It’s late at night, summer time, and very hot outside. But I am enjoying the nice cool AC indoors. I slowly walk down a long cramped dark hallway and turn the corner into open space. As I look around I find myself in a very large room with many seats. As I whisper to my Grandfather (Wendell Frederick) “where should we sit?” I find it strange how my voice sounds, dead, no reverberation off any walls, a very odd sensation. The decorative look of the walls and decorum in the room makes me feel as though I am in a concert hall but this is no concert. I feel as though I am on stage and everyone is looking at me. We walk up the side of the room and my grandpa leads me and my younger brother over to a spot. I sit down and start to get comfortable in my seat, when I start to hear large motors coming on moving curtains out of the way in front of me. Lights start dimming all around me. I find myself enveloped in darkness that is strangely calming, yet I am full of anticipation. I feel as though I am falling down into an abyss and need to ground myself similar to vertigo or maybe just a floating feeling. I can slowly make out only the smallest of blue lights on the floor indicating steps going down from where I am sitting. Now I am grounded but it is still dark. I can almost make out what is in front of me but I am distracted by the deafening silence. I can no longer hear background conversations and whisperings but I can still make out subtle sounds of motions around me. I feel like everyone can hear my heart beating. There is a strange atmosphere that can be felt though all those around me. A very slight hissing sound from all directions can be heard almost as if it was in my head. The feeling is meshed with an uncanny sense of high power at bay, just waiting to come out given referenced little popping sounds that can be heard. It’s like standing next to a high power transformer about to spark. I can smell some familiar and not so familiar smells like chemically treated fabrics or something like that new car smell. After what I am sure is no where near as long as it felt, the room lights up with the words STARWARS in my face as I was hammered with music from all directions! Fading away as I am looking out into space with hug ships flying over my head. I could hear the amazing sounds from all directions. This made me feel for the first time as if I had been in space. It was not the last, but it is the beginning of my home theater story.
This was not in my home theater but another. That day in 1979, I was only six years old and had been to movies before, but my grandpa gave me something special that day and many days after. It was the surround sound movie experience that was coming into play at many movie theaters across the country. Almost every time I would go see him he would take me to see Star Wars at that theater again and again (opened in 1924 and is what is now the Crown Theatre in Crown Point Indiana), if it were still showing. And let me tell you, they milked it for years! I never got jaded to the experience and never will. I remember thinking even then at six years old, wouldn’t it be cool to have my own movie theater and experience that every day. From that point on I became a Star Wars and later THX fan. I know what you are thinking, the THX thing is way over rated and way over priced and most, if not always, you can do much better without the THX logo on it. I agree, but in the early 90s when my love for music, Audio-Video equipment, and more importantly home theater came into play. I always heard people talked about how sick that THX Theater here and there was (for example the Abingdon THX Cinemall in VA is hands down the best THX cinema I have ever heard, the old theater floor NOT the newer addition). When I went to hear it, I could not help but agree. So, I thought to myself after my last two home theaters (nothing worth even posting) what theme I might go with, given a lot of equipment I already have and or wanted. I also found that as I was designing and building this theater, that the Star Wars dark empire look came out subliminally into my final design. About half way through this build, one day my wife came down to see how it was going. I remember it so clearly. She stopped and gazed at part of what was done. After standing there for a few minutes she gave me that look (you married men out there know what I am talking about). I was thinking to myself, “Here it comes. This might not be good”. She said “Are you sure the dark side of the force is not influencing you to make a Star Wars man cave here”. Yes, that’s it, a 90’s Star Wars THX cinema look. Just like what I remember back in those days. Oh, and note, my wife loves movies and home theaters as much as I do. That is how this was an easy sale to her. She has been a major supporter of this build and of me when I really needed it. I can remember many times when I was really down about the build. She would help re-motivate me by the things she would say. The thing is…………
she hates Star Wars!....
I know right?
Oh well, I still love her even though she is clearly Star Wars delusional.
My grandpa Wendell is 98 years old now and after much thought, I decided to honor him, in naming this theater. After all, if it were not for that experience with him, I might not have had this driving force all these years to build a home theater. All my life growing up, I took note of his love for music and the audio equipment associated with his love of music. He played many musical instruments, took me to real concerts, and always had music in his life. Unfortunately, in the last few years his hearing has degraded to the point were he is almost deaf. I think I remember him giving away some equipment and instruments saying “if I cannot hear it like it is supposed to sound then I don’t want to hear it all”. Also, saying “I just don’t get what I use to out of music”
Maybe, but not likely, he will get a chance to see and hear this theater. I wonder if +10db above THX reference levels on my home theater could change that? It should also be noted that my father was a major factor in my love for audio/video equipment. My avatar picture here is me as a baby trying to get to my dad’s really cool looking and sounding reel-to-reel gear LOL. He always had music on as I was a kid and took me to movies I wanted to see. I guess this love has always been in my family and I hope to pass that down through the years to come.
I was not planning to post my build till it was more or less done. It is not, but only recently my grandpa was emitted into the hospital for medical reasons and it looks grim given his age. So I have decided to post as much as I can to keep busy and hopefully finish very soon. My home theater is modest compared to most builds here. We are very happy with how it turned out and I am sure their will be some upgrades down the road.
Our new cottage home is small and was built right before my wife and I got married. I knew what I wanted, to some degree, after thinking about it for many years. My wife wanted it almost as badly as I did but we were just getting married so I set a budget. Otherwise I would have spent way more than I wanted too. That budget was more or less met at a total of what it would cost for a new cheap car. Everything you see in the pictures, the amps, projectors, cables, equipment, supplies all the way down to the nails in the 2X4s was part of this budget. The entire build was done with my own hands (and if you look closely it shows because I am not a carpenter unlike my grandpa). I did get some help from my father, niece and brother in-law to drywall the ceiling. I cannot hold drywall in one hand and screw them in with the other. Trust me, I tried and failed. Believe it or not, everything I own was bought “used” over two years of searching patiently for the right price. The only equipment that will most likely be changed by the time I post this would be a 4k projector with lens memory (maybe Epson LS10000 as that would solve my need for dual projectors) and a DTS version of Dolby Atmos preamp. Whatever that will be.
Things I knew I had to have;
, as part of many THX cinemas and studios, a raised floor, isolated from walls, for bass impact. I have read through a lot of forums here. Like everything in this world, there are pros and cons to this approach. Simply put, for me, all my home theaters and others had concert floors that just never gave me the same feeling that I have heard in THX cinemas. I like that “titanic rumbling through the floor into the couch feel” when something large like a robot is stomping around and you swear it is in the room with you. Once you go raised floor, you will never go back to concert floors. Unless you have 1.21 jigawatts with subs like Austin, aka popalock, Dude I salute you, and all the others that go down that road. I would have done that in my younger years.
, just for once I wanted my equipment to look nice on glass tables not hidden in racks. Just like the old high end audio stores that are going out of business lately. I always liked that look. But I did not want to see the equipment in front of me while I am watching movies like all of my other systems. Also, a must, I need easy access to all of the back of the equipment. I have broken cables and equipment trying to get to the back of them. I vowed never again. I needed a minimum of two to four feet wiggle room. I went with four.
, 2.35:1 screen with an ISO III anamorphic lens
No, did not like that
, 2.35:1 screen with NO anamorphic lens
, 2.35:1 screen with lens memory
no wait, maybe…..
, 2.35:1 screen with two projectors one for 16:9
, 2.35:1 screen with lens memory or native 2.35:1 god wouldn’t that be nice. Still waiting for that to happen for a reasonable price.
(It really did go down like that.)
, A projector mounted to an I-beam so no amount of bass or someone walking on the floor above will shack the projector. This was a big problem that drove me nuts, but my solution worked. My projectors has not moved, EVER.
, optical Starfield and rope light in ceiling trim. I never thought this was all that cool but I remember when I was in BestBuy and they had this concept set up in their demo theater room. My wife was soooo impressed with it. I said “yeah, I am going to do that just for you
” Man, if I only knew how much work that was going to be.
, I wanted close to the acoustic golden ratio room. For me the closest I could do was 16’ wide, 20-24’ deep, and 8’ high. I wanted a “studio” backend room look with interesting looking first reflection panels in the front of the room. Panels needed to be practical but still cool looking. I also wanted something close to a real movie theater that has two ways to enter, i.e. being able to enter on both sides onto the main floor.
I first want to thank the following (wish my theater was as cool) as they inspired me here with their build,
EQUIPMENT LIST as of 3/27/2015
THX Integra DHC 80.6 Preamp
THX Integra DBS 50.2 Blu-ray player
THX iscan DVDO VP50 Pro
THX 3x Bryston 9B SST’s
THX Bryston 5B SST
THX Bryston 3B SST
THX 3x Lexicon NT212
THX Klispch KA-1000 amp
THX 2x Rane THX-22 Equalizers
THX Epson 9700UB Pro (for 2.35:1)
THX Epson 8700UB (for 16:9) SOLD
THX 128” 2.40:1 OS screen
THX 2x Klipsch KW-120 Subs
Seaton Submersive HP
THX 4x Atlantic Technology 453eU2 center
THX 2x sets of Atlantic Technology 451eU2 left/rights
THX 3x sets of Atlantic Technology 454eU2 dipole left/right rears
THX set of Atlantic Technology 371 U2 upgraded left/rights
THX set of Atlantic Technology 371 older left/rights
2x sets of Atlantic Technology 4.5 left/rights
THX 6x HDMI M1000 HDX Monster cables
THX 4x M1000i RCA Monster cables
4x Z300i RCA Monster cables
THX M1000i RCA Sub Monster cable
THX 17x Z200i XLR Balanced Monster cables
THX 15x custom M2.2s Monster Cable lock speaker wire
2x M2000 S-video Monster cable
Still need a solution to that problem as it takes me 5mins to turn everything on/off
2x Panamax 500s only used for turning on and off projectors
2x Leather couches need to upgrade
Note: please forgive the wide variance in picture quality of these images. I took them using cheap cell phones. I wish I documented this better. It all came down to convince as I was more worried about building than what I was using to document the build. I will have a final post of much better images. The dig,