Home Theater of the Month: Yellow Dog Cinema

It took Tom Logan 10 long years to complete his home theater, building almost all of it with his own two hands. Then, it was party time!

AVS Forum serves as the inspiration for many home-theater dreams, and it provides an invaluable resource of information about how to turn those dreams into reality. So it was for Tom Logan (tlogan6797) over 10 years ago. “My initial goal was to create a second room to comfortably watch movies and TV. The plan was to finish the entire basement to include the TV, a bar, and a poker table. At that time, the ‘big-screen’ movement was really going mainstream, so I included the idea of adding a big-screen TV. Then, I came across AVS Forum, and next thing I knew, it was a projector and screen. It became not just a room, but a Theater with a capital ‘T.’ Like so many builds on AVS Forum, I got my initial ideas from Jeff Parkinson [BIGmouthinDC].”

Tom’s basement would not be typical of dedicated home theaters—it’s an open layout, not a closed room. “After extensive reading in the AVS Forum Soundproofing master thread and posting some questions, it became clear that an open-concept room would always involve tradeoffs in soundproofing. Fortunately, my wife, my adult son, and I are the only ones living in the house, so waking the baby was not a concern.”

After three or four months of reading AVS Forum, construction began. “I used Dricore as a subfloor, then regular wood studs and two layers of 5/8″ drywall with a layer of Green Glue throughout the entire basement, not just the theater area. The studs are a standard 16″ apart and decoupled using channels and RSIC-DC04 clips. All walls and ceiling are insulated, all electric boxes are backed with putty, and all light cans are IC-rated without backer boxes.”


Here you can see the insulation Tom installed in the walls of the entire basement. Anyone who has built a home theater will certainly recognize the construction clutter.

Tom wasn’t worried about extensive sound isolation, but he was greatly concerned about sound quality within the room. “My main goal was lowering the noise floor inside the room. After consulting with sound designer Bryan Pape [bpape] on AVS Forum for advice on sound treatments, I covered the lower 42″ of the side walls with 1″ Linacoustic covered in GOM [Guilford of Maine] fabric; on the screen wall and the back wall, I used 2″ Linacoustic covered in GOM fabric.”


The bottom portion of the side walls is covered with 1″ Linacoustic material.

Living in northern Virginia near Washington, DC, hurricanes are a real threat. “I had two floods in the basement after starting work on the room. The first occurred after the framing was up, but not the drywall. The remnant of a hurricane came through and the sump pump failed. Fortunately, I had added a flood rider to my homeowner’s insurance, so they paid to replace the Dricore. However, because I built the stud walls on top of the Dricore, I had to cut around the perimeter of the room to remove it. With help from Jeff Parkinson and Mark Wright [BritInVA], we managed to remove the Dricore and get it to the dump on what turned out to be the hottest, most humid day of the year. I replaced the sump pump and added a battery backup.

“Then, three years later—almost to the day—a second flood hit from the remnants of another hurricane. This time, I was home and got the water out quickly. I believe the problem was that the float-type switch on the main pump got hung up in all the wiring in the pit and not only failed to fire the main pump, but also prevented the backup from firing. So, I pulled everything out, replaced the float with the vertical drop-type float and cleaned up everything inside the pit.

“I seriously considered giving up. The drywall was up, and I could imagine the problem if the finished floor and carpet were down. It was probably another year before I really got moving again. I wanted to make sure I had no mold issues, that everything was dry, and that the sump pumps were going to work. As the Dricore dried out, the edges swelled and created little raised edges between every section. Once I was sure it was dry, rather than remove it, I used my electric planer and shaved down the edges. Hard as it was on my back, it was a lot easier than picking it all up and putting it back down. It has been dry ever since, even through Hurricane Sandy.”


Tom bought some SMX woven screen material to replace the material in a cheap retractable mechanism. Talk about DIY!

Once the basic room was done and protected from more flooding, it was time to install the AV equipment. “Initially, I was planning a 16:9 screen to accommodate TV, but like just about everything else along the way, that evolved; it became a 2.35:1 acoustically transparent screen. I bought a cheap electric-retractable screen and replaced the material with some SMX acoustically transparent woven material I bought from an AVS Forum member. For the surround system, 5.1 was the norm at the time, but given the odd-shaped back of the room, and on advice of Axiom, the maker of my speakers, I added a third surround speaker in the middle of the back wall.” He also installed ButtKicker transducers in the four main theater seats.


With the screen retracted, you can see the center speaker and SVS subwoofer behind it. The front LR speakers are placed outside the screen boundaries, hidden behind frames covered in black GOM fabric.


The screen is 16:9 natively, but Tom installed a black mask at the bottom so that the active image area is 2.35:1. He uses the Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector’s lens memories to achieve a constant image height with content of different aspect ratios.

All in all, it took 10 years to complete Tom’s theater. Why so long? For one thing, he did almost all the work himself. “Only the drywall was contracted out. Everything else was DIY, including the HVAC, plumbing, electrical, low-voltage, framing, cabinets for the bar, candy counter, and ticket booth. A buddy did the carpet install, but I helped out there too. And I should mention that Jeff Parkinson made several in-person ‘consults’ as we called them.”


Tom and a buddy installed the carpet—with some encouragement from Tom’s dog Max.

“The one thing I truly underestimated was the amount of time I had to work on this project. Each day, I left by 7:00 AM to go to work, and I didn’t get home until after 6:00 PM, and I was often not in the mood to start working on it that late in the evening. Also, many weekends were spoken for between family, the band I was playing in, and golf. I also found that as time wore on, I could only work about six hours on a good day before my back started acting up.”


Behind the theater area is a fully stocked bar.

Because of all the DIY work, the cost to build Tom’s theater was surprisingly low. “All in, it was about $29,000.” That includes the drywall contractor’s labor, all construction materials, seating, and AV equipment. It’s a lot less than many such rooms, even those the owners built entirely by themselves.


Four Berkline 2010 recliners put viewers’ eyes 12 feet from the screen.

Once the theater—dubbed the Yellow Dog Cinema after Tom’s beloved yellow Labrador Max—was finally finished, he decided to host a grand opening, complete with a red carpet and celebrity impersonators. “After 10 years of hard work, I wanted to throw a party to celebrate. As I talked with my wife Melinda—known to AVSers as Loganess—I said it would be really neat to have a red carpet for the guests to enter the house.”


Tom rolled out the red carpet—and a covered walkway because of rain—for his guests at the grand-opening gala.

“Then we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to have a Joan Rivers impersonator out there doing interviews? And if we’re doing that, maybe we should have some other celebrity impersonators at the party, and Loganess and I would be the last ‘celebrities’ to arrive. And if we’re doing that, we should arrive by limo!”


Tom and his wife Melinda (aka Loganess) arrived in style, protected from the rain by a “security guard”—actually, their son Bryan—with a huge umbrella.

“We have a bit of a reputation for throwing fun parties, and I am well aware of how much work it takes. I wanted Loganess to enjoy this party, so I thought we should have catered food, passed hors d’oeuvres and champagne, and a bartender. One thing led to another and it turned into a Gala Grand Opening.”


Among the party guests were (L-R) Daniel Craig, Marilyn Monroe, and Jim Carrey—or at least close facsimiles thereof.

The party was a huge success, and now that it’s over, Tom and his family and friends get to enjoy the fruits of his considerable labor at their leisure. And what sweet fruit it is!

For much more detail about how Tom Logan’s home theater came together, check out the build thread here.

If you’d like your home theater considered for HT of the Month, PM me with the details and a link to your build thread if available.

EQUIPMENT LIST

Sources

Panasonic DMP-BDT330 Blu-ray player
Comcast cable box
Roku 3 streaming box

AV Electronics

Denon AVR-3806 AV receiver
ButtKicker BKA300-4 amp for ButtKicker transducers

Processor

VIP 3D Theatre video processor

Projector

Panasonic PT-AE4000

Screen

SMX (102″ diagonal, 2.35:1, acoustically transparent woven, 1.1 gain, retractable)

Speakers

Axiom M60 v2 (front LR)
Axiom VP160 v2 (center)
Axiom QS8 (3, LR side surround, rear surround)
SVS Cylinder 39-20 PCi Plus subwoofer

Cables

Monoprice HDMI
Monoprice in-wall speaker wire
RG6 Quad Shield coax (component video, composite video, analog audio)

Control

URC 980 RF remote
Monoprice 4×4 HDMI matrix switcher
Insteon lighting control

Power Conditioning

None

Seating

Berkline 2010 (4; black leather/vinyl recliners)
Pastel Furniture Glenwood swivel barstools (6)

Room Dimensions

Main theater area: 12′ 1″ (W) x 17′ (L) x 7′ 3″ (H)
Distance from screen to main seats: 12′
Bar area: 12′ 1″ (W) x 15′ (L) x 7′ 6″ (H)