What I Would Do Different...
Now it's 14 months after the Grand Opening, certainly enough time and usage to see what could have been done better. I've talked a lot through the thread about lessons learned, so some of this summary is repeated information. There's only a few of these that I'll actually do anything about - and probably not any time soon. Certainly not anything that would "take the room apart".
Assuming you've been reading this thread from the start, you'll remember that this project was really in two phases - building the house, and then building the theater. So "What I'd do different" depends on how far back I get to go...If I was building the house over from scratch:
(speaking only about the unfinished future theater space)
The room would be slightly larger. Seating four across in recliners just barely fits in the 16'-wide room. The "loveseat" configuration saved me a few inches, and the aisles are only 18" wide. Add ~6" on each aisle and one more recliner armrest, and I get to 17-17.5' wide. Add a foot of depth for the middle riser, another foot or perhaps two to accommodate an AT screen arrangement in the front, and I get to 24' deep.
If I was starting the theater build over from scratch:
The risers would have been built after the room. I've mentioned this before - while it may have saved me a few dollars, having "structural" risers effectively makes this a truly "dedicated theater". I should have had temporary steps down into the 10'-high room, and constructed both riser levels as part of the theater build. That would have made it possible for future owners to convert the room to some other "hobby". That said, no one in their right mind would buy this house if they intended to destroy the theater, regardless of the riser construction...
The rack niche would be deeper. The niche I had planned for the rack and a small bar/cabinet should have been deeper (~30" would have been great instead of the ~23" I have). Using the longer AX-S service track (48" vs. 25") would have made installation and service easier. Also, when taking the cost of the service track and stand into account, the AX-SXR rotating rack isn't much more expensive. Given the rack placement near the corner of the room, the rotating rack would have been a good choice.
I would use the Erskine Group's AVSforum Theater Layout service. 'nuff said. Although if I was starting truly over, paying for a full design service (not just the 'layout') may have also been justified.
Assuming the house was built, so the room dimensions and entry location are already fixed in place. This is probably the more useful list...
The columns would have been built inside the room. As I've said many times, this was my biggest mistake of the build. Putting the speakers through the 'aquarium' means you can really hear them outside of the room when the surround channels are active. And yes, all those wiring penetrations don't help, either. That said, this still isn't an issue for me because of the theater's location in the house.
Maybe used an Acoustically Transparent Screen and Masking. Still can't see spending 2-3x the projector cost on a screen + masking system (only AT ones I know of are much more than the non-AT Carada Masquerade). Now, I probably could have used less-expensive speakers and put that money into the screen. And I've learned that the AT screen and false wall assembly has some benefits beyond speaker placement and aesthetics. Getting the speakers further away from the front row would have given a more uniform distance to each listener. I do worry about having the sound up too loud "for the front row".
Maybe used clips and channel. In the end I was surprised that the acoustic/isolation bill was under 10% of the total project cost. Doing the walls with clips and channel wouldn't have broken the bank. But I don't know how I'd do the ceiling, or more importantly, I don't know if I could have explained it properly to the contractors so *they* could make it work... (obviously this would entail building the cofferred ceiling inside the room)
Been more diligent about HVAC vent selection. The HVAC guys properly placed 4 vents and a return, but I do hear air movement (rushing) coming from the rear vents. Using the diffuser bars on the vertical portions of the trays would have been better, for both sound and aesthetics.
Built the bar table with only three posts instead of four. Dang thing is built like a tank. I'm sure one less post would have been fine, and one less post to avoid with your knees and legs.
Added more lighting and control zones. There not enough light in the room to read comfortably. I should have placed can lights above the seating just for this purpose. I will eventually pull the step lights off the GrafikEye onto a separate switch controlled by RadioRA2. That will free up a zone for the entry hall/bookcase to be on a separate zone from the rear can lights.
Used a better, more soundproof door. The solid-core (but paneled) door I have matches the rest of the house. The raised panels, though, are clearly the weak spot for sound transmission out of the theater. I'll probably try some experiments with acoustic panels partially covering the inside (panels on back) of the door to see if that makes any difference, and if so, get some made to match the room.
Considered fabric seats instead of leather. I do find my fabric couch (not in the theater) more comfy than the leather seats. Personal preference. I steered away from fabric because of concerns about wear and tear, and spilled beverages. Probably still the right call, but don't automatically default to leather as the only solution.
Used a carpet pattern with at least two colors. I still like the carpet I chose, but having something with a visible pattern would absolutely help hide those little crumbs of popcorn that I seem to always miss. I suppose that's a double-edged sword - miss too much popcorn bits and the room will start to feel like the dollar theater at mall!!!
Whew... Ok, that's all I can think of for now. I'll probably end up with another batch of stuff down the line. The only thing left to truly finish is the iRule screen layouts (will it really ever be done?), which are still the same rough batch I did initially, and certainly aren't usable by anyone else at this point.Edited by jautor - 7/3/12 at 9:40am