A window to the stars: Details count in this home theater, where lighting,storage and ease of use were as carefully thought out as the sound andvideo.
Aug 1, 1997 12:00 PM, Bob Heil
Home theater is so much more than a multichannel sound system and a largetelevision screen. Most home theater systems in place today are simply loudTV sets.
True home theater comprises four items:
A large, crystal-clear picture.
A properly imaged Dolby sound system.
Remotely controlled (automated) lighting.
Some form of digital program delivery (DSS).
Converging all four of these into an enjoyable space for all members of thefamily becomes a real artform. Home theater is more than just slapping acenter-channel loudspeaker on your 40 inch (1 m) television and hiding asubwoofer under the couch.
A case in point is the fabulous theater room in the lower level of this St.Louis home. Beginning with the raw basement of the 3,000 ft2 (279 m2),single-level home, the homeowners had a 100 inch (2.5 m) Da-Literear-projection screen built into a wall constructed approximately half waythrough the center of the basement. This wall also houses the JBL THXfront-left and -right and center dialogue loudspeakers along with the twohuge JBL subwoofers.
Covering all the anglesThe caveat in constructing all media rooms is that of standing waves causedprimarily by parallel side and end walls. The reflections between thosesurfaces coupled with phasing problems in misplaced loudspeaker systemscause many problems for the novice designers and installers of today'smultichannel systems. To circumvent this problem, the walls in theresidence were slanted about 2 inches (51 mm) from top to bottom, and acurve was created in each side wall, thus all but eliminating any standingwaves that might be present with the usual four squared walls. These curveswere picked up by the interior designer in the sculptured carpet.
One of the highlights of the room is the starlight ceiling. Because thebasement had a 10 foot (3 m) ceiling, an 18 inch (457 mm) plasterboardceiling was dropped throughout the theater except for the randomkidney-shaped area in front of the screen. A regular suspended ceiling gridusing 2'x4' (0.6 m x 1.2 m) panels was installed, but before any tiles wereset in, several hundred designer lights were stapled to the originalrafters, which had been painted flat black. To finish, the designersinstalled black, translucent Plexiglas panels. The designer lights arecontrolled with an X-10 controller, so various levels of dim and chaselevels can be achieved either from a remote control or from thewall-mounted Leviton controller.
A platform was built against the rear wall to lift the last row of couchesup 8 inches (203 mm) above the front-line couches. National Lightingsupplied the tube lighting mounted under the lip of the platform, and 12feet (3.7 m) of the lighting was wrapped around the original gray supportpost, which was painted white and encased in some translucent 12 inch (305mm) round Plexiglas stock.
The equipment was housed in a 20-space Mid Atlantic rack built into a wall.A second rack behind the wall holds equipment to which the homeownerwouldn't need ready access, such as multiplex switchers and DSS receivers,allowing two laserdisc players, a VCR, a CD player and a Kenwood THXprocessor to be located close at hand.
Two laserdisc players - a Kenwood and a Pioneer Elite - allow differentinfrared codes to be used, allowing for independent control. Using the twoplayers also enables the homeowners to watch a complete movie that mayencompass two sides of one disc or two discs without getting up to changeto that third or fourth side.
One of the nicest design considerations for this room was that one remotecontrol could be used for virtually every function. The lighting and anyair conditioning control was done using Leviton and X-10 products. Theinfrared repeaters are all Xantech, with a JPS controller pulling it alltogether into one simple remote. Various macros allow selection of lightingmoods and conditions as well as orchestrated video productions.
The video projector is an Ampro ceiling-mounted projector mounted behindthe 100 inch (3 m) diagonal screen. Using one of the Da-Lite DaTex screens,this setup has many advantages over front projection. For example, thissetup allows clearer video images in higher ambient light and the abilityto use the ceiling space in front of the screen for design considerations,such as the Starlight ceiling.
To complete the project, the homeowner chose a classy candy counter thatrivals many real theaters and comes complete with popcorn machine. Astorage area on the wall behind the screen houses the valuable software ofVHS tape, laserdiscs, compact discs and audiocassettes. Storage is a partof home theater design that many installers miss; as a result, manysoftware libraries end up thrown on the floor under the coffee table.
To be tagged as a home theater dealer, a designer must address all of thedesign characteristics. A good installer needs to control the many aspectsof the design - video, audio, room size, acoustics, lighting and storage aswell as wall coverings and furniture placement.
The room presented here is a great addition to any home. The good news is,these types of spaces can be designed and installed by many dealers who areregular readers of this magazine. Spend some time discovering the varioustechnologies. The rewards for you as a dealer and for your client can begreat.
1 Kenwood THX processor6 Kenwood THX amplifiers1 Pioneer Karoke laser player1 RCA laser home theater laserdisc player2 RCA DSS receivers1 RCA stereo VCR1 JBL HT-1 THX loudspeaker system1 Ampro 1100 video projector1 JPS digital controllerAssorted Leviton, X-10 light controllers