Operation: Our Troops Are Surrounded, a.k.a. Project OTAS - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 17 Old 07-11-2019, 11:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Red face Operation: Our Troops Are Surrounded! a.k.a. Project OTAS

As we all know, a theater is a place to get away from the outside world for a bit of time and immerse yourself in another world. To that end, we go to great lengths to ensure that our audio and video systems are the best we can afford.

This escape from the real world is especially important in the military and even more so for service members who are deployed overseas. I am currently deployed overseas and wanted to help out the USO on Camp Arifjan with their dedicated theater setup at minimal or no cost to myself or the USO. I have used the USO countless times over my 22 years in the Army National Guard while traveling through airports, as well as being a patron and enjoying everything they have to offer while deployed.

I love home theater, am a decent DIYer, and have access to a woodworking shop here. After watching a few movies in the theater and being wholly disappointed with their audio setup and lack of a proper projector screen, I saw an opportunity to give back to a wonderful organization and have a meaningful positive impact on my fellow soldiers. When I initially approached the USO manager about seeing what we could do to get better speakers, her face lit up like she had just opened up the Christmas present she asked for all year.

The current audio system consists of a 7-speaker HTIB setup employing KEF T101 flat panel speakers (see pics). As you can see, the speakers are woefully undersized for the space, and one of them buzzes loudly. There are also two KEF 10" powered subs, but they are inoperable. On a side note, whoever wired up the system put the center channel at the rear of the theater to, "get more sound" (note there is no front center channel in the pic).










The speakers are powered by an Onkyo TX-NR575E (80 w/ch, 7.1/5.2.2). The room is approximately 50' x 40', with high open ceilings and exposed ducting and metal rafters. There are 3 columns of seats x 5 rows. Each column is comprised of 2 sofas side-by-side.





The projector fires onto an off-white painted wall and is in the ballpark of about 14' diagonal. The room is mostly light controlled, save for a couple of lamps that must remain on, but dim, for safety reasons, and two red-illuminated exit signs.




Project OTAS goals:
1) Little cost to myself and no cost to the USO - I needed speakers and projector screen material donated, and I thought that would take weeks or months to get enough proper speakers and screen material to move Project OTAS forward. As you will see, I was wrong.
2) Minimal downtime in the theater - the USO theater plays movies continuously from 1000-0200 7 days a week and stays at least at half capacity.
3) As little modification to the building as possible - the USO does not own the building they occupy, and any major modifications have to go through an approval process and could be denied.
4) Speaker selection - It's hard to be picky when asking for donations, but the speakers needed to be large enough to properly service this large of a space, so building anything less than multi-driver LCRs would be pointless.
5) Speaker construction - if I was not able to get pre-built speakers donated (which would have been costly for shipping anyway), I would have to build the cabinets at the woodworking shop. MDF is not available, so plywood would be used. Since I was going to undertake a large scale project, I had to get approval for the amount of wood I needed. Also, whatever I built would not be what most would call aesthetically pleasing. The tools available - table saw, miter saw, hand power tools, etc - would suffice, but are not what you want to build anything that would be scrutinized for its fit or finish. As I found out, none of the saws are squared, miter saw blade is a little wobbly, etc. As I also found out, there is not a flat sheet of plywood on this whole base.

Getting Started
The first thing I set out to do was get projector screen material. I figured that would be the easiest task to get the ball rolling. I posted a thread in the DIY Screen section asking for advice on whether to use a cloth material or PJ paint. The screen paint DIY guru @MississippiMan chimed in immediately with helpful advice. After a little back-and-forth asking and answering questions, he offered to help out! He agreed to mix me up the correct screen paint I would need for this theater and ship it to me, on the house! All I would need to do was acquire two quarts of flat white paint and appropriate paint supplies. I received the screen paint, and after making a trip to Ace Hardware (they have those in Kuwait!), I am ready to paint the screen. On to the speakers...

I came into this project under the impression that I would be cobbling together a random assortment of leftover drivers and half-finished projects until I had enough to put something together that would be suitable. I posted a thread in the DIY Speaker section (my usual haunt) to see if anybody had any complete speakers or raw drivers they would be willing to part with, then I waited...

What I thought would be a weeks-long process took less then FOUR HOURS!!! @tjambro sent me a PM offering up his 100% complete, brand new Stentorian and Sten II kit that he bought but never built. We're talking a 7.1 setup with extra woofers and tweeters!

So, now that I know I have speakers inbound, I needed to get approval for the wood. Per local policy, each person who wants to use the woodworking shop is permitted 10 board feet per month. Anything greater has to have a memo signed by an O3 (Captain) or higher along with detailed plans of what is being built, then it has to be approved by the activity that runs the shop. I learned how to use SketchUp to draw up the speaker designs and I used CutList to layout the cuts required. I drafted the memo, one of my buddies who is an O4 signed it, and when I told the woodshop boss what I was doing, he was all for it! Too easy.

Speaker construction
What's next? Time to make sawdust!
With my signed memo in-hand, I went to the woodshop and started working.





The first day was spent cutting three sheets of plywood into the panels I would need to build all of the speakers. The woodshop employs five carpenters (contractors from India), and are as helpful as they can be considering they do not speak English very well. They are accustomed to people building small projects like cutting boards, coin holders, wooden flags and the like. When I showed my plans to one of them and he asked much wood I needed to cut that first day, I told him all three sheets.




I believe he cursed me out in Hindi.

There is much more to come, but I am going to stop for now. I will post some pics when the wifi starts acting right.
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Last edited by dTorC4; 07-15-2019 at 07:43 AM.
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post #2 of 17 Old 07-11-2019, 12:23 PM
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What are you planning for bass? I have two new PA460 drivers in the box that I would be willing to donate for some VBSS subs.
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post #3 of 17 Old 07-11-2019, 12:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric HA View Post
What are you planning for bass? I have two new PA460 drivers in the box that I would be willing to donate for some VBSS subs.
I am going to see what the situation is with the current subs. They both have power lights - one red, one green.

Getting some new subs would be fantastic! But would also require an amp. I'll PM you if I am able to source an amp. Thank you!
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Last edited by Mike Lang; 07-11-2019 at 12:39 PM.
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post #4 of 17 Old 07-11-2019, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by dTorC4 View Post
I am going to see what the situation is with the current subs. They both have power lights - one red, one green.

Getting some new subs would be fantastic! But would also require an amp. I'll PM you if I am able to source an amp. Thank you!
Good deal, I can't think of a better project for them! They have been laying around for a bit. Any idea of the cost to ship them, or could I send them somewhere here in the states?

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post #5 of 17 Old 07-11-2019, 02:56 PM
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Glad I could help Darrin! I think you should consider Eric's generous offer for a couple of vbss drivers. I have 4 myself that I will be incorporating into my current build. May keep the guys and gals from blowing those woofers. Lol. I know, I know that would definitely complicate the setup but we know you can handle it! Lol
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post #6 of 17 Old 07-11-2019, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric HA View Post
Good deal, I can't think of a better project for them! They have been laying around for a bit. Any idea of the cost to ship them, or could I send them somewhere here in the states?
Shipping to a Military APO PO is at greatly reduced prices. You have to go through the USPS, so you must present whatever is being shipped for rate evaluation

Basically I was shocked to be told that Shipping a Gallon of liquid to Kuwait would be.....$13.00

We both know you wouldn't get off that light...but I'm certain it would be crazy less than normal. A quick jaunt by the local PO to see what limitations there are would seem to be required. Basically Darren has the right idea.....Components can be shipped No Problemo. Sizable Cabinets........perhaps not nearly so.


If instead the packages are just too big and too heavy, I'm also certain some arrangements could be made via a Freight Forwarder and the US Army. Well....kinda certain.

The uptick in the Audio / Video experience the Troops will get is almost exponential....and no more than they deserve
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post #7 of 17 Old 07-12-2019, 11:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dTorC4 View Post
I am going to see what the situation is with the current subs. They both have power lights - one red, one green.

Getting some new subs would be fantastic! But would also require an amp. I'll PM you if I am able to source an amp. Thank you!
I ran by my local PO and they can get the PA460's to APO AE 09366 for $25.05 each. If you can get an amp, I will ship them over.
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post #8 of 17 Old 07-15-2019, 08:08 AM - Thread Starter
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After I took my foreign cussing-out, I took my semi-square and slightly warped panels to a table and began doin a dry assembly. I drilled pilot holes for everything and tried to minimize the number of screw holes used, especially on the front panels because I suspected that wood filler would not be available. As I started putting boxes together I labeled each panel's box number, location, and orientation so that when it came to time to pull them apart for glue, I would not get them mixed up (ask me how I learned about this...). Also, it turns out that the plywood here is not exactly flat. I thought I cussed a lot when I worked on cars. Wrestling with small, unsquared, warped sheets of plywood brought out a deeper monster within me that I did not know existed.


























Suffering from dehydration from working all day in a non-climate controlled woodshop (there are three misting fans which helped little), I called it day. Dry fitting of the panel, complete.
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post #9 of 17 Old 07-15-2019, 02:15 PM
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Wow....7-Ply AC Plywood and it's warped.


Gotta blame that on the wood gassing out the last of it's moisture I guess....still, 7-Ply? That should not ever twist......


Those cabinets will look really good painted in Desert Camo............

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post #10 of 17 Old 07-16-2019, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by dTorC4 View Post
Suffering from dehydration from working all day in a non-climate controlled woodshop (there are three misting fans which helped little), I called it day.

It is probably exposure to the dry versus damp misting fan environment that is causing the warping. You could try an experiment by setting the really warped pieces in the sun for just a few minutes, Expose the convex side of the curved board to the sun, it will drive out any moisture and it will shrink. Monitor every 5 minutes.
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post #11 of 17 Old 07-18-2019, 06:45 AM - Thread Starter
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It is probably exposure to the dry versus damp misting fan environment that is causing the warping. You could try an experiment by setting the really warped pieces in the sun for just a few minutes, Expose the convex side of the curved board to the sun, it will drive out any moisture and it will shrink. Monitor every 5 minutes.
I have used that technique in the past, but unfortunately time and outdoor space was not in my favor, so I just had to muscle through it.
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post #12 of 17 Old 07-18-2019, 07:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Over the period of the two weeks or so that it took me to assemble the boxes, I was also trying acquire stuffing. The box design calls for one pound of polyfill per chamber, meaning I would somehow have to get about 13 pounds of polyfill on the cheap.


Pillows are expensive and depending on the type, only seem to have about 1-2 pounds of stuffing each. Ordering bulk polyfill is also expensive. However, I am in a unique situation to get free stuffing. Being in a deployed environment means that soldiers are departing all the time, and most of them do not take their pillows home with them. So, I put a post on our base's classifieds looking for free pillows. I ended up getting four pillows in this manner. Don't think any less of me, but my big score was getting them from the dumpster by my barracks. I ended up with 12 pillows, 2 body pillows, and a comforter. I made a spear using my 4' painting pole and folding knife so I could just fish the pillows out of the dumpster (no dumpster diving for me!).











With stuffing secured, now I just have to wait on our wonderfully efficient military postal system to get my speakers and paint here. Even though items shipped from the US come to us via USPS Priority Mail with a tracking number, once the mail leaves the US all we see in tracking is "on its way to its final destination" as the status. Sometimes it will go through one or two (or three) processing points in theater before it actually gets my local PO for pickup. Delivery times vary widely. Sometimes packages get here in five days, sometimes three weeks or more. It's anybody's guess.
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post #13 of 17 Old 07-18-2019, 07:38 AM
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First of all, thank you for your service.

I have an amp that's collecting dust that I'd be happy to send over. I believe it's a Crown XLS 202, but I'll have to double check. It doesn't make a ton of power, but it's a pretty solid amp. For other readers, would 200 wpc be enough for the VBSS is that size room?

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post #14 of 17 Old 07-18-2019, 07:58 AM - Thread Starter
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First of all, thank you for your service.

Thank you, BllDo, I truly appreciate it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BllDo View Post
I have an amp that's collecting dust that I'd be happy to send over. I believe it's a Crown XLS 202, but I'll have to double check. It doesn't make a ton of power, but it's a pretty solid amp. For other readers, would 200 wpc be enough for the VBSS is that size room?

Please send PM me with any further info.
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post #15 of 17 Old 07-18-2019, 09:50 AM
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Just wanted to say thanks to you and all the men and woman over there for your service and sacrifice. Also awesome that you are putting something like this together so y'all can feel a little more at home when so far away.

Are you allowed to put together a GoFundMe? If so, I would be more than willing to donate so you can splurge on some upgrades.


-Chris
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post #16 of 17 Old 07-18-2019, 10:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Just wanted to say thanks to you and all the men and woman over there for your service and sacrifice. Also awesome that you are putting something like this together so y'all can feel a little more at home when so far away.

Are you allowed to put together a GoFundMe? If so, I would be more than willing to donate so you can splurge on some upgrades.


-Chris
Thank you Chris, I appreciate it!

A fundraiser has crossed my mind, but I haven't asked the manager here about it yet. The USO has all kinds of rules when it comes to raising money on their behalf, and I was trying to avoid the red tape. I may still see what it entails if I need to.
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post #17 of 17 Old 07-18-2019, 10:57 AM
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Let us know.. If possible someone can start one here to buy and ship what you need to skirt the red tape.
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