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Discussion Starter #401
January 19, 2015 - Riser Conduit Finished

In last week's episode, we saw our hero throwing a fit because he forgot to glue the under-riser conduit together and it got disconnected in an inaccessible place.

Well, that wasn't so bad to fix. I put the jigsaw at some random angle and cut out a hole slightly longer and wider than the conduit, mostly so I could fit my hand down there:



I did the curve a bit too tight for that size blade and so it burned the wood quite a bit. You can see the burn marks a little, but the smell was quite strong for a day or two. Burned OSB doesn't smell as nice as a good burning hardwood.

The hole wasn't quite as big as I thought it would be, so my hands barely fit. Thankfully I have relatively tiny hands. Heh. This time I made sure that the pieces were glued together!



The reason for cutting the hole on an angle is so that I could just drop it back and place and voila, it'd fit perfectly. No need for backer boards or the like:



Well, it can't be a perfect fit since there is the width of the saw blade kerf removed from the piece. So it sits maybe 1/16" lower than the rest of the riser. Meh. That'll be covered with carpet and behind the second row seats, so it won't matter. That is to say, I'm not going to fill in that gap with wood putty or similar like my very first thought was. :rolleyes:

It'll eventually be glued back in place but I haven't done that yet for no particular reason at all.

With that properly secured, it was easy enough to install the rest of the conduit:



I had to have a coupler at the top since neither the corner in the attic nor that vertical piece ended in a bell end.

I did a quick vacuum test of that run and the suction seemed undiminished in the equipment closet, so that bodes well.

It may be notable soon enough that I used 1-1/4" conduit for this run rather than the 2" that I'll be using for my speaker. That's sort of back-asswards, since the speaker wire will take up comparatively little space as opposed to the HDMI and Ethernet cable that'll be pulled through the riser conduit. I've no excuse other than it didn't occur to me to use 2" conduit until after I had already finished the riser.

I was originally considering using the same 1-1/4" conduit for the projector run, but maybe I'll go with 2" there as well. The 1-1/4" certainly is big enough for the HDMI cable that'll run to the projector... but maybe better safe than sorry for the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #403
January 19, 2015 - Soffit Conduit

Overall Plan

The conduit running in the soffit is all 2" PVC, mostly grey electrical but a few of the connectors are the white plumbing fittings. There are two runs. One runs along the north wall and will service one of the side surrounds as well as the LCR and front subs. The other runs along the back wall and then down the south wall to service the two back surrounds and the other surround. Each has a drop down into the front columns which currently have nothing that run in the conduit.



The openings will be stuffed with something during normal use and completely taped off when using the shop-vac to pull through the pull line.

The North Line

The north conduit starts pretty close to the equipment closet so the run in the attic is pretty short. It was at this point where I discovered that the 2" PVC didn't have the same exact tolerances that some of the smaller diameter pipes have:



That's as far as I could get the two pieces to join -- maybe 1/4". I went at that with a hammer and strap clamps and good old fashioned muscle and it absolutely would not budge any farther. I'm going to assume that since it required that much effort to get to that part, that it's not going to accidently come apart, either.

Here's roughly what the space above the equipment closet looks like:



Yep, pretty cramped. There are three conduit runs there already and there will be one more (projector) soon enough. It'll also all eventually be completely covered with insulation, too.

The next hurdle was figuring out how to support the conduit, especially as I was constructing the run and before the soffit is created. Previously, I showed how the 2" clamps don't actually fit a 2" pipe!

Well, I decided to try straps. So I bought a 100 yard roll and for my first attempt, I just used my upholstery stapler to staple it to the ceiling. Nope. Those staples don't have anywhere near that kind of holding power. My next try was to just screw them using drywall screws:



It works, but not very well. The problem is that it was difficult to get the right size consistently (so the conduit would be level) and also difficult to place it properly on the ceiling to keep the conduit in a straight line.

My next attempt was to integrate a spacer and the conduit straps. Basically, I screwed a 3/4" OSB spacer to the wall (to a stud) and then screwed the BOTTOM of a cable clamp to it in a very specific location -- the clamp hole was at 3/4" from the bottom of the spacer and the bottom of the spacer is 1-1/2" up from the level line below it:



That worked pretty well. I didn't need to screw in the top of the clamp since the tension from the bottom plus gravity keeps it very snug right there. And because I put the clamp in the exact same place every time, I could position the spacer on the wall fairly precisely to ensure that the conduit was level.

It's not really possible to get the entire conduit run in one picture due to the HVAC runs in front of some of it. Here's what it looks like near the end:



It still has one of the early strap attempts, but that's not really supporting much of anything at this point. The final two pieces aren't glued into place, since they are on pretty darn tight.

Plus... I flip-flop on whether I should terminate that run that way OR if I should actually continue that run down the front wall and have three "drops" for the L+C+R. The reason I'm going with one is that I figured I'd rather the speaker wire be closer to the floor or wall and I could just run them all from one drop. The argument for three separate drops would be that it might look nicer? Doesn't seem like that good of a reason.

The South Line

The south conduit line runs a little way through the soffit return duct, which I'm not a huge fan of... but is somewhat necessary, due to how much of a pain it is to work in the attic. Maybe I'll end up wrapping the exposed conduit with linacoustic or similar. Maybe just leave it exposed? Not sure at this point.

Here's the drop from the attic into the theater:



I'm physically laying inside of the joist bays to do this work and take this shot. I'm comfortable doing that only because this is where I installed a layer of 5/8" OSB, which hopefully is enough to safely hold my weight. I have very little headroom here and this is what is directly above me:



Those are all nails from the shingle roof above me and yeah, I've bumped into them more than a few times. So far just scratches, thankfully.

Also, working on conduit in the attic is doubly a pain even if there is room since there's no easy way to measure the lengths needed and no way at all to cut the conduit up there. That means making a large estimate for the size and then going up and down several times to cut and test-fit. Bleah.

Thing is, one of those times for this run, I completely misread my measurement and ended up cutting it two inches too short, rather than too long! I attempted to work around that using some spare pieces and couplers but to no avail. The curse of the not-quite-fitting pieces really struck me hard this time and I physically could not attach my lengthened piece at all. I even shaved down the ends with a file a little. Nope. I needed to go down and cut a completely fresh piece.

The back wall run is 3" from the wall, making use of the clamps problematic. I tried again with the straps but the lack of accuracy was still troublesome. So I came up with a more repeatable solution.

First, I cut out a piece of OSB exactly 2" wide. Then, I cut the strap to a repeatable length (21" -- 17" for the drop and 2" on each side to attach). The top of the strap was stapled into the top of the OSB and the whole assembly is screwed directly into the ceiling:





You can see that the "drop" for the line is directly above the column, so I rotated the "tee" to have a straight drop down. I wish I had done that with the north line, since it allows me to hang the conduit a good inch higher.

I transitioned to the 3/4" spacer clamps on the south wall.



This picture makes it look like the clamp is notably lower than the strap, but nope. They both hold the conduit exactly the same distance down from the ceiling and level.

Here's the run along the back wall:



It terminates in the south front column and doesn't go behind the screen wall at all. That's mostly because I don't want to run a speaker wire that far around. I honestly will probably never even run anything in that front column, either.

And here's the drops in the equipment closet:



Next

That's essentially it for the conduit for now. I may go back and glue up some more of the joints, although they are all awfully tight as-is. I still need to pull the pull line, but that won't be until after the soffit is built. That's because I don't know if I'll need to cut the conduit drops or not, when it goes through the soffit bottom and I don't want anything in there if I do. Plus, I'll definitely have the cut the conduit in the equipment closet to length.

I still need to do the projector conduit, but that won't be until later, when I decide where the projector will go. I flip-flop between using 2" or 1-1/4" conduit for that one.
 

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Discussion Starter #404
One completely random thing -- I've ruined many a hole saw over the years where they just burn the wood and the teeth get all gummed up and dull after essentially one run. Clearly there must be a better way!

Well, after a little online research, I discovered that there IS a better way.

Step 1: Start drilling the hole using your hole saw but only enough to score an outline of the hole
Step 2: Switch out the hole saw with a regular bit and complete the pilot hole through the entire length of the material
Step 3: Using the same bit, drill between two and four holes that intersect with the scored outline and continue through the length of the material
Step 4: Put the hole saw back and make the cut slowly, letting the teeth essentially "graze" the wood

That works fantastically well! I was able to saw through a double 2x4 top plate in no time at all with zero burning and no dulling of the teeth. The keys are step 2 and 4. Pre-drilling the pilot hole ensures that the cut remains parallel through the length of the cut. Some of the burning is due to the hole starting to shift, which puts stress on the sides.

The big one is drilling the relief holes along the side, though. The primary culprit to the burning and tooth gumming and dulling is the sawdust that gets created from the cut. The relief holes give the sawdust a way out while you cut. In fact, I definitely noticed a huge amount of sawdust falling on me while I cut, which isn't normally the case.

All in all, I was able to cut three holes through 3" of studs and the hole saws still look good as new. That's definitely a first.
 

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Based on what y'all have said, I will likely need a beefier power supply just because of the total length of my run, but if I go with RGB strips, then the power supply itself does not need to support dimming or control, since that'll be done via the controller?
Actually, partially incorrect....the RGB power supply WILL need to support dimming, but the control is done from a separate control box (that also has the IR target, FYI).

You cannot dim a non-dimming power supply.
 

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Sorry for my brevity in replying last night, but I'd just come out of the box and it was past midnight here in the UK!

There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding on how the RGB strips work. Technically, we are not trying to 'dim' anything, at least not in the traditional sense, which, I agree, would need the power supply to be dimmable. (I think it's the use of the word 'dimming' that is causing the problem here!)

What we are doing is selecting colours with the controller. The 'dimming' comes from selecting darker colours, all the way to near black (almost off). Indeed this is how the colours themselves are created, if you wanted, say, purple, you'd have a decent level of Red and again of Blue, but the Green channel would be 'dimmed' to pretty much zero to create the colour.

It is the controller that provides this function; the power supply just supplies a steady 12v, the controller then varies the power to each colour channel, producing the different colours. i.e. Voltage in to the controller is steady 12v. Voltage out, on each individual channel, varies according to our need.

HTH

Interestingly, the RGB controllers can also be used to control single colour LEDs too (most commonly, plain white). In it's simplest form, a single white strip of LEDs is attached to an individual 'colour' channel, so one strip connected to the R channel, one to the G, the last to the B.

Three channels can be controlled in this way, so if one wanted a fancy 'scene' effect where different areas 'dimmed' up and down at different rates, it would be fairly easy to implement. The caveat with that is that one would have to figure out what 'colour' equalled what level of dimming to each of the three channels. (Easily done when using a controller that can be programmed via PC rather than a cheaper controller of eBay I'd suggest, but still possible nonetheless).

Indeed, whilst my build hasn't started yet, I'm considering using one or more controllers in just this way.

Again, HTH,

Phil

PS Hope the above is taken in the vein in which it's meant, just trying to add clarity - I appreciate I'm very much the 'new kid on the block' - to my eye, the bold almost feels like I'm shouting, which is not what I mean - just trying to be absolutely clear in my description, that's all. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #407
Sorry for my brevity in replying last night, but I'd just come out of the box and it was past midnight here in the UK!

There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding on how the RGB strips work. Technically, we are not trying to 'dim' anything, at least not in the traditional sense, which, I agree, would need the power supply to be dimmable. (I think it's the use of the word 'dimming' that is causing the problem here!)

What we are doing is selecting colours with the controller. The 'dimming' comes from selecting darker colours, all the way to near black (almost off). Indeed this is how the colours themselves are created, if you wanted, say, purple, you'd have a decent level of Red and again of Blue, but the Green channel would be 'dimmed' to pretty much zero to create the colour.

It is the controller that provides this function; the power supply just supplies a steady 12v, the controller then varies the power to each colour channel, producing the different colours. i.e. Voltage in to the controller is steady 12v. Voltage out, on each individual channel, varies according to our need.
This video shows what you are describing:


Basically, the controller determines how much voltage to apply to each R+G+B channel individually and it's selectable from 0 to 100%. If I wanted to dim a red color, then I would turn the Green and Blue channels to 0% and slowly decrease the voltage to just the Red channel until it was off.

I'm assuming I can do a gradual dimming -- all of the videos I've found so far show that controller being set as a snapshot. A gradual dimming would require the software to send a series of decreasing percentages over a specified time until it hit the desired target. Again, I'm assuming that that is possible.

I will say that this video might show one concern I have for z-wave vs Insteon. The Insteon and Z-wave docs both claim that Insteon devices react much much faster than Z-wave ones. There does appear to be a significant delay in this demo. I don't know if that's just a UI delay in Vera or a delay in the protocol and device, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #408 (Edited)
Thinking out loud on the topic of LED light strips, to consolidate some things I've learned yesterday and today ('cause I'm a forgetful guy).

Inexpensive LED strips come in either 5050 or 3528 forms, which refer to their size. 5050 is brighter per LED, but 3528 allows more per meter. 5050 can do RGBW but 3528 can only do RGB.

Let's use this strip as an example: http://www.ebay.com/itm/RGB-5M-300-...of-LED-Light-Strip-Flexible-12V-/181099780765

It's a 5M roll of 12V 3528 RGB with 60 LED per meter or 300 in total. The entire strip requires 2A or 24W.

Since it's 12V, we can tolerate only a 0.36V drop due to the wire gauge (assuming the standard 3% acceptable voltage drop).

My light tray is roughly 15M around, which would require three strips.

If I wire them in parallel, then I'd have one strip on the left of the power supply/controller and one strip to the right. There would be no notable voltage drop in those and it would cover 10M of the 15M. That leaves one 5M strip needed on the opposite end of the power strip. If I run a 16 gauge wire those 5M to the start of the strip, I'd see a 0.26V drop (Voltage Drop Calculator, which is well within my tolerances.

So far, so good. But I'm not sure how the voltage drops go within the strips themselves. That is, is the 3% drop only from the perspective of the wire leading to the beginning of the strip? If not, how do you calculate the effects of the strip? That is, if I have a 0.26V drop to the start of my far strip, then I have 0.1V to play with that can drop in the strip itself... how do I know that or does that not matter?

Looking at the Fibaro RGBW Z-Wave controller, I see that it can handle up to 12A. That is well within the tolerances of this set, which would be 6A total. The manual says nothing about wire gauge, so I'm not sure what it supports from that perspective.

At 24W per strip, I'd need 72W for the light tray, meaning any 12V power supply of more than 72W should be fine, since 100% of the dimming is done in the controller itself.

Moving up to a 12V 5050 to get the "white" in RGBW, I see that the amps jump up to 6A per strip. I would need 12 gauge wire to get to the start of my far strip. And it may not work with the Fibaro, since that'd be 18A total, which exceeds the 12A output potential. Hrm.

Stepping up to 24V appears triple the needed amperage in the strips I found, which makes it far worse, rather than better. EDIT: which is very odd! Typically when you double the voltage you can halve the amperage (P=IV or switched around, Amps = Watts / Volts). You'd think 24V 5050 RGBW strips could do 3A per strip. Strange.

Maybe there are more efficient RGBW strips out there? I haven't found any. Do I need RGBW? RGB should still make a "whiteish" color, so adding the dedicated white might just be for pastels?
 

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Yep, you've got it.

I haven't seen the RGBW strips, and don't know if they'd need a 4 channel controller or not - I haven't seen those either, but then I haven't looked. You can get a very nice 'white' from the straightforward RGB strips.

Whether or not you can smoothly dim is a function of the controller, it needs to smoothly ramp between selected colours. Certainly the RAKO units can do this - as I say, they are programmable via PC, even including dimming rates, and start/stop rates. i.e. Slowly starting the colour change, moving more rapidly towards the desired colour, and then slowing down again as the target colour is reached.

I would have thought that somewhere in the US, an equivalent controller would be available - but not being in the US myself, I wouldn't know where to start looking! Bilwill might be able to tell you what his controller is capable of, and it may well be (hopefully) sufficient.

In extremis you could actually use a RAKO unit, as, despite being a UK system, with most units normally run off 220v, the RGB controller, of course, uses just a regular 12v supply, like any other RGB controller. You would also need the RAKO IR receiver (also powered by a 12v supply) and a RAKO remote control (to allow programming of the units). So, not a cheap solution, but a possibility nonetheless. I bought all of our RAKO gear secondhand off that well known auction site (the dot co dot uk version) at a cost of around $100 per unit.

Whatever solution you choose though, the beauty of it, is that controllers are easily replaceable. So you might start with something that doesn't quite do what you want, but is good enough, and then upgrade later, as a better controller is found.

One thing to remember about running so many lengths of strip, you will need RGB amplifiers to do this safely, most controllers have limited power capabilities, and are easy to overload. Amplifiers are cheap. {edit: just reread your post and you quote power capability of the controller - so it seems, with the less power hungry strips you'd be fine, but if you go with the 5050, you'd need to have at least one of the strips driven via an amplifier - easily done (as per my earlier diagram), so don't worry too much about the power!}

And again, as far as the voltage drop goes, running a single cable alongside the strip to feed the 12v (not the RGB signal) from both ends stops any concern over voltage drops. Although, it can be noted, that we didn't find it necessary in our setup, as the brightness remained pretty constant along our runs (despite using several runs of 5m)!

Food for thought.
 

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A couple thoughts on your LED plans...

Typical convention is to size your power supplies so that your load consumes no more than 80% of the rated power (I saw 70% in some recommendations when I was selecting a power supply). In your case, if your max load is 72W, multiply by 5/4. Your power supply should be rated for at least 90W. I don't believe that 72W includes the power consumed by the controller, so maybe go with a 100W supply.

If you are at all concerned about the space you have in your light tray for the outlet, HA switch, power supply and LED controller and LED lights, you could run a conduit between a column and the light tray so that all components except the LEDs are in the column (basically what you have planned for your riser LEDs). Then run the three proper gauge wires from the controller through the conduit to the strips in the light tray. Also a bit easier to work on those components if they are placed in a column.

I've been happy with the Meanwell supplies which I have connected to switched outlets hidden inside my columns.
 

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Discussion Starter #413
Whether or not you can smoothly dim is a function of the controller, it needs to smoothly ramp between selected colours. Certainly the RAKO units can do this - as I say, they are programmable via PC, even including dimming rates, and start/stop rates. i.e. Slowly starting the colour change, moving more rapidly towards the desired colour, and then slowing down again as the target colour is reached.

I would have thought that somewhere in the US, an equivalent controller would be available - but not being in the US myself, I wouldn't know where to start looking! Bilwill might be able to tell you what his controller is capable of, and it may well be (hopefully) sufficient.

In extremis you could actually use a RAKO unit, as, despite being a UK system, with most units normally run off 220v, the RGB controller, of course, uses just a regular 12v supply, like any other RGB controller. You would also need the RAKO IR receiver (also powered by a 12v supply) and a RAKO remote control (to allow programming of the units). So, not a cheap solution, but a possibility nonetheless. I bought all of our RAKO gear secondhand off that well known auction site (the dot co dot uk version) at a cost of around $100 per unit.
Right. For the most part, I'm trying to find as minimal a full-featured solution as I can. As soon as IR comes into play, it starts feeling like it's maybe a step too far. That's why I'm currently focusing some of my attention on the Fibaro RGBW controller, since it's a "one step" Z-wave solution -- no need for intermediate IR transmitters and receivers. I have one ordered and will be experimenting with it when it arrives.

The RAKO units do look interesting, but the HA hubs that I'd use wouldn't be able to control them directly. My two front runners are the Indigo software for OS X and a standalone Vera device. I see that at least one HA package for Windows can directly talk to RAKO units, but I wasn't planning on installing the HA software on my media box.

In fact, I ordered one roll of 3528 (with power supply and IR remote); a Z-Stick to work with a trial version of Indigo; and the Fibaro controller. If Indigo doesn't pan out, then I'll try Vera.

One thing to remember about running so many lengths of strip, you will need RGB amplifiers to do this safely, most controllers have limited power capabilities, and are easy to overload. Amplifiers are cheap. {edit: just reread your post and you quote power capability of the controller - so it seems, with the less power hungry strips you'd be fine, but if you go with the 5050, you'd need to have at least one of the strips driven via an amplifier - easily done (as per my earlier diagram), so don't worry too much about the power!}
Ah, cool. I saw the amplifiers but I wasn't sure if they would work with the Fibaro RGB controller or not. Since they are actual RGB amplifiers, though, it shouldn't matter what the controller is. I'll probably order one of those, too, after I see what kind of voltage drops I'm getting in some test setups.

Oh yeah! I'm actually subscribed to that thread (it's very similar to mine in some ways). It didn't register very much for me, since I don't care at all about being able to sync the lights to sound. Plus I see it's an IR controller, which is an option of the Z-Wave controller doesn't work.

I am curious about that controller having two outputs. Presumably that's to control two sets of strips independently? I'm going on the very big assumption that I can just splice as many wires or strips as I want (within reason) on one output...

A couple thoughts on your LED plans...

Typical convention is to size your power supplies so that your load consumes no more than 80% of the rated power (I saw 70% in some recommendations when I was selecting a power supply). In your case, if your max load is 72W, multiply by 5/4. Your power supply should be rated for at least 90W. I don't believe that 72W includes the power consumed by the controller, so maybe go with a 100W supply.

If you are at all concerned about the space you have in your light tray for the outlet, HA switch, power supply and LED controller and LED lights, you could run a conduit between a column and the light tray so that all components except the LEDs are in the column (basically what you have planned for your riser LEDs). Then run the three proper gauge wires from the controller through the conduit to the strips in the light tray. Also a bit easier to work on those components if they are placed in a column.

I've been happy with the Meanwell supplies which I have connected to switched outlets hidden inside my columns.
Yeah, I was assuming I'd get a 100W supply or similar (maybe 150W) because better safe than sorry. Without actually looking, I assumed there would be standard sizes.

That's a good idea to put all of the controllers in the column! I probably will have room for it all in the light tray but not having to mess with it with such limited headroom could be a big win.

Putting the power supply farther away from the beginning of the strips would add some voltage drop right in the beginning, but since it would be the exact same for all strips, it might not make a difference. That's where some experiments will help.
 

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Great stuff! More experiments by Granroth!

I do like your experiments, and your explanations of what, whys and wherefores. Not only is it very entertaining, but also a great resource for those of us still at the planning stages.

I look forward to the next exciting instalment.

Your conduit looks great. I was just going to clip my speaker cables to the inside of the soffits, as speaker cable isn't that much of an upgradeable item. I planned on my HV cables going into conduit (for protection - 220v hurts when you stick a nail through it!) and possibly the HDMI feed to the projector, and that's it. What's your rationale behind conduit for everything? (Apologies if I've missed it).
 

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Discussion Starter #415
Great stuff! More experiments by Granroth!

I do like your experiments, and your explanations of what, whys and wherefores. Not only is it very entertaining, but also a great resource for those of us still at the planning stages.
One of the main reasons for starting this build thread was to be an object lesson to other "regular" folks that want to build a theater. If I can do it, then pretty much anybody can do it! :D

Your conduit looks great. I was just going to clip my speaker cables to the inside of the soffits, as speaker cable isn't that much of an upgradeable item. I planned on my HV cables going into conduit (for protection - 220v hurts when you stick a nail through it!) and possibly the HDMI feed to the projector, and that's it. What's your rationale behind conduit for everything? (Apologies if I've missed it).
Future paranoia. I recognize that for right now, running 2" conduit for just speaker wire is almost ludicrous overkill. But what about the future? What might I want to run to the columns or to behind the screen wall in some unspecified later date? Maybe future speakers will run off of Ethernet wire or Lightning cable or USB4 or something. Maybe some new device I can't even think of will need a cable that hasn't even been invented.

If that future does arrive, then I can just pull it through with no drama. If I didn't have the conduit, then I would just be kicking myself for not doing it when I had the chance.

And from a slightly practical perspective -- my design and working process is to delay any decisions until the last possible moment. If I didn't have the conduit, then I would need to be running speaker wire right now. I feel much more comfortable running that wire when I have actual speakers to hook up, months from now.

Yeah, sometimes my reasoning for things is baffling even for my wife, who knows me better than anybody else in the world. I swear it all makes sense to me! :p
 

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Ah yes, paranoia, that well known cousin of OCD. I get it now, but do wish in some ways you hadn't explained it, as it makes too much sense! And now I'm having to think whether I should be doing the same......

Although I think I may have come up with 'a cunning plan' (cue Baldrick and Captain Blackadder) to achieve a similar end result, without the use of conduit. (You probably don't want to hear that, after all your conduit work - besides, it does affect the end result decor, so wouldn't fit every cinema design).

Anyway, in the words of Joseph Heller {Catch 22}, "Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't after you" ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #417
I received my test kit of LED strips and z-wave materials... but I'm going to hold off on doing anything substantial for now. I realize that I'm very easily distracted by things like this and if I let myself, I'll spend all of the time I should be building my theater just messing with the electronics. The LED strips could literally be the last thing installed, too, since they are just accent lighting.

So I'm going to try and focus on a path that brings me to a usable theater sooner rather than later and to take care of finishing touches afterwards.

We'll see how that goes :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #419
January 25, 2015 - Soffit Bones

Level With Me

I got a bit distracted by pretty lights this past week, but did get a little bit done on the soffit framing. To start, I needed to know where my high spots and low spots are in the room.

I have a laser level and a tripod, but that doesn't go higher than five feet and I needed a level line at roughly 7'-3" (specifically 10-1/4" down from low point of the ceiling). You can buy "laser poles" but they run upwards of $80 and that seems like an egregious amount of money for an extensible pole.

So I decided to make my own. I have an old extension pole that was used to hang up Christmas lights. It extends to 20' or so and (far more importantly) is made of steel, not aluminum or fiberglass. That meant that I could attach the laser level to it using the level's magnets.

It worked great at first:



But... that only lasted until I tried to adjust the swing of the laser level, since it cannot do a 360 degree sweep. Since it attaches via the magnets, it takes a decent amount of force to move it on the pole and the end result is that it was darn near impossible to get a reproducible mark. I could always get within some fraction of an inch, but I wanted it to be dead-even and my ad-hoc laser pole simply wouldn't allow that.

So I was back to using the tripod. I just put it on the painter stool you see in the above picture (and later pictures). It's not as fun, but it is very accurate.

Using that, I determined that the high point was in the north-east corner (above the riser) and the low point was in the south-west corner (down by the stage). There is a 3/4" difference between the two. I moved my measurements to where the soffit will actually be and the difference between the high and low points there is "only" 5/8" off.

I was a little worried by how much it would be off since if it was closer to 1", then it would be harder to attach the front panels to the top 2x2 due to the lack of overlapping space. Leaving a 5/8" still gives me 1-3/8" to use to screw in, which should be plenty.

I did some more work with the laser level and reminded myself that the walls aren't square, either. Meh. I can just make the soffits parallel in that case, since the only ramification will be that the corner angle's won't be a perfect 45 degrees or 22.5 degrees. Don't care.

Reference Lines

It's easy enough to strike level reference lines on the wall for the back support 2x2s, but I wanted to have some physical marks in the air to easily show where the soffit face should be. The alternative is to keep the laser level calibrated at the right point and to use it as a live reference. That's doable, but not ideal.

I decided to string four lines right at the level mark and spanning the room in both direction at the corners of where the soffit will be. I made my mark; screwed in a drywall screw at that specific point, and attached some string:



(For the record, it's not on the chalk line since that line was from before I realized the bottom level needs to be off of the low point. The chalk line that goes around the room is universally too high)

The string I had was pretty stretchy and I pulled it as tight as I dared. Alas, it wasn't enough:



Yep, even stretched tight, the string sagged by a good 3/8" in the middle. It obviously didn't sag that much near the ends, where the soffit will be, but it was still enough that I couldn't trust it to be my physical level. I had to abandon that plan and go with the old dynamic measuring with the level. Ah well.

Framed

All four corners of the soffit are clipped at 45 degrees, which technically means that any joining pieces should be at 22.5 degrees. I decided to give that a try with one of the corners. It turned out well:



Most of the top corners aren't like that since I created some of the straight pieces before thinking that I should properly angle them, and so they are all too short. I could do this one (and the other in the back) only because the straight pieces were too short and so I needed to cut a new addition anyway... figured I might as well angle it at the same time.

All of the OSB panels on the face will have to be angled and we'll see about the drywall.

I removed the bottom 2x2s from the front and back face frames, since those will be attached to the panels and then screwed up into the vertical supports... if that makes sense. I only have a few vertical supports, since most of the structure in the soffit will be coming from the rigid panels themselves.

Here's what the back of the room looks like now:



And the front:



Next

As an aside, if the pictures look different than before, it's because I finally have a real camera and not just a potato. I bought a Sony NEX-5t, which is worlds better than the built-in iPhone 5 camera. I'm still learning how to use it, though. So far, the pictures have all been in "auto" mode.

I spent today getting a trailer and then hauling a bunch of sheets of 5/8" OSB and drywall, since I had none of either left over from before. Next week will be all about attaching at least the face frames and then we'll see. The big variable is actually Linacoustic, which I need before I put on all of the bottom. I found a local source of it, but I'm told that a 100' roll is too big to fit inside of my car, and so I'll need to rent a trailer for that, as well. Practically speaking, that means that I won't be able to do that until next Friday.

I have two outstanding questions in my mind about the bottom part of the soffit above the stage.

First, since the screen lights won't be in the light tray like all the rest, that means that they will have to be in the soffit itself. I want them to be 12" from the screen... but I don't know where the screen is going to be. So I either have to decide right now OR I'll have to think of a way to place the wire up there so that I can drill the holes; install the cans; and wire them up after the soffit is fully built and sealed off. Hrm.

Second, if I want to use any part of the soffit as a bass trap, that likely means that I don't want to put a solid bottom under some of it, right? Maybe I should just leave 2' or so of the soffit above the stage with no bottom and just cover it with fabric later?
 

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For what its worth, I didn't do any sort of math regarding the LED light strips I used in my soffit this past week.

It took 3 of the 16 ft 5050 strips to get around my soffit, and I used two inline power boosters. I ended up hiding the cabling in my soffit, and I just found some 20' power cords on amazon prime to reach from the outlet to the power boosters, worked out great. When I had the 3 strips just tied together powered off one 12V 5A power supply, there was noticable dimming between the start and end of the strip. With the power boosters, no dimming.

I'm hooking it up to an Arduino Uno with an RGB LED shield that I can program to control however I want (I plan on writing a mini web-server running on the Arduino that my home automation system can tie into when it receives insteon events).

The effect is really cool looking and is pretty bright. I wouldn't expect to read books by a fully lit up LED strip in a soffit, but it provides some cool effects.
 
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