrunk it down to a 20' x 25' room. For seating, I'm leaning towards 3 rows of 4 chairs, and have berkline 45009s in the max scene. It now looks near what I want. I'll post screens when I get home, I left it rendering a 1100 frame movie.

For screen width, does anyone have any tips? The last time I researched this, I think I came up with main L/R should be 45 degrees off of the nominal seating position and should be separated by twice the screen width. Using that as a guide, I currently have it setup for a 10' wide screen (16x9). But I just stopped by dolby.com and the information there suggested the mains should be about 22-30 degrees off of nominal. Are my screen width figures off as well? I didn't see anything at dolby that addressed screen width.
rm1759's Avatar rm1759 10:30 AM 07-03-2007
I can offer a few suggestions.

I agree with the other posters that the gym equipment in the theater room wouldn't be the best...

at 24x16, that comes to 384 sq ft in the theater, and if you have 200 of that taken up with exercise equipment, it seems that won't leave much space for the theater?

Seems to me like you could carve out another room out of this space. The house looks great, btw. 4000 sq ft is alot.

My first thought is how many studies does a man need? looks like you have a nice one in the master bedroom in that octagon area, and another downstairs. Surely that isn't a study for the kids? Our kids have a playroom, so their desk is in their bedroom - studying happens there for them.

if that doesn't work, the next place I looked is the garage - at 21 x 30 that's pretty big. I would love to have a garage that size to have a workshop in, but it seems like maybe some of that space could be utilized for a workout area, especially if you took some of that "entry" space and used it as well...

Next, looks like you have a dining room, family room, and a living room. For my house, we have 1 giant "great room" (16 x 40) that serves all of these purposes. Can you do your "living" in the family room, and maybe do your "working out" in the living room?

my next idea would be to shorten the theater a bit (you don't want 16x24, their both multiples of 8's which would not be great for acoustics, are your ceilings 8' high?) maybe take it down to 21' or so, then bump out that wall on the left side of your SECOND study to make a workout room/rec room combo that could also double as your entry to the theater, maybe a little snack area with a bar or something... this would obviously increase the cost to build it, and I am not sure what you have going on outside the house in that area... but thought I would throw that out there...

anyways, I think you will come up with a good solution, and if you really want your gym equipment in with the theater room, it's your house! But take this suggestion - putting the popcorn machine and candy display next to the workout gear could be counterproductive...
rm1759's Avatar rm1759 10:37 AM 07-03-2007
one more thing, unless you need all of those windows the theater for egress, I would scrap them... that might save a couple of bucks...
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