A Chronicle of Our Home Theater

Years since we last set foot in a commercial theater: 6
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone - 2001)

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When planning our new house, one of the things I wanted to include was space for a home theater in the basement.  While designing the house we worked with the architect to ensure this was in the plans. When the house was built we had the general contractor finish the basement, but leave the theater space with just drywall; I wanted to do the finish work myself.  This site documents that process and presents the finished theater.

I love to browse other theater owner's sites and see what they have done.  I hope others enjoy this site and, if your just planning your theater, maybe get some ideas.

General Information

Our theater seats 8 people.  It has three-tier seating with 2, 3, and 3 seat rows.  The front row is approximately 13 feet from a 49"x115" Cinemascope screen (125" diagonal).  That is 1.35 screen widths.  Pretty close according to a lot of recommendations, but I really like an immersive experience.  Plus, most of the screen door effect and other issues are gone with today's hi-res projectors.  The theater is a 13x25 foot room with the screen on the 13 foot wall.  Please see the construction gallery links above for details.

Equipment and Features

The theater image is produced by a Panasonic PT-AE1000U projector, ceiling mounted.  This is a 1080p LCD projector.  The projector was calibrated using Avia.  It projects onto a moderate gain (1.3) wall mounted screen.  The screen is Cinemascope (2.35x1).  This is a recent addition.  The screen has automated masking for 16:9 material.

We have what is called a constant image height (CIH) setup which means that all three common formats (2.35x1, 16x9, and 4x3) have the same height, no top and bottom masking for 2.35 material.  16x9 and 4x3 material is shown natively by the projector.  Cinemascope (2.35x1) is achieved by vertically stretching the image via the projector and using an anamorphic lens to horizontally stretch to the full screen.  This makes Cinemascope movies very impressive--as they should be--rather than letter boxed and smaller than 16x9 movies.

We watch a lot of DVD movies with some HDTV and SDTV.   We have both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disk players.  The DVD players and HDTV tuner connect to the projector via HDMI via a remote control switcher. 

Theater sound is 7.1 surround with both Dolby Digital and DTS.  We use Dolby Digital mostly with Dolby Prologic IIx for 7.1.  A future upgrade is a receiver with HDMI inputs to support the new lossless sound of HD DVD and Blu-ray.

Our theater used to have an intro that could be played before movies.  Since the move to HD DVD and Blu-ray it has not gotten re-incorporated yet.  Maybe some day.

Automation

I am also heavily into home automation and that plays a big part in the theater as well.  Our theater automation features include:

When we want to watch a movie or HDTV, we hit a button on a remote.  The house asks us to select a theater mode.  The mode is selected by pressing a  number on the remote to pick between HD DVD, Blu-ray, or HDTV.  The home automation controller will then turn on the DVD player (or satellite receiver), turn on the surround receiver, turn on the projector, select the appropriate input on the receiver, select the appropriate input on the HDMI switch, and turn on all the lights (including the step lights).  When its all ready, the house tells you, "Theater ready.  Enjoy the show."  All you have to do when you get downstairs is put in the disk.

When everyone is situated, press "play" on the remote and the home automation controller dims the lights and starts the DVD player. 

At any point during the movie you can press pause and the automation controller will run the movie back a few seconds (so when it restarts you don't miss a second), pauses the movie then brings up the lights.  When ready, you can press pause again, or play, and the lights dim and the movie resumes.

When the movie is over, pressing stop will bring up the lights, and open the DVD player.  The system is then in a state that you could change disks and press play for another movie.

You can use the remote to change theater modes also.  If you are watching, say HD-DVD, and now want to watch HDTV, hit a couple buttons on the remote and the home automation controller turns off equipment no longer needed, turns on other equipment, and changes the receiver and switch to the new inputs.

When you're all done and back up stairs, press a button on the remote and the entire system, including lights, is shut down.  The house will tell you, "Theater has been shut down.   Hope you enjoyed the show."  If you forget to shutdown the theater, when we put the house in sleep mode at bedtime it will shutdown the theater.

Before the CIH setup, we had a motorized vertical masking system for 2.35x1 movies (to mask off the top and bottom of the screen for 2.35:1 material.)  You can see pictures in the construction galleries.  It's not needed any longer with the CIH setup.

With the CIH setup, we have a new motorized horizontal masking system for 16:9 material (masks off the sides of the screen.)  The masking stays in place normally.  When watching a widescreen movie, pressing a button on the remote causes the home automation controller will switch on the vertical stretch mode of the projector, swap the lens into stretch mode, and raise the masks.  If you don't set if back, the home automation controller will do it for you when you end a movie.

You can read more about other home automation features at our home automation pages.

Equipment

Projector:
Panasonic PT-AE1000U
(HDMI connected)
Prismasonic FE1500R Anamorphic Lens

AMP:
Yamaha HTR-5790

DVD Players:
Toshiba XA2
(HD DVD)
Sony BDP-S1
(Blu-ray)

HDTV Tuner:
DishPVR 921

Front Speakers:
Klipsch Kg4

Center Speaker:
Klipsch RC-35

Side and Rear Speakers:
Klipsch SS-1

Subwoofer:
Klipsch KSW-15

Screen:
Da-Lite Imager CinemaVision 49"x115" Cinemascope (pro-trim)


Theater Intro

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