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I am helping my Father-in law build his home theater and would be responsible for recommending and then setting up the technical side of things. He has a fairly generous budget for the tech stuff so I didn't hesitate to explain the virtues of 2.35:1 CIH. My concern and his is that this type of setup won't be reliable and easy to use. We both agree it's the best way to view a movie but he's not very technical and I don't want constant phone calls if things aren't reliable (every once in a while is OK). I have been messing with HTPC's since the first Creative DVD decoder boards so I don't doubt my ability to put together a great PC media server. But I know that PC's have a high vulnerability factor when it comes to bugs and viruses etc. I however don't have much experience with dedicated scalers and CIH 2.35:1 setups.

It is my fear that even with a 400 disk DVD jukebox, scaler and high-end macro-learning remote we still may not achieve the accessibility that a dedicated media center will achieve and maybe not much more reliability. Scalers have their problems too (A/V sync).

At the very least if I go HTPC, I will have one of the Sony upscaling 400 DVD changers to physically store all the DVDs that I will have saved on the HDD(no need for the extras etc on the HDD) and a learning remote that will default to 16:9 (sending the signal to got to passthrough for the lens and pulling in the masking system - If I'm not running through a scaler or HTPC then 2.35:1 is not available) if the HTPC is having issues. The remote would merely be a backup to a touchscreen HTPC interface and would only be used with the DVD Changer/ DirecTV/ Backup CD Changer. This is a pure backup to cover my butt if I recommend HTPC and at a total cost of about $1000 it's worth it. The DVD Changer and other devices would of course still be available with the touchscreen interface. And if I plan on using these backup devices I would have to stick to RS232 control with a globalcache(kinda limited with serial ports tho) or some such interface(PC serial card) for the default touchscreen control and IR for the backup Harmony remote or whatever fits the bill.

I apologize if I fleshed out my ideas a little much but I wanted to give a fairly complete explanation of the setup and my concerns. I would just like some advice regarding this setup and recommendations with what route I should go. Such as differing from my explanation by going cheap HTPC with no movie server, DVD changer or multiple changers and touchscreen interface along with a separate scaler with MainLobby as the control hub. It seems the options are limitless and I can't figure out which one is the best approach to even look at first. I would have some time and slush money for testing the whole thing out(The new projectors won't be out for a couple months) so where do I begin? Thanks in advance for all the help.

Here is my intended 2.35:1 Constant Height Setup. All rackmounted or rack shelved in custom closet with rear access.

- Panasonic AE-900 or Sony-HS51 Successor

- Prismasonic H600-R motorized Anamorphic lens

- Carada 2.35:1 Screen, 136" diagonal Brilliant White

- HTIQ Motorized 2-way Screen Masking System for 136"(Hoping for HTPC Plugin Soon - What's the word Don?)

- Marantz SR8500 THX 7.1 Receiver or Yamaha 4600

- Ascend Acoustics 7.1 Setup with 340 series Speakers

- DVDO VP30 Scaler (If going Scaler route)

HTPC Movie Server

- MainLobby Suite

- GlobalCache

- Minimum Raid 5 High Capacity HDD Setup Internal or External

- ELO Touchscreen, Not much research on this yet

- X10 Lighting Interface

- IR equipment

- APC Battery Backup for Full PC and AV System

- 2+ DVD Drives

Premium Member
1,406 Posts
Hi, Dusk!

First, thanks for taking the time to give us a good picture of what you are considering. While it's quite a bit to digest, this should help to focus our feedback. To be sure, you're in advanced territory!

Let me start with my own background so that you can understand my biases. I've used HTPCs for over eight years and I have both RP and FP setups. I'm in the middle of upgrading to my fourth FP system (all D-ILA/SXRD-based), and my third screen (having started with 4:3, moved to 16:9, and now transitioning to 2.35:1). I'm a real fan of HTPCs, but I've also used something like eight different scalers over the years. For this latest upgrade, I'm moving to my fifth anamorphic lens.

With that background in mind, I'll give you my honest opinion, for what its worth. When I look over your obviously well thought-out list, I feel that you've slanted the configuration too much towards HTPC technology, and not enough towards simple visual quality. Please don't misunderstand - most of the technologies you've selected are quite nice - but many of these are usually added-on to more capable display setups. In other words, I'd personally slate more money towards the projector itself.

Particularly given that your father-in-law appears to be following your guidance, rather than having a strong personal desire for a constant-height system, I've got to wonder if he might not be happier with a projector such as the JVC HX-2 and a 16:9 screen, than he would be with a less-expensive machine which requires a motorized anamorphic lens, additional use hassles due to scaling (whether HTPC or stand-alone), etc. I'm obviously voting with my dollars and effort on my own 2.35:1 system (Qualia+ISCO 3+custom motorized lens mount), but I'd be cautious setting up such a system for my own parents until they were fully aware of the knowledge and effort required to enjoy it thoroughly.

I truly do apologize for even suggesting a non-CH system here in this forum! However, my primary suggestion is that you take the time to ask whether or not starting with something a bit simpler, with a bit more focus on display quality, might not be worth considering.

Good Luck!


1,212 Posts
Sounds like you've thought it out pretty well and have a generous budget to go with.

If your dad's not technically savy then I would steer clear of a HTPC. Even constant height can get pretty complex.

On the other hand for a simple constant height setup you can get:

- scaler (some projectors have it now, even some dvd players can do the stretch),

- a STB dvd

- 2.35 screen

- motorized lens

- electric masking

Then you could program a macro on the remote so that when he wants to watch 2.35, he pushes one button and the masking changes, lens goes into place, scaler stretches. Then a 16x9 macro to go back the other way.

In my experience HTPC are by far the most versatile way to go but stability can be a major problem. Usually just when you get it setup great something goes wrong. Also, will your dad be able to tell the difference in a HTPC and an upscaling dvd?

If it was your set up, HTPC all the way. Totally customizable. Just requires more maintainance than a STB player.
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