by Rebecca Day
You don’t need to build a new house to gain a home theater. The owners of this New Jersey home tapped into unused space in the basement, and now they’re enjoying the big screen/big sound experience of the cinema without having to leave the comforts of home.
You do, however, need professional help to carry out a project like this the right way. The homeowner hired Electronic Design Group to do a survey of the space and to offer a floor plan for a theater that could comfortably sit five. EDG drew up plans that included blocking out windows, re-routing the ductwork for heating and air conditioning and running wire for lighting and electrical needs. They handed off the construction work to a contractor and architect and hunkered down with blueprints for the audio/video gear.
Building a high-performance home theater is as much about tuning the room as it is about choosing quality equipment. Every home theater benefits from sound treatment because walls, floors and ceilings create anomalies that affect how the sound bounces around the room. Too much reflection and the room has an overly bright sound; too much absorption and it sounds dead. At 11 x 17 x 7 feet, this room was particularly challenging for its small size and low ceiling.
EDG brought in specialists from acoustical company RPG Diffuser Systems to create a sound control system using diffuser panels and absorptive materials on the walls and ceilings. Since certain room reflections cause distortion in an untreated room, you end up listening to the room rather than the soundtrack, which in turn affects your ability to become immersed in the movie. RPG measured the room and created panels that would scatter sound in an organized way, eliminating any distortion and unwanted reflections.
The room’s surfaces were one challenge; the height was another. Typically a projector is mounted to the ceiling of a theater and shoots an image onto a screen at the front of the room. Here, the 7-foot height of the room didn’t allow for both projector height and headroom beneath. The original solution was to place the projector on the floor, which created its own set of problems with seating.
It wasn’t long before the upgrade bug hit the owner after he read about 1080p resolution projectors, and his decision to swap up coincided with the introduction of an advanced Runco projector with a longer throw ratio. The longer throw distance of the lens allowed EDG installers to position the projector behind the back wall in a small mechanical room, which turned into a win-win. The projector was out of the way–except for a small hole carved through the wall for the lens–and heat and noise were confined to the adjacent room.
The room height also affected the seating. Since there wasn’t enough height to install tiered seating, the homeowners chose the next best thing: comfy pod-shaped gamer seats. They had the chairs finished in brown to blend with the other earthy tones of the room. That, too, was a careful selection. The muted colors in the room prevent bright-colored visual reflections that could interfere with images on screen.
With the 1080p projector, the family is ready for anything high-definition that comes its way, including the latest Blu-ray Discs and HD cable programming. But it’s an equal opportunity theater and they accept low-res streaming from You Tube and other Internet sources, too, thanks to a Netgear digital multimedia receiver that pulls in all types of digital content from the family PC.
If you’re a guest for media night at this home theater, you never know whether you’ll be watching a slide show of the family vacation, the week’s You Tube sensation or a high-res version of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. It doesn’t matter. With a finely tuned room, a high-octane sound system and a top-notch projector, whatever’s on screen will keep you strapped to your seat.
- Architect: Stern-Ring Associates – Florham Park, NJ
- Builder: MDK Contracting – Livingston, NJ
- Interior Designer: Karen Bowen Interiors