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Lighting design confirmation

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
After months of sporadic research on these forums (thanks to all for the enormous amount of advice and info!) I've started construction of my basement theater. I'm finalizing my lighting design and want to run it by you guys to see if there's something I'm missing or haven't thought of.

My theater will be about 20' x 12', with no windows. I'm pretty much set on Insteon with the RF access points, as the RF control and a Harmony 890 will control my equipment in the adjacent room nicely. I'm planning on 5 dimmable zones (wall sconces, front soffit lights, rear soffit lights, perimeter rope light, and can lights above the seating in case I want to read in there... I know, I know . In addition, the riser step lights would be on/off. At this point, I'm debating whether I should install wiring for them all, but leave out the wall sconces themselves until I'm sure I need the additional light.

What sort of spacing is typical for lights in a shallow soffit (I want to keep the soffit to less than 6" high)? This will be a dedicated theater, but I don't want a cave down there. Do I need the can lights to read by? I'm DD+GG the ceiling and walls, and using staggered stud for the interior walls, so the fewer penetrations the better. If I go with the can lights in the ceiling, I'd be building boxes for them.

Hope that wasn't too long, and thanks in advance!
post #2 of 24
Look at the pics in my theater to see if the can spacing is applicable to your design.

The 4" cans in my soffit are spaced so they line up with my frames.. which puts them about every 30.5".

I didn't want sconces because I like the look of cans better and because my room is only 10ft. wide.

I put 2 lights in the ceiling over each row of seats - 6 lights in total. The front 2 rows (4 lights) are on one zone and the 3rd row of lights are on a second zone by themselves. I find that there are may times that I want more light in the room but I don't want the light to affect the image on the screen. That's where having the 3rd row of ceiling lights comes in handy.

I also suggest that you should be able to dim every light in the room, even the step lights.

Best of luck.
post #3 of 24
Originally Posted by budk View Post

The front 2 rows (4 lights) are on one zone and the 3rd row of lights are on a second zone by themselves. I find that there are may times that I want more light in the room but I don't want the light affect the image on the screen. That's where having the 3rd row of ceiling lights comes in handy.

Great idea! Thank you.

post #4 of 24
Spacing will depend on the angle of the beam and the height above the illuminated surface/object. Think of the beam as a cone with the vertex at the lamp. The base of the cone (a circle) will be wider - and also dimmer - as you move the lamp up, and get smaller and brighter as you move it down. IIRC, typical lamps for 4" fixtures (MR-16) have a 35° beam angle (if you specify, there are about 6 angles available), so from 8' will throw about a 6' circle. On a plan of your room, try overlaying the floor with such circles centered on your lamps. They should overlap some. Minimize dark areas. 4' is a reasonable spacing for an 8' ceiling.

Also consider the pattern that the lamps will throw on the walls. And remember that there are steerable trims (lamp mounts) available for your cans if you can't put them directly over what they will illuminate.
post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 
Great theater, budk! With the spacing of lights you've got, it looks like the theater can be lit up pretty well. And as I understand it, wall sconces are intended more for task lighting than general room lighting, but as pointed out in a PM, people tend to underestimate their lighting needs, and it definitely won't hurt to wire for sconces in case I want them in the future.

DMF, thanks for the rule of thumb. I'm an engineer and like numbers, so I'll be sure to see how your lighting guide plays out for me. For lights located near the wall in soffits, is it preferred to install steerable trims that can be angled in toward the center of the room so that the light doesn't just light up the wall itself? I do want to accent a few planned features on the walls, but I also want to ensure I can light up the room adequately so it doesn't always seem dark. I'm hoping for a kind of "multipurpose" theater that doesn't necessarily scream out at you that you're in a theater (ie. when showing my home to prospective buyers at some point in the future).

Thanks for the help!
post #6 of 24
I would think twice about the perimeter rope lights. To me they're just a visual distraction. Soffit ropes are fine for effect, but don't depend on them for ambient illumination.

Sconces are for both ambient light and effect. They are rarely used for task lighting. I'd use them only for effect since ambient coverage isn't very good. That might mean that you don't need sconces at all. I don't use them. Instead I let the in-ceiling ambients wash the walls. The spaced parabolas look very nice (IMO). But if you have columns the spacing of which doesn't correspond to the cans, you may prefer sconces on or between the columns.

IMO your primary fixtures should be the 4" in-ceiling fixtures with MR-16 lamps. MR-16s have much better reflectors, and choice of trims, than other 4" lamp types.

Most MR-16 trims are steerable, but with the ones where the lamp is recessed (i.e. the ones you'd use for ambient lighting) the range isn't great.

Close to the wall it's not easy to avoid washing the wall, but it can be done. With ambient trims you can steer the lamps so that the beam intersects the walls at different levels. Lamps with different beam angles affect this too, but then you're compromising coverage. In more unusual cases there are beam shaping "filters" you can place over the lamp. I have one fixture that I needed to illuminate the whole of a flight of stairs below, yet not shine through a window a couple of feet away, so I couldn't use a wide beam. Instead I used a "beam stretcher" with a narrower lamp that elongates the beam on one axis. Works a treat!

On the other end of the spectrum there are dedicated wall-washing trims. Those seem most useful for high walls and special apps.

I do have scattered gimbal (eyeball) trims (what you're probably thinking of as steerable trims) on a separate zone dedicated to effects. I can set one to pick out a painting or poster on the wall, or illuminate a tabletop or sculpture, or wash the curtain. But I don't like them for ambient illumination at low levels. The lamp isn't nearly as well masked as with the recessed trims and it's all too easy to get an eyeful from the lamp instead of the screen. At low levels that zone is very low or off.

For dedicated effects, like illuminating a sculpture or a book (one book, not several), go with something like a pinpoint trim and spotlight beam (14°?).

For ambients try to use specular reflectors. The trim cone below the lamp is mirrored so that the incident light isn't scattered but reflected down into the beam. Unless you're looking up into the beam the fixture will practically disappear. Great for theaters, but it means your plan has to have all the coverage you need. Unfortunately specular reflectors weren't available in the nickle color I needed so I have stepped reflectors behind the seats and smooth reflectors in front. Not as good, but not bad.

Rather than put the in-ceiling cans on the same zone, try to identify different uses. There may be two "ambient" zones, one with a fixture above the entrance, plus a couple more over walkways. Another would be the rest of the ambient fixtures. A third zone for the task light(s). A fourth for (all?) the soffits.

Can you post a plan?
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
Wow, informative post, DMF! Looks like I've got some more research ahead of me. Unfortunately I don't have time at the moment what with the holiday travelling for family and all, but when I'm back I'll definitely post an outline of my planned room and look into what you're talking about. Quite frankly, I need to do some research just to really understand what you're recommending!
post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
Okay, I'm back from holidays and thinking about home theater again. Hope you all enjoyed your holidays (I envy those with completed theaters!). I've thrown together a lighting arrangement that I think should be reasonable, what do you guys think?

I will need 5, maybe 6, zones of Insteon control, depending on whether I install rope lighting in the soffit: puck lights behind screen wall (can Insteon control these?), front two can lights, rear 4 can lights, 4 wall sconces (to be installed only if required after the theater is built and painted), riser step lights, and possibly rope lights. The front can lights are shown 3'6" from the screen, will this be too close? Unfortunately Sketch Up doesn't seem to want to show the color of the various objects in the room to help figure out what's what, but hopefully it still makes sense.

Finally, if I do install rope lights, is it common for people to install an Insteon receptacle at ceiling level to plug the rope light into?
post #9 of 24
Your can spacing is okay. But I'm not sure what you intend the rear four cans to do. Ambient, or task light for the seating positions? If the latter, you're going to have poor ambient coverage to the sides and behind the rear couch, and not very good coverage to the sides of the front couch. (Assuming you're using pinpoint spots.)

Try sketching to scale vertical slices through the rear couch parallel and perpendicular to screen. (Remember the risers.) Locate the spots and draw the cones at the nominal angle. You'll see how the couch casts shadows across the walkways.

If ambient, consider moving the rear two closer to the side and back walls.

Behind-screen lights don't need to be on Insteon. Just put a switch next to the egress point.

Don't get too dedicated to the can locations until you've mapped the joists above. There will be about a 12" (for IC cans) strip centered on the joist where a can can't go.
post #10 of 24
I did almost the same can lighting setup in my 12' x 18' space with six 4" cans on two zones and it looked like plenty of light - way more than I would ever need... then I painted the ceiling black and the walls dark brown and in retrospect I wish I would have added more lights. Three across would have been perfect.

One other thing that in hindsight I would have done differently is placed the lights slightly behind my seating area instead of right above. Now when I recline I have lights in my face if they are turned on for any reason (like my wife wanting to see what she's eating for instance...). Moving them back a foot or two would have been better (not that I plan on tearing down sheetrock and moving them...)
post #11 of 24
I think you're on to something.

I would move all 6 closer to the side walls (12-24"?), make them all ambients, and add a third ambient in the front. Then add a pinpoint spot at the midpoint of each couch. Put the pinpoints on a separate zone. Seriously consider putting all eight ambients in the same zone (with the possible of exception of the center one).

Don't worry about even spacing - adjust as required. You'll never notice that they're not in a perfect grid pattern, especially if painted to match the ceiling.

If you use specular reflectors for the front ambients, they can stay on at the low level of the rear ambients and they'll never bother you during a flick. (I think I'd run the front center cable so that it could easily be put on a different zone if desired. You may decide to convert it to a screen wash some day. Remember that trims are easily replaced!)

With the rear ambients to the side, you won't be looking up into a light when reclining since the spots are unlikely to be on when you're reclining...
post #12 of 24
In a totally light controlled space with lots of dark surfaces, you're going to need more light than you think..especially if you compare it to a "normal" space with plenty of lighter colors and ambient lighting.

I have 11 6 inch cans just for the primary viewing space (over the stage, between the riser/stage, and over the riser). I have a relatively large space, however.

In addition to the primary lighting, I will have several additional sources of lighting: 4 soffit 4 inch cans, sconces, rope lighting, etc.

With a dark ceiling, dark carpet, dark colors...it is much easier to dim lighting to a more appropriate setting than not having enough in the first place.

Good Luck!
post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks, guys! I've incorporated much of the suggestions in my planning, tweaked a bit (likely not for the last time ), and have some questions after doing some reading. Updated plan:
- 3 ambient lights approximately in line with the door on 1 zone
- 1 ambient light just past each end of each row of seats (4 lights) on 1 zone
- 2 pinpoint lights above the center seating positions on 1 zone
- 2 step lights on 1 zone
- 3 puck lights behind the false screen wall on an old-fashioned, non-automated circuit
- wiring for 4 wall sconces on 1 zone should the need arise

I think I'll leave out rope lighting in the soffits since the ceiling will likely be fairly dark (and my credit card could use the relief!). All ambient lights adjacent to walls will be about 2' from the walls.

Now for some questions. I was in HD today and saw a 6 pack of 4" IC rated 120V housings and picked them up figuring they'd be what I'd need. Looking at them closer, I don't think they can accommodate clips/channel/DD. Anyone know for sure whether the Halo H99ICT can be adjusted sufficiently?

I like the options provided by MR16 bulbs but two things worry me - hum and control. I've read that low voltage lights tend to hum when dimmed - is this only for cheaper brands? And is there anything in addition to a standard Insteon switch required?
post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 
Oops. Looks like I had my thinking backwards. I thought I was supposed to buy new construction recessed can housings - my bad. Looks like it's off to HD for a return!
post #15 of 24
It seems a shame to use a whole zone for two step lights. They never need dimming, only on/off. They could go on a manual switch.

Hmmm. Maybe the whole GE could be on the same switch. That would force you to turn on the step lights (and other safety lights?) whenever the theater is in use.

Uhh.. what cans are you intending to buy?
post #16 of 24
Looks like I missed a couple of questions.

Re: the cans. If the ceiling is open, then new construction is correct. But you said this:

If I go with the can lights in the ceiling, I'd be building boxes for them.

You won't need IC for boxes, though it can't hurt. I don't understand what issues you have with the mountings? They're designed to fit between the ceiling joists. Don't they? They'd mount in a box the same way.

If an LV fixture buzzes, there's something wrong with it. MR-16 MLV is definitely the way to go. I can't imagine that Insteon would have a problem with MLV. But that's a question for Insteon. I don't use it.
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
Good point about the step lights. Having them Insteon controlled is probably overkill. Maybe it's a dumb question, but what do you mean by GE? I'm not planning on using Graphik Eye, if that's what it is. I like the RF capabilities of Insteon.

Regarding the can housings, I plan on following the instructions in the Soundproofingcompany's guide:

They don't recommend new construction housings. My concern about them not being adjustable comes from the fact that they can't extend down to be flush with DD. Although I've since realized that that function is probably served by the trim and not the housing.
post #18 of 24
Thread Starter 
I emailed smarthome asking whether their "Keypadlinc and Switchlinc dimmers work with 12 V halogen light fixtures?", and here's their response:

"Officially, dimming transformers are not supported with these products. You can check with the maker of the transformer to see if the transformer will support dimming from a electronic triac leading edge dimmer. If the transformer does support this, our dimmers will work."

So evidently Insteon can work with low voltage lighting, but you have to be somewhat picky. Anybody care to point out some websites and/or box stores where I could find adequate transformers? (There must be a few theater owners in this forum with both Insteon and low voltage lighting that work well together, right?)
post #19 of 24
Originally Posted by CdnTiger View Post

Maybe it's a dumb question, but what do you mean by GE? I'm not planning on using Graphik Eye, if that's what it is. I like the RF capabilities of Insteon.

Not dumb. I forgot you're using Insteon. (You know that Lutron has RF dimmers too?)

"Not supported"?? What does Insteon support? Line level passive only?

Drop USA Light a email with the triac question. I'll be shocked if the answer is, "No". (Afaik, Lutron GE uses those types of dimmers and there's never been a question about MLV on them.)

The fixtures we've been talking about each has an integral transformer. Some more expensive ($$$) lines use separate transformers.
post #20 of 24
Thread Starter 
I'm taking my sweet time, but I finally fired an email off to USALight asking about compatibility with the Insteon system. Here's the back-and-forth:

Me: "I would like to install an Insteon dimmable lighting system with MR-16 bulbs. I asked Insteon whether their dimmers worked with 12V halogen light fixtures, and they replied, "Officially, dimming transformers are not supported with these products. You can check with the maker of the transformer to see if the transformer will support dimming from a electronic triac leading edge dimmer. If the transformer does support this, our dimmers will work."

Do the MR-16 bulbs and transformers you have available meet the above mentioned requirements?


USALight: "The bulb is dimmable. but which light are you putting it in? track, recessed. etc.
Thank you,

Me: "I'd be installing the lights in my home theatre ceiling in recessed cans.

I haven't been able to find a definitive answer about whether the Insteon system is compatible with low voltage halogen lighting, and Insteon's answer just left me with a question for the bulb and transformer suppliers.

Thanks again,

USALight: "the transformers for recessed lights are both electronic or magnetic. They are both dimmable but you have to use the right dimmer. only the dimmer dealers will know which dimmer is right.
Thank you,

So basically, I'm just running around in circles! Anybody have any experience with getting meaningful answers from suppliers?
post #21 of 24
I cannot respond with respect to what Insteon can, or cannot dim. The entire issue boils down to the type of transformer used by the low voltage fixture. Virtually all dimmers have no problem dimming magnetic transformer loads. If the transformer is electronic, you'd need to go back to the manufacturer and ask if they will dim electronic transformers and if an interface is required for that purpose. ALSO, there are some electronic transformers which specifically state they cannot be dimmed. Ardee Varianti and Halo 1499 fixtures use magnetic transformers and can be easily dimmed.

Low voltage housings (or fixtures) are generally available in three variants:

1. Magnetic low voltage transformer located inside each housing (meaning the electrician wires standard 120V to each fixture;
2. Electronic low voltage transformer located inside each housing wired as above; or,
3 No transformer in the housing. These fixtures are wired with low voltage (Class 2) wiring back to a central transformer rated to handle the load of all fixtures on the transformer. (This is an option with, for example, Ardee and Seagull.)

Ok, so how do you get an answer from a supplier? First, understand the dimmer manufacturer (unless it's Lutron) isn't going to say they can, or cannot dim, any specific fixture. They are not about to be held liable for the performance of some other manufacturer's fixtures. The manufacturer, in the case of electronic low voltage transformers, is not going to say if any dimmer manufacturer's product will properly dim their transformer ... they don't want to be buying you new dimmers. The lighting fixture manufacturer can tell you if their ELV transformer can or cannot be dimmed.

You therefore have to ask the lighting manufacturer if the transformer is magnetic or electronic, if electronic, can it be dimmed (they should be able to email you the specifications). After you have this information, call Insteon (if they'll answer the phone and have someone who knows something about the product), if they can dim the Electronic Low Voltage transformers and under what conditions (interface, special dimmer, etc.)

Insteon does claim their Model #2476D dimmer can dim electronic low voltage and magnetic low voltage loads. I am not an Insteon fan and would direct you toward Lutron's RadioRA2 product...but, that's just my opinion.
post #22 of 24
Is the Phast MLC's that you can purchase on Ebay a viable option?
post #23 of 24
Phast? Don't even think about it.
post #24 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the post DE! Sounds like the kind of no-nonsense comment I was hoping for (and I'll be sure to read it again so that I can understand everything you're saying )
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