The Build (one page)

The theatre was being built as part of the larger project of completing the entire basement. Our previous house was much smaller, but it had a completed basement so we got accustomed to having two separate living areas. Before we bought the house we had decided that we would complete the basement immediately.

Framing
The framers we hired came off a recommendation from an old friend of mine. She and her husband were engineers by trade so I trusted her opinion. We were told that it would take about two days to finish. I know if I had tried to to it myself it would have taken me two months.

Framing the Theatre

Framing the Ceiling

For the most part I was happy with the result, but I regret not taking more time to determine stud placement in the theatre. This added some extra headaches when installing the in-wall speakers and mounting the projector. I also got them to frame the screen wall which would eventually hide the speakers. This turned out to be a waste since I ended up rebuilding most of it.

Electrical & AV
Hiring the electrician was easy. Our friend and his sons were electricians by trade so we were quite comfortable with giving them some business. When it came to the electrical work I just let them do their thing. Once we started discussing how I wanted my AV laid out there was definitely some problems with me communicating all of my intricate plans. At one point he just asked me if I wanted to do the AV stuff myself. That was definitely my wish, but I told him I didn’t know any of the details regarding code. Apparently there is no code for low voltage electrical.

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I ordered the majority of my material from Monoprice, despite the high shipping costs to Canada. I thought I had planned for everything I needed, but I ended up making three separate orders. I spent a lot more on shipping than I needed to.

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On top of running the AV wire for the 7.2 theatre, I was also taking care of the family room and the office/playroom, both which would have their own 5.1 audio system. I spent a lot of time figuring out the best run paths for the wire – probably too much time – but I think it was for the best. It was the first time I was doing anything like this so I erred on the side of over planning.

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Since I was going for such a clean look I wanted to make sure I was able to upgrade or replace cables when necessary. I would have liked to have ran conduit for everything, but in the end I decided to only use it for the three HDMI and four subwoofer runs I needed. Running conduit for all of the speaker wire would have been too costly and probably unnecessary. In the end I ran just under 600 feet of 12 AWG wire.

Drywall
I couldn’t even imagine how much I would have hated my life if I had attempted to do the drywalling myself. We hired people to do it and I hated it. The mess it created was the bane of my existence for nearly 3 weeks. The drywall dust got everywhere and there was nothing we could do about it. At one point our air conditioner froze since the furnace filter got so clogged.

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I had nothing to compare to, but it seemed like the guys we hired were a lot messier than they needed to be. The floor was caked with mud so I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees scraping it off in preparation of laying down the floor. I was very happy when we got past this stage.

Sound Proofing
In our previous house, watching a movie in the basement meant that anyone upstairs would have to put up with listening to the entire movie, as well as things falling off of shelves. The goal with the new theatre was to not completely soundproof the room, but to limit the sound leaving the room.

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I installed Roxul Safe’n’Sound in all of the theatre walls, as well as the ceiling to act as an acoustic barrier. I also had the drywallers install two layers of drywall on resilient channel on the walls shared with other rooms, as well as the ceiling.

Riser
Since the theatre would have two rows of seating it was essential that the back row be on a riser. Using a few different formulas I calculated that the riser would need to be a minimum of 13″. The final dimensions would be 10’x6’x13″.

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I used 2″x12″s for the frame and 2 layers of 3/4″ plywood for the surface. The only reason I doubled up on the layers was to gain that extra 3/4″. Once the underlay and the carpet were installed I would have my 13″ minimum height.

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I really had to rush the build on this since the carpet install was already scheduled. I finished construction of the riser at 3am the night before the carpet would go in.

Carpet
For the carpet I wanted something durable that could hold up to any potential food spills, as well as something dark with a subtle pattern. Since the room was only around 200 square feet buying a more pricey style didn’t really make much of a difference. We bought the carpet from a local flooring business that we had dealt with before, and who had always provided excellent service.

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I wasn’t about to mess around with trying to install carpet, and with the added complexity of the riser I knew that I would be happiest if a professional installed it. They were in and out in a few hours and cost around $200. If I would have tried to do it myself I would have spent an entire day grumbling and trying to fix unavoidable rookie mistakes. This was easily worth the money to me.

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Screen Wall
Sticking with the idea of a clean screen wall and the room width limitations, I was constrained to having an acoustically transparent screen. I was a bit worried since I would only have about 18″ for the space behind the screen. Luckily I met the minimum requirements for the speakers proximity to the screen. The 18″ also gave me just enough room for the two SVS SB-2000 subwoofers.

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Without really thinking I got the framers to basically frame the screen wall as a second wall. As I was getting closer to mounting the screen and setting up the speakers, I quickly realized that this wouldn’t work. Once I knew what I wanted I reconfigured the wall, and built a platform for the speakers to sit on.

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Screen & Masking System
In our previous house we didn’t have a dedicated theatre room, but we did have a projector setup. I was very happy with the screen we were using which was a 108″ EluneVision Reference 4K 16:9 fixed frame. I had every intention of simply reusing it in our new theatre, but as previously mentioned, the room dimensions pretty much required me to have an acoustically transparent screen.

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I was not happy about having to drop a bunch of extra cash on a new screen, but luckily the company offered me upgrade pricing which saved me around $600. It was still a tough pill to swallow, but I was happy to get it at a discounted price.

Ever since I started using a projector in our previous house I wanted some sort of masking system. I researched many DIY solutions, but nothing really gave me what I wanted. I had watched some videos of the motorized Carada Horizontal Masquerade system and dreamed of having it, but I just couldn’t justify spending that much money for something like this in a non-dedicated room. Once we moved to the new house however, we would have a dedicated theatre. I decided to take the plunge and went with the Carada system.

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Carada’s customer service was exceptional, and they were a joy to deal with. The salesman worked through every detail with me to ensure that the custom system they built would work flawlessly with my screen. He stuck with me over the course of a couple months as I designed the theatre, and answered a lot of questions.

I really feel that the Masquerade was worth the money. The perceived contrast boost it gives when the masks are deployed is incredible, while the coolness factor it adds to the theatre is undeniable. Granted, a DIY solution would have cost a fraction of the price, but I don’t think I could have gotten the refined and professional look of the Masquerade.

For the area around the screen frame I built panels that friction fit into place. They are nothing more than wooden frames built out of 3/4″ square moulding and wrapped with black speaker fabric.

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One limitation of the screen wall is that it does not lend easy access to the left, right, and centre channel speakers. If I didn’t have the masking system I could simply lift the screen off the wall since it just hangs by hooks. But the masking system is physically attached to the wall and built over top of the screen frame which will make it a real chore to gain access to the speakers. I’m trying to design a solution to remedy this.

For some unknown reason I took no photos while assembling the frame and the masking system.

Colours and Painting
Being a dedicated home theatre we were able to put performance ahead of aesthetics. We went with matte black for the ceiling, front, and back walls, and a dark grey for the two side walls. My wife did all of the painting because I just hate it so much. But it is worth mentioning that I can tolerate it ever since we started using the Benjamin Moore Aura paint. It is expensive, but the time and headaches it will save you is worth it. We’ve been using this paint for a while now and will never go back to anything else.

The difference the dark matte colours make is crazy. While working in the room before painting, the work light I was using was enough to work comfortably. Once the paint was up the work light barely seemed to do anything. The walls and ceiling just swallowed all the light and reduced reflections considerably.

In-Wall Speakers
In-wall speakers were not part of my initial design. I already had four Energy Connoisseur CC-20s bookshelf speakers and was planning to continue to use them as the surround and surround backs. But since the room’s width would be a narrow 10′, wall mounting the bookshelf speakers would protrude too far into the room.

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I had already bought six Energy EAS-6W in-wall speakers to use in the family room space in the basement. Since I didn’t want to spend anymore money I decided to simply swap the theatre bookshelf speakers for the family room in-walls. I added a new Energy CC-10 centre channel speaker to the family room’s setup to complete its 5.1 system.

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Light Control
There’s something about having the lights dim right before the movie starts that completes the home theatre experience. From the beginning I considered it a must to have a remote controlled lighting system. After some research I decided on the Lutron Caseta system. I’m happy with the final product, but there definitely were some issues along the way.

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After the electrician wired up the Caseta controls he realized that they were not compatible with the pot lights he had already installed. Instead of scrapping the Caseta and going with a compatible system we decided to replace the pot lights. Since our ceiling was not yet drywalled it was a pretty simple task.

We then encountered another problem. The lights would not completely shut off. After some back and forth with Lutron our electrician discovered that the dimmer would need to have a load capacitor installed. Since we installed LEDs, the little bit of current that is always running to the system was enough to power the LEDs. After the load capacitors were installed, everything worked like a charm.

We also added the Lutron SmartBridge to the system which allows the lights to be controlled over WiFi on your mobile phone. The RF remotes that were included with the Caseta system was probably good enough, but I did like some of the options that the bridge added, such as adding different scenes or pre-sets. With the addition of the SmartBridge I was also hoping that we could control the lights via our Harmony Ultimate Hub, but it does not seem to be possible. It seems that it is compatible with the Harmony Smart Control Hub, but I’m not sure. The Logitech Harmony Product line is very confusing and they keep rebranding products, making it impossible to know what is what.

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After using the theatre for a few months one thing I wish I would have done differently is having separate zones for the theatre lights. Right now all lights are on or off. I would liked to have had the three lights directly in front of the screen on a separate zone from the rest. There are times that I would like to have the lights in front of the screen off, and the rest on. The typical case for this would be before the feature presentation, where something like trivia or photos would be projected on the screen.

Rack
I knew that server and component racks were expensive. This was confirmed once I started researching racks on the web. I decided that spending money on an actual rack could be back burnered. Instead I bought a heavy duty metal framed shelf from the Home Depot. The dimensions were 36″ wide by 18″ deep. What I found was that the components fit perfectly in the 18″ deep section.

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I ended up building the shelf in an 18″x18″ configuration, not using the 36″ supports they included. I had to buy another shelf to get more of the 18″ supports, but what I ended up with was a pretty solid makeshift rack.

Remote Control
With the basement having three separate zones, each with their own AV receiver and components, there was going to be a lot of remote controls to manage. I already owned a Harmony Touch remote but it wasn’t RF, so it wouldn’t work the way it was since all of the components would be housed in a separate closet. It seemed if I paired it up with the Harmony Ultimate Hub, I could unlock the Touches RF functionality, plus be able to control everything via a mobile app.

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The process of getting all of this setup has not gone as well as I would have liked. The main problem is that the three Denon receivers I have all use the same IR signal. So when I choose an activity such as, Watch a Bluray in the theatre, all of my Denon receivers switch their source to Bluray. This basically makes my activity based actions useless.

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I was using separate mobile apps for each component – the Denon app to control my receivers, the Apple Remote app to control my AppleTVs, the Roku app to control my Roku 3,and the Harmony app to control my other components such as PS3 and cable box. As one can imagine, this is annoying, and not a lot better than just having a bunch of separate physical remotes.

After a couple months I finally upgraded my Harmony Touch to work with the Ultimate Hub, unlocking the remote’s RF features. A cool thing about this is that you can configure what signal will control each device. So all my components in the closet are controlled by the signal from the Hub (initiated by the Touch), and the components outside of the closet (the TVs, projector, and screen masking) are controlled directly from the Touch’s IR signal. This works quite well, but does not solve my problem with the Denon receivers using the same IR signal.

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All of my devices (including AV receivers) are on my home network so I’m looking at the possibility of controlling each device via their IP, as long as they support IP control. I’ve been making do with what I currently have, but definitely need to get the situation sorted out. I have heard good things about the Roomie Remote, so I will look further into that.

Acoustical Treatments
I went into this project assuming that I was going to build my own acoustical panels. I read through a lot of DIY guides on the subjects and had a game plan. Then my wife sent me a link to the Primacoustic London 10 Room Kit. For a reasonable price I was able to get 20 pre-made panels without the hassle of building them.

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I ordered the kit through a local audio shop. Installing them was a breeze using the included impalers. Instead of the screwing the impalers into the theatre walls I chose to hang them using 3M hanging strips. I’ve installed all of the large panels the kit came with, but still have the scatter panels to hang on the back wall.

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Window Cover
One reason we chose the part of the basement we did for the theatre was that there was only one window to contend with. On the flipside it meant that only one window would be lost in the rest of the basement. I didn’t want to simply cover the window with drapes or a pull-down blind, but I wanted to have something more interesting. I felt that drapes would pull you out of the experience of being in a theatre.

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My wife and I threw around a few ideas and decided to use an 8’x4′ piece of styrofoam insulation to cover the window which was located at the back of the theatre. We wrapped it with patterned wall-paper to give it a much more interesting look. And to ensure that we would still have emergency access to the window, we simply hung it on the wall using impalers.

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As designed, the panel prevents any light from seeping in from the window. but does so by looking more like an art piece than a critically functional piece of equipment. Something much more aesthetically pleasing than drapes or a blackout blind.

Window Cover V2
For whatever reason, the wallpaper started to peal at the edges pretty quickly and I was no longer happy with how it looked. I started thinking about new ideas for the cover and finally decided to wrap the entire styrofoam piece with red fabric. I figured this would look better since I wouldn’t have any seams, and it would also give me a chance to actually add something red to the Rouge Cinema.

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My wife picked out and bought some interior design type fabric which I was happy with. I simply wrapped the styrofoam insulation board and secured the fabric with staples and duct tape. We re-attached it to the wall and I used this opportunity to attach the scatter block acoustical treatments to the surface.

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Seating
I spent a lot of time researching theatre seats. They needed to be narrow enough to fit three seats per row in a 10′ wide space, while leaving enough room for a step onto the riser. They also needed to be leather, with power recline, and cupholders. As cool as the LED lighting looks in photos, I thought it would be impractical to have in a theatre where light control is of the utmost importance.

The amount of theatre seating stores on the internet is overwhelming, but they do include a wealth of information. My main dilemma was finding a place that would/could ship to Canada. I found that there were very few Canadian options, and the local stores had limited selection, or were a bit pricier than I was comfortable with.

After asking for quotes from a number of US companies, but hearing nothing back, I finally got a call from one. The news was not good – shipping alone for the six seats I wanted was $2700. At that point I decided to buy local. We have a local Palliser store and we’ve bought a lot of our furniture there. Since we’ve been happy with the brand’s quality in the past, we decided to spend a bit more on the chairs than we wanted in exchange for the peace of mind of dealing with a local company. Not having to ship something this expensive from the US was a relief.

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We liked the modern look of the HiFi model, and with their narrow footprint of 94″ for three chairs, they would fit nicely in the theatre. I’ve spent a lot of time in these chairs since the theatre has been completed and am happy with the choice. They are comfortable, and seem to be solidly built. The only quirk is that the recline controls are located right where my elbows sometimes rest, causing me to inadvertently activate them. Definitely not a big deal, and would never deter me from purchasing or recommending them in the future.

Theatre Entrance
Some people go for a re-creation of an actual lobby and concession area as part of their home theatre, but I wanted something more subtle that still added to the cinema experience. We painted the exterior wall a nice deep red as the theatre name suggests, and hung four film posters along the wall.

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Each of the four posters represent a film that was very important to me during my childhood, and continue to be import to me today. The posters are printed on canvas and mounted as 1.5″ thick gallery wraps. I’m very happy with how they turned out.

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A theatre would not be a theatre without a popcorn machine. Along the wall is a Paragon 8oz Contemporary popper. I heavily researched popcorn machines and Paragon seemed to be highly recommended. I had it shipped from the United States a couple years ago and love it. I wanted something that was durable and that would last so the commercial grade quality of the Paragon’s made it an easy choice. The only thing to watch for is that it has some sharp corners that can really do some damage if you’re not careful. I’m speaking from experience on this.

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