My Home Theatre | Part Four: Room Installation

 Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700UB projector, Onkyo TX-SR875 receiver, Onkyo SKS-HT540 speakers, ClearPlay 747HD DVD player, PHD-205LE HDTV tuner, Wii game console, Harmony 880 remote, DIY paint-on-drywall screen.

We managed to get some of it on the walls as well

Note on Painting
We painted the entire interior of our house in one color (Behr Navajo White). This is not unusual in new houses these days. The idea is that you can come back after you have got your furnishings in the house and have lived there a while before choosing different colors for rooms or accent walls.

Installing the floor.

The only other painting I did in the house was the screen wall. I painted it a dark blue (Behr Peaceful Night). I thought I might want to paint some of the other walls with this light-absorbing color later, but for now I wanted to paint this one before the screen, mounts, brackets and wall plates were in. I really like the color, but it took three coats to adequately cover the Navajo White! Perhaps I will not go for complete coverage if I paint any of the other walls; I might apply it with a rag or sponge.

Mounts for the front and side left and right speakers.

 

Speakers
For the front and side speakers, I followed the instructions for the PinPoint speaker mounts, attaching one part to the back of the speaker, the other parts to the metal outlet box, then joining the two sections and tightening the hex screws. The Onkyo speakers had a little bracket that I had to remove in order to put a screw through the inside of it into the speaker mount part. Then I re-attached the bracket to the back of the speaker. The front speakers are aimed straight ahead and a little downward. The sides are aimed a little forward (they are behind the seating area) and a little downward. They all may need some adjustment after the receiver is hooked up.

Brackets for the center speaker.

The center speaker sits on a L-shaped PinPoint bracket that I secured into the blocking inside the wall. This is certainly an opprtunity for saving a little money by fashioning your own brackets or buying  non-speacialty brackets. Just be sure it is something that will bear the weight and not scratch your speakers.

The rear speakers each sit on two bookshelves at the back of the room. After we moved in (August 2010), I drilled holes in two blank wall plates, pulled the speaker wire through the holes and attached the plates to the boxes. I drilled holes in the back of the bookcases, pulled the wire through and put the cases against the wall. I set the speakers on the top shelves and attached the wires to the speakers. They are aimed directly at the front speakers.

Banana Plugs
I’ve always been annoyed with inserting the twisted ends of bare wire into the speaker connections on the back of audio gear. I decided I wanted solderless banana plugs on the ends of the speaker wires in my theatre. By making my own cables I saved money, and customized the length of cables that go from speaker or wall plate to the receiver. At monoprice.com, where I bought the connectors, there is a tutorial PDF that shows in close-up pictures how to attach the connectors to speaker wire.

Wall Plates
I cut the excess wire coming out of the boxes, connected the wires to connectors on the plates (except the HDMI), and installed the plates.

Top row:
Left: The 7.1 wall plate
Middle: Left: RCA stereo from downstairs audio receiver; Right: Two dual speaker modules for stereo to Zone Two (Office). Even though I didn’t want bare wires on the receiver end of my wires, these nifty little modules let me connect wires on the wall end without having to add connectors to the wires.
Right: Coax jacks for cable and OTA DTV
Bottom row:
Left: Cable pass-through for HDMI
Middle: Two CAT5 jacks for Internet connection
Right: AC outlets

 

Connection Test
I hooked up my receiver and ran 5.1 surround sound through the system to make sure all my wiring was intact and the speakers were working.  That’s when I found out the right front channel was out on the receiver. Everything else checked out.

Mounting the Projector
One of the last things I got for the theatre was the projector. As I have said, I had planned to get the Panasonic PT-AE4000. When I finally called to order from Visual Apex, the sales rep offered another suggestion, the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB. Normally selling for $2199, they had it on sale for $1999, the same price the Panny was selling for. In additon, Epson has a much better warranty, including instant product replacement, and was including an extra $300 lamp for free! I told him I would look into it before deciding. I wanted to make sure the Epson was truly a comparable projector. It is. I felt the one feature on the Panny that I would really miss is the Lens Memory. From Panasonic’s website, here is the blurb:

Up to six settings can be stored in the Lens Memory, including zoom and focus positions for projecting in the normal 16:9 or 4:3 image ratio, and wide cinema projection settings. These memories can be recalled manually or can be set for automatic switching. The projector is able to detect 2.35:1 and 16:9 source and retrieve the stored setting automatically. This Lens Memory function lets you easily enjoy images with different image ratios on a wide 2.35:1 screen for an immersive movie theater-like experience.

Well, I do miss it. With the Epson, the lens functions are all manual, and the change from one viewing aspect to another requires me to reach up and adjust the zoom and lens shift. I know: poor baby. But this happens quite often, switching from the Wii to the DVD player and back. I don’t mind, but everyone else in the family does. Even so, the Epson is a fantastic projector that performed brilliantly right out of the box, without any calibration.

The Epson deal from Visual Apex was too good to pass up. I highly recommend them. Located in the Puget Sound, they were as local a vendor as I could get, their customer service has been great and they processed and shipped my order within 24 hours.

Since we were finishing the theatre for Christmas 2010, I mounted the projector as soon as I got it.  I couldn’t wait to set it up and see what it looked like. Mounting it was simply a matter of following the directions for the mount. Attaching the interface arms to the rest of the mount was the trickiest part.

DIY screen
Using a sheet of drywall for a screen was not specifically recommended in the thread, “Beginner’s Delight” at AVS forum (which I followed for my screen).  It actually says any smooth surface will do, and offers a wall as the simplest suggestion. I could have used the wall, but it would have meant masking and leaving that section the wall unfinished, untextured, unpainted and unprimed — a lot to ask of my drywall crew. In any case, you might want to read what others have to say in the DIY Screen threads about ideal screen material before following my example.

Hang a sheet of drywall on your wall.  By then I had mounted my projector and was able to project a pattern onto the wall that helped the guys installing it to straighten the drywall using a level. It must then be mudded and sanded. I strongly suggest having a pro do this, unless you are confident of your mudding and sanding skills. That’s what I did. When he was done, I did a little more sanding. If you do any sanding yourself, be sure to use the super-fine grit! You don’t want to gouge the mud or drywall.

I had already determined the width of the screen to be  about 7 feet. Keep in mind that your screen will be displaying images that have different aspect ratios. The width-to-height ratios of 4:3 (TV and movies before widescreen formats), 16:9 (widescreen TV) and 2.35:1 (one of the widescreen formats for movies) are all likely to be part of your viewing experience. This means that at some point you will watch something when the projector shines the image on some of the screen but does not shine on either the bottom and top, or the sides of the screen. I got this chart from Crutchfield:

For the 2.35:1 ratio, imagine one that is the same width but shorter than the 16:9. To my way of thinking, that makes the 16:9 the best ratio for the screen. That means when I am watching a 16:9 image it will fill my screen. An old movie, a full-screen DVD, or a home video on VHS (all 4:3) will display as shown in the lower right of the chart, with bars on the sides. When I watch a 2.35:1 image or wider, it will display as shown in the upper right (with bars top and bottom), only it will be a ‘narrower’ horizontal band on my screen.

To figure out what my screen dimensions should be, I started by asking how big it would be if I used a full 4×8 sheet of drywall. This was back in the design phase. Remember I had said I thought my screen would be 7 or 8 feet wide. If, like me, you don’t have a head for math or, also like me, you dig snazzy Flash apps that do the work for you, go back to the projection calculator I told you about in Part One:

Notice that in the lower part under “Image Diagonal,” you can enter your screen dimensions. Make sure the 16:9 radio button is selected under “Aspect Ratio.” Since I am starting with a full sheet, let’s find out how big my screen would be if it I used the full width of the sheet, 4 feet. I enter 48 inches in the height window.

It gives the horizontal dimension as 86 inches (7’2″). So my drywaller took a full 4×8 sheet and cut it to 7’3″. I had spaced my front speakers to allow for this. The bottom of the screen is just above the center speaker.

I wanted to have some idea what the different image ratios would look like so I sketched it out using figures from the same calculator but selecting the 4:3 and 2.35:1 radio buttons. Notice that the 2.35:1 window is actually variable so you can adjust for different formats. When I did this, I made sure the horizontal dimension stayed at 86 inches for 2.35:1 and the vertical dimension was at 48 inches for 4:3. The result was 86″w by 37″h for 2.35:1, and 65″w by 48″h for 4:3.

Use a soft rag or dry paint brush to remove all the dust from the drywall.

Prime and Paint the drywall. You can get everything I used for about $70 at Home Depot. You will need:
KILZ Premium White Pigmented Interior/Exterior Water-Based Sealer-Primer-Stainblocker
$9.48/quart  (The Home Depot)

BEHR PREMIUM PLUS ULTRA Flat Interior Paint and Primer
#1750 Ultra Pure White
$32.28/gallon (The Home Depot)
 

A less expensive alternative:
BEHR Premium Plus Flat Interior Paint
#1050 Ultra Pure White
$20.48/gallon (The Home Depot)
Tinted:
192 Lamp Black
043 Brown Oxide
019 Medium Yellow
(Note: these numbers are for a gallon of paint)

Minwax Clear Satin Polycrylic (Liquid, not spray)
$14.91/quart (The Home Depot)

Quali-Tech Mini Roller set (Frame & Cover)                       
$5.07  (The Home Depot)

Quali-Tech Roller Foam, Ultra Smooth High Density Foam rollers (2-Pack)
$4.97 (The Home Depot)

Apply two coats of Kilz water-based primer, waiting an hour between coats. This is not optional for bare drywall! Don’t just use some white latex paint. There is more than one school of thought on proper rolling technique, but I followed the advice of the same person who wrote the “Beginner’s Delight” thread from the AVS Forum. He made a video demonstrating his rolling technique:
Roller Painting Technique

Mix 4 parts paint with 1 part Polycrylic. I used this to measure and stir it:
Versa-Tainer 1 qt. Plastic Bucket
62 cents (The Home Depot)

Then I poured it into my paint tray. An hour after applying the second coat of primer, you can apply the first coat of paint. Wait 4 hours then apply the second coat.

When it’s dry, your screen is ready to use! I am very pleased  with mine, but I don’t have anything to compare it to. The picture looks great, and there are not any visible flaws on the screen.

Many home theatre creators like to put some kind of border around the edge of their screens. Using black velvet or a similar fabric as a border absorbs stray light and gives nice defintion to the edge of the image. I seem to be doing fine without it, but I may add something like that in the future. One issue for me is that with different aspect ratios, I either have to have removable masking for the top, bottom and sides, or leave them unmasked. I’ve toyed with different ideas, but always come back to two problems: whatever the masking attaches to, has to be off the surface of the screen (at least where the image is projected) and for each viewing of a non-16:9 image, that masking would have to be added, and then removed when you watched something different. I’m still thinking it over. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, I am awaiting the return of my repaired receiver, expected to arrive by the end of January (2011). When it arrives, I’ll be able to complete my component setup and write the next section.

Part One: Design

Part Two: Budget & Choosing Products

Part Three: In-wall Installation

Part Five: Component Setup

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7 thoughts on “My Home Theatre | Part Four: Room Installation

  1. Pingback: How I Planned & Built a Home Theatre in Our New House, Part Four « The Free Range

  2. PJ Update: Yesterday, August 17, 2012, after noticing the lamp growing dim on the last two movies we viewed, I changed out the factory installed lamp. I started using the PJ in December of 2012. So it lasted 20 months and 1788 hours. The new lamp is the free one I got with my purchase of the PJ. We’ll see how long this replacement lamp lasts. I’ll hold onto the dim but not dead lamp for emergencies.

  3. Steve,

    Does the Datacomm 45-0069 7.1 Surround Sound 3-Gang Plate fit dual-banana plugs? I believe the opening needs to be exactly 3/4″ on center

    • HI David,
      By a cursory measurement, they appear to be spaced at 3/4″. I believe whenever the posts are doubled up like this, they will accommodate the dual plugs.
      Thanks for your question, and for visiting my blog.

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