Need/Want input on new theater design - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 37 Old 03-27-2019, 08:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Need/Want input on new theater design

I'm hoping to crowdsource some wisdom here. I'm building a new house, and trying to decide what i want to do with my theater.

In my current home (I think you can see the build in my signature here) I have a completely closed off theater - row of 5 seats in the back on a riser and 4 seats in front of that. I also have a stage in the front. I want to keep MOST of that the same...I want a riser for the back row of seats, and a stage in the front. This theater is roughly the same width as my current theater (within inches) but is about 5 feet longer. What I'm trying to decide is if I am going to completely close this one off or not.

A attached a couple of drafts, but I'm debating between a full wall on the back (left), a wall with openings on each side, a wall with an "eye level" opening and a bar on the family room side, to keeping it entirely open on the back, etc...

I feel like we don't use the theater as often as we'd like with it being closed off...so I'm just brainstorming here. I'd love your input/ideas. I have 4 sons who all have a ton of friends...so I want something that works well with the fact that they're always up and down, in and out, etc... Our current situation, with the only entry point being the french doors on the side...it doesn't work really well. Hopefully all that makes sense.
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post #2 of 37 Old 03-28-2019, 09:02 AM - Thread Starter
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44 views and not a single opinion or insight from someone who has had an "open" theater? Is there a better way for me to go about soliciting feedback?
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post #3 of 37 Old 03-28-2019, 09:27 AM
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I will offer my opinion. I’m on my second HT in a second home and I made a lot of changes in the thought process around HT as time went on.

I don’t think anyone can say what is best for you as what is best in terms of sight and sound might not be best in social aspects.

My last house 16 years ago I built a home theater in the basement. Dedicated! It was 100% light tight and super dark room treatments. When in operation it was eyeballs and screen and a room full of sound and that was about it. It was as perfect as the equipment of the day and my budget allowed. When first built it saw a lot of usage and over time I was using it mostly alone. It was a destination spot and not as much a free flowing social spot. What was watched in there also changed over time HT is much more than movies these days.

In this house now I wanted all the positive parts of a HT with light control and such but I also wanted it to feel as if it was part of the home not a separate destanation. I made it a room just off the living room without a doorway rather an inviting archway with a curtain that can be pulled if some really serious movie watching is to be done. I dropped the riser and all that and went for one longer row of seats. Everyone gets the same immersion this way and it feels more social. You don’t have to enter the room to see what’s showing and family tends to wander in and out like you described. We watch quality TV and streaming TV, sports, movies, pretty much everything in there. The projector sees many more hours of run time now.

Was there some losses? Yes. But the benefits of a somewhat open concept more than made up for them. In fact it is no longer called the movie room or theater it is just called the TV room.

You know what you want I think but you are then focusing on the negatives in such a room.
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post #4 of 37 Old 03-28-2019, 02:56 PM
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I have had both. I don't see another open concept space ever, for us.

If you are used to having a low noise floor with a sealed off room, I think it would be tough to go open concept.

If your existing room doesn't have a low noise floor, I would suggest that should be a design goal towards getting you to the next
step upwards.

This should be a fairly easy decision, a social space, or something more hardcore and better performing. The length might be more about if it improves your audio
or creature comfort, and what is does for the space outside the room. Reading between the lines, I also think you want open concept.

That is actually one very nicely laid out basement! But is a pretty good fence sitting layout, which doesn't exactly help with the decision.
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post #5 of 37 Old 03-28-2019, 03:08 PM
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What's the space to the right on the theater space?

A dedicated theater with a 180 degree flip of the room, might use some of that space as an entry lobby and let you gain elevation to enter a dedicated room
at riser level. That would allow you to close off the French doors, which aren't conductive to sound containment and give you smooth sightlines for the side walls.

So where are your rear surround speakers going, with the open back wall? If this is to be an ATMOS setup, then that kind of rules out that layout as you shouldn't elevate
your surrounds.
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post #6 of 37 Old 03-28-2019, 09:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedd View Post
What's the space to the right on the theater space?



A dedicated theater with a 180 degree flip of the room, might use some of that space as an entry lobby and let you gain elevation to enter a dedicated room

at riser level. That would allow you to close off the French doors, which aren't conductive to sound containment and give you smooth sightlines for the side walls.



So where are your rear surround speakers going, with the open back wall? If this is to be an ATMOS setup, then that kind of rules out that layout as you shouldn't elevate

your surrounds.


Thanks for your input. With regards to the floor, both the current house and new house have concrete under the carpet. Room performance is fantastic. Maybe it’s a case of “you always want what you don’t have”, but as you guessed I’m thinking strongly about having SOME level of openness.

Here’s the entire basement as it is drawn now. The wall on one side is foundation and the other is load bearing so width is fixed.


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post #7 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 12:51 AM
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I've been giving this a lot of thought, as my situation is not dissimilar to yours.

My main concern would be the combination of open plan, plus risers and a back row. For me, I'm not sure if that'll look great visually. If you do want two rows, I would go with the dedicated option, personally. Conversely, if you go open, I'd stick to a single, wider row.

Some things I've had raised to me, which are all great points you might want to consider (not all of these are facts):

1 - Open plan rooms generally will get more use. In the end, a room is only as valuable as the time you spend in it. Particularly if you're not intending to watch solely movies.

2 - With open plan you have a couple of audio challenges. Firstly, noise floor. The whole basement has to be quiet if you care about high quality audio. That means taking isolation / insulation seriously. Secondly, physical space. You'll need higher end, higher quality - louder speakers to achieve the same volume given the larger space. However, when you achieve this, sound in a larger space can be superior.

3 - Not having a back wall can be an advantage and a disadvantage. It's not an acoustic disadvantage in itself, as not having a back wall prevents reflections from front to back. However, it can make speaker placement more problematic.

4 - Design is a bit more problematic when you want to incorporate the cinema into a more general living space. You want to minimise reflections (in order to maximise contrast) and that means dark colours which don't tend to fit well with living spaces. I'm going through a design process on this exact thing right now. Trying to minimise compromises I'm making, but they're there.

5 - Light control. With it all being one big room, you would need to darken the whole space in an open plan design. Again, not impossible - just something to consider. This is assuming you want it to be immersive. If you don't, then many of these challenges go away.

In my personal basement project I am trying to use the 'darkness' a home theater requires as a way to partition off that area of the basement. I'm automating light control across the whole space, and isolating the whole basement to have the same noise floor I would in a dedicated theater. I'm also upgrading my LCR speakers and subs, which have to fill a much larger space. I'm using a single row of seating (potentially with a bar behind later) to make it more accessible and comfortable.

A preview of the design is attached. I'm playing with adding black walls & carpet for the first 1-2m to really enhance that 'floating screen' look. I'm also going to experiment with making the soffits black. When I have a full set of renders, I'll attach them to my own thread and share that with you here.
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post #8 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 07:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyWilkinson View Post
I've been giving this a lot of thought, as my situation is not dissimilar to yours.

My main concern would be the combination of open plan, plus risers and a back row. For me, I'm not sure if that'll look great visually. If you do want two rows, I would go with the dedicated option, personally. Conversely, if you go open, I'd stick to a single, wider row.

Some things I've had raised to me, which are all great points you might want to consider (not all of these are facts):

1 - Open plan rooms generally will get more use. In the end, a room is only as valuable as the time you spend in it. Particularly if you're not intending to watch solely movies.

2 - With open plan you have a couple of audio challenges. Firstly, noise floor. The whole basement has to be quiet if you care about high quality audio. That means taking isolation / insulation seriously. Secondly, physical space. You'll need higher end, higher quality - louder speakers to achieve the same volume given the larger space. However, when you achieve this, sound in a larger space can be superior.

3 - Not having a back wall can be an advantage and a disadvantage. It's not an acoustic disadvantage in itself, as not having a back wall prevents reflections from front to back. However, it can make speaker placement more problematic.

4 - Design is a bit more problematic when you want to incorporate the cinema into a more general living space. You want to minimise reflections (in order to maximise contrast) and that means dark colours which don't tend to fit well with living spaces. I'm going through a design process on this exact thing right now. Trying to minimise compromises I'm making, but they're there.

5 - Light control. With it all being one big room, you would need to darken the whole space in an open plan design. Again, not impossible - just something to consider. This is assuming you want it to be immersive. If you don't, then many of these challenges go away.

In my personal basement project I am trying to use the 'darkness' a home theater requires as a way to partition off that area of the basement. I'm automating light control across the whole space, and isolating the whole basement to have the same noise floor I would in a dedicated theater. I'm also upgrading my LCR speakers and subs, which have to fill a much larger space. I'm using a single row of seating (potentially with a bar behind later) to make it more accessible and comfortable.

A preview of the design is attached. I'm playing with adding black walls & carpet for the first 1-2m to really enhance that 'floating screen' look. I'm also going to experiment with making the soffits black. When I have a full set of renders, I'll attach them to my own thread and share that with you here.
Thanks for the insight. I'm leaning most towards Option 2, and maybe putting barn style doors that I can slide shut over the rear openings. I'm not overly concerned about sound containment. I'll take reasonable measures, but it isn't something I'm going to compromise usability over. I think the points you make are good ones. It's also worth noting the entire house is a "smart home" with lighting, audio, etc... throughout the entire house.
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post #9 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 11:14 AM
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@jonnyW ilkinson point 1 is very true.

I look at it in a different way now than I used to. Our projector and room now gets 10X the usage/enjoyment.

To me it is like going to a live concert or having a perfect playback in a recording studio. There is something to be said for the social aspect of HT and if it is worth the tradeoffs.

I do understand many want zero tradeoffs and the goal is getting as close to perfection as is humanly possible and that is fine that was my goal for many years and is the goal of most people in this forum.

There are many degrees in between also. Too many people now are wishing to take this idea way to far and want a 150” projection setup with perfect sound in a white living room with a wall of south facing windows and all hard surfaces to boot, and are hoping to do it with a low lumen theater projector and a magic screen.

I didn’t abandon the principals of good HT but modified them just enough to make the area socially appealing to home use for us.
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post #10 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 11:52 AM
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Thanks for the insight. I'm leaning most towards Option 2, and maybe putting barn style doors that I can slide shut over the rear openings. I'm not overly concerned about sound containment. I'll take reasonable measures, but it isn't something I'm going to compromise usability over. I think the points you make are good ones. It's also worth noting the entire house is a "smart home" with lighting, audio, etc... throughout the entire house.
Fair enough.

My only challenge for option 2 would be: what do you gain by having the two openings? I can't imagine people would watch through what is effectively a doorway, and you run into the riser problem having doors at the back. Maybe it makes people slightly more likely to go in there? I'm not sure.

I feel it may present some challenges design / acoustics wise.
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post #11 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 01:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Fair enough.



My only challenge for option 2 would be: what do you gain by having the two openings? I can't imagine people would watch through what is effectively a doorway, and you run into the riser problem having doors at the back. Maybe it makes people slightly more likely to go in there? I'm not sure.



I feel it may present some challenges design / acoustics wise.


That’s just it! I don’t know what to do. I think the openings would allow people to more freely move in and out, and feel more “connected”. That said, I realize it could totally suck! That’s why I’m here...trying to crowdsource some ideas for the best way to handle it.


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post #12 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 01:50 PM
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That’s just it! I don’t know what to do. I think the openings would allow people to more freely move in and out, and feel more “connected”. That said, I realize it could totally suck! That’s why I’m here...trying to crowdsource some ideas for the best way to handle it.


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OK - well my contribution is - go big, or go home.

Either do dedicated fully, or do open fully. I wouldn't try to half-ass it (or compromise it). No windows or strange half walls..

I just re-read your opening post. You're considering open because you've had dedicated, and it didn't get much use. All but one person I've chatted to who has tried both dedicated and open says that open gets more use, and that any compromises are worth it. Perhaps you don't want to be sat in the dark on your own :-)

There are so many great ways to address the challenges of an open cinema - especially in a basement. It'll be more inclusive, and more comfortable. If you're going to do risers still, I'd recommend sofas. They're lower, more comfortable & inviting. I've seen a lot of good ones recently. Instead of risers and two rows, consider a more comfortable sofa and a bar, maybe with beanbags in front for kids.
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post #13 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 02:18 PM
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What you gain with two openings, is a back wall for the rear surrounds.

If you haven't experienced a dedicated room, then maybe that's something to check out and see what's around and available to you to experience,
in the Local Area Meet section of AVS? Best if you find yourself a home theater with a low noise floor, to experience the high end. You might hate it and make
the decision really easy. Or you might simply love it, for the fuller immersion and performance gains that are possible.

Maybe another approach is to come at this from a sound format perspective and how options might rule out certain layouts. If ATMOS is something
important enough, then the lack of a back wall is a no go, as you can't get away with raising your surrounds.

There is one home theater on AVS that has an open backed bar row, with millwork around it. Rather nice looking but more of a semi open concept.
I'll see if I can find it....
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post #14 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 02:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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What you gain with two openings, is a back wall for the rear surrounds.

If you haven't experienced a dedicated room, then maybe that's something to check out and see what's around and available to you to experience,
in the Local Area Meet section of AVS? Best if you find yourself a home theater with a low noise floor, to experience the high end. You might hate it and make
the decision really easy. Or you might simply love it, for the fuller immersion and performance gains that are possible.

Maybe another approach is to come at this from a sound format perspective and how options might rule out certain layouts. If ATMOS is something
important enough, then the lack of a back wall is a no go, as you can't get away with raising your surrounds.

There is one home theater on AVS that has an open backed bar row, with millwork around it. Rather nice looking but more of a semi open concept.
I'll see if I can find it....
If you could find it and share that would be awesome! I'll do some poking around over the weekend as well.

I have experienced a dedicated room...I have one right now! We love it, but we don't really use it as often as we'd like. I don't know why that is, but I think it's because we have to commit multiple hours to just sitting down and watching...where with an open room I'm envisioning it getting used more as you can get up, walk around, come in and out, etc... I hope that makes sense. We're not crazy audiophiles or anything...just want a cool space to watch movies, let the kids play video games, big sports games, etc...
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post #15 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 02:33 PM
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If ATMOS is something important enough, then the lack of a back wall is a no go, as you can't get away with raising your surrounds.
I'm not sure I agree with this.

Surrounds (for example in 5.1) can (and should) be mounted on the side walls, allowing ATMOS.

I'm even doing a 7.1 with ATMOS, without a back wall. The side surrounds will be 90-110 degrees as per Dolby guidelines. The rear surrounds will be further back on side walls, toe'd in, but placed at Dolby guideline angles.

A rear wall simply allows you to have the rear surrounds closer. But that isn't necessarily a good thing, and it also means slap (reflections) from the front LCR.

Just my 2c.
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post #16 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 02:43 PM
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double doors in the rear of theater

I may not know much but I wish i has rear corners to put subs and or rear surround speakers, I was looking at you plans and wondered would double doors in the center of the back wall give you a solution for open but the ability to seal the room for serious movie watching. could dress up the entrance from the family room like an entrance to a theater. could look really cool. just either have split rear seats or walk around them. just putting it out there.

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post #17 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 03:18 PM
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But with two rows of seats and that room depth, are stand mounted rear speakers something that works functionally, because there won't be side walls that far back.
Also angled rear surround speakers on a side wall, will have early reflections.

Slap echoes can occur off of any of the walls, and they are ways to control those. But if you want to talk about negatives, the lack of a back wall will introduce a bunch of them.
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post #18 of 37 Old 03-29-2019, 07:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Alright...I think we’ve decided we’re going to keep it a closed room again. Just build the wall across the back and put the doors on the side like we do now.


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post #19 of 37 Old 03-30-2019, 12:21 AM
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But with two rows of seats and that room depth, are stand mounted rear speakers something that works functionally, because there won't be side walls that far back.
Agree, with this room depth it would need to be 5.X.Y, with side mounted surrounds.

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Also angled rear surround speakers on a side wall, will have early reflections.

Slap echoes can occur off of any of the walls, and they are ways to control those. But if you want to talk about negatives, the lack of a back wall will introduce a bunch of them.
Will raise this in my thread to not derail this one.
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post #20 of 37 Old 03-30-2019, 06:42 AM
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I went back and forth just like you, but ultimately decided to have a semi open concept. I am in the process of building now and my rear wall has a large 8' open pass-through that goes to the bar area. This gives my theater the opportunity to flow into the bar and let people sitting at the bar see the big screen. It's just me and the wife, so the noise escaping wasn't an issue and if we are wanting to watch a movie, the rest of the basement and house will be quiet for us. The fact we do a lot of entertaining and wanted a social space played into the back opening as well. With the pass through concept, I still have enough wall space to do rear columns for my rears. On the bar side, is a smaller counter top that gives me that rear theater bar and seat set up.

Like I said, it's still under construction but I am confident it will give us what we are wanting. My build thread should be in my signature if you are wanting to see the layout. Good luck with you build, either way you go, I am sure it will come out amazing!

And here is the theater that was mentioned a few posts ago (I think) that was talking about a rear pass through trimmed out. This is similar to what I am shooting for.
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The Three Dane Theater and Blue Line Bar Here: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/19-de...-line-bar.html
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post #21 of 37 Old 04-02-2019, 12:54 PM
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[QUOTE=dhendriksen;57821258]Thanks for your input. With regards to the floor, both the current house and new house have concrete under the carpet. Room performance is fantastic. Maybe it’s a case of “you always want what you don’t have”, but as you guessed I’m thinking strongly about having SOME level of openness.

Here’s the entire basement as it is drawn now. The wall on one side is foundation and the other is load bearing so width is fixed.



Man.. let me just say.. That basement is huge and looks awesome and I am jealous.
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post #22 of 37 Old 04-02-2019, 08:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Man.. let me just say.. That basement is huge and looks awesome and I am jealous.

Thanks! We actually like in the same house now...this one is just a little wider and styled different on the outside. The misses wants a pool and our current lot won’t accommodate. We found this great lot in a cul-de-sac that’s inside all the same school boundaries so we jumped on it.



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post #23 of 37 Old 04-15-2019, 05:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Alright, so I think I've decided on a concept and would love any input. See attached...my thought is to pull the "back wall" about 3 feet in to the room, and on the living room side of the wall put a bar with builtins on either side. You'll be able to sit at the bar, and look through an opening in to the theater room. On the theater side, we'll put a blackout curtain that we can pull across the opening if we want to isolate the space more.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear any feedback on it...but I think this will accomplish the somewhat open concept we want with the room, while still being able to accommodate it being more a private space when we want to as well.
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post #24 of 37 Old 04-15-2019, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dhendriksen View Post
Alright, so I think I've decided on a concept and would love any input. See attached...my thought is to pull the "back wall" about 3 feet in to the room, and on the living room side of the wall put a bar with builtins on either side. You'll be able to sit at the bar, and look through an opening in to the theater room. On the theater side, we'll put a blackout curtain that we can pull across the opening if we want to isolate the space more.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear any feedback on it...but I think this will accomplish the somewhat open concept we want with the room, while still being able to accommodate it being more a private space when we want to as well.
Maybe, just a thought, you could have a motorized wall at the back something like what I have drawn so you could have the best of both worlds. If designed correctly it would work well. However, it would depend on your budget.

Carey
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post #25 of 37 Old 06-03-2019, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Alright - so we're 99% decided upon this layout. Probably 99.9%. I've got 4 sons (2 of which are almost teenagers), and I don't want them having a dark, closed off room to hang out with girls in...LOL. Plus, I think it will get a lot more use this way. I'm going to do a coffered ceiling just like I have in my current theater, and hide the projector in there. That will save it from getting nailed by any flying balls while the kids do their thing in the living room, and I think it looks really cool having the PJ hidden.

So - what I need to decide now (and fast) is how I'm going to do the speaker layout. Do I do 3 LCR's in the front (thinking dual 6" woofers), a pair of 8" in walls for the sides (I will pre-wire for atmos)...but what for the back? Something in ceiling I'd guess?
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post #26 of 37 Old 06-04-2019, 03:22 AM
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Specifications for ATMOS mean you don't want to elevate your surrounds, as that messes up the surround sound field.

Why plant the front row on a riser? I would skip that, and go with a lower stage if necessary, and simply call it budget for some other feature.
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post #27 of 37 Old 06-04-2019, 03:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Need/Want input on new theater design

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Specifications for ATMOS mean you don't want to elevate your surrounds, as that messes up the surround sound field.



Why plant the front row on a riser? I would skip that, and go with a lower stage if necessary, and simply call it budget for some other feature.


The room is 22’ feet deep. I was planning to have the BACK row on the riser, with a row in front of that. My current room is something like 18’ feet deep as has two rows, so I figured with this depth I’d get two rows plus the bar. The people at the bar aren’t going to have the best audio experience as technically they’ll be sitting outside of the room. I’m not some crazy audiophile and honestly will probably never do anything beyond 7.2, but figured it doesn’t hurt to pre-wire for it.


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post #28 of 37 Old 06-04-2019, 05:15 AM
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If you are going for 7.2 the rear channels will need to be in the ceiling. While I understand the reasons for doing an open room, that is what I did when I was young and foolish. I regret it today. Any new theater built today should at least put in the wires for ceiling channels What we call Atmos today, in a decade who knows.
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post #29 of 37 Old 06-04-2019, 06:21 AM - Thread Starter
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If you are going for 7.2 the rear channels will need to be in the ceiling. While I understand the reasons for doing an open room, that is what I did when I was young and foolish. I regret it today. Any new theater built today should at least put in the wires for ceiling channels What we call Atmos today, in a decade who knows.
Thanks for the input. I have a closed off room today, and it doesn't get nearly enough use so I'm trying something different this time. I'll absolutely wire for Atmos.
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post #30 of 37 Old 06-04-2019, 07:05 AM
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"44 views and not a single opinion or insight from someone who has had an "open" theater? Is there a better way for me to go about soliciting feedback?"

Does one actually need much more feedback then Big's?

Sometimes the open room is just a stepping stone to something bigger and better, down the road. There may come a time where you might enclose the space, and
speaker wire/backer boxes with a solid plan for that future, can a cheap investment for a possible future option.

Gotcha on the two rows+ riser. I guess Neoridium's drawing kind of threw me off the trail, as well as following a lot of builds.
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