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Theater Update (1 Viewer)


Dec 6, 2010
Real Name
I have not posted here for ages. Life caught up with me. This is an update to my theater post a couple years ago. This is my second home theater. My first was a great basement build from scratch. Classic room with tiered seats, sconces and movie posters...the works. I loved it, but it was in the basement and 90% of the time I was watching by myself. I always said that if I had to do it again, I'd do it in a regular room. Fast forward 12 years and two houses later. After a drug bust at a house in our neighborhood, I found the door was unlocked. I went inside. The house was a mess, it was a grow house. But it had this HUGE family room next to an open kitchen. I found the attic pull-down ladder and climbed up with a mission. Could I put an in-ceiling screen in that room? Yup, the joists were perfect. I called my realtor the next day. After a year and a half of waiting for the house to come out of foreclosure, by chance she got the listing. We got the house. Nice beach view too. We gutted the whole interior down to the studs. And when we rebuilt, I had a lot of fun. All the A/V parts were ordered during the rebuild, so I had a garage full of things. The screen, projector, lift, receiver, speakers...etc. I had a blast planning the room while the contractor did their demolish. I borrowed some big chalk sticks from my kids, as well as sharpies, and drew all over the place.
The screen was an Elite in-ceiling screen. I custom built a 'hanging' box to mount it in, the contractor built around it.
The final result.
I freaked a bit on the cost of projector lifts. Then I found the Focupix for $800. It works great and can be triggered by the screen. But we haven't done this yet. Oddly enough, nobody notices the projector hanging from the ceiling, so we just leave it in position all the time. Plus, I never finished building an insulating box for it, so this keeps out out of the dust and the heat of the attic. We have a remote to move it up and down if we like, it works with both IR and RF (you get two remotes). Our plan it to have it triggered by the screen.
This was the room we bought the house for. The contractors have finished at this point, new floors. The furniture arrives a little while later, custom built for the room. I drove people nuts about optimal viewing distances and designing the furniture. But it worked perfect. With just math to work on, I purchased the projector because of it's abilities to lens shift. I knew we could go 48 inches to the side, with a 'ramp' on the vertical. I put in the ceiling fan (knowing it's diameter), the position of the couch and crossed my fingers. I gave myself a few inches for 'error.' Good thing I did, I needed them. I did my math on the distance to the wall, not the distance 18" in front of the wall where the screen would hang. My 'error' window worked perfectly. The projector is as far to the right as it could be and still project the image perfectly...within 1/2 an inch. Two other reasons I wanted the projector offset. One is because of sound. This turned out to be a non-issue, the projector is very quiet. The second was so that anyone standing up, for the most part, would not block the screen. This turned out to work great. If I really screwed up, I knew I could drop the projector down more, but I didn't need to.
Our audio/video controller is a Pioneer VSX-1021. I'm a big Mac fan, but this unit wasn't out while we were under construction, but I knew about it. It had built-in Apple technology that would allow me to control it from my devices...so I had to wait. It came in after construction, but before we moved in. I love this thing. I throw everything at it. My cable box, XM radio, Playstation 3, a lousy Pioneer BD player (that I hate), my iPhone, a generic mp3 connection...no problem. Plus, it's cool to pick up the iPad and control the audio. I can even play my music from my iPad. Love it. The Pioneer BlueRay player, BRD-420 never worked right. I does end up working after you unplug-it, hit all the buttons, hit them again. I got tired of it. I really like it when it is finally working. It's hardwired to my internet router, so we can get Netflix and Pandora. I should have returned it. Instead I play any BluRay/DVDs on our Playstation 3. I also use the PS3 for Netflix and Hulu. I kind of gave up on the BRD-420, which is a shame because it was great for Pandora. I actually use the PS3 far more for various media than I do for games. We gambled on speakers, I bought them with high hopes, but no reviews. They were in-ceiling directional speakers, OSD Audio ICE-640. Big risk, but I didn't want a bunch of speakers hanging from the ceiling. That was fine for my dedicated theater, but this time I wanted the theater to not BE a theater most of the time. Fortunately this house has a crazy-big attic. Eight feet tall (rare for a Florida beach house). This let us put speakers where we want. I went for a 5:1 design. They turned out great. We love them...only way to go for a 'hidden' theater in my opinion. People are amazed at them, and when not watching movies/football, they give us great music. The gamble paid off and I wouldn't do anything different. I wired the room for a subwoofer, putting outlets in the front and the back just in case. I bought a spool of monster cable just to get it right...and I've been so pleased with the audio I never put a subwoofer in. The projector is an Epson 8350. I love it. It's bright, it looks fantastic. The price was great. The screen is 120", gray. Many folks, including other home theater people who have seen my setup, have said the image is stunning. I agree. In my last theater, I went CRT. I don't regret it, because it looked fantastic. But CRT isn't ...A) done anymore and B) not bright enough. The warmth of that projector was stunning, and in a dedicated theater it was perfect. But things change, and LCD really has gotten a lot better over the past 10 years. And I had a room surrounded by windows. The only downside is remotes. You don't do all of this without buying the best remotes. So we got the Harmony 900. You really need buttons when messing around in a theater. It really has some programming issues. It's possible my wife still keeps me around because I know how to turn of devices manually when the remote doesn't work. I might note that NONE of our electronics are in the 'family room.' They are all in a bay a room away. I got the 900 because of its abilities to handle this kind of thing. Sometimes it does. Sometimes I feel like just piling all the gear into the entertainment stand, where we currently store books. The lag time we experience with the 900 would make moving everything worth the effort, but I keep waiting for a better system to come out. Later, I also got the Harmony Link to use with my iPhone and iPad. These work much better, but you really don't want to look at your iPad while changing channels or messing with small details. There's no tactile response like with a button remote. If you need reading glasses, it's worse. I also bought a Rocketfish (Best Buy Brand) video splitter to take my output to both my LCD TV and my projector. The Pioneer (like most others) only has one HDMI out. So mine goes to this powered splitter. It isn't great. About once every couple months I have to power it down and plug it back in. I just like things to work when they should. For regular TV (and bright daytime) viewing, we have an entertainment stand with a 55" LCD. For movies, sports and GREAT TV, we watch stuff on the big screen, which rolls down and covers up the entertainment stand. This room is big, and half of it is all windows. I have thought about black-out curtains, but in reality we love our big windows and really only watch movies at night. The only negative is GATOR football games during the day. Still not worth cluttering up our great windows. Fortunately, a majority of our games are at night. I also bought a speaker switcher (IR) to control audio through the whole house. It, a pile of speakers and a large spool of wire are still unused. This is something for me to work on...someday. So this long overdue update has this as the bottom line. We love having a theater that is in a main living area. Everyone comes here for major sports events. We have movie nights and most of the people are in the kitchen watching and eating and drinking. So much better than having the dedicated theater in the basement.
Best part of the dedicated theater? Rocking great movies at full volume without bothering anyone in the house (I really sound-insulated that puppy). Worst part of a dedicated theater? Unless we had a birthday party sleep over, I usually was watching movies on my own. Best part of a living area theater? My wife and I watch movies and TV all the time together. Kitchen access for snacks/drinks. Worst part of a living area theater? Guests that don't understand that you can't chit-chat during a GATOR football game. Light control. Thanks to those who gave great suggestions while building this. I couldn't be more pleased. Just reading through what other folks experienced helped a great deal.
Construction is about to wrap up. Here is the lift fully extended and the screen down. Those three wires coming down are for 3 lamps right behind where the couch will be. We didn't find lamps we liked, so we hired a glass artisan to blow these for us, as well as those over the counter to the left. I will post some photos of the setup with the furniture soon. Imagine 20 people on Thanksgiving weekend watching the UF/FSU football game, or 18 people on Halloween watching Pirates of the Caribbean (while we're in the driveway handing out candy). It is a cool venue. Granted, all this tech is 2 years old. Things have changed, I'm sure. But we're happy (other than the remotes, which is a pain) with the setup. The video is great, the audio is top quality.


HW Reviewer
Mar 17, 2009
Real Name
Michael Pompey
That looks great. I think on my next house I'll go completely from the ground up with my room.

My theatre too is in the basement. But it's my decompression chamber. I have no problem
being in it alone. Besides, my kids are way too young to watch Walking Dead or play Halo
with me.

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