[8/26/2013 - Massive edit to overhaul the original post with my most current plans]
Thanks for checking out my build thread. 2nd floor builds are rarer on here than basement builds so hopefully this will be helpful to some folks as I go through it and learn the hard way. I’m going to try and break it out piecemeal so that it’s easier to read the stuff you might actually be interested in and skip over the stuff you aren't.The Back Story
I found AVSForum probably somewhere back in 2009 and fell in love with the concept of building a dedicated home theater. Some of you have built, by yourselves, theaters so amazing, I would have assumed they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reading through the threads back then, it really made it seem like something achievable for us mere mortals (though, ironically, since then my expected budget for this has probably tripled). I never had the room for something like this back then (unless I gave up my garage) but it stuck with me as a “someday” project.
In 2010, I sold my old house and bought a much larger one, and as I was house shopping, I kept my eye out for something that would fit a theater room somewhere. Central Texas doesn't really do basements, so my best bet was converting a large bedroom (and not the master bedroom). The house I ended up buying had a big bedroom sitting over the garage with roughly 14 ½ feet by almost 19 feet:
(You’ll have to excuse the very basic Visio work throughout this thread)
It’s not as big as the average builds on here, I know, but we work with what we have. One good thing about it is that it shares no common walls with bedrooms (just two loft areas), so I think I can still achieve some moderate soundproofing. So with some demo work, I could remove the closet and have myself a large enough space to fit two rows of seats and many of the other features on my wish list.The Room
I went through a couple of iterations of the design of this room over the years as I paid for other things in the house (like trees and furniture), but I think I’ve finally narrowed it down enough to get the renovation started. The initial plan (below) calls for two rows of seating, with a “best seat in house” in the front row where I’d sit and the back row more of an overflow or a date night spot (love seat instead of extra chairs). I haven’t picked out specific chairs but I did go online and find a few I liked and picked the biggest one for the measurements here:
The front would be taken up by a curved stage (stealing ideas left and right from the folks on here). I know most people here go with carpet for the front stage but I’d really like to make an attempt at building it with wood or veneer on top. On the stage would be an acoustically transparent false wall between the speakers/subs and the viewer. The screen would hang on this false wall and would be an AT screen. I know the speakers in the above diagram are pretty close to the false wall and I’ll probably have to move it out a few inches at some point before building (the subs are down-firing so I am less concerned about those). The second row of seats would sit on a riser and I played around with the equations here on calculating riser height so hopefully I’m not too far off base. Obviously I’ll be double checking everything before I actually put it on the ground:
The room will also contain soffits at every side, with the two in the middle containing ductwork and the front/back possibly being open bass traps. I originally had the back row up against the wall and wasn’t bothering with a 7.x setup (back when I first started looking into this, there wasn’t a lot of native 7.1 content), but now it seems to be common enough to be worth it, so I added the speakers, pulled the back row up, and took out it’s reclining. The front row still reclines but again I haven’t picked out final chairs yet. The other speakers (fronts/sides) will be at ear height for the front row as it is again where the primary focus is.
The room would also contain columns on the sides to hide the speakers. I might also do something else with them (put shelves in the lower area to store random stuff like game controllers or blankets). I might put minimal-depth columns in the back just to make it look consistent (and put the rear speakers above these). It’s sort of a mini-goal of mine to hide as much equipment as possible, just like a real movie theater. I don’t think I’ll take it as far as a hush box for the projector, but I want people to almost be surprised when the sound starts up.The Treatments
I’m an engineer by trade (though this field isn’t my specialty) so I find the whole concept of sound isolation and treatment fascinating. Part of the allure of building out this room is getting to play with fun stuff like Green Glue, clips, and the like. I don’t need to 100% sound proof this room from a practical point of view, but I’m going to make an attempt to heavily isolate it so that it won’t at least be obvious from the other side of the house, when I’m playing loud movies. My plan of attack here is pretty much the standard stuff:
- Double drywall (5/8’’) with Green Glue in between, with the drywall pattern offset between each layer
- Isolation clips (currently thinking WhisperClips?) on all 4 walls and ceiling with hat/furring channel
- Standard insulation (R13 in walls, R19 in ceiling)
- A floating OSB floor (I’m on the fence about doing 1 layer, or 2 layers with GG between) on top of the existing floor, with some form of Acoustik or Serenity mat between it and the existing subfloor
- Removable window plugs to mitigate sound travel to outside the house. If I ever sell the place, I’d pull these out and put heavy curtains in their place
- Cavities would be filled in stage and riser with insulation (can’t do sand on the 2nd story)
In addition to the above sound isolation strategies, I’ll also probably be doing sound treatments in the room (bass traps and specific sound treatments) but I haven’t planned those out as much.
Since the room has a sort of nook coming into it from the outside, I’m going to go with a set of doors leading into the room. The outer hallway door and the inner room door. The inner door will be solid wood and probably treated with green glue and some extra mass. The inner door will also have the typical sealing and probably one of those automatic door seal bottoms. The outer door will probably be normal unless it ends up being a weak link in everything.
Since I’m raising the floor up by an inch or two inside the room (with the treatments), I have to build a ramp from the hallway to keep it from being a trip hazard, so this double door solution would allow for an incline between the doors without it being too obvious.
HVAC is also isolated but it’s probably better to cover this as its own sectionThe Equipment
Aaaand now the fun stuff. The equipment or “features” as I would call them in the room are broken out into three categoriesVisual
- Projector. I’m a little out of the loop on this one as I haven’t researched it in about a year. Last time I checked, I was looking at a Sony VW95es (B-stock). My goal on projector is something that has decent blacks, great 2D, ok 3D, good gaming, and most importantly lens memory (which is why I gave up on the HW30es or HW50es). I’ve been planning on a CIH setup for about as long as I’ve been planning on a theater room, but a anamorphic lens isn’t in the budget for now. Looking around again and skimming the forums, it looks like an updated HW55es might provide the same ability as a VW95es, but at a lower cost and brighter image. That’d probably jump it to the top of the list. It's not out yet so we'll see.
- (Tentative) 120’’ or 130’’ Cinemascope AT screen. I’ve played around a lot in calculators, as well as Visio, Excel and the like to try and figure out how big I’d be comfortable with but the one thing I’ve figured out is I won’t know until I’m in the room. I’m going to build as much as I can before pulling the trigger on screen size, so I can at least put a sheet up (after I buy the PJ) and figure out my comfortable sitting distance. I know already I like to sit closer than most folks. In terms of the type of AT screen, I kinda want to do this one myself as a DIY, but by the time I’m building it, I’m sure options for DIY will be different (better). The below diagram (with the riser height measurements) is based on a 120’’ screen:
I didn’t include an automated screen masking system in my original design but I might add it as I get closer to building out the screen. If nothing else, I’ll be making sure I build the screen to support some kind of masking.Audial
- Front 3 speakers, I’m building the 4-Pi kits from Wayne Parham, with the upgraded JBL woofer and the upgraded compression driver. These will sit behind the AT screen.
- Rear 4 speakers, I’ve tentatively picked the 2-Pi kits just for planning, mostly because it’s probably the biggest sides/rears I’d ever do, but I might not build the rears and just buy something that would still match the 4-Pi
- Cylindrical Subwoofers. Because I’d like to fit these up behind the screen, in order to get the volume I need, I can’t do big square subs. Up until about 3 months ago, I was all set on buying an SVS PC-12NSD. Then after starting my speaker builds, I got an itch to see if DIY cylinder subs were viable. Now I’m very tempted to go with a separate amp and two sonosub-style DIY subwoofers (and try to compete more with the SVS PC-12Ultra).
The whole solution should end up being a 7.2 solution with each subwoofer managed separately. Speaker placement is somewhat limited for me, just because of how “small” the room is. The fronts and backs are easy as the fronts can spread out or close in as much as they want until they run up against the subs. The backs are mounted above the listeners and pointed down towards the front row, but they have moving room on where they can be placed as well. The sides are a different story, as I have a riser and window plugs to deal with. Right now I’m thinking of putting them in front of the riser and overlapping the window plug:
The difficulty with putting the speakers here is the column for the right speaker would sit over the window plug, which means it would have to be a removable column (and would be an interesting challenge if I sold the house). The only other option I can think of is moving the speakers further back, to the other side of the riser and window, which would push my side sound field further back for the front row, but further forward for the back row. Something I’m tinkering with still (and would love some feedback from folks who have been here before).Other Devices
Components & I/O
- The Receiver is a Denon 4311ci, which I own but have never used (got a good deal on it earlier in the planning stage)
- The HTPC will be a custom built PC that I’ll do last (since computer specs update too quickly), but it will be the main method of playing any content I have (blu ray, local video, netflix, etc). It will also be a gaming box capable of playing games in cinemascope (which I’m looking forward to). It will have a blu ray disc player but that won’t be how I play the videos normally.
- The Media Content server is a custom build Unraid box, already up and running with something like 12 or 15TB of space, but capable of going up to 50TB if I keep buying more 3TB disks for it (and if there are ever that many blu ray discs worth buying). This is where I currently store all of my blu ray content for viewing in the rest of the house (the other rooms in the house have xbmc players that make it so I can watch any of my library in any room)
- Other components include a Uverse STB for cable, an xbox and PS3 for any gaming, a UPS, Insteon Hub, etc…
At the top of the thread, I mentioned a fairly large Gameroom closet that today has nothing in it. I’ve been meaning to build a small server closet in my house for a while now and why not kill two birds with one 19’’ rack? This sort of feeds into my same desire to hide my components and I’m a bit of an automation junkie anyways. So with this build, I’m going to try and put everything beyond the projector, speakers, and subs outside of the room. I’ll have a single (initially at least) planned perforation of the “shell” into the room from the gameroom closet (which I’m now calling the AVC) into the soffit of the theater room, that contains all of the initial cabling I expect to need. I’m also going to overbuild everything because I hate (hate ,hate) running new cables:
The AVC would contain a rack with the Denon receiver, the HTPC, the Media Content server, all of my other media sources (Uverse, etc) as well as any other I/O connectivity I am trying to think of. You can’t future proof everything but I’m going to try and make sure I’m ready for something like a Kinect coming in and suddenly having nowhere to plug in. I almost want to try and future proof for Oculus Rift even.
Anyways, I’ll be running both RCA subwoofer cables and 12AWG speaker cabling for the subwoofers so that I can swap between powered and unpowered without running new cables. The rest of the speakers also get 12AWG cabling. The above picture is color coded but probably still a little hard to read:
- The purple is going to the projector (2x HDMI, 1x ethernet, and 1x 12v trigger) in the soffit/ceiling, which will cover me for anything pre-HDMI 2.0/4k
- Red goes to speakers that don't have anything else near them
- Orange goes to a speaker but also to a small I/O box I’m going to build into the column for folks to plug a USB device in (the sort of stuff you can't really plan for)
- Blue goes to behind the screen and feeds the equipment I know I’ll have at build (USB for Kinect, 12v triggers, IR repeater cabling, etc…). None of this stuff would need fancy wall plates and would never be seen by the audience.
- The green is sort of a side project for me. I want to either put an I/O panel into the stage itself or maybe into the false wall, depending on how difficult it ends up being. This last I/O panel would support anything that was brought into the theater unexpectedly (like a friend bringing over a game console). It’s sort of a bypass for the AVC having to have all equipment wired directly into it. I also plan on putting a portable Blu ray player in the stage for the one-off “I have a movie I brought and want to play it” situations.
All cabling is run through the soffits as much as possible to minimize the amount of times I puncture the outer wall. A separate conduit or cable track will run inside the soffits for future cabling needs (probably HDMI 2.0+ for 4k in 3-ish years). This conduit will be empty at build.Air handling
The room today has a single 8’’ flex duct coming into it that I’m going to have to either cap or relocate somewhere else. I’m half tempted to try and keep it in the room with a controllable baffle so that I can steal A/C cooling when I know it’s on. However, it seems like I’d have to really automate that because I’d never do it manually. In the current plans, I’m not expecting it in the room at all.
I spent less time then I probably should have and more than I expected on air flow. I came up with all sorts of crazy ideas for how to bring fresh and cold air into the room and then exhaust it, trying to make the most efficient path and to try and cool both the “warm when people are in it” theater room and the “always warm” AVC closet. In the end I tackled the issue from two different ends.
Since sealing up a room like a tomb would probably turn that room into a tomb (or I guess just really make it uncomfortable long term), I had to figure out a good method for pulling “fresh air” in from the rest of the house, then pushing it back out of the room. The currently planned solution looks something like this:
In the end, I decided to pull fresh air from an open loft area on the other side of the front wall and into the lower left hand area of the room. This would be accomplished via a 8’’ flex duct running from the ceiling of the other room, into the attic, then into a sound isolated soffit (DD/GG). The flex duct run is about 15’, which I think might be the idea length for sound isolation? The flex duct is also “acoustically transparent” (M-Ke Thermaflex) and will be surrounded with more insulation around it, so it should bleed any sound coming into the room by the time it gets to the register.
The other side of the equation is an almost identical flex duct in the upper right corner of the room, actively pulling air from the room into another sound isolated soffit, which feeds into the AVC. This will probably be done by a fan on the AVC side, since it’ll already be noisy in that room from the server fans. By creating a positive air pressure in the AVC closet, I’ll be able to push the heat from the server rack out into another loft area (via another regular flex duct). By creating negative air pressure in the theater room, I’ll be able to pull fresh air in from the loft when the door is closed (which is when it’d need it).
So with fresh air cycling through the room, I still haven’t fixed my temperature. Even if my upstairs was always cool enough to make cycling air alone attractive (it’s not), Texas does get some cold temperature, which means I’d be cycling warm air into the room from December-February. I've read other threads on here from folks who have tried to balance an upstairs with a dedicated theater and it seems pretty difficult. I looked at a bunch of different solutions (zoning out my hvac, installing a smaller hvac just for this room) and have decided to go with a simple mini-split unit that can cool the room and the (typically 1-2, occasionally 6) bodies that heat it up. I haven’t calculated BTU’s yet but I figure I’ll try and purchase the unit myself once I find an HVAC guy willing to do the parts of the install I can’t. I've also seem some mini-splits that actually do have ducts or would go into a ceiling which might be viable (and less of an eyesore). Even with a wall one, I’d love to find a way to hide it in the soffit. The only downside of a mini-split is concern about noise, but building this thing is a lesson in compromises.Power and Automation
For lighting and “Scene control”, I looked at the graphik eye solution, as well as a few other automation solutions but in the end I decided to go with Insteon for automating the power and lighting in the room. I want to do more automation in the rest of my house, so I’d rather grab something I can build today and add to tomorrow.
For power, the room has a dedicated 20 amp circuit run to it from the garage breaker box, running over existing 12-2 gauge wire. I’ll be ripping out all of the existing gangboxes (and any wiring that’s in the way) and replacing them with the adjustable blue gangboxes you get from home depot. I’ll be coating these with putty pads to mitigate the holes in the sound shell as much as I can, and I’ll try and seal them up as best as possible against the drywall. The only interesting thing on the power side is again wanting to put a power gangbox with outlets into the stage itself, for the adhoc scenarios (just like the other cabling, but not *next to* the other cabling). This will use proper conduit within the stage and all that. The only other power outlet of note is the one in the ceiling that would feed the projector (I’m thinking about wiring this one into the AVC Closet in a UPS/Surge of some kind, need to do more research on options here):
The Insteon stuff is far far more interesting. For lighting, I’m going to go with canned lights on the outside of my soffits on all three sides of the theater. I’ve seen other folks on here build a cantilever ledge to put the lights in (and other convenient wiring) so I’m going to blatantly steal that idea. The stage will have can lights in it as well, though they’ll be in the soffit (since I’m not running hvac through it). Additional lighting will be two sconces, one in each column on the left/right sides of the theater, and I expect that would cover the bulk of the room (if not slightly overkill).
The Scones would be on their own Insteon dimmer module together, as a single “light path”. The left/right/back soffit lights will be on another dimmer module. The front stage lights are on a 3rd . In addition to these, there will be a rope light running across the outside of the soffit on it’s own dimmer, as well as a light rope on the underside of the riser, again on it’s own dimmer. All 5 dimmers will be managed separately but programmed together for scenes. A control panel will be inside the room by the door with easy lighting scene selections.
I haven’t done enough research into the specific lights or rope lighting, so there are options to go traditional or LED once I get closer to that stage of the project. In addition to all of these “intelligent” gangboxes, I’ll have an outlet running an Insteon OutletLinc that would control the subwoofers if they are powered (so they’d be off when not in use). All of the Insteon devices will be controlled by the Insteon hub in the AVC closet, which will also control the rest of the home eventually.
For remote control of everything, my goal is to be able to do everything from the seat, without getting up. All of my bluray and DVD disks are all loaded on my Content server, so there should never (or rarely) be any need to get up to change discs. The equipment in the AVC closet that needs IR will have an IR transmitter on it that connects to an IR receiver in the room itself (slightly above or below the screen but invisible). The HTPC will be running something like XBMC that will be remote control compatible. The short term goal will be to set up everything with something low tech like a Harmony One remote, while long term I want to try my had at a small, cheap tablet customized with a “theater app” to control everything in the room and AVC.
The only other two item’s I’ve thought about but not documented yet are a small setup in the bathroom so folks can still watch when they have to leave for a few minutes to use it, and a LCD TV in portrait mode outside the theater showing the movie poster of what’s currently playing (or picking random posters). I had that one in my list since 2009 and thought I was real original with the idea, but I obviously wasn’t. Not only have I seen it on here several times but I’ve also seen it in my local movie theaters now (instead of normal posters). Still want to do it though.
I’ve also thought about a year or two later adding a star ceiling to the mix (it’s not in the budget today) though I’m concerned that adding it as a (spaced out) layer below the existing coffered ceiling would create a triple leaf effect.
Anyways, that's pretty much the gist of it. A bit of a wall of text here but at least there are some pictures!
I'll be adding to this thread as I progress, which will hopefully not be as slow as it took to finish planning. And feedback is very very welcome!