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Building a Home Theater, Part 4

May 18, 2009 2:52 PM, By Jason Bovberg


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Building a New Home Theater Series
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Picture Gallery

After the flurry of last month's construction activity in the home theater, things have slowed down enough so that I can really start visualizing—and planning for—what will be a finished screening room. As I plan the vital finish work that will make this theater shine, I've been contemplating and researching cosmetic flourishes to add to the final room—from carpet and paint choices, to sconces, seating, movie posters, and of course, the popcorn machine.

One decision I've gone back and forth about, through this entire process, is paint color. My thinking all along has been to go with a traditional red-and-black palette. I still like the look of that, but to better integrate the theater with the rest of the house, I've decided to go with a darker, richer red (call it a "Chianti") and a very deep mahogany brown. The dark colors will aid in image contrast; the darkness of the walls will help the projected video pop from the screen. And to avoid any image reflection, I'm going with flat (no-gloss) paint throughout the room. I'll paint the entire front wall the deep brown color (again, to provide contrast), as well as the ceiling, and paint the walls the deep red. These paint choices lead naturally to carpet choice: I've picked out a dark, short-nap carpet that will complement the color palette. All of these "dark" decisions necessitate a lot of attention to lighting.

An early decision involving lighting—not to install can lighting in a ceiling that's particularly vulnerable to escaping sound—led me to my next cosmetic decision. My contractor walked me through several catalogs of ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures, and I went with an extremely low-profile light that wouldn't get in the way of any swinging doors or the heads of my taller friends and family. (The basement ceilings are 9ft., but soffits—such as the one the projector will be attached to—go as low as 7.5ft.) I also chose the seven wall sconces that will help illuminate the room's walls. This room is going to have quite a few light sources (on separate fader switches), and that's a lesson learned from experience. My previous theater had only four can lights—not nearly enough illumination for such a dark room.

As the room takes its final shape, one of the more important purchases I've made is the actual theater seating I'll use. With final measurements in hand, I determined that I'll be able to fit five seats along the back wall on the riser and three reclining seats at the floor level in front. Theater seating can be shockingly expensive, so I was happy to find a relatively inexpensive but comfortable option in Ashley Furniture. Eight seats will cost a bit less than $2,000—and in my research, I had found single chairs that cost more than that.

So, what about the fun stuff? No theater is complete without appropriate wall decoration. One of my first real jobs was as a movie-theater manager, and it was then that I not only developed and nurtured my love for films but also began a hobby of collecting movie posters. I'll have room in my home theater (and just outside it) for only a few choice favorites, so I plan to frame some of the beauties of my collection: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Brazil, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and perhaps Creepshow. (See, right there, you've gained some insight into my psyche.) Adjacent to the theater door, my prized "Audience Is Listening" THX poster. But movie posters are a bit obvious, right?

I also wanted to add some more customized signage—without breaking the bank by going through a dedicated sign company. After some web research, I found an image site from which I could download Dolby , DTS, and other product-specific imagery for creating custom "This Theater Features..." signs. The Tin Studio is the ideal resource for anyone looking to craft unique signage, and the owner of the site is even open to requests. I found perfect images for those sound formats and also for Pioneer Elite, Atlantic Technology, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba—all of which will have a place in my home theater.

Another obvious but essential part of any dedicated home theater, naturally, is a popcorn machine. What better way to finish off the cosmetics of the theater than a freestanding Old Fashioned Movie Time Popcorn Cart? My kids are particularly looking forward to this addition. They couldn't care less about the type of equipment that projects the images and sounds, but a good source of popped corn is vital.

Stay tuned for next month's update, in which we finish off the room and begin installing equipment. Keep in mind, I always love to hear about what you’ve learned from your own home-theater construction, big or small. Perhaps your experiences can help me in my process. Feel free to comment with ideas or suggestions!


Jason Bovberg (jbovberg@windowsitpro.com) is a senior editor for Windows IT Pro and SQL Server magazine and a regular contributor to Residential AV Presents Connected Home. He specializes in networking, mobile and wireless, hardware, and home computing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and editor in magazine, book, and special-interest publishing.



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