Converting "media room" to home theater. Lots of questions

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by DonRC, Oct 2, 2004.

  1. DonRC

    DonRC Stunt Coordinator

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    Greetings, all. I'm a new participant in this community, and would like some opinions from anybody that would be willing to share.

    We have lived in our new house for about 6 months, and I am finally ready to start working on my media room. My vision for this media room is that I'm going to set it up as a theater room, with front projector, large screen, 5.1 surround sound, etc. As I get ready to start on this project, I'd like input from some people that are more knowledgeable on these issues than I am right now. I have a number of questions, and I anticipate the answers people provide may generate further questions. Any thoughts you'd care to provide would be appreciated.

    For some background, the room that I am completing into a media room is 16.5 feet wide, 17.5 feet long, and 10 feet high (with some slanting down to 8 feet on the outside 2-3 feet on 2 sides). There are two windows on the back of the room, but I can control the light very well with the blackout shades I have on them. There is some slight light leakage around the blinds, but it is very slight, and is diffused, not direct, light. The windows face north. The entrance to the room is a 3'x 3' alcove with two steps down into the room. The room is pre-wired for 5.1 surround. There is also a component closet built into the room (in the entry alcove), with a thick bundle of cables already pre-run. (Having said that, it's doubtful that all of the cables I might need have been run. The cables that have been run are coax, speaker, and Cat-5.)

    1) The room is currently "generic builder's beige" in color. The carpet is a dark navy blue that we had put in for light absorption. How much benefit would I gain by painting the walls a darker, more light-absorbent color? If I do paint (and I probably will unless people tell me there's no significant benefit), some people have suggested a light chocolate brown. I was debating whether I should go with something like that or if I should go really dark with a dark blue to match the carpet - or even a very dark grey or black. Any thoughts?

    2) The room will mainly be used for watching movies, sports (go Seahawks!) in HDTV, and occasional television programs (in HDTV when available). I would like to also have the ability to play console and/or computer games on the projection screen, but that is a secondary (or teriary) objective, so it isn't a deciding factor for what the setup should be other than making sure it is capable of serving in this capacity. For a projector I am considering something like the BenQ 8700+ projector (I'm new so I can't post a link... sorry), or something in that general price range. I chose this as my "baseline" projector based on getting good HD performance at a price point I think I can afford. Is this a good choice? Would there be a better choice in roughly the same (although lower is okay... ;o) ) price range based upon what I want to do with the projector?

    3) I am thinking I would like to put in about a 120" diagonal screen to provide the "big" movie experience (good idea? bad idea? why?). What screen proportions would be recommended and why (1.78:1, 1.85:1, 2.05:1, 2.35:1)? What are the pros and cons of each screen ratio?

    4) What cabling should I be thinking about running between the projector and the component closet that may not be there yet? If there are cables that I may not be using now, but will probably want in the future, please let me know that, too, as I would prefer to do as much of my crawling around in the attic now as possible so that I don't have to do it again later. Also, are there cables I should be running elsewhere in the room as well? Which ones?

    5) Back to the projection screen... What recommendations would you make for the type of screen I should use? I have thought about building a screen myself, and would kind of like the project, but I don't want to do it just for the sake of doing it if I'm going to lose a bunch of image quality in the process. (Of course, if I would be more than happy to save the money if I can maintain image quality.) If a DIY screen is a reasonable choice, any suggestions for where I can find plans on making one? If a DIY screen is a bad idea, what kind of screen would be recommended? White? Grey? Brand?

    6) What kinds of "ambience" features would you recommend for a room like this? What are some relatively inexpensive things I could put in to make it *feel* more like a real theater experience, and where is a good source for these things?

    7) What other things should I be considering that I haven't thought of yet?

    Thanks in advance for all your help! [​IMG]

    (Edited to correct numbering.)
     
  2. DonRC

    DonRC Stunt Coordinator

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    I forgot to include that I have an Onkyo HT-R500 receiver that I am planning on using for the audio. It seems to be adequate for the task, so I am not planning on upgrading that in this process.
     
  3. DonRC

    DonRC Stunt Coordinator

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    I have 82 page views and no responses, so I'm wondering if my long post was simply too overwhelming for anybody to feel like they wanted to take the time to tackle it. Please feel free to just tackle one or two of the questions I raised. I've never done anything like this before, so I'd really value any input people can give at all.

    Thanks.

    Don
     
  4. Conrad Ebel

    Conrad Ebel Agent

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    Sounds like a cool room you are building there Don. Here is my crack at your questions...

    1. I, personally, would go with something darker, but also has some personality when the lights are up. Ideally, you want no outside light, or reflections off of any bright surfaces during a movie. Make sure your paint is flat (so it won't reflect), and won't be distracting when you are using your room. Mid-dark to dark blue, would be nice, but it is totally up to you. You don't want light walls that you can see when the lights are down. You only want to see the screen.

    2. Projector is really a personal choice as well. Try to look at them and demo a few if you can. The only thing is, with that large of a screen, you will want to get a projector that is bright enough to handle it and not lose any picture quality. I'm not familiar with the BenQ 8700+, but you can check the AVS forums for information on it.

    3. Since you will be watching HDTV on your setup, I'd go 16:9 (native HD aspect ratio) and use masking if you want for any movies that are in a different aspect ratio. I watch alot of HD football games (go Eagles!) and the HD broadcast takes up the whole screen and looks amazing!

    4. I ran the following cables from my equipment rack to my projector: component, composet (yello RCA), 15 pin VGA, s-video, and two cat-5e. I only use the component for DVD, and s-video for playstation. I do wish I'd have put in a DVI cable though. BlueJeanscables.com is a great source for cables. Great quality and fast delivery. Also, wire for 7.1, even if you aren't going to use it right away. It will be there WHEN you decide to use it. [​IMG]

    5. I plan on buying a screen eventually, but just did a DIY screen for now. I just used a 1/2" sheet of MDF from Home Depot and screwed it to the studs. I painted it with Bher Flat Silverscreen paint, also from Home Depot. ~$30. It looks great. Will a "real" screen look better when I get one? Yes. Will this one work for now while I save money to get one? Yes. This is totally dependent on your budget. If you have the $, then buy a real one now and save yourself some work.

    6. Rope lights (Target), riser (lumber from Home Depot), wall sconces (local lighting store) on a dimmer with remote control (home depot), movie posters (internet)... use your imagination! None of these are too much $. All will add to the "theater" experience.

    7. The best thing I did was read the WHOLE "What I wish I'd have done..." thread. It was great and gave me TONS of ideas that I would have never thought of by myself.

    Good luck with your room. It is a LOT of work, but will be WELL worth it after you are done.
     
  5. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    My personal preference for the front wall is flat black. You could go with some other dark colour for the rest of the walls, something that would match with the navy blue carpets.

    The 8700 is a nice projector. The + is an HD2+ DLP PJ with added contrast ratio and brightness too. Another comparable PJ is the Infocus 7205, although I don't know if it is cheaper where you are.

    I would probably also go 16x9 (1.78:1) as mentioned above which is what I did with my screen. I would build the screen. When I was looking for a screen, I had my eyes on the Firehawk but the cost of getting it was prohibitive for me at the time. I did a lot of reasearch and opted for the DIY screen in my signature.
     
  6. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    I just finished painting my HT room and I am very satisfied with the result. Definately paint the room. I don't think my colour choices match your carpet but I'll list them anyway just because I think they go very well with HT.

    Walls: Estate Vineyard (flat Behr paint from HD)
    Ceiling: Dark Plum (flat Behr paint from HD)
     
  7. DonRC

    DonRC Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the input! (Feel free to keep it coming. [​IMG] )

    As far as the wiring goes, the room is already wired for 5.1 Surround. However, I'm not sure that the cables are necessarily all that high quality. (More precisely, I'm pretty sure they're not since they were whatever the builder decided to put in - I didn't pick them. I just haven't checked them yet.) How much difference would it make in my overall sound quality if I were to run high quality speaker wires instead of the standard (i.e. cheap) ones that are there now?

    If I'm looking at a 120" diagonal screen at 16:9, is that screen too big for that room? I want to get the big movie experience, but somebody told me that I wouldn't get a good picture quality at that size. (My impression was that with a good projector like the BenQ 8700 that wouldn't be a problem, but... I don't know. Any thoughts?)

    I saw pictures on here somewhere of somebody's theater that had fiber optic "stars" in the ceiling. Anybody have any idea where to find those and how hard they are to put in? It seems like it would be a nice effect. (I sent that person an email from this site, but I think I neglected to give my email address and I can't find them anymore. [​IMG] )

    I'm also thinking of covering my front wall, or at least the screen, with a motorized drapery for the theater look and to protect my screen. Any suggestions for that project?

    (Correction: Room is already wired for 7.1 Surround.)

    Thanks again!
     
  8. KristiT

    KristiT Auditioning

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    Here's the guy with the way cool ceiling:
    w1.462.telia.com/~u46216498

    We're doing a medium chocolate flat paint (Behr -- exact color TBD) with dark chocolate velvet (very reasonably priced from IKEA) draped along the walls...and pulled back in a few areas to expose speakers & sconces.

    Hmmm...for the navy blue carpet I'd say that charcoals/dark blues would nice. SteveFred's HT had similar color scheme that I thought look nice (but the wood is NMS): hometheaterforum.com/htforum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=207905&perpage=40&display=&pagenumber=2

    Aside from the lighting and decor, we have a popcorn machine on our list -- but more for eats than looks. [​IMG]


    (cannot post links yet -- grrrr)
     
  9. MikeN

    MikeN Agent

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    Hey Don... welcome from another Allen resident [​IMG]

    Have you been over to the DHTG site yet? Dallas Home Theater Group

    There are a few of us that get together fairly often and talk shop, and few more of us that are actually doing HT/Media Rooms for locals as well.

    If you want to hook up for lunch and talk shop, let me know.
     
  10. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Didn't notice you're from DFW. You're welcome to check out the room I am building. I'm a little east in Keller.
     
  11. DonRC

    DonRC Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks, all, for your input, and thank you Sami for your offer to come check out the room you're building. I may take you up on that once my life slows down just a little bit.

    Any thoughts on the screen size issue? I'm planning on a 120" screen, but I'm concerned because somebody told me that would be too big a screen for that room and that image quality would suffer.
     
  12. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Screen itself or the actual picture size? I have 133" screen (65" x 116") and I'm not planning to use all of it. Last installation I had 112" diagonal picture, I think I will go closer to 100" since my new room is a lot smaller.

    Buying a small screen might not be the best option as you can't increase the picture size. With a larger screen you can always project a smaller picture to it.
     

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