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srauly's Post & Beam house living room / theater

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I've talked about switching to a 2.35:1 in a couple of other threads, but figured I'd start up a new thread dedicated to my room to discuss the subject. Hopefully the mods won't mind me double-posting this, but I posted this recently in the 2.35:1 forum and that forum, sadly, doesn't get a lot of activity. Since I'm looking for feedback on a wide range of things besides what aspect ratio screen I should use, I figured I'd get more help in this forum. So, first some background...

I've moved a couple of times, and in our current house I previously was using our upstairs loft as a movie theater, but there were a couple of issues with that room, most significantly was the simple fact that it seemed like a chore to convince my wife and daughter to move up there when it was "movie time." They both always wanted to stay in the living room (especially during the winter when we might have a fire going), or watch it in our bedroom (it was probably a mistake to upgrade our bedroom TV to a 52").

Conversely, I never enjoyed being in our living room. I personally didn't love our couches, and much preferred the movie chairs I had up in the loft (I should note that my wife and daughter disagree with me on that - they prefer the warmth of the couches fabric vs the leather on the theater chairs). The TV in the living room, while acceptable for TV watching, was too small and too high (above the fireplace) for enjoyable movie watching.

After recently upgrading my projector from a Panasonic 720p LCD to the Epson 8350, I wanted to make use of the theater loft even more but it was still a battle getting them to agree to "move upstairs" in the evening to watch a movie. So I decided to float the idea of moving everything down to the living room. I had rejected the idea when we first moved into the house because I thought there would be no way of controlling all of the light, and I wasn't sure how to sell my wife on the idea of having the movie chairs in the living room. She didn't resist, so I moved quickly and brought it all downstairs. I experimented with projecting onto a couple of different walls, but I think this is where I'm settling. I'll upload some photos in my next post via my iPhone.

I'd love to hear suggestions/comments. We're looking to paint the main area soon, which will darken things up a bit, but it will still be a relatively light color. There are some windows without any coverings in the raised "band stand" area (which now has the couches - and has turned into a comfortable sitting area), and I'll be doing something with them to cut down the light. Up in the loft, the skylights are letting a lot of light in, and I'm going to try to block those off somehow, too. We're also going to be replacing the carpet and the new carpet will be a darker earthy shade.

As for the screen, the one in the pictures is my current 45x80" (92" diagonal) 16:1 Da-Lite High Power (older 2.8 gain). Don't bother commenting on the fact that my center channel is encroaching on the screen, as I didn't want to put new holes in the wall until I got my new screen, so I'm just hanging my old one on my curtain rod. I'm thinking of upgrading to a 116" wide Da-Lite Model C w/High Power (2.4 gain). I'm leaning towards a 2.35:1 screen, but with extra black masking above/below so that the overall aspect ratio of the screen when pulled down will be 16:9 with a 2.35:1 "window" which will allow my Epson 8350's light spillage to be absorbed by the black masking.
post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 
Also, here's another layout I experimented with first (in case anyone wants to try to convince me to switch back to it). With this layout, the screen hangs between the living room and the raised "formal" sitting area. The screen is hanging by some rope here, but I would end up getting a larger screen with a lot of black masking above/below.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Some advantages of the first layout include:
1) I could have a movie (or football game) going and people sitting on one of the couches in the raised area could still have a view of it. Or, in the case of a big party, there could be some people watching something on the screen while people sitting in the raised area are conversing with people in the sunken living room.
2) Even more people could enjoy the screen from within the dining or kitchen area, since their view to the screen would be a straight line.

Some advantages to the 2nd layout are:
1) I could possibly get the screen to sit a little lower if I replaced my front speakers with three center channels or three bookshelf sized speakers and put them on the lower "step" in front of the screen.
2) I'd have unimpeded access to the door going to the deck (which the screen blocks, when in use, in the 1st layout). That door isn't critical, though, because we have another door to the deck in the dining area.
3) In the 1st layout, when I do have the screen up and want to make use of that door, I'm also going to need to temporarily move that center tower speaker out of the way.
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Well, no replies. frown.gif

Here's a status update...

First. I decided to stick with option 1.

We had some painters come out recently to give us some quotes for painting. We'll probably be going with a creamy gold (beigy-yellow) color for the walls. Since the whole area is so open, we thought it would look best to color the entire living area/dining area/etc. the same color, which meant that we also didn't want to go too dark. Still, it should improve light reflections compared to our current white walls. The carpet will also be replaced with a much darker earthy gray/brown color.

There are still several windows that need covering. I'll probably deal with that after the walls get painted.

I plan to go forward with ordering a new Da-Lite High Power 2.35:1 screen today/tomorrow. It will be about a 49.5" high x 116" wide screen. It will be a Model C manual pull-down screen where I start with a 116" wide 16:9 screen and have them cut the height to make it 2.35:1 but then also replace it with extra black material so that the end result will actually be a 16:9-sized screen, but with a 2.35:1 white area inside. I think this should work well since I don't want to go with an anamorphic lens, so this way when watching a 2.35:1 movie, the light leakage from my projector (Epson 8350) will spill completely onto the black area. When watching 16:9 content, I will manually adjust zoom/position/focus, but that only takes me a minute to do.
post #5 of 16

Yes, it's challenging when you have a non-dedicated "open-style" room. Very cool house by the way. But if you can't dedicate a room or space ... well, you just have to move forward (can you explore this more?). I too thought I would get more resistance from the wife ... but with the screen size and picture quality (and sound system) ... building the movie experience ... it's been surprisingly easy to get approvals smile.gif.


So, you and the wife are ok with blocking off that door? Have you thought about putting the projector screen in front of the plasma and just lowering it down at night? I'm guessing you don't really use fire-place or stove?


I also have:

Multi-purpose (non-dedicated) Open room

Only average light control. Wooden blinds on most windows, but not "black-out" drapes. 

(mostly use plasma during day ... but day projector is watchable)

Plasma and projector

Projector currently on shelf in back of room (low hanging ceiling fan kinda prevents much else).

Fireplace on main viewing wall (determined by room layout and established seating).


We are both "hooked". IF there is another house in our future ... a dedicated theater room will be a requirement.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
*I* don't have a problem blocking off that door, but my wife isn't as keen on it. I think I mentioned above, though, that there's another door in the dining area, and that's the one we use more than 95% of the time (even when the living room door wasn't blocked at all). The only time we sometimes like to make use of the living room door is when we have a big party in the summer and people want to go on/off the deck from that room, or when the air outside is cool and dry and we want to open that door (and maybe the dining room door) and get some cross-ventilation.

I'll most likely be ordering a new 2.35:1 screen today which would be mounted above the curtains, so we'll be able to roll that up and still make use of the door. The one bummer will be that I'll need to physically move the center tower speaker when we want to do that. I envision leaving the screen down (and speaker in place) more than 95% of the time. If we're having a party and want access to the deck from the living room, I'll roll the screen up and move the speaker out of the way for that one day.

We use the wood stove quite a bit in the winter. When I keep on top of it, I try to use it as the main heat source for the main level (we also have hot water baseboard heat and a propane furnace). Putting a screen above the wood stove is not an option because that wall is simply too narrow. The screen would have to overextend past that small wall, which would look weird. It would also need to roll down to just above the wood stove so as to not be too high to watch comfortably (right now, that plasma is too high to be comfortable to watch IMO). And getting it to roll down that low, right above a wood stove, while we're using the stove? That sounds like a recipe for a warped screen (or fire). And where would the center channel speaker go? Nope, above the wood stove is not an option.

The house is really unique, which is what I loved about it when we first saw it, but since living here a while, I realize now that boring, rectangular, closed-off rooms have some distinct advantages. But I'm optimistic about the location I've settled on. Once I paint, recarpet, and hopefully find some tasteful ways to deal with some skylights, I think I'll be able to make use of it for movies during the day. As it is, I've had good success as-is with watching more vibrant content (e.g., football), especially when I kick my Epson 8350 into the higher-lumens "Living Room" mode.

Getting back to that wood stove...I am a bit concerned about having my A/V gear relatively close to the stove. Previously, I had a wall rack mounted several feet above where the equipment is now. I can't have it there, though. since the new screen will be taking up most of that wall. If heat becomes an issue, my backup plan will probably be to either position the equipment to the right or left of the single chair or to put it behind the main seating area (near the windows on the right).
post #7 of 16

I won't speak to using another space or room again. Obviously, with the nice theater seating you have invested in ... THIS must be the room. However, with the radiant heat sources in this room ... I can't help but think you are trying to do too much with it.


The seating layout suggests the fireplace (and the space above the mantle) is the focal point of the room. When I saw the TV and other components so close to it, I assumed the fireplace and/or stove was not being used.


Your new idea (above door) will work as long as the 8350 will project that high at that distance. The 8350 might have to be raised higher (on shelf ?) or long pole down. As for viewers ... at that distance it shouldn't be a problem looking up slightly. Don't be afraid to shine it on the wall with no screen. Has dis-advantages you already mentioned.


Idea #3 (or 2b)

You could put the screen back to position #2, but 5 ft higher (maybe even with upper railing). Lower by remote control as needed.

Get a nice horizontal Center Channel speaker and put on top (slightly pointing down). Mount Left/Right speakers on shelves or mounts on sides of screen (or leave on floor, but on the next level up ... up against the beam and wall).


Mount projector on high shelf (above deck doors or windows) or on pole. Where-ever it needs to be - for the front of lens to be exactly parallel/perpendicular to screen.


Cylinder Sub-Woofer can go behind chairs or anywhere away from heat.


Receiver can go anywhere away from heat. IR blaster or RF remote control can help (people use them for cabinet-hidden amp installs). Use care picking this final permanent location because most cables will "home-run" here.


Put surround speakers on shelves, wall mounts, or wall-built-in. Left/right/center/sub do the "heavy work" anyway.


Idea #3 Pros:

- No door blocking

- No items near heat (except for old "expendable crew-member" 720p TV). Still nice for casual day-time viewing.

- Nothing to move around ... ever. Everything in it's place.

- Speaker placement would still work for TV

- Conforms to established seating config.

- Would look very cool.


... think about it ... would it work?

Edited by Tesla1856 - 9/14/12 at 7:31pm
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
The fireplace is *a* focal point in the room (in late fall or winter when we're using it). The flatscreen above is positioned there partially for this reason, but also because there really is no other place for it. The wall where I'm putting my screen has the doors to the deck there, which I can un-block by rolling up the screen. But I couldn't place a flatscreen there because it would then permanently block those doors (which my wife wouldn't like). To be honest, I thought about doing just that (getting a wide rack/table and putting the flatscreen there all the time). Again, though, I don't think I could sell my wife on that, and I too like the ability to occasionally use those doors, but also just to be able to open up the curtains and bring in more natural light, look at the trees outside, etc. With the setup I'll be using, I could leave the screen rolled up and the curtains open most of the time, which would largely conceal the existence of the theater, and instead highlight the outdoors.

On that point, I mentioned above that the fireplace is *a* focal point. Another focal point is the outdoors. To the right of the chairs is that other large window. If I placed the chairs there, instead, they would be partially blocking that window all of the time. And when sitting in those chairs, you would never be able to look out that window (your back would be facing it). So, that was another reason I ultimately decided against option #2.

Regarding your other comments...I've already been using the projector in its current position; it works well and will work well with the new screen. The Epson 8350 has a *lot* of flexibility for zooming and lens shift. In the pictures above, I have the projector sitting on a buffet in the dining area. My wife wasn't thrilled with that placement and I now have it on a makeshift shelf behind one of the chairs in the living room. I may still try to convince her to let me put it on the buffet, but there are a couple of advantages to the current placement, such as:
a) It isn't taking up space in the dining area, and we like to make use of the buffet top for other things.
b) It puts it slightly closer to the screen, which probably helps a little with lumens.
c) It puts it slightly lower than when on the buffet top. The screen is a Da-Lite High high-gain High Power material (2.8 on this old one, but the newer version of the High Power material is 2.4 gain) which reflects light back in the same direction that it comes from. So there's a lumens bump the closer in vertical position your eyes are to the vertical position of the projector lens. Since I'm going up to a fairly large screen (in a non-perfect light controlled area), I want to eke out any help I can get.

I've tested out zooming the lens out to simulate what life will be like with my new screen, and I think it looks great (at night). During the day, it should still look plenty watchable for 16:9 football, since the will zoom down to a size only a bit larger than what my current screen offers.
post #9 of 16

Both locations are adjacent walls to prime fireplace area. Either can work. I agree the deck door is slightly better due to the reasons you mentioned (I was just trying to use the vertical height of the room in that other location to your advantage). Deck door it is.


I would mount screen with larger shelving brackets so it can motorize extend down without touching drapes. High enough so that when retracted, you can just barely see the entire drape-tops. Your choice to center to wall or instead the door. A nice horizontal center-channel speaker mounted above the screen (and angled down) will enable full use of the door during the day (when the screen is up) ... without moving anything.


Projector could be on shelf above dining-room-to-den "window". In the main room, but really even with the loft floor. That way, the projector noise and heat isn't in someones ears. Also, no "buffet" decisions. They also make single arm "vertical wall" projector mounts.


Get amp and sub totally away from fireplace (to opposite wall) ... ends up behind chairs. The amp in the loft (with RF remote) would be cool, but I'm sure you only want one "rack" and it will include the DVR and Blu-Ray player ... so not sure that will work due to access-ability. Just seems like you are a candidate for a "hidden rack" somehow.


I'm sure it will turn out nice because you know what you are going. I'm just trying to make some suggestions ... things you might not have thought of.

Edited by Tesla1856 - 9/16/12 at 4:03pm
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quick update:

My new screen arrived today, and I got it up. I'll try to take pictures later.

To respond to some of your comments...the screen is a manual pull-down screen (because I like to save money) and it's a Da-Lite 2.4 gain High Power material. This screen material reflects light back at the same angle that it receives it, so ideally the projector lens needs to be as close as possible to your eye position in order to get the maximum gain increase. I've got the screen mounted as low as possible (the bottom of the screen is just a couple of inches above the top of my tower speakers) and the projector is on a shelf about a foot above my head. I may move it up a bit higher (to the buffet top in my dining room), but mounting it to the beam in the ceiling of the dining room would be considered a no-no with this screen, as you'd lose a good deal of the added gain that it offers.
Edited by srauly - 9/21/12 at 7:19pm
post #11 of 16
Originally Posted by srauly View Post

but mounting it to the beam in the ceiling of the dining room would be considered a no-no with this screen, as you'd lose a good deal of the added gain that it offers.

Read above again ... on a shelf (or horizontal arm) in the main room but ABOVE the cut-out-space . I'm guessing about 8 ft off the ground. People install screens at your height and then projectors from the ceiling all the time. The optics are build to accommodate that. It would look very cool and pro-install-like.


Anyway ... so how did it turn out? Any more pics? 

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
OK, so I'm finally back here posting some photos. Wasn't entirely pleased with how most of my photos turned out (using an original Canon EOS Digital Rebel and the 18-55mm lens), but they'll at least give you an idea. Changes since my last post:

1) Old off-white carpet replaced with a brownish-gray loop carpet. We're happy with this. Entire living area (and hallways and stairwells) painted in Benjamin Moore Golden Lab (178) flat paint. My wife and I had a tough time deciding/agreeing on the color, and neither one of us was entirely thrilled with it when the job was done, but we've decided to live with it for a while and hopefully come to love it. In certain lighting conditions, I think it looks great, while in other lighting conditions it looks a bit "lemony". I think part of the problem is how it looks up against the wood trim. I'm trying to convince my wife to let me paint the wood trim a not-super-bright white. For the movie watching experience, it's definitely lighter than I'd like, but because we have an open floor plan we decided to stick with the same color throughout, and we were worried about the home feeling *too* deep/dark in other areas. My other concern (which I haven't mentioned to my wife, and she hasn't said anything to this effect) is that sometimes when I look at the walls with the curtains, the yellow/red combo looks a bit clown-like. So I may decide to experiment with other curtain colors. That's easy, so I'm not worried about that. Anyways, enough about the wall color.

2) Fireplace painted black (satin finish, I think). We're both happy about how this turned out. If money was no object, I'd probably have the entire fireplace wall redone in fieldstone.

3) Light control is still a big problem for daytime viewing. I'll need to add some window treatments in the raised bandstand area, and may add some light-blocking backs to my curtains. The bigger problem are skylights in the loft area (not pictured). I need to find a creative solution for blocking those but also being able to un-block them when we want more light. The front door (also not pictured) also has a big oval glass window which is troublesome. Eventually I'd like to replace that door altogether.

4) The new projector screen is in place. Upgraded from a Da-Lite Model B 92" diagonal 16:9 (45" x 80") High Power (original formula) to a Model C custom made into a 49.5" x 116" (that's 2.34:1) with extra black drop above/below the screen. It's basically a stock 133" diagonal 16:9 (65" x 116") screen, where they cut some of the height and replace it with extra black drop. They don't charge a lot for this. So, when watching a scope movie, it's essentially like I had a 133" diagonal 16:9 screen. I use the ghetto-style manual zoom/shift approach with my Epson 8350. When watching 16:9 content, I zoom in and it's like I have a 49.5" x 88" (101" diagonal) 16:9 screen, so it's also an upgrade in size for 16:9 content, compared to my old 92" diagonal (just not as *much* of an upgrade). I also switched to a black case, compared to my old screen's white case. I have mixed feelings about whether I made the right decision going with this screen, but overall I'm happy when watching scope content with the significant size upgrade. My biggest regret is that if I knew then what I know now, I would have had them make it more like a 2.40:1 format, as I find that most of the scope movies I watch seem to be closer to that ratio, and I have to overspill it onto the black area (left and right) by a good 4" total in order to have it completely fill the white area's height (otherwise if I fit it to the width, I'll be left with tiny gray bars above/below the movie). Another complaint is that Da-Lite's black drop does a poor job absorbing light. Part of the reason I got the extra black drop (instead of just having them cut me a scope-format screen with normal black borders) was so that when I manually zoomed out my 8350 to watch a scope movie, the light leakage above/below the scope area would get absorbed by the screen's black drop. That works fine most of the time, but when I watched the latest Batman movie which switches between scope and IMAX-sourced 16:9 mode, the 16:9 scenes have real picture data displaying very noticeably in those black areas. I mainly blame the Batman director for this, though. Rant over. Even though light control is poor, and I wait until the evening to watch movies, the setup actually does a great job of displaying a perfectly watchable/enjoyable 16:9 image for sports or TV shows (most scenes in a Pixar movie would also look good). I just set the 8350 to "Living Room" mode to boost brightness then. At night, I use Natural mode. At some point I need to do some basic calibration, but the out-of-the-box settings on the 8350 are really quite good.

5) Projector is mounted permanently. I had the mount there before the painters painted, so it's permanent now. wink.gif Because of the retroreflective (I think I got that right) nature of the Da-Lite High Power material, I wanted to get the projector mounted as close to eye level as possible. Unfortunately, this results in the fan noise being too noticeable. Part of this is my own fault as I recently started setting the 8350 to "high altitude" mode based on a theory by some people that getting the fan to run full-bore all the time (which "high altitude" mode does) could prolong the bulb life (the 8350's bulb has a record of lasting not nearly as long as they claim). But I'll probably switch that off to quiet it down. Note that the 8350 has got a remarkably quiet fan - I just have it way too close to my ears. I may also scoot the movie seats forward by a foot.

6) Speakers are in place, but I still have yet to do a basic calibration on that. Most of the time, everything sounds good, so I haven't bothered with it yet. I'm a bit worried that the surround speakers are too big and are making the ledge they're sitting on look cluttered. I may end up replacing them with some small/discrete surround speakers. There doesn't seem to be a good option from KEF for matching the sound of my fronts perfectly, but I'm more of a videophile than an audiophile and could probably live with less-than-perfectly-matched surround sound.

7) Cables are still a mess. The 720p Panasonic plasma mounted above the fireplace is one big problem. Not exactly sure what I'll do to improve that wiring situation (ideally I wanted to try cutting some holes to see if I could run it through a cavity somewhere without risking running into the fireplace flue - but I wasn't able to get that done before the painters came). The wires for the surround speakers are the other big eyesore. And there's wires running down from the projector, but those will be the easiest to run through the wall and down to the baseboard (and, for now, they're the least noticeable anyway).

I think that about covers everything for now. Other finishing touches will include replacing some light switch covers, and eventually replacing the ceiling fan (not shown) with a big chandelier/light of some sort. Here are some photos...

View from the kitchen - Screen down / curtains closed (bandstand on left):

View from the kitchen - Screen retracted / curtains opened:

Closer view:

View from the bandstand (looking left/center - retracted screen in view on left):

View from the bandstand (looking right):

Edited by srauly - 1/19/13 at 7:05am
post #13 of 16

Thanks for posting the pics ... I was wondering how it all turned out. Overall, looking good.


Larger screen is nice. Yes, works much better above the curtains. Isn't it amazing the 8350 can accommodate both from the same distance? ... excellent optics if you ask me.


I like the amp over to the other side.


Seating config works for both screens.


Since that is a working fireplace, watch building codes about violating that space. A thin surface mount cable cover might be acceptable (painted yellow and black).


Speakers can be hung and pointed down slightly. Also helps with balancing when you don't have surrounds in certain viewers ears.


So, I can't talk you into putting the screen 3 feet higher (max wall height) and the projector about 5 feet higher? Are you trying to "hide" the projector or is it that you just want to keep the lens in the "sweet spot" of the screen?

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tesla1856 View Post

So, I can't talk you into putting the screen 3 feet higher (max wall height) and the projector about 5 feet higher? Are you trying to "hide" the projector or is it that you just want to keep the lens in the "sweet spot" of the screen?
Both, really. I wanted to get the screen as low as possible so as to minimize the amount we'd have to tilt our heads when watching something. This also gets the tweeters as close as possible to the center of the screen. And because of the design of the Da-Lite High Power material, to get the maximum gain, you need the projector as close as possible to eye level. That said, do I *need* to get a ton of extra gain? Probably not, since the 8350 is super-bright. I did reconsider the idea of mounting the projector high up (around the beam, or maybe on a shelf just above the beam), but that would likely mean drilling a hole into that wall to run the wires back, and then where do I run the HDMI cable? I'd have to run it back down again and it would be a pretty long run (but maybe still possible with today's higher gauge HDMI cables and/or a powered HDMI repeater). But the projector mount is already drilled in now, and I'd have to touch up the paint, etc. Maybe a project for the future, but for now, I think I'll be happy with it as-is.
post #15 of 16
Originally Posted by srauly View Post

I did reconsider the idea of mounting the projector high up (around the beam, or maybe on a shelf just above the beam), but that would likely mean drilling a hole into that wall to run the wires back, and then where do I run the HDMI cable? I'd have to run it back down again and it would be a pretty long run (but maybe still possible with today's higher gauge HDMI cables and/or a powered HDMI repeater).

Glad to see you considered it. The cable would go up the wall and then over, so it would only add another 10 feet or so of HDMI. You could take the surround speaker wires up there when you go.


Run the cables/wires inside walls when possible. Sometimes not possible (especially with external walls depending on insulation type). Conduit on outside of house. Follow AC ducts if needed for stories. Thin surface-mount conduit (painted) along base-board, in corner, or wall transition. In your exact case you have the loft baseboard, and the wooden ceiling (dark corners) to hide a cable of conduit. I'm thinking loft because that would help with providing AC Power. 


Keep up the good work. Not sure if I mentioned it before but my Epson 8350 is also in a Multi-Use room and we also have the plasma for aux. viewing. We face some of the same challenges. 

post #16 of 16
Just thought I'd comment that I thought you did a good job with a really difficult space. Not even sure I would have attempted a projector setup in that complicated a room / area. Happy watching !
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