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-   -   Rich's Variable Image Size System (http://www.avsforum.com/forum/29-what-s-your-system-configuration/1259917-richs-variable-image-size-system.html)

R Harkness 06-30-2010 05:53 PM

Well, I finally have a system configuration...so I can make a post about it.
After a year of planning and almost a year of construction I'm enjoying my new system mightily. I took the front room of our house, which has been my 2 channel listening room/living room for many years, and reno'd it into a projection based home theater/media room with 4 way automated masking for varying image ARs and sizes.

Here are shots of the room. Comments to follow:



R Harkness 06-30-2010 05:58 PM

Few more shots.


Shots showing the ceiling. We built down the ceiling for several reasons. It houses the lighting (Lutron controlled), and we did a fabric covering treatment instead of wood or drywall, allowing us to employ acoustic treatments at strategic points of the ceiling. As well, the dark chocolate fabric absorbs light better than even a dark painted ceiling, helping on screen image quality. The fabric system is so taut and board-straight it looks virtually like a painted ceiling, except it has a nice, fine texture when you look up at it.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:07 PM

The design was done in consultation with an acoustician and the room sounds great for my 2 channel listening as well as home theater.

The room has some some neat features: The screen is automated 4 way masking with an "extra big 'n tall" screen so I can run the system any way I want: Constant Image Height if need be. But mostly I just vary the image size to my taste. Depending on the source quality (DVD or Blu-Ray/HDDVD, HD cable, or variations in movie transfer quality), I'll have the image bigger or smaller. The screen goes up to 124" wide for CinemaScope, and up to around 128" or so diagonal for large format 16:9/1:85:1 material - seating distance is 10 to 11 feet at the sofa.

Avatar truly rocks at almost 130" diagonal - feels IMAX, like you can walk into the picture.

Very important goals for my system were:

1. Had to be "high performance" room, such that audio and video would not be compromised by the room. The room had to be able to have perfect light control and become very non-reflective when watching movies. This had to be balanced with...

2. Must look nice and blend easily into the house. This was the main floor living room, which you see right off the hallway when you enter our house. By day I did not want it dark, foreboding and cave like. Which is why I went dark on the ceiling, rug, screen wall, and sofa, but light on the walls. It stays cheery in the daytime with all the light coming in the bay windows. For watching movies there are dark cocoa velvet curtains that can be pulled across the walls and the fireplace, making the room very dark and non-reflective for optimal picture quality.

3. Had to have black screen wall with 4 way masking. Having masked my plasma for years I knew the value of an image floating in black. I wanted the speakers to entirely disappear as well, when watching a movie, so they are covered with velvet like the rest of the surrounding screen wall.

4. I wanted as clean a look as possible. So my source equipment is down the hall in another room. Projector is hidden behind the sofa on a remote controlled lift that raises the projector for movie watching.

5. Must look and be very comfy and inviting, for long lounging time.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:09 PM


Here are some quick shots of the masking in different positions (BTW, some of the masking lines may look
crooked in these shots; it's the camera lens, they are straight in real life):



The extra tall screen (vs strict CIH) allows me to open up the image height/size for more spectacular presentations when desired, for instance Avatar, IMAX-source movies...or just when I want a bigger 16:9 picture:

I can also go for a bigger 4:3 image as well:

This was very gratifying for a recent viewing of the Wizard Of Oz blu-ray, where I could have quite a huge 4:3 image for a cinematic effect.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:10 PM


Ok, here are some very quick screen shots of the system at various image shapes/sizes. Unfortunately my tripod was a piece o' crap and was very wiggly, so the low exposure times plus the wiggle made for somewhat blurry images. But I want to finish this thread and can't be bothered to do better for now. I left some lights on over the ottomans to try to give a little bit of perspective to the shots, but I note that the screen size changes don't come across with remotely the same size difference/impact they do in person. But...it'll have to do.

Here's a 1:85:1 (almost 16:9) AR image, from Ang Lee's HULK (I think around 105" diagonal):

You do get a sense of the image-floating-in-black effect that I was going for. It's one of the more satisfying results of the reno, to my mind.

Image in wide mode - LOTR Return Of The King:

AVATAR at 122" diagonal:

WIZARD OF OZ, 4:3 AR, at full screen height:

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:12 PM


If I choose BLU-RAY from the WATCH MOVIE page, it switches the source to Blu-Ray and ends on this page:

I like the fact all the transport and menu buttons are mapped to the remotes hard buttons for ease of use in the dark, freeing up the touch screen to have various options readily available. Pressing SOUND, or PICTURE brings me to pages allowing fine control.

You can see on the bottom right that there is a SCREEN SIZE button, like on the main home page. Pressing that button brings up pages from which I can select and manipulate image sizes. PAGE ONE:


What happens is I choose a pre-set Aspect Ratio/Image size button, say...16:9 115"

That starts the screen size changing and calls up the projector's lens zoom feature on the screen. As the masking is changing size I'm zooming the image out to fit the width of the screen - the projector is centered so it zooms out evenly on both sides. This makes it really quick and easy to just zoom until the edges of the image meet the new image width.
Then it's just a quick vertical shift up or down to adjust the image into place (the top/bottom masks will have stopped in place by that point).

This process is quick and painless. I have it down to as low as 12 seconds to change from one AR/image size to a new one. And guests tend to think it's way cool watching the process. I use the JVC RS20 projector's lens pattern, which has all the relevant ARs marked in "laser green" against a black background, and it really does look cool using it.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:15 PM

Remote Controlled Black Out Blinds (DOWN):


First, here's a close up of the remote control MAIN PAGE (or "Home") screen:

As you can see I can choose the screen size either before I put a movie in or there's an option in the movie-watching pages to do so as well.

When I press the WATCH MOVIE button it goes to the movie-set-up page:

Pressing "System On" starts a macro that: shuts the window blinds, turns the projector and equipment on and sets the lighting to dim (I turn the lights off when everyone is settled in). The PROJ UP and PROJ DOWN buttons raise and lower the projector. That command is also mapped to a hard button that is hard to see in the picture. When you press and hold PROJ UP this happens:



"Look up...look waaaay up...." (Canadians will know that one). It's a neato sight watching the projector telescope way up high. That will be part of the video I'll post, hopefully soon.

You can also see my rear FX speakers mounted between the bay windows. They do a nice job of filling in the rear ambience for movies etc.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:21 PM


AV RACK (Not Shown):

Denon AVR 2809CI Receiver (Nothing special but does a good job for movies).

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-Ray Player (Nach)

Onkyo HD-DVD player (Onkyo's version of the Toshiba XA2 player).

Denon DVP - 6020CI Video Processor (has very nice noise reduction controls)

Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD PVR

All run via Blue Jeans HDMI cables (50ft lengths) to the Home Theater room.

I love not having the source equipment in the room. It makes for a neater look, less lights, less heat.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:28 PM


I've run a separate pair of L/R speaker wires from my music gear rack into the home theater room. These are hidden in the HT room and I just hook them up to the L/R speakers when I want to listen 2-channel, old school style. (I prefer the sound of the 2 channel gear to the AV system, for music).

I'm a tube-head as far as amplification goes. I have a variety of gear I throw in and out of the system.

Conrad Johnson Premier 12 Monoblock tube amps
(140W/side). - Sweet, lush but not too lush, and powerful - able to handle every crazy speaker I've had in my room.

Eico HF-81 Integrated Tube Amp.
These little beauties were dirt cheap until this Stereophile review:


It's just sick how great that old integrated tube amp sounds. It sounds HUGE, full, detailed, not rolled off, lively yet relaxing...the whole ball o' wax. I tend to like it even better than my CJ amps!


I use a locally built tube pre-amp, as well as an Audible Illusions fully tricked out pre-amp.

For my digital music I play my iTunes (full res) into a Benchmark Dac1.
Sounds awesome.

I have a turntable that will be put into the system soon.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:35 PM

Home Theater/Media Room Components:

JVC RS20 Projector - with good tweaking the image is spectacularly sharp and rich in contrast.

Flatlift projector lift. Keeps the projector hidden at 23" high, then the telescoping lift brings it up to over 6 feet high for viewing movies.

Screen: Stewart ST-130, viewable image area of 124" wide by up to 64" tall.


For top/bottom masking, I use the Carada Masquerade:


The Carada is a terrific, slick product.

For Side Masking I use a remote controlled panel system from Goelst. It's really quiet and precise. Macro programming of my remote control makes these two systems work simultaneously to alter the screen size/shape any way I want.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:44 PM


I've always had a speaker jones so lots of speakers have passed through my home, including: Quad ESL 63s/Gradient subwoofers, Von Schweikert, Shun Mook, Waveform, Audio Physic (Virgo, Libra, Scorpio), Meadowlark, Thiel, Spendor etc.

When it came to choosing speakers that would do double duty for HT and music, I went to a now-defunct company's products: the Hales Design Group Transcendence Speakers (Paul Hales designer). I'd had the Transcendence 5s at one point and always admired how Paul Hales managed to render the best from metal drivers without any of the negative I often associated - no audible ringing, "zing" tizziness, metalic character, brightness...none of that. Rather, his Transcendence series just had an awesomely clear, richly accurate timbral quality and midrange, all delivered an a relaxed, organic way.

Since that company had closed down years ago I went on a second hand hunt and eventually found some very, very rare items: Transcendence T1 stand mounted monitors and also the huge Transcendence center channel (I think only a few exist). Together these produce a huge midrange presence, rich bass, and a clear, relaxed sound that is so timbrally convincing on effects and voices. Hunting these speakers down was one of the best decisions I made for my home theater.

The Hales center channel goes so low I don't need a subwoofer, so mine is a 7.0 Surround System.

For surrounds I use Monitor Audio speakers. They are one of the closest sounds to the Hales speakers. Monitor Audio is known for it's clean, detailed sound using metal drivers, although their monitor and tower speakers tend to sound more up-tilted and zingy than the hales.
However, their Bronze line of FX speakers actually sound quite a lot like the Hales (more subdued) and make a good match. Smaller Monitor Audio Speakers fill out the two rear FX speakers.

R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:46 PM

Finally, here's a pair of speakers I picked up (excitedly) a few months ago.

My MBL 121 monitors:

From the listening sofa:

If you are in to high end audio and especially if you've been to any of the high end audio shows you may know the MBL omnidirectional speakers. Once I heard the 101s, years ago:


I always dreamed of owning a pair of these unique, but outrageously expensive German speakers. They are one of those high end speakers that actually deliver; they are built and finished like fine jewelry and actually sound the part, with a unique room-energising omnidirectional radiating pattern, an effortless openness and resolution, along with their renowned imaging where the space just becomes populated with performers yet none of the sound seems to be coming from the speakers. It's really something to experience. Definitely some of the most "un-speaker-like" sound I've heard.

At around $45,000 to $55,000/pair I could never afford the big 101s but a while back MBL introduced the 121 monitor sized version... still way too expensive for my blood. But I kept my ear to the ground for many years on audiogon and recently leaped on a second hand pair that were a unique deal/price.

They are kept in a nearby room and throw them in the system when I want. I've had a big grin listening to these things because I finally own a pair of MBLs


R Harkness 06-30-2010 06:46 PM

That's it folks. Hope you enjoyed.

Comments, pro or con, welcome.

Spurrier Sucks 06-30-2010 07:52 PM

Looks great.

hikarate 06-30-2010 09:09 PM

Its like HT is a really difficult math problem and you just solved it. I'm blown away, that masking system is possibly the coolest thing I have ever seen, not to mention everything else. Thanks for sharing.

Roger That 06-30-2010 09:32 PM

mind = blown

Brilliant setup. Huge fan of all your decisions. Hope to achieve something like this in the future.

Congrats on realizing your vision!

LumaMMXII 07-01-2010 02:39 AM

Wow! What an atmosphere. Looks so comfy... and just amazing.
I would say you should be proud... it goes without saying... I'm guessing being there first hand does it all the justice to boot.

R Harkness 07-01-2010 07:53 AM

Thanks! It's nice to see others are appreciating the results!

BTW, if you notice, the screen is lit up in a different color from the room.
I figured, instead of the screen just sitting there like a big, white functional void on one of the walls, why not use it to advantage and make it light up with colors?


For a little razzle-dazzle I bought some of these remote controlled color-changing LED light bulbs:


I put them in the track lights facing the screen:

(They are in "red" mode in the photo).

These lights are great, lighting up my screen, and really add to the look and experience of the room. They can do all sorts of colors and you can choose a single color stay on or you can choose to have the colors slowly dissolve to new colors (med or slow speeds), or flash or whatever.

I love being able to change the color of the screen with my mood. Setting the screen to a "cool" color temperature like blue can really be nice to off-set the warm colors of the room. It's fun to have the colors going when I listen to music as well. Controls for these lights have been programmed into my universal remote, on the "Lights" page.

AvGeek07 07-01-2010 07:23 PM

wow,that is a great setup.
Do you get motion sickness from that close to that projector screen>? At movie theaters i get motion sickness.

R Harkness 07-01-2010 07:35 PM

Originally Posted by AvGeek07 View Post

wow,that is a great setup.
Do you get motion sickness from that close to that projector screen>? At movie theaters i get motion sickness.

Generally, no.

A lot of people find out that you get used to a screen size pretty fast, and even after some people move to projection it's not long before they realise they could have bought an even bigger screen.

Originally I wasn't even planning on projection. A coupe years ago I was going for a 65" plasma, moving up from my current 42" plasma. 65" seemed huge "real cinema" to me then. I borrowed a friend's cheap projector to project a 65" diagonal 16:9 image on my wall, just to see how big it would feel and arrange furniture. But then I zoomed the image bigger and went "wow...THIS feels like the cinema." Going back to 65" suddenly seemed too small.

Originally I figured a 95" diagonal 16:9 image would be plenty big. But luckily I chose to live with projecting images on my wall for quite a while to get used to the experience, and as I did I found myself being acclimatized to larger and larger images, up to even 124" wide. This is one reason why I went for the extra large screen so I'd never feel "I should have gone bigger while I had the chance."

But not all sources look great blown up to the largest sizes, so I vary my image size quite a bit. Most guests love a huge image, but my wife, for instance, does find really big images disorientating. So when we watch together I make the screen smaller to her taste. This being another instance of why the variable screen size works well for me: I can make the image a comfortable size for my wife so she'll join me for watching, and when I watch by myself or with friends I can have a much bigger image.


Tigre 07-03-2010 11:55 PM

::Is speechless::

I really can't put into words of how much I'm digging your setup

R Harkness 07-04-2010 10:32 AM

Much obliged everyone. It's a bit of an unusual system in some respects so I'm glad if it can prove inspiration to anyone else. I've certainly been inspired by people here.

As you can see the sectional sofa is quite large. I wanted to be able to seat as many people as possible (I love watching movies with company). It was custom designed to the square inch to fit in place and be as big as possible, and tall enough to provide good back support while not blocking the view of the bay windows. It's proven a big hit among guests who always remark on how comfortable the seating is for lounging.
It fits up to 6 adults pretty spaciously...great for UFC parties like last night!

Man, I have to say that having the UFC image in HD floating in a big dark surrounding gives it a window-like vibe, like you are sitting at the event! I built this thing to be social, not anti-social, and now my place seems to be the gathering spot for my pals to watch movies and events. So I'm very happy with how things have turned out.

Flat screens are fun and I was a flat screen fanatic for almost a decade, but now that everyone has them a big projected image tends to get the "wow" factor back into home theater. I highly recommend it if you can do it.

hikarate 07-08-2010 02:02 PM

I miss my PJ. Hope to have one back up to pull down in front of my TV at some point.

Daman S 08-02-2010 09:51 AM

This is absolutely fantastic setup Rich!!! Love everything about you room and especially the masking system you are using. Would love to see more pictures as well. Wondering how high is the pj from the rear seat's top?

R Harkness 08-02-2010 07:47 PM

Originally Posted by Daman S View Post

This is absolutely fantastic setup Rich!!! Love everything about you room and especially the masking system you are using. Would love to see more pictures as well. Wondering how high is the pj from the rear seat's top?

Thanks Daman. I'm enjoying the heck outta it I must say.

The top of the sofa is, if I remember 34 to 36" high. The projector lift goes up to 75 1/2" tall.

I'm planning on putting a video of everything in action, projector lift, automated blinds, the masking etc, on my build thread as soon as I can.
FYI, here's my build thread with tons more photos and info:



Daman S 08-04-2010 11:51 AM

Originally Posted by R Harkness View Post

Thanks Daman. I'm enjoying the heck outta it I must say.

The top of the sofa is, if I remember 34 to 36" high. The projector lift goes up to 75 1/2" tall.

I'm planning on putting a video of everything in action, projector lift, automated blinds, the masking etc, on my build thread as soon as I can.
FYI, here's my build thread with tons more photos and info:



Sounds great, ill look fwd to the video and also check out your build thread.

imprez25 08-17-2010 06:11 PM

I am really digging this set up. I might just steal your ceiling and lighting set up for my theater. I have been stuck on how to finish my ceiling for a about 18 months now... and I think I just figured it out!

R Harkness 08-17-2010 06:26 PM

Originally Posted by imprez25 View Post

I am really digging this set up. I might just still your ceiling and lighting set up for my theater. I have been stuck on how to finish my ceiling for a about 18 months now... and I think I just figured it out!

Glad you like it. If you want to know how the ceiling was done you can click the link below my name to my build thread.

It's fabric covered so I could do all sorts of good acoustic stuff for the room on the ceiling, behind the fabric. It turned out great - guests comment on the amazing acoustics of the room all the time.

Being fabric, it also really reduces reflections from the ceiling back to the screen as well, to preserve image contrast.

Another reason to build the ceiling down like that was because our bedroom is right above this home theater room. To ensure as little sound leakage as possible, I built the ceiling down just enough to put pot lights in, so the pot lights didn't have to be cut into the existing ceiling...which leads right to the bedroom and could have leaked sound. The ceiling build-down also helps hide all sorts of mechanical stuff from sight, for instance the curtain tracks and other things, for a clean look. So the ceiling fulfilled all it's purposes beautifully.

I'm super glad I went for a combo of pot lights and track lights. The pot lights are somewhat movable for aiming in different directions, but you'll never get a pot light as flexible as a track light for those purposes. The track lights have been awesome to let me dial in exact areas of lighting and intensity, hitting just the right spots. Properly designed and aimed lighting means you can have quite a bit of light on over the seating area without having much affect on the picture at all.


imprez25 08-18-2010 06:40 AM

I had a chance to check out your build thread. Again, I am really impressed with what you have done. Check out my build thread if you get a chance. our rooms have a similar layout (Though I think yours is a step or two above where I am at. ) I will be comeing back to this thread and your build thread for inspiration.

mhdiab 08-19-2010 02:04 PM

Rich -- the HT looks fantastic. I have a question about your blinds. I looked around your different threads and didn't find to much about them except for the trouble with the wiring.

What brand did you go with etc?


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