or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:


post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
At last the Ad Astra Theater is nearly complete.

Back of theater: DVD shelves finally in place.

Right side - It was great to get the DVD's from downstairs out of the closet!

Side panorama shot. Before the final paint was done, but this gives a pretty good idea of the layout:

And front shots. I'll need to update the completion shots to a little clearer, but it's quite dark in there!

From the myriad threads on this and other sites, I've concluded that a theater is NEVER actually complete, the builder is in the resting stage. With the installation very close to completion, I decided to share my experience of creating our second floor which includes the theater.
A little background. I'm an associate manager with a medical records auditing and coding company based in South Carolina. My wife, step-son and I live just southeast of Raleigh, NC. I worked for a company in Wilmington for over 17 years until I was laid off along with quite a few others about 10 years ago. The same year I was separated from my first wife, and 9/11 occurred - not a good year. Previously, I taught myself cabinet making and small furniture making as a hobby, with a pretty nice garage workshop. I was an instrument electrician in the Air Force, and for a couple of years at the former company. All of that came into play when I realized I had to go back to college at age 40 supporting myself by doing trim carpentry for 3 ½ years. It was tough trying to marry speed with quality, as I didn't have the luxury of time while working on other people's homes! But I learned a lot about efficiency, tricks of the trade, and how to get by with less in the way of shop tools. I also got back into pretty good shape! After graduation, I went back to a desk job, met my beautiful wife, and we bought a home together about three years ago.
Long searching led us to this very nice place that satisfied many requirements, especially a big kitchen, interesting architecture, and more importantly for my fervid imagination, a large unfinished area called the second floor! The entire 1400 sq. ft. second floor had a roof, some stubbed up plumbing, one electrical circuit, and the A/C lines. A wonderful blank slate.
The genesis of the theater idea started years before with a simple setup, consisting of a 27 inch Sony CRT, and 5.1 Bose Acoustimass speakers. That grew into a 36 inch version (a 240 pound beast!) CRT for my bonus room and finally, as a present to myself, post graduation and post divorce, a 46 DLP rear projection monitor from a then little known company called LG. This was coupled with a newer version of the Bose cube setup in a small apartment and later a rented house. It was pure heaven for my inexperienced viewing pleasure!

No work was started in the new home's unfinished area for a while, and then I discovered Google Sketchup. Interestingly, I discovered Sketchup, http://sketchup.google.com/ , not from this forum, but to replace an outdated drawing package I had, called "Canvas". The tutorials and some practice enabled some proficiency, enough to get me started on the basic model layouts for upstairs. At first, my main goal was to create space for the many books I tend to collect (prior to getting a Nook for a Christmas present, which saves lots of space!), and to have a nice area to watch movies, which has always been a passion. What started as an open floor plan:

led eventually to the idea of a dedicated theater.

Iron Man sold the idea to my wife. During the early days of research and discovering great sites such as AVSForum.com and Hometheater.com, I looked around our area for a place to see a setup or two. I discovered Audio Advice and Intelligent Electronics. I checked these businesses out first, to scout around, and was mesmerized. Suddenly, I'm learning about brands like Runco, Def Tech, Planar, Integra, when previously the most exotic speakers I knew of was Krell or Klipsch. I took my wife back to Intelligent Electronics first, and asked the guy to set up "Iron Man", since she was familiar with that movie. He played the scene where Robert Downey, Jr. tries on the suit for the first time. I can't remember for sure which subwoofer he had going, but I think it was a Velodyne or one of Atlantic Technology's. The picture was pretty great from an older 3 chip Runco, and the first time the LFE's came back into us, my wife looked at me and said, Oooo, we gotta get one of those!

post #2 of 49
Thread Starter 
I apologize in advance if anything seems out of sequence. I am remembering all this after the build, so some of it is a bit of a blur!

I tried to photograph as much as I could during the process, though I wasn't as thorough as some on the step by step of each phase of construction. Just too tired! However, I'll be glad to answer any questions to the extent I remember details.

I tend to research something I enjoy very thoroughly, and pick up ideas and such very quickly. But the sheer volume of information for dedicated theaters was almost overwhelming. I felt I had to look at everything I could for fear of missing out on one crucial part that I just knew I had to have or do. I read and re-read countless threads, articles, books such as "Practical Home Theater", by Mark Fleischmann, and went back to the Sketchup board. Interestingly, even when I settled on a certain idea, several of the best revisions came just before I started building, such as placement of the doors.
Since this was not only the theater, but several other living spaces, I had to budget both money and time accordingly. Especially since all of this was done over weekends for about 18 months, since I often travel during the week. Included in the final plan: a library, a full bathroom, a craft area (which is the only area that has a wooden floor, the rest is carpeted. ), a cozy nook for my wife, another area we called the common cozy corner', and the man cave. Only the man cave is still in its raw format, as I want to spend some more time on its design. It will have a loft as well as other cool features, maybe even a rock climbing wall...! More on that later.

The ceiling height varies in the whole space, from a little over eight feet in the common areas, to seven or so feet in the nook area, close to ten feet in the theater and library, and about fifteen feet in the man cave.
By far, though, the theater took the longest, mostly due to the planning stage. The construction part wasn't as tough, but with so many details concerning placement and position, and compromises, it was almost six months just for the basic build.

We decided on the name Ad Astra Theater (Latin for To The Stars) early on, based on a great suggestion by a friend who is really into astronomy. Since I will eventually have a fiber optic star ceiling in there, that will work very well. I've also created an intro to the movies using a movie producing software called PowerDirector by CyberLink :
(http://www.cyberlink.com/products/po...n_US.html?&r=1 ).


Oh how I wanted this, but needed to do that, and that would be cool, but not enough room, and how about that, but it's on a second floor. It was very hard to settle for certain things, but the budget was spread out over the other areas, also. I decided one of the best ways to start would be to get the basic dimensions of the theater. I used one of the online calculators, which was very helpful. The dimensions are 15.5 ft wide, 9.8 ft tall, by 22 feet long after the dry wall was put up. I used only green glue between two sheets of 5/8 drywall and UltraTouch sound deadening insulation (recycled blue jeans) for the sound proofing, along with two solid core exterior doors that are sealed around the perimeter. I also ran acoustic caulking all around the seams before the drywall went up, and afterwards. Plus, used the putty for around the outlets and light fixture boxes.

There are many borrowed ideas from these threads, Google results, and other websites, plus a lot of our own design features. That would be an interesting contest: see who can spot the most ideas borrowed from other builds!
post #3 of 49
Thread Starter 
Design Ideas

I finally settled on the idea of art deco for the most part, because of the timelessness of it, and the theaters that I really loved from photos had that style. This style carried over into the other parts of the upstairs projects as well.

The bathroom. I made the vanity (first time using Corian, what fun!) and mirror in kind of an art deco flair, with the fixtures reflecting that.

Details in the library area:

Some were borrowed ideas, some were original. A lot of skills needed I already had, thank goodness, and some were new to me (cloth manipulation over frames being one in particular!). I also added some aspects of the galaxy, and stars, to the trim features, since that was the name of the theater.
post #4 of 49
Thread Starter 
Early Floor Plan Ideas:

The earliest ideas had a lobby, then a walkaround with shelves on the outside. There was also an open floor plan idea, but as I said earlier, the dedicated version won out.

At first, I wanted the pass through door to the library to be in the back of the theater, and that caused many design problems.

I changed it to opposite the entrance door, which is in the middle of the wall, and that solved quite a few issues with balance and spacing. Here's a version that's getting closer to the final product:

The space in the library acts as a buffer for the windows on the exterior wall, thus eliminating the street traffic noise and any light entering the theater. I have almost complete access to all the walls from behind, which is very convenient for upgrades, repairs, etc. I decided to put the equipment on a simple rack bought secondhand, but still fairly nice looking, and set in the library:

It's a little neater now, and I've added a 19" television on top for setups and troubleshooting. Plus, there is carpet and baseboard in this room now.

This eliminates noise, heat, and extraneous light in the theater. My wife likes it because it keeps the library rather warm, perfect for her! I may make another more intricate one in the future if I add more components such as an HTPC, but for now, it's fine.
post #5 of 49
Thread Starter 

There are four columns, that are split into two parts, with a cloth covered removable panel in between. The back columns house the surround speakers, and the front two may eventually house additional speakers if I get to that point. All the columns have access on the bottom that will store dvds, and the doors are insulated for some acoustic treatment. One of the things on my to do list is to possibly get a professional audio analysis one day, but for now, it sounds great to us, and that’s what’s important. The Audyssey setup on the Onkyo and my little bit of tweaking for personal taste seem to work very well.

The design on the top of columns is based on a local movie theater’s poster box, which is also what the poster box outside of the theater will be based on. When finished, there will be a marquee at the top of columns at the entrance, as well as art deco door hardware, and some three dimensional décor on the door itself that my wife will create.

I really wanted to keep the little moon on there, but my wife said it reminded her too much of an outhouse:

From the local theater, haven't built this yet:


There is a riser that is built on the floating tactile transducer/bass trap design featured in Audioholics by Aurelex.


I know there are some that are skeptical of the accuracy of this design, citing the need for tuning, etc. but for my purposes it feels good and seems to help capture those LFE’s. The riser also has steps on the sides that are the same height as the back step leading to behind the bar. The love seat sits on this area, but it would hold the couch if needed.


In back are two floor to ceiling DVD shelves with another four shelves between at the top, for a total of 18 shelves. The middle two shelves also hold the rear surround speakers, which are now some really sweet Klipsch Reference Series RS-41 II (thanks honey!!).


The diagonal strip in the middle of the wall gives an impression of the projector beam going to the front. This was my wife’s idea and I really like it because it’s different from anything else I’ve seen. Since the ceilings are sloped at the front and back, I dropped down crown molding ¾ of the way around the room, and installed two rope lights, one orange, one blue, to give the impression of sunset. I have mixed feelings about it now, it just doesn’t look exactly like I would like, but really love the dark blue, which is also under the steps and under the bar in the back.

The lighting is controlled by a Lutron Grafik Eye 3104 (four zones) I got from Ebay at half the price of new. There are spot lights on the front for the screen, a bar light (the cans look like miniature movie lights), the four sconces on the columns, and the two rope light setups. I’ve been thinking about changing the wiring to make the front and back spot lights on separate controls, and may do that this winter, but right now they are controlled by one circuit from the Lutron. The ropes and the sconces are on separate circuits within the controller.


I know, I know, I think that a lot of home theater enthusiasts get their equipment, chairs, etc. early on, for various reasons, but for me and many others, it’s a practical choice to help determine the layout of the room. Once I knew the ideal distance to the screen, size of the projector, size of speakers, and after much perusal, size of furniture, then I could build around all that.

As I said, my “high end” experience was very limited at the start of this endeavor, and how overwhelming it is to try to figure out what would work best, and what you want, for a setup. I didn’t want to go to all the trouble and expense of creating a standalone theater and get inadequate components. I started with a slightly older Onkyo AVR that didn’t have HDMI inputs, a Sony BDP-N460 Blu-ray player with streaming capability, and the aforementioned Bose Acoustimas speakers. I also had a Monster power conditioner/surge protector.

From my research, I determined that I wanted very clear, crisp sound, with a powered subwoofer, 7.1 configuration, a high definition projector, 16:9 screen, and remote control to another room. Looking at several setups, I was really tempted to get one of the Sony products or the Planar 8150 I saw on display. Speakers were tough, because the setups I listened to and liked the best were high end Bowers and Wilkins, or Def Tech Mythos (almost got those), or Klipsch Reference brands, etc. Most of which were on the high end of my budget. After a little deliberation, I bargained for a good package deal for the Planar 8150 projector and Atlantic Technology 4400 speakers with the 642e Powered Subwoofer. I have the speakers set on top of Aurulex foam to help isolate them from their wood platforms.

The speakers were a joy to get, and I still remember coming back from an assignment I was on and hurrying to beat a snow storm to get to the store! My wife was picking up her son from school and couldn’t make it from there with her Subaru to help with the loading (my car is an older Acura) so I wound up taking the sub out of the box (gads it was huge!) to be able to set it in the front seat! But I made it, and set it up along with the projector in a small room we were using as the “video” room for big screen (the 46” LG) viewing and game playing:

I thought the subwoofer was going to eat all those little cube speakers. I still fiddle with the setup anytime I make any changes in the room, and I’m often gazing longingly at another subwoofer, but that will be way in the future!
Amazingly, right out of the box, the Planar looked phenomenal on the bare, tan wall, projected at about 70 inches. We enjoyed many hours watching that and listening to the speakers in a very odd setup! And if I had any doubt my wife was on board with the idea, she made a little Christmas ornament of a Planar cartoon character for me!

The screen I got was a 110” diagonal Hurley Screen at 1.0 gain. This screen was relatively inexpensive, and looks fantastic, at least for my setup. I had thought about the AT type of screens, but my wife and I both agreed that we were too distracted by the perforations. Of course, it could have been the one we looked at, but it was a Stewart version so maybe it was just personal preference. The price of a ready-made screen was a bit much considering I thought I could build that myself pretty easily. It was a bit tedious, but it still looks pretty cool to me. The main seats on the riser set back about 12.5 feet from the screen, the front seats are at 10.5 feet. Not great for the front, but as I said before, still pretty good for the average viewing.

Before all was complete, I wound up getting, at a very good price at the time, another Onkyo AVR, the TX-SR876, since it has HDMI inputs and the Audyssey setup capability, and a very sweet 50th birthday present from my wife (no, you can’t have her), the OPPO BDP-93 blu-ray player. I also installed a UPS for the projector, a Monster Cable voltage conditioner and surge protector and most recently, a 19” LED Panasonic TV to make setting changes, play Pandora, etc. without having to turn on the projector.


To control all that, I have a Harmony One remote, my second version of a Harmony remote, and a X10 Powermid IR extender. Interestingly, I use the output of the blaster’s receiver plugged directly into the Onkyo’s IR input, but need the regular emitter from the output to run the OPPO. I tried a stereo, then a mono 3.5 mm cable directly into the OPPO, but never got it to work.

I like the Harmony, though I still need practice to get the settings just so. I had some issues with it for a bit, but through these forums and some Google searching, found that I had the receiver too close to the amplifier. Once I moved that a bit, it works perfectly. Of course, the projector and the Lutron lighting are in the room, so no blaster needed.
post #6 of 49
Thread Starter 

Construction began in October, two years ago, with the cozy nook. I wanted to get my feet wet as it had been a little while since I had done any sort of construction projects, so I built a vanity for my wife first, which matches the bedroom furniture. This is the Sketchup illustration of it:

My wife and I teamed up and installed blown in insulation under the flooring in the nook area, which is over the garage. That was a pretty fun day, actually, though quite messy! I think we used about 25 bags just for that little area, and back into the craft area. Then I framed up my first knee walls, and started the carcass of the window seat. I initially wanted to use a bead board look on the back wall, but that proved to be a little ugly, so nixed that idea. I wired in the two lights, switches, added a little drywall to try my hand at that, and then made the archway, my first. The first floor has several archways, and I wanted to incorporate some of that look, so back to geometry and ellipse drawing class…!

One thing I realized early on, that I would never finish the drywall all by myself in a reasonable amount of time. If it was just the theater, I probably would have done it, but not for 1400 square feet of space, including high overheads in some places, and on the second floor. Likewise for the highest parts of the framing, the plumbing rough-in, most of the insulation, the carpeting, and the A/C installation. Those were items that were more practical and cost effective to contract out. Bringing in all that drywall was quite a scene, and I took pictures to show just how precise these guys were!

I was inside, just a bit nervous...:

But I wanted to do the rest myself, for the pride of it, the cost savings, and the great feeling to know it was something that everyone could enjoy. From perusing these build threads, the ones I loved the most were the ones that the DIY was really DIY. Don’t get me wrong, those are fantastic builds, too, and I admire the craftsmanship and design very much that goes into them. In some ways I envied that, as there were days I REALLY would have liked for someone else to be doing the tedious parts, not to mention having a few more hands available.

My wife helped on specific things, including painting, lifting, and design advice, but she’s 4’ 10” and about 100 pounds, so kind of limited in construction or heavy lifting help. But, you should have seen her help me get the couch and love seat into the theater, wow! Her biggest, and most valuable contribution, was keeping the house together while I did all this, being mostly patient with my limited time with her, and moral support throughout the build. I asked her advice countless times on everything from design idea approval, color choices, etc. She says she didn’t help much, but I could never have done it without her.

I met one of the contractors for the development we live in, Jordan, who proved to be a great resource for many, many items. I initially talked to him about contacts, and what I needed to do to acquire a permit, etc. and he helped out tremendously from the start. We’ve become friends, and he and his fiancée have a standing invitation to experience the theater, plus, he wants to build something for his own house when he builds it! That should be fun!
Jordan set me up with the permit, and was there to walk through inspectors, make sure the house was locked up, all that, when we couldn’t be there. He also provided contacts for the framers, drywall guys, supply houses, etc. that proved to be spot on.

Before any final design occurred, I set up times with the plumber, A/C guy, and the electrician, to make sure my ideas and layout was sound, make the changes that were needed, get the distances correct, and do all that stuff that could be done before any boards were put up. That time, and of course, the time spent with Google Sketchup, saved a lot in the way of changes for later.

Once all the ideas were pretty much finalized, I started laying out chalk lines for the walls, drawing up renderings of the placements, and just before the end of the new year, had the major framing done. These guys were so fast, they were done in a day, amazing! And that included straightening out some warpy work from the initial build. Geez it was loud up there for a little while!

One of the Sketchup renders before, to aid the framers with placement.

Getting ahead of myself:

Then…show time. Or at least, my time again! I first built the final theater wall. I waited until the other parts were done so I could determine exactly how wide I wanted the room. Of course, this included how wide I wanted the library, including the floor to ceiling book cases. In that room, I had initially wanted to build the equipment cabinet into the other built ins and have access through some sort of pull out, or door, or something. After much perusal, I determined I only had a relatively small amount of equipment, and wouldn’t need a tremendous amount of area. Plus, figuring out the corner transition on the left side just proved to be uglier than I’d like. I still have enough space for a more permanent version later if I liked, and it looks pretty good, and not as obtrusive, as it is now. After I got the wall put up, I, of course, had to tack up a twin bed sheet to act as a temporary screen, and hung the projector for the first time. Nothing but a blank screen at first, but it was so much fun!
post #7 of 49
Thread Starter 

Oh naïve we are at the beginning of these endeavors! I had an idea of how much wiring I thought I needed, and boy was I way under! It was thousands of feet more than I had originally guessed. I wanted all 20 amp circuits for the outlets (but used the regular type outlets, not the side prong type, too expensive!) , and 15 amp circuits for the lighting. I used the existing outlet/light circuit which was fed from the first floor, and re-routed it to make just attic lighting, a smoke detector, and the one outlet. Since it was built before 2008, I could use the regular type of 20 breaker downstairs. However, this was my first big surprise coming up. Upstairs, because it was new construction, and the 2008 NEC codes changed, I had to use AFCI (arc fault circuit interruptors) breakers for all the living areas. The only area I didn't need that was the bathroom, since it was on a GFCI circuit. This was a difference between a $3.50 breaker and a $35.00 breaker! Ouch!!! I also wanted most, if not all, the theater on its own circuits, and accessibility for most of the wiring. The AFCI's are much more safe, but they seem to be more sensitive, too, not crazy about that. Most of the plugging into for my saws, etc. were done at the existing, 20 amp outlet, and the new one in the bathroom, also 20 amps.

That took a long time, several months, to complete. I was an instrument electrician in the Air Force, did some electrical work for a couple of years in the former job, and a little bit of residential stuff, so I was at least familiar with the process and any safety concerns. Mike the electrician helped with calculating the load capacity, pointers for placements of outlets, switches, etc. and type of AC unit I could use. I was a little awkward at first, but after a few weeks I was getting the hang of it, and hanging off rafters a lot..! I labeled everything, used quality offsets, switches, outlets, and wiring. I figured, I'd rather spend the money on good stuff now, and not have to worry about it later.

The fun part was cutting up the floor and installing, connecting, the big wire; the one that would be the connection from the main panel to the new panel. Weeeee! Though tedious, that went a lot better than I thought, and worked the first time out, yay! I waited until the last possible moment to put the flooring back down, to make sure everything was still doing well.

The big wire run after cutting up the floor. It was a pain, but not as bad as I thought it might be:

Shocking, huh?

Low voltage panel. Pretty simple, mainly a wireless router and cable extension:

All in all, there were only two issues with the wiring, which surprised me. One, the only metal box I used, was the front part of the riser. It was relatively narrow, and as it turned out, one terminal was backed out a bit and barely touching the box, tripping the breaker. Tightening that up solved that problem.

Then, when the AC guy came over for the first firing up of the unit upstairs, I discovered that I had wired the unit exactly right, but the simple part, the disconnect, I was in a hurry and wired incorrectly! The simplest one I messed up! And believe me, you find out in a hurry that you did: the whole house tripped! Alarms going off, ADT calling, dogs and cats living together, just mayhem! Something I will never do wrong again if I need to do that! But we got it straightened out, thank goodness.

The AC guys were great, and really worked with me to make sure we had a separate return in the sealed up theater, and ran longer runs of insulated ductwork to keep the noise down. The final tune up has it almost silent in there, and barely audible with the speakers off.

I made wiring diagrams for each circuit, and that has helped tremendously in later endeavors. I also photographed the critical areas such as the three-way switches and any complex installations.
post #8 of 49
Thread Starter 
More next week, gotta do that work thing! I travel during the week, which can be a drag, but will post the rest of the build next weekend.
post #9 of 49
Thread Starter 
As promised, back from work, and will add a bit more of the construction process:


Insulation was a snap, and I put up the blue jean insulation myself, as well as the regular fiberglass in the cozy nook area. While the blue jean stuff doesn't itch, you should still wear a dust mask, and get a sharp circular saw blade: turned around backwards, to cut the material. That worked pretty well, actually.

post #10 of 49
Thread Starter 

The drywall went pretty well, though I was a little less than satisfied on a couple of the archways, which I had to mess with to look a bit smoother.

Otherwise, it was fun working with the guys and practicing my limited Spanish while laying on El Glue Verde on the theater's second layer of drywall! That was money well spent, as I would still be doing drywall now. That's when it started getting pretty exciting, because now I could finally start the rest of the theater!

Double drywall with the green glue in between. Nasty stuff!

Wait, gotta build a library first.

Okay, two months, and a very nice library later,

You can see the equipment rack again, with the little monitor on top. That helps a lot with setup changes!

This was a lot of work especially with three colors of paint!
post #11 of 49
Thread Starter 

I started on the theater, starting with the layouts, trying to be as accurate as possible, including mockups of the heights of chairs, etc. All the pre-planning paid off, as there were few changes along the way. I hung the back spotlights first, the ones that look like stage lights from the old movie sets. Had to have some light to see! Then the projector mount, which was pretty easy since I had already done the pre-work in the framing stage. The mount was set in a 2x10 set in a couple of metal brackets and predrilled for the bolts holding it. Later, I found that I needed to move it back and to the right over about 7 inches to help completely fill the screen, so apparently I wasn’t completely finished!

Interior construction began next. The stage was first, floating on the Aurulex U-boats, with insulation and a double layer of particle board sandwiched over Green Glue. I couldn’t put that much sand upstairs, so this would have to do. Another compromise. I also compromised on a curved design versus a straight design. I loved the curved aspect, but felt I would lose out on some front row real estate. Also, in keeping with my vision, the straight edges seemed right for the front. Once the stage was done, I made the frame on both sides and in the front that would hold the cloth panels hiding the front left and right speakers, and be the drop down to hide the front spot light track.

Blue tape layout for the riser and the step around it.

U-boats under the stage framing. I put these under the walkway and the riser, too. It helps a little...!

Ultratouch under the stage. Two layers of the OSB with green glue between come on next.
(UPDATE, 1/4/2012 - I should note, that all the steps, the stage, etc. were built so there was a 1/4" gap between the construction and the walls, for decoupling purposes.)

The finished stage


The riser was built, using the aforementioned design. There were two 1.5 inch holes spaced evenly in the front of each space between boards, and it was again floated on U-boats, with insulation ¾ the way filled up inside, leaving some space for tactile resonance. Say what you want, but it feels like it works to me! This was covered with two sheets of ¾ MDF, which were permanently attached after the rope light was installed. If all went well, and I ever have to replace the whole rope light, I should be able to tediously pull it out, but I dread that day if and when it comes! I overhung the edges by about two inches and rounded them over for the carpet install later. All the rope light was incandescent type, from www.1000Bulbs.com , one of the better places I found for price and for customer service. I installed it in the plastic channels available from the company, and they fit snugly and look really nice.

Note the low tech viewing obscuration device in front of the chair. Wait, is that really a word?

The bar framework going up on the back of the riser.

post #12 of 49
Thread Starter 

The screen frame was a combination of two 2x4's and two pieced of ten foot poplar 1x5, cut to width. I made two center pieces to make it rigid with a piece of plywood over that, which would hold the hanger. I used the type of hanger commonly called a French cleat, but bought online, the 18 inch model that can hold about 300 pounds. The total weight was no more than 40 or 50 pounds, easy enough for me to handle. Ok, not that easy, but doable! I drilled holes to correspond to the grommets on the screen, then used parachute cord to tension it, using double holed cord clamps (like on back packs and such) to hold it in place.

It was tedious, but so far works very well. If the projector isn't on, you can see the screen vibrate some with the low frequencies, but with the projector on, I've never seen it do that. I made an exterior frame from poplar, beveled on the edges, and attached it along with the Fidelio brand of velvet, and it both hides the cords and such, and makes the edge look great. One note about the velvet, I found that if you start the cut, you can finish it very straight by tearing it the rest of the way. I was skeptical about that, but it really works!

Framing for the speaker ledges, and cabinet for center and subwoofer housing.

The front area after being painted flat black. The 2x4's hold a piece of plywood which holds the cleat for the screen frame.

Center channel and subwoofer in here.

Screen frame hung. I had to move it a bit later, awkward to say the least! The slope of the roof made it very limited for placement, but it's great!

After the spotlights were installed, which was a bit of a pain.

Bass traps in the corners. Currently working on some for the rear of the room, but it's a little trickier.

Before I finished the riser by installing the top, we went to what was then Ashley Furniture (now Chloe Furniture) and bought the furniture for the theater. I had thought about the Berkliner style and other traditional theater styles, but also wanted to have a cozier feel to it. The furniture we chose had kind of a club chair look on the arms with the faux leather, and the microfiber covering for spills (which got tested a few months into having themanother story, but they are very stain resistant, at least to wine..). They recline manually, but are quite comfortable for long time viewing. The love seat has a couple of cup holders, but the couch does not. It's not the greatest seat on the front seats, but the boy likes it, and I've watched from it a time or two while folding laundry so it's not bad really!

Getting the furniture allowed me to take one more accurate measurement to get the rise height and placement ideal for our situation. We didn't have it delivered for several months, which put some pressure on me to get to that point. Once It was delivered (strong guys to get it up the stairs and around the landing, plus I helped on that a bit) I covered it with painter's cloth until I was ready to put it in the theater.
post #13 of 49
Thread Starter 

Then, onto the columns.

(I realize some of the pics above show the columns already in progress, so bear with me...!)

Having the speakers, I was able to get a good idea of minimum depth. I had already ordered the lights for all the rooms, going with sconce for the most part in different designs, and chose a sort of triangular shape for the columns, to give it the Art Deco flair I was hoping for. I knew I needed to get the top parts pretty level with each other and with the back part of the theater where the sloped wall met the top of the dvd cases, which weren’t built yet. So I made a mockup for placement, and used my small laser leveler to check the alignment, and made each top part of the column. Then the bottom parts, which were really just a cabinet with an opening that finally became a door for each one. Eventually, these may become overflow for DVD storage. The doors themselves are framed with about 2 inches of insulation wrapped with fabric and attached with self closing hinges so no pull or handle hardware was necessary.

Attaching the top of the columns wasn’t too hard, I made some cleats across studs to hold it in place, and then screwed them into place, with a nail or two to make sure they didn’t vibrate. These were filled with the insulation I used in the walls, and the nifty art deco sconce was attached. I lined up the bottom part and attached them as well.

I then built the top part of the front of the stage. I wanted flat black but with some trim to give a nice look. The art deco look on the front was my wife’s and my idea. I initially just had it orange, but she suggested filling it partially with the blue. I did that, and added three shooting stars cut from poplar to represent us, and the “Ad Astra”. Wasn’t too difficult, though a lot of overhead work. I barely, as it turns out, had enough room to get the wire box behind it for the spot lights! The bottom edge was trimmed with rope-like wood trim and the top with some offset crown trim work.

The trim pieces:

The first top construction with it's corresponding bottom cabinet portion:

Painting assembly line:

Top part again:

First cloth covered speaker panel:

It was really starting to take shape!
I had to get the DVD cases built in order to start on the crown molding, which would hold the two rope lights I picked out. One was the same dark blue that was under the riser steps and back of the bar, the other an orange one. I was going for kind of a sunset look to enhance the eventual fiber optic star ceiling, but I have mixed feelings on that. It looks ok, but I think I’ll eventually either remove it, or change the circuit to the front spot lights. I think individual control of those will look better.
But first, the DVD cases. Basically just standard cabinets, but with no backing on it. Many reasons for that, some design, some practical. I used my hole drilling template for the adjustable shelf peg holes, and that was the start of a long day. I was tired and messed up the sequence once, which pretty much set the tone of the day. It was a royal pain! But, finally got them installed after painting. I waited until the following weekend to get the face frames installed.
post #14 of 49
Thread Starter 

Then back to the crown molding. That wasn't too difficult, though it had been a while. I have a nice Hitachi sliding compound miter saw that makes it a little easier with standard tick marks to guide you. Still, unless you've done a lot of crown molding, it can be tedious! I had seen several cool transition pieces (I learned a LOT about those for trim!) and made some for the corners in the back. They look pretty nice! I also created a center detail so that I could use shorter pieces without having to butt joint them. Before installing, I nailed in some angled strips that would provide additional support, and a place to attach the rope lights. It came out pretty well and really started to give the room some flair:

The front part, no rope light installed in it. The three stars represent our family!

Back of the room, above the DVD cases:]

Side of the room:

Corner detail. I can cope the corners, but this looks cooler!

Front termination detail. I've since added a cloth covered small panel to hide the little bit of rope on the other side:

I couldn't wait, so I tediously installed the rope lights next, to fire them up. One, the blue one, was attached to channels, the other orange one, was tie wrapped to the blue. I was a little short on the one piece of orange, but was able to splice another section from a sample one I had to test colors. I put some bits of blue jean insulation in places where the light might leak through on the bottom, and I was set! It looked very cool at the time! The blue still does, but the orange

Afterwards, I painted the ceiling, which was very, very tedious! I wound up putting on three coats, just to get it fairly smooth, but whew, glad when that was done!
Just a side note: all the paint was satin finish except the front stage parts. I would have liked to use flat everywhere, but I hate how hard it is to clean. There are a few reflections, but definitely not distracting during the movies.
Once I had the bottom part of the trim in place on the DVD cases, I started on the baseboard. Before that, I had to install one of the two solid core doors and trim it out. I did the one going to the library, first. I had to wait on the last one because I knew it was going to be kind of tight getting the furniture in there.

Every part of this build was like that: wait until this was done to start on that part, or hold off on that until that is built. I spent countless hours on planes flying to my next assignment just running design problems in my head! That helped a lot because I was able to have a mental game plan by the time I got back to it, and was able to proceed more quickly.

Baseboard was straightforward, though I did a little tricky stuff in the back, on the wall between the shelves. There was a little gap where the wall wasn't as smoothly flat as I would have liked, so I wanted to add some trim there. But that needed to go to the top of the baseboard. That would have been ugly, so I made some base corner pieces and had the trim terminate on top of that. Looks great! I finished the last of the painting of the baseboard just before the carpet arrived for the theater.
post #15 of 49
Thread Starter 
Got kind of busy this weekend, but I'll be back next week with more on the construction. Coming up: the bar, dvd cabinets, final details, including progress on the marquee.

Just to make sure I've got this post set up correctly (first one!), would someone mind 'replying' to this one? I don't mind the lurkers (I was and still am one!) a bit, but just want to make sure I didn't set a flag somewhere to "no replies" or something silly like that!

Thanks, I appreciate it!

H. Hampton
post #16 of 49
Thread Starter 
Just wanted to get a second opinion on a current project: more bass trapping.
Here is a pic of the back of the room, you can see (barely) that the ceiling slants inward above the crown molding:

I want to put more bass trapping in this area, but space is limited. I won't have enough room to make a real soffit trap, because it would interfere with the spot light over the bar. So my question is, would two 4" thick panels set onto the slope corners on both sides, with dimensions of about 18" wide by 48" long be sufficient to enable trapping in those corners? The DVD cabinet precludes a three corner trap along the vertical wall, but there is a space between the cabinets, on the wall, I'll also put treatment(s) in eventually.

Any input would be great! Thanks!
post #17 of 49
Thread Starter 

I ordered the cloth for the panels from Acoustimac, which was the least expensive with the best quality I could find. Guilford of Maine was very nice, but a bit pricey, and I wasn't yet sure enough of my technique to risk messing up more expensive material. The frames were made from scrap plywood and the Kreg pocket screws. They were more flimsy that I would have liked, so I remade a few to get some heft to them. The top panel on the speaker cabinet under the screen I made from poplar. The cloth was treated for fire resistance, which you can feel a bit on your hands. The first attempt was not stellar, as I was trying to stretch the remaining cloth on the last three panels and they basically looked like crap. Oh there was much cursing that day! At first I used these little inserts that are used to put speaker grills on, but they turned out to be too flimsy. I used magnets and friction for the smaller panels on the speaker cabinet, and eventually went to industrial Velcro for the two big panels that were on the bottom part of the two big frames around the side speakers. I didn't really need to take off the top parts, so I finish nailed them. It's solid, but easy enough to loosen up if I ever have to. I had to once to make some rearrangements for the new carpet, but that went pretty well. After a bit, I figured out the corners on the frames, but I had to order more cloth to get the last three panels looking much better. Rule of thumb: don't do this when you're in a hurry or tired! Another trick for taking off the old cloth, I used a small kitchen torch to burn off the areas around the staples. Much faster than trying to pull them out.

I also found that on a couple of them, I had the wrong side out, but it's barely noticeable, and I wasn't going to change it for just that. Still, it kind of bugged me for a while!

With the velcro (Fidelio) around the screen frame. I had to adjust them after the carpet went in, but they're pretty clean looking now:

post #18 of 49
Thread Starter 

The step around it was installed about the same time as the back walkway was installed. I had to wait a bit as it took a while to settle on a bar design, and how big I wanted the DVD cases, whether I wanted an entire wall of cases or leave space behind for room around the bar. This was one of the few areas I didn't completely visualize, until towards the end of that phase. In the end, I think I have a pretty good idea, based on a couple of other build ideas, with a foot rest custom made for my wife's small stature, the blue rope light underneath, and an art deco flair. The interior is filled with insulation, to help deaden it, especially if little feet start tapping on it while sitting! At first it was a bit difficult to get it to feel solid and not move, but finally figured that out with some creative construction.

Running the rope light. It's one continuous run under the steps, under the bar, and front part of step up to platform behind bar:

Skinning the bar frame. Since it's over eight feet, I did it in two pieces, with a center stile hiding the gap. Filled it will regular wall insulation to cut down on echos from tapping feet:

Platform being covered. Took a bit to get the bar to be rigid, but it is now!

Steps being covered:

Trim on the bar, with paint scheme to match the theater. The art deco "V" shape is from scrap pieces!

Outlet cover, matching the others in the theater, each with a different design:

Completed trim:

The top graphic of the bar took a bit of work, and was a collaboration of myself, my wife and step-son. It was his idea, her drawing, and my Photoshop manipulation and installation. (pics of process) We ordered custom glass to go over it, and printed it out at the local UPS store. I think I may need to go back one day and glue it down, as there is a teeny bit of wrinkling presently. The bar top is oak with a dark finish, and a couple of holes for wire pull through for the phone and a laptop. Still need to clean that up underneath, though. We will eventually get director's chair barstools, with custom embroidery that says: Director, Producer, and Best Boy on it, for me, my wife, and the lad! Gotta try some out first to see how comfortable they'll be.

Bar top FINALLY being constructed! That took a long time to get to!

Holes drilled for wire pass throughs:

Border stained:

Glass and drawing inserted!

Left Side:

Right Side:

Original drawing, before Photoshop manipulation:

Some alterations, and ready to go!


When we got the estimate for the carpet, I was surprised that it was somewhat less than I had imagined, enough so that we used the savings from the budgeted amount to splurge on the theater carpet. My wife amazed me because she really liked the design on the carpet we got, which is the dark blue with the popcorn, tickets, etc. theme. I thought it would look a bit hokie but it's pretty fun and feels wonderful. We had them put sound dampening padding down to help with the noise coming through, and that helped, but of course, not 100% by any means. It took almost two months for it to finally arrive, as it was apparently special ordered from Georgia and made specifically for this installation! We were quite impatient, but FINALLY it arrived and was installed. Well, most of it! It was still another couple of days before the installation was complete, on that weekend! THEN it was done! Of course, I had to recalibrate and fire up all the usual DVD suspects to test it out! We were thrilled!


I've already rewired the lighting a bit to have the front spots and the bar spots on a separate control in the Lutron panel. The fronts come one when the orange rope light comes on, but that may change later, too.
Some touchups for the paint will be needed soon, and I've also finished making a little wood panel with cloth on it to cover the termination of the rope lights at the top of the front construction.

Some more acoustic items will be done, such as additional bass trapping and an idea I have for sound proofing the doors a little more.

The columns and marquee around the door are in progress and I'll add photos of that when I can. I've already been looking at a couple of sites that will create a plexiglass panel with custom lettering on it. Should look really nice for a sign.

After that, the light box/frame for the posters (which I've already started collecting from a local theater, though the latest manager says I can't do that anymore!). The door will need the art deco hardware I've been checking out, and then a cool design my wife and I are going to do from Sculpy, a polymer clay material. It's going to have some star like effects on it, not exactly sure what yet.

A star ceiling has been on my mind for a while, and I'm really disappointed the one site I was looking at seems to have gone out of business. I'd love to have some programmability, but that might not happen. I'd like to add a moon module of sorts, and I have an idea on how to do that, I think. I also want some constellations and a shooting star or comet or two.

Then, bar chairs, possibly the director's chair type, some nice blankets and other decorations.

As many of you know, it never is really complete, just in a different stage!
post #19 of 49
Originally Posted by hamptonht48 View Post

I want to put more bass trapping in this area... would two 4" thick panels set onto the slope corners on both sides, with dimensions of about 18" wide by 48" long be sufficient to enable trapping in those corners? The DVD cabinet precludes a three corner trap along the vertical wall, but there is a space between the cabinets, on the wall, I'll also put treatment(s) in eventually.

Any input would be great! Thanks!

First, I think you've got something you should be proud of here; congratulations on nearly completing a fun room for your family! I can tell you guys will have a great time in there - and the rest of the build looks very good as well! Thumbs up for you, sir!

It's tough to give a confident recommendation about bass trapping in that particular location, especially without seeing the whole room plan, and without knowing what bass response is like in the room already. That said, I think you should go for it. 4 inches is a pretty good thickness, and while it's not optimized for any particular room mode response you may have, necessarily, it will attenuate low frequency sound better than a lot of panels. I'm not sure what material is the right choice, but I think you should try to use something low density - lower than OC703 if possible, so as to push the effective range as low as possible. Of course, I could be wrong about that; it's what I'd do, assuming I couldn't get good measurements and calculate exactly what I wanted for the room.

post #20 of 49
Thread Starter 
Thanks very much! Yes, it's definitely a dream come true for me, and my family is loving it! I've been working on the marquee and columns that will go around the door and will post those results later. We just finished watching "Young Frankenstein", such a classic!

This might be a clearer indication of what I'm thinking. The red corners are existing bass traps, and I want to put 4 inch panels, 4 feet wide, on the sloped part of the back ceiling; those are in black, in the corners on the green colored part of the ceiling. I wonder if it would be better to put those across the ceiling, and maybe something more for absorption in the middle of the back wall. I'm using ecoustimac eco friendly panels, four inches, from Acoustimac. They're pretty dense, and I like them a bit better than the fiberglass or mineral wool, as my wife has allergies, and I want to minimize that material if possible.

For an experiment, I stood them up in the corners, just to get a first impression. I like the impact, even in that low-tech way. I will eventually get a decent microphone so I can run some analysis, but for now, I'm going by how it sounds!
post #21 of 49
Thread Starter 
Just an update on continuing progress: Will post pics a little later, but the columns around the entrance are finished except for paint, the marquee is mostly done, and the plexiglass sign with the theater name should be in next week! Should be pretty cool, but just trying to decide on fluorescent or led for backlighting the sign. I'll have to experiment when the sign comes in.

I used an online sign design company, who were excellent with customer service so far (they used a font of my choosing instead of the ones they had available!). We'll see how the quality is when it arrives, but I have a feeling it will be pretty good. The font is "Anastasia" and is probably familiar with a lot of you, and the plexiglass is 3/16" white with black letters, just as it's shown.

post #22 of 49
Thread Starter 

Finally got the columns and marquee finished (almost, still have a little bit of cool trim my wife suggested, but will add that later).

Welcome to the AD ASTRA!

The sign for the marquee is 3/16" thick plexiglass engraved by a sign company called Sign Chef. It was a tad expensive, but the customer service and the quality of the sign is fantastic. They even used a font I wanted versus the ones they offered on their online design software. Great folks to work with.

The rest of the column and box for the marquee is made from poplar and MDF (medium density fiberboard) and plywood, mostly scraps I had left from the other projects. The light is a white LED light I got from Home Depot. It stays very cool so I don't have to vent it.

The two panels on either side are cloth covered MDF. The trim is bed moulding for the crown part, plus various shapes such as cove and others that I used on the rest of the room.

The back of the sign is held into place with mirror clips, and the framed part of the sign is screwed into place using fender washers to make it look a little more industrial. The color is the same as the trim, and blends in nicely, making it look like it belongs there!

I'm very pleased with the results, and it wasn't too difficult, though time consuming.

The columns, from MDF mitered on the corners, then attached to bits of wood I first attached to the wall. The hardest part was the right side, as I had to pre-build a lot of it first, then paint it, because I couldn't reach it very well after installation:

Trim detail:

Marquee box with the rope light installed. I re-arranged the bottom part after I set the sign in, to get it to light more evenly:

The completed door entrance. I want to add some features to the door later, and I have a much nicer door knob in mind to add to the Art Deco theme. I'll post an update when that occurs:

Oh, in case you're wondering, the rope light connects to a switched outlet in the attic, with the plug run through the ceiling and in a protected area (originally designed that way, so my planning paid off!). Saves some room in the marquee box, and allows easier changing of light later if necessary.
post #23 of 49
Thread Starter 
Thanks, DavidK!
Yes, that was the idea, as I didn't have the energy to do too much step by step on the different aspects, but maybe provide some inspiration and ideas for folks planning their own area. And of course, I'm glad to answer any questions!

You're right, it's been a long process, but we have so much fun in there, and getting ready to host a birthday party for our soon-to-be 11 year old boy (I'll be putting plastic everywhere.. ).

Thanks again!
post #24 of 49
Thread Starter 
My wife was ambitious enough to create a "how to" with some pointers for how to gain the WAF for your theater project! It's very cute (as is she..! )

Click on this link to see her video:
(W)ife (A)pproval (F)actor - 101
post #25 of 49
Originally Posted by hamptonht48 View Post

My wife was ambitious enough to create a "how to" with some pointers for how to gain the WAF for your theater project! It's very cute (as is she..! )

Click on this link to see her video:
(W)ife (A)pproval (F)actor - 101

Very cool!! Nice job... you are lucky to have a wife like that! BTW, I forwarded the link to my wife - we'll see what her reaction is! :-)
post #26 of 49
Thread Starter 
Thanks! Yeah, she's a hoot! And very instrumental in the build...! I told her only half jokingly she should start a WAF thread...!
post #27 of 49
Thread Starter 
Final Entrance Trim

Finally got the marquee and door/column trim complete! Per a suggestion by my wife, I added the black insets on the top and bottom part of the column. The bottom part is 1/4 inch solid wood, 45 degree chamfer. The top part is 3/4 inch in the middle, with 1/2 inch on the sides, nailed and glued, then painted with two coats of flat black. Looks pretty spiffy!

Next weekend is the first group showing in there, with my step-son's birthday party culminating in a movie afternoon! Should be fun!

I say "final", but what I really mean is: "...until I get the doorknobs I want, and the decorative features on the door and..." you get the point.

post #28 of 49

Very, very nice.
post #29 of 49
Thread Starter 
Thank you very much! It's been so much fun! Yesterday, I installed a new bulb in the Planar 8150, though the old one had only 650 hours or so on it. Wasn't sure how the availability was going to be later, so this was an obsolescence prevention move. I was kind of bummed, though, as shortly after I purchased the bulb/housing unit, I saw the thread about being able to replace the bulb only...a lot cheaper! But now I guess I have a spare bulb housing!

My wife and I watched "Alien" in blu ray (her first time seeing the movie) last night. Just awesome!!
post #30 of 49
Hi. I noticed you have the Lutron Grafik Eye 3104 and are using the Logitech Harmony One remote. I also have the Grafik Eye 3104 and used to use the Philips Pronto remote for my Home Theater. I am considering a new Logitech Harmony One and have a question for you please: Does the Logitech Harmony One give you access to all 16 scenes within the Grafik Eye 3104? I have not been able to find a thread that definitively states that it can. I have read some posts re: some older Harmony remotes that could only access the same 4 scenes that are accessible via the front panel of the Grafik Eye.

Does the Logitch Harmony One give you access to all 16 scenes within the Grafik Eye 3104?

Thanks so much!!smile.gif
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home