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Home Theater of the Month: The Old Vic

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 

AVS member Paul Morgan (Moggie) dreamed of building his own home theater for 10 years, inspired largely by AVS Forum. "It taught me just about everything I know today and was 90 percent of my inspiration," he says. There was only one problem—the best place for it was under his house in Santa Cruz, CA, where a meager crawlspace did not provide nearly enough room for a theater.

 

How was Paul going to fit a home theater in this crawlspace?

 

The answer was to excavate over 100 cubic yards of dirt from beneath the house. His family, friends, and realtor thought he was crazy.

 

Paul loves to combine his training as an electronics engineer, his work as a software engineer, and his hobby as a mechanical engineer and builder, making this the perfect project for him. "I wanted stadium seating with two rows of seats and bar area at the rear where I could eat dinner after work while the family watched a movie," he says. "Also, I wanted it completely soundproofed from the rest of the house given that it is below the kitchen."

 

Paul started with a detailed floor plan. Note the markings for various fractional distances along the walls, which is important for seating and speaker placement.

 

Sound isolation from the rest of the house was accomplished using room-within-a-room construction with independent ceiling joists, isolated subfloor, and walls of OSB (oriented-strand board) and two layers of drywall separated by Green Glue sound-damping compound.

 

Other than the excavation and final carpeting, Paul built everything in the theater with his own hands, including the floor, walls, ceiling, sand-filled stage, all the woodwork, even the electrical wiring. "I installed a new 125A subpanel in the garage, and four separate 20A circuits and two 15A circuits were plumbed to the equipment area and interior outlets, which were all wired inside the shell for a completely airtight enclosure, except for the HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning]." He also built the fiber-optic night-sky system in the ceiling.

 

The night-sky simulation uses a lot of fiber-optic cabling to keep the stars shining.

 

After the fiber-optic ceiling was installed, Paul's 8-year-old daughter brought in an orange glow-stick and they had a "fireside" picnic under the stars. It was a magical moment.

 

But Paul didn't stop there; he went so far as to build two of his own subwoofers, each with two 18" drivers from Fi in a dual-opposed, side-firing, infinite-baffle configuration. The subs sit beneath the screen, and the back of their niche opens into a 3-foot-deep space that extends from floor to ceiling to maintain the infinite baffle. (He admits it's not strictly infinite, but close enough!) Above the subs are three Klipsch KL-650-THX speakers for the front left, center, and right channels.

 

Three Klipsch KL-650-THX speakers are mounted above two DIY subwoofers.

 

With such a front-speaker setup, Paul needed an acoustically transparent screen, and he chose Seymour AV's Center Stage XD woven material for the job. But being the inveterate DIYer that he is, Paul decided to build his own steel screen frame with motorized horizontal masking so that the image would maintain a constant height regardless of aspect ratio. And because he wanted to use an anamorphic-projection system, he knew it would be best to have a curved screen, making the build even more difficult.

 

Paul built a curved frame for the acoustically transparent screen with fully automated horizontal masking.

 

For the rest of the speaker system, Paul wired the room for 11 main channels, but he uses nine for now—front left, center, right, side surrounds, rear surrounds, and left and right wide speakers. "I love surround sound," he says. "The DTS 7.1 soundtrack of Love mixed for Cirque du Soleil is my reference." Paul tried speakers in the front-height positions, but he preferred the envelopment of the wide speakers until he can add height speakers to the system. In addition to the two DIY subwoofers in the front, there are two Klipsch KW-120-THX subs in the rear.

 

Six Berkline 1200 seats are surrounded by Klipsch KS-525-THX speakers in gracefully curved pilasters. The seats are also equipped with Buttkicker LFE transducers that shake your booty during intense scenes.

 

A JVC DLA-RS40 projector is outfitted with a Prismasonic HD-6000R cylindrical anamorphic lens that can slide into and out of the light path on a vertical mechanism. Paul built a beautiful cabinet for it that maintains the wood look of the room while containing noise made by the projector.

 

The projector cabinet is made from walnut, as is most of the woodwork in the room.

 

The equipment rack is located outside the main theater, housing a Dune H1 media server with a 16 TB NAS (network-attached storage). Also available are an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player and Sonos whole-house audio system.

 

The equipment rack pulls out, making it easy to swap out gear. The cabling is neatly dressed rather than a tangle of technospaghetti.

 

All that gear is easily controlled with an iPad running the iRule app.

 

The entire build took about 20 months, with Paul's faithful German Shepherd Victoria by his side all the while. Also cheering him on were the denizens of the Dedicated Theater Design & Construction forum. "They are a wonderfully motivating bunch who carried me through many a 'down' moment," he recounts.

 

The theater is called The Old Vic after Paul's faithful canine companion, Victoria.

 

And it's still not complete. "I have some miscellaneous work do to on the entrance—framing the equipment rack, for example—and one more big project to build a hidden entrance. The plan is to install a pneumatic sliding ticket booth with signage above. I want the presentation of a ticket to automatically open the ticket booth to reveal the entrance."

 


The (almost) finished theater is a real beauty.

 

And the price tag so far? About $55,000 for the theater and another $45,000 for the excavation and foundation reinforcement. Was it worth it? Absolutely—as Paul recalls, "When I reclined into the comfortable chairs for the first movie with my family and watched the motes of dust dance in the projection beam, that's when it sunk in, and I thought, 'Wow, I have my very own home theater!'"

 

For much more detail about how Paul Morgan's home theater came together, check out the build thread here. He also has a separate thread about building the screen here.

 

If you'd like your home theater considered for Home Theater of the Month, or you know of a really cool one, PM me with the details and a link to the build thread if available, or post a comment with this info in the Call for HT of the Month thread.

 

EQUIPMENT LIST

 

Sources

 

Dune H1 media server with QNAP TS-859+ NAS (16 TB)

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

 

AV Electronics

 

Integra DHC-80.1 preamp/processor

Outlaw Model 7700 (7 channels: LR mains, LR wides, 2 entryway)

Outlaw Model 7500 (5 channels: center, LR side surrounds, LR rear surrounds)

Berhinger EP4000 (2, each with 2 channels: front subs, rear subs, Buttkickers)

 

Projector

 

JVC DLA-RS40 with Prismasonic HD-6000R cylindrical anamorphic lens on vertical sled

 

Screen

 

Seymour AV Center Stage XD (130", 2.4:1, woven, custom automated-masking system, DIY construction)

 

Speakers

 

Klipsch KL-650-THX (front LCR)

Klipsch KS-525-THX (side and rear LR surrounds)

Klipsch RB-51 (LR wides)

Klipsch KW-120-THX subwoofers (2, rear)

DIY subwoofers (2, each with 2 Fi 18" drivers in dual-opposed configuration, infinite baffle design)

 

Cables

 

Monoprice throughout

 

Control

 

iRule on iPad

 

Power Conditioning

 

APC J15 power conditioner/UPS (AV equipment)

APC Smart-UPS 1000 (computers, NAS, etc.)

 

Seating

 

Berkline 1200 (6) with Buttkicker LFE transducers

 

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post #2 of 53

Sweet! Comparing the first photo to the last, that's one of the most dramatic before/after contrasts that I've seen.

post #3 of 53
Congrats! Quite the difference from beginning to end. Awesome job and a beautiful theatre.
post #4 of 53
Really amazing! A real "batcave" underground!!
post #5 of 53

just amazing theater! but the best part i loved was mono price cables :) 

post #6 of 53
This theatre is really elite. I really like this one. And knowing he did so much of it on his own is really cool. Very nice.

I got a question though. In the second photo, it looks like the concrete footings are sitting on soil that's just excavated nearly vertical. Did the contractor do something about this? I hope it wasn't left like that. Eventually the soil would cave in and leave the footing dangling there. I imagine they framed in the room, but hopefully concrete supported the footings first.
post #7 of 53

Very nice theater!  This is one of the strongest displays of dedication to one's hobby that I've seen.  Kudos to a theater that looks well worth the effort to create the space!

post #8 of 53
As a Klipsch owner it makes me proud to see two of the first three Home Theater of the Months Sporting Klipsch speakers!

Beautiful room by the way. I have been planning on building my sub enclosure into my front wall almost exactly the same way and I have always wondered why I have never seen it done before. Seeing this room makes me that much more anxious to start building mine.
post #9 of 53
Amazing!!! I agree with imagic... the before and after pictures are amazing! I just did some work in NY, where the homeowner dug out a basement (by passing dirt out through a window) and almost doubled his living space. I was blown away as I stood in that basement. And, after seeing that, and then seeing this article... I am in awe of Paul
s accomplishment! Great job!
post #10 of 53
Excellent theater! I loved the part where you sat in your seat, saw the dust in the beam, and thats when it sunk in! I can't wait for that day myself smile.gif
post #11 of 53
Now that is a deserving Home Theater Of The Month!

Amazing.

The first few images had me thinking I'd stumbled on to a page detailing the underground subway excavation project in New York!

To think this was brought forth by the will of one man. Well done.
post #12 of 53
Thanks very much to Mr Wilkilson and AVS for featuring my humble home theater. It seems as though there were a few members who pointed him my way, thanks to you too. I'm very honored to be spotlighted. The blood and sweat of the build is beginning to fade in my memory but reading a concise well written summary like this brings back a flood of memories. I almost want to do it again. Almost!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post

I got a question though. In the second photo, it looks like the concrete footings are sitting on soil that's just excavated nearly vertical. Did the contractor do something about this?

The contractor who did the excavation asked me to be a little secretive about his process. There are more details in my build thread, but the foundation was never left sitting on mud (even the VERY hard clay soil in my case). It was a sequential process that reconstructed an even bigger footing than the original, on top of which was poured the extended foundation. It was hand finished to join the original footing with the pipe jacks left in place. We added an additive to the concrete called Xypex. This is not only waterproofs, it increases the strength. The inspecting engineer was very impressed with the approach and rated the finished foundation as "over built", which makes my wife happy ;-)

Cheers,

- Paul.
post #13 of 53
Congrats with your amazing HT!!

Just a question. Where exactly did you put the wide speakers? Any pics?
post #14 of 53
!! WOW !! truly amazing that you used you gifts do something extraordinary. Me I been thinkin of moving my toys to another space in my home. And just picked up from TARGET the steel shelfs with wheels for a equipment rack. they were on sale. An thinking either to duct tape hdmi cables to the floor or use those wire channels ......
post #15 of 53
Fantastic Theater.. that excavating looks like one helluva undertaking.. I think I'd move before I'd tackle something like that - well done sir, well done. I'm going to have to mosey on over to your full thread and check out the details of this one.
post #16 of 53
Where there is will, there is a way.

Paul showed that here with bringing his fabulous HT to life!

Kudos!
post #17 of 53
Amazing. Excellent work! I hope to one day do the same...may be when all the kids move out lol!
post #18 of 53
That last line about the dust actually made me tear up slightly.
post #19 of 53

Hi, 

I'm Looking at the Klipsch THX series and the Reference 7 series. I hear good things about both. The Reference 7 series appears to be more versatile (movies and music) based some reviews that I have read. Also, I seem to be able to find better prices for the Reference 7 series than the THX. I'm thinking that the THX system might be better behind an acoustically transparent screen since the "front three" speakers are identical. In addition, it would open up more real estate at the bottom of the stage as well for subs. I don't see a lot of tower speakers behind acoustically transparent screens.  Did you consider the reference 7 series as well? If so, what factors led you to go with the THX? How are you hiding your rear subs?

post #20 of 53
What an awesome theater! Congrats.
post #21 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Romans828 View Post

Hi, 
I'm Looking at the Klipsch THX series and the Reference 7 series. I hear good things about both. The Reference 7 series appears to be more versatile (movies and music) based some reviews that I have read. Also, I seem to be able to find better prices for the Reference 7 series than the THX. I'm thinking that the THX system might be better behind an acoustically transparent screen since the "front three" speakers are identical. In addition, it would open up more real estate at the bottom of the stage as well for subs. I don't see a lot of tower speakers behind acoustically transparent screens.  Did you consider the reference 7 series as well? If so, what factors led you to go with the THX? How are you hiding your rear subs?

Hi, to be honest I didn't consider the Reference 7's. I purchased most of the THX speakers (hardly) used from a friend -- the opportunity was too good to pass up. I then purchased a couple more to complete the set. I would consider the Ultra THX range as "workhorses" and with my design goal of 70% movies and 30% music they are perfect.. They are industrial in look and are capable of playing painfully loud and as such are well suited to hidden home theater application. That said, in my significantly damped home theater, they are capable of sweet music and I'm not at all disappointed. If i were building a dedicated music room they would not be my first pick.

The rear subs are there to balance the front IB design. They do admirable well at keeping up with the IB. They are hidden behind a curved cloth wall under what I call the "oscar shelf" at the rear of the theater behind the bar ... so named because I was looking for a replica oscar statue to put on it. The photo shows the rears with the covering removed:



- Paul.
post #22 of 53
Fantastic job! Anyone that excavates a craw space for the sole purpose of a dedicated Home Theater deserves the title of Home Theater-phile of the year. wink.gif
post #23 of 53

Awesome! Thank you for responding!

post #24 of 53
One of my favorite theaters on AVS. Not just the theater, but the personal craftmanship and vision to put this together is really impressive.

Also love the IB subs. smile.gifcool.gif
post #25 of 53
Sweet theater, congrats!
post #26 of 53
Nice!! really classy.
post #27 of 53
Very nice! I want my own! cool.gif
post #28 of 53
Wow that is one awesome job! So inspiring to see these home theaters and at a realistic price. (Well, 75-100k is a hell of a lot of money but it isn't like it's 200k or more!) The only thing I'm wondering is on average, what the annual income is of these families. I certainly don't want anyone to disclose their income as that is none of my business. (And I'm not asking lol!) It's just there's kind of this stigma that this type of thing is only afforded by millionaires. It's nice to see that it's a lot more accessible than I once thought.

And yeah, I'd have likely looked at you like you were crazy as well if you told me you were going to excavate over 100 cubic yards from under your house haha. Does it double as a fallout shelter? Because that would just be all the more amazing. Best bomb shelter ever.
post #29 of 53
I really enjoyed reading the build thead to this theater. Glad to see it got HT of the month. Such a classy theater and the fact of how much work the owner put into gets my biggest respect. I think my favorite part of the theater is its name, The Old Vic, after the owners trusty side-kick. To all of mans best friends and to the Moogie,Cheers man you deserve it!!!!smile.gif
post #30 of 53
Well deserved Moggie. Congrats. I know I learned quite a bit from his build thread especially when it came to wood working.

Beautifully crafted theater!
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