When AVS member Mario Cascio (mcascio) wanted to build his own home theater, he already knew the drill—his company, Cinemar, provides home-automation and media-management systems for customers all over the country. So he understood exactly how to plan his own theater down to the last detail.
The first step was to visualize the theater using 3D CAD (computer-aided design) software. "This allowed me to discover potential mistakes prior to even picking up the power tools," Cascio says. "It also helped me to select colors for the room, even the direction of the carpet pattern."
In this composite image, you can see how the finished room perfectly matches the CAD drawing.
Starting with a blank-slate basement, Cascio wanted to make sure the theater was sonically isolated from the rest of the house. He installed double walls with a 1-inch air gap, a layer of OSB (oriented stranded board) joined to 5/8-inch drywall with Green Glue noise-damping compound, whisper clips and hat-channel construction on the ceiling, and putty behind all outlets and switches. He put the air return in an adjoining room rather than in the theater to avoid sound leakage through the HVAC system, and all air supplies into the room are routed to a large, insulated, soundproof enclosure suspended from the ceiling. Two doors separated by a few feet prevent sound from intruding or escaping through the foyer.
As with many high-end home theaters, this one started as a big open room in the basement.
Cascio was not content to merely watch movies in his theater—he wanted to feel them as well. So he installed four D-Box motion-simulation actuators under the corners of an aluminum-framed platform on which the three front seats rest. The actuators are driven by a motion controller, which is connected to one of the AV receiver's coax digital-audio outputs. The controller is custom programmed by D-Box for specific movies (it's up to about 1000 titles at this point) and the seats move in perfect sync with the onscreen action—you really feel the turns of a speeding car and the vibration of a crash. Even better, the moving platform is at the same level as the surrounding floor and essentially invisible, so unsuspecting visitors get a real surprise!
The front row of seats sit on a rigid, aluminum-framed platform that moves in sync with the onscreen action thanks to four D-Box actuators in the corners and custom-programmed motion controller.
The front stage is filled with one and a half tons of sand for stability in the face of reference-level sound from three M&K S-5000 THX speakers placed in the cavity behind an acoustically transparent screen. Completing the 11.2-channel system are eight M&K SS-150 THX speakers in pairs serving the front wide and high channels as well as pairs for the side and rear surround channels, all in custom-built cabinets. The two subwoofers—an M&K MX-350 THX and Hsu VTF-15H—are located in the front corners of the room, also in custom cabinetry. Power is supplied by an Emotiva XPA-5 power amp and Denon AVR-4520CI AV receiver, which also provides the 11.2-channel processing.
The 11.2-channel audio system has speakers placed all around the room.
The screen is a Seymour AV Center Stage XD (136 inches wide, 2.35:1, woven). To make the image really pop, the screen is surrounded with a bezel of black light-absorbing material made by Protostar and normally used to line telescopes. A Panasonic PT-AE8000U projector lights up the screen with 2D and 3D images. Cascio was not sold on 3D until he got that projector and a 2.35:1 screen, which really enhanced the experience in his eyes. Also, he's very glad to have the PT-AE8000U's lens memories, which let him easily display images with different aspect ratios on the screen at a constant height.
Many high-end home theaters have some sort of night-sky simulation on the ceiling, but few have a custom-painted starfield that depicts the actual sky where the home is located—in this case, Kenosha, WI. These stars do not rely on LEDs and fiber optics to shine, but rather phosphorescent paint that is activated by eight ultraviolet tubes hidden in soffits. The rest of the room's lighting is LED-based to reduce heat and energy consumption.
The ceiling starfield was created by Night Sky Murals.
Another unique feature of this spectacular home theater is the virtual movie poster located in the foyer between the two entrance doors. A 40-inch LCD TV is oriented in portrait mode and shows the cover art for the movie being shown on the big screen, along with the start, stop, and remaining time.
Guests know what's playing as they enter the theater thanks to the virtual movie poster displayed on a 40-inch LCD TV.
Because Cascio's business is home automation and media management, it's no wonder that the entire theater is controlled by a Cinemar system. He can select movies and control the projector, AV receiver, lights, thermostat, security, and much more, all from a tablet or smartphone.
The Cinemar system provides total control of the entire room from a tablet or smartphone.
After spending two years researching, planning, and creating the 3D CAD drawings, it took about 16 months to actually build the theater. Cascio did most of the work himself—building and installing the cabinetry, columns, steps, crown molding, baseboards, wiring, lighting, automation, etc.—and amazingly, it was the first time he had done this type of work. He did contract others to do the rough construction of the room, electrical rough-in, carpet, drywall, and some of the HVAC, and his father-in-law did most of the painting. And the total cost? Right around $74,000.
The finished theater is a thing of beauty.
In addition to entertaining Cascio and his family and friends, this theater serves as a demonstration room for Cinemar's automation and media-management services. Who says you can't combine business with pleasure?
For much more detail about how Mario Cascio's home theater came together, check out the build thread here.
If you'd like your home theater considered for Home Theater of the Month, PM me with the details and a link to your build thread if available.
Dune HD Max media server
Sony PS3 game console/Blu-ray player
Microsoft Xbox 360 game console (2)
Cinemar MLD-4000 12TB NAS
Denon AVR-4520CI AV receiver
Emotiva XPA-5 power amp
Darbee Darblet DVP5000 video processor
Seymour AV Center Stage XD (136" wide, 2.35:1, woven)
M&K S-5000 THX (3; front LCR)
M&K SS-150 THX (8; front LR wide, front LR height, side surround LR, rear surround LR)
M&K MX-350 THX subwoofer
Hsu VTF-15H subwoofer
Monoprice audio cables
Monoprice Redmere HDMI cables
CAT6 with HDMI baluns to projector
Logitech Harmony 700 universal remote
Cinemar MainLobby/MLServer/DVDLobby tablet/smartphone interface
Insteon lighting control
Berkline 45003 (7; 3 in front row, 4 in back row)
D-Box Motion Platform (front row)