Trekkie Theater

I have been involved in the consumer electronics industry since 1972 and have always had some type of theater, so when I built my home I wanted to incorporate all my accumulated knowledge with the latest smart-home products and technologies. The theater was an integral part of the whole-house design that features multiple zones, automatic shades, cabling and a high level of control. Not only do I have the best home theater I could build, its performance surpasses many commercial theaters. For the whole-home AV, everyone in the family can choose their own personal source from any room in the house.

A Trekkie since the original series, it stands to reason I’d give the dedicated theater a Star Trek theme. The design was taken from various internal ship plans and photos. I drew the plans with exact specifications for the room, the lighting and the “Bridge”. The panels you see throughout the theater came from Paramount, however, the custom light boxes were built based on my design.

The ceiling is hung on springs to isolate the room’s 12,000 watts of power from the upstairs. Additionally, the upstairs floor is made of metal pan decking with 2” of concrete and nothing can be heard in the theater below. The drywall in the theater is mounted to 8” concrete (sides-only)walls using rubber isolators. The walls do not have physical contact with the ceiling making the entire room completely isolated from every part of the house.

The theater is 20’ X 50’ and pitched downward like a commercial theater. Three Klipsch KPT-941T Cinema’s are installed on a platform behind a Stewart 16X9 foot Studiotek 130 perf screen with horizontal masking for viewing 2.35:1 cinemascope films displayed by the Digital Projections 1080P Titan 3D reference projector. There are four 18” Velodyne 1250-watt subwoofers below the screen. Klipsch KPT-250 THX speakers are used for the side (2) and rear (3) surrounds using only the highest quality connectors. The front speakers are biamped using DX38 Electrovoice crossover/equalizers and powered by three McIntosh 501 mono block amplifiers. Four McIntosh MC252 amps power the front horns and five surrounds. The heart of the systems is a McIntosh MX150 12-channel, 2-zone preamp

Electrically isolated from the rest of the house, the theater’s equipment room is powered by its own 200-amp voltage stabilizer feeding a dedicated 200-amp panel. All sub-woofers have their own 16-amp circuit and all the amp and theater switching is done by Lutron. There are four Middle Atlantic racks where all the computer equipment, AMX controller, Autopatch, DISH satellite receivers, digital amps and other equipment reside. All zone amps, computer networking equipment including a commercial router and about 45 Ethernet ports are integrated here, too. Digital amps power all the zones in the house except for the library, great room and hearth room which use separate Denon 7.1 channel surround systems with a variety of Paradigm and Klipsch speaker systems. In essence, we have four theaters throughout the house.

The main theater sources are located in the theater for easy access, including a Sony Blu-ray player, a Pioneer Laser Disc Player, and an SVHS player for all the various media I’ve collected over the years. I can monitor all sources including four DISH satellite receivers from the “Bridge”. There is also an analog editing system for 8MM tapes, which will be converted to computer digital editing later for home movies. Yes, I’ve had a lot of hobbies over the years.

In a separate music room, there is a Request music server mixed in with some “antique” equipment I like to keep around including a cassette player, turntable and a classic Crown open-reel tape deck. Everything is connected to a Lexicon MC12 Preamp, the hub for another Klipsch 7.1 channel music system powered by a McIntosh MC207 amp. I guess you can tell I’m partial to the McIntosh/Klipsch combination, which I’ve used most my life. Only the models change.

I installed a complete AMX control system under the supervision of Digital Home Design of Indianapolis, which runs all the various AV systems throughout. I programed all the page and screen designs while they provided the interface and complex programming. Following my specifications, AV Solutions in Cottonwood, AZ pulled and terminated all the wiring and set up the racks. Both companies have been a key player in harnessing the complex control required in my overall house design.

RPG Acoustics handled the room layout to ensure optimum acoustics and seating positions. There are four base traps in each corner tuned to four different frequencies, utilizing five different types of panels. The two seating areas are recessed in the concrete, plus shock supported platforms where constructed for the seats which are powered by four Buttkicker transducers driven by two, 2000-watt Carven amps.

Lighting control is part of a 180-circuit Lutron Home Works system that I designed from scratch which is located in six mechanical rooms around the house. For the theater, lighting is a combination of back lighting and dimmable Lutron fluorescents with Rosco color tube filters. The blue stripes were created with electro-luminescent light strips covered with Rosco color film, and the star field consists of 750 strands with 1400 points of light that extend through the acoustical material creating an increased depth of field. There are multiple Lutron scenes depending on what we are watching. For instance, the ceiling stars and Trek panels stay on when watching sports but for movies, all lights are turned off except for 70 fiber-optic lights that are gradually dimmed over 15 minutes, allowing the eye to adjust to the darkness. Additionally, no light leaks into the room when people enter and exit from the theater.

The house has 19 HD sets not including the four theater screens that vary in size from 19” to 73”. Even the indoor pool has a 50” rear screen projection system. Thirteen AMX touch screens are located in different areas of the house and we added two iPads for the great room and library. All in all we pre-wired over 100,000 feet of cable plus installed 2” empty PVC pipe for future upgrades. Perhaps, I go a tad overboard but this is my passion, so I image this will be a constant work in progress, yet, it’s been meticulously customized so that every member of the family can easy operate the various systems.

AV Furniture Roundup

Buying furniture for your AV components and HDTV can seem like a daunting task with all the choices available and like any type of furniture there are all types of styles, designs and sizes. However, it’s much easier to find a cabinet or entertainment center that blends with your decor, while complimenting your electronics. It can be as simple as a small cabinet that holds a TV and a few components or a wall unit that is large enough to conceal electronics and speakers from view. The six models we’ve chosen reflect this diversity, ranging in size, capacity, features and price. Use a home fogger product to keep everything disinfected!

BDI – Eras 8357 $2,145
The chocolate stained walnut finish exudes a distinctly mid-century modern design, and hides AV components behind IR-friendly grey tinted glass doors. A center compartment holds a 7.75” tall speaker plus a media drawer with capacity for 100 DVDs. Removable rear panels provide easy access to equipment and integrated wire management eliminates cable clutter. Rear panels and shelves are vented, keeping electronics cool. Matching coffee and occasional tables are also available.
www.bdiusa.com

OmniMount – Verona 55FP $349.95
An all-in-one design, this simple, semi-enclosed, cabinet can be configured several ways. Ideal for corners or against the wall, the 55FP can be used as a flat panel floor stand, or the mount and table can be separated to use individually. It accommodates most 42”-55” flat panels weighing up to 100 lbs, whether the TV is placed on the tempered glass top shelf or attached to the post with the OmniMount Lift and Lock system for easy attachment. A second glass shelf holds up to 50 lbs. The post also serves double duty to route and organize wiring.
www.omnimount.com

Sanus – BFV146 $369
This clean, contemporary cabinet is comfortable in any decor in either a Chestnut or Chocolate wood veneer. The hardwood doors with clear glass and mullions are striking, while allowing IR-remotes to access enclosed AV components. Six-way adjustable hinges allow for easy door alignment. The top of the cabinet easily supports up to 125 lbs, accommodating large flat panel displays. There is plenty of space on the top shelf to hold a center channel speaker or soundbar. The removable back panels include cable management holes, keeping cables organized and hidden.
www.sanus.com

Bello – CW343 $349.99
This striking piece of AV furniture is distinguishable by the dynamic S-shaped sides, crafted of real curved wood in a beautiful Espresso finish. It can accommodate most flat panel TVs up to 55″ or 125 lbs., and at least four AV components on the tinted tempered safety glass shelves. Accented by its elegant black chrome posts, this model features a cable management system that hides and manages interconnect cables and power cords. The open architecture provides plenty of ventilation to keep components cool.
www.bello.com


Salamander Designs – Chameleon Corsica Intro $1799
The laid back and easygoing style of the Chameleon Corsica Intro features premium quality components including solid wood doors with soft-closing dampers, infinitely adjustable shelves, ventilation louvers in the bottoms of cabinet segments, and removable rear panels for fast, easy access to component jacks. Available in a stunning cherry finish, the extra-thick end panels are complemented by a seamlessly integrated black glass top. The Chameleon Collection includes nine decorator styles, each in nineteen configurations, all built on an aluminum chassis to ensure reliability and durability. The single cabinet can be used as a matching subwoofer enclosure ($999).
www.salamanderdesigns.com

Diamond Case – Isabella E87C $5,999
This complete entertainment center features an integrated back wall capable of supporting up to a 60″TV. The columns on each side store media, remotes, extra cables and more. Any choice of wood, smoked glass, or grill cloth panels are used for the lower five doors. Grill cloth allows for concealing L/C/R speakers, whereas smoked glass allows components to receive infrared signals from a remote control. The equipment sections feature both adjustable shelves and drawers. The back panels are removable for access to equipment connections and an internal cable management system ensures a clean, clutter-free, installation. Made in the USA, it is fully assembled out of maple and finished to match the customers decor.
www.diamondcase.com

Wide Open Spaces

Coming up with a unique, never seen, theater design takes some creative genius, and the folks at Woodbridge Stereo along with the homeowner and theater fabricator, HTL, delivered this one-off theater that is both eye-catching and surreal. Circling the theater are custom printed fabric panels of locally photographed images of the Jersey Shore, creating the effect that this home theater is sitting right in the middle of the beach.

While this 3-story home is 10,000 square feet, the theater space is actually very modest (13.5’ w x 16.9’ L x 8’ h). “The smaller dimensions made it challenging to fit eight full seats and the necessary equipment,” said Tom Altobelli, President of Woodbridge Stereo. “We placed the projector behind a lighthouse photo and shot the lens through a special glass element to open up the space. It also eliminated projector noise that would have seemed extremely loud in such a small room.”

Even in this tight space they were able to install a 42” x 99” 2.35:1 cinemascope screen with 2-way motorized masking for 1.78:1 content. It was coupled with a Runco projector equipped with an anamorphic lens. Powered by a Marantz receiver, a Triad 7.2 (two subwoofers) speaker system was mounted in-wall. An AMX touchscreen was Integrated into a motorized dock in the center console between the rear seats. The final touch is the picturesque ocean view, created by the fabric panels, which makes the room appear far larger than it is in reality.

“With the collapse of new home construction, large, dedicated theaters are simply less common,” says Altobelli. “With more clients choosing to integrate theaters in smaller spaces, effective acoustical design and noise isolation techniques are more critical that ever. Moreover, improvements in broadcast, disc, and streamed content, as well as lower cost video projection hardware, allows us to create very compelling theaters and possibly a home automation system in a wider range of applications and at price points not previously possible.”

In addition to the theater, Woodbridge Stereo installed a 14-zone whole-home audio system that is expandable to 20 zones, which is controlled by 12 AMX touchscreen controllers located throughout the house. Architectural and outdoor speakers from Triad, DALI and Stealth are mounted throughout every living space making it possible to listen to music from any location. There are nine independent video zones with various size NuVision flat panel TVs installed in every major room of the house including two family rooms with 5.1 Music and Cinema systems (one is located in the basement), a gym, a playroom, the master bedroom, the master bath and two other bedrooms.

Sources for the whole-home AV include a four-zone Request hard drive DVD/music server with a storage capacity of 1000 DVDs or 15,000 CDs, however, it is expandable should the homeowner exceed it’s current capacity. There are five globally-accessible HD/DVR cable receivers in addition to both satellite and FM/HD radio.

Other systems installed by Woodbridge include a Panasonic cellular phone system with 16 locations and a wireless Internet network, which included three access points. The remotely accessible AMX system is capable of controlling further upgrades for HVAC, CCTV, security, weather and Internet radio.

Personalized Theaters

While always intriguing, one wonders if homeowners eventually tire of highly specific themed theaters. One-off theaters, like those designed by Mario Panelli Studios, never grow old. They are inviting and welcoming spaces that reflect the design and lifestyle sensibilities of the homeowner. You are wowed by the timeless beauty and fine detail, which effectively captures the homeowner’s tastes and personality.

In order to create such a personalized space, it’s necessary to develop a very close relationship with the client. “All our designs are one-of-a kind, which start with an extremely thorough client consultation,” says Aaron Clowes, CEO and Co-Founder of Mario Panelli Studios. “The client reviews 100’s of colors, patterns and textures ect. to help us determine their likes and dislikes. In this case, we discovered the homeowner liked abstract art with an affinity toward modern contemporary stylings.”

This relationship that begins with the consultation, and is carried out well beyond the completion of the project, is paramount to ensure that all aspects of the project are not only visually stunning, but that they met all the acoustical requirements needed to make the room sound as terrific as it looks.

This latest theater from MP Studios was built into a new gaming annex that was added to the backside of the property, with the theater portion being 16’ wide by 19.5’ deep. The unique ceiling concept was presented to the client as a physical scale model. Due to the level of trust developed between the client and designer, many elements were altered on-the-fly during construction without further client approval. The theater’s ceiling is a totally self-supported structure and is not connected to the actual ceiling except at the sides of the soffit.

The room design took a month to design and engineer, with another 10 months to build it out and install all the AV gear. The theater itself is independent of the other home systems, except for the smoke detector and intercom. The equipment rack is hidden behind one of the back wall sculpture panels and contains all the electronics including a NAD 775 7.1 Surround Receiver and several source devices. Axiom Speakers were used throughout with M60 V3’s used for the main left and right speakers, a VP180 for the center and QS4’s for the sides and surrounds.

The passive SVS PB13 Ultra Subwoofer coupled with it’s 1000-watt digital amp was so sensitive that even the slightest adjustment, resulted in drastic changes in the room’s sound balance. “This is where the experts at El Dorado Home Theater made such a difference in the overall performance of the room,” explains Clowes. “Without their knowledge of proper room calibration, the end result would have just been average, rather than amazing.”

The video side of the equation included the pairing of the Runco LS-5 DLP Projector and a Dalite Pro Imager screen with horizontal masking. The screen is 54”x126” and configured in the ever more popular 2:35 format.

The room was outfitted with 54 light fixtures (total of 7000 watts) using Lutron Homeworks Lighting Control system. The fixtures were grouped into 12 dimmer switches for extremely selective lighting control. Creating a more informal atmosphere, only the front row of the theater has four theater seats. The back row is essentially a wall to wall couch, for a more cozy interaction between friends and guests.

Perhaps, the biggest challenge was the entry door, which was designed to disappear when closed and there’s not even a visible handle. A sound dampening panel was hung from the inside of the door. Two lighting fixtures were added to match the other five panels on the sides of the theater. To complete the effect, a down-lit baseboard was placed at the bottom of the door, which was no easy task according to Clowes. Spring- loaded conduit was used to assure the wires would work for many years without requiring maintenance.

“Nothing in the room, including all the light fixtures were purchased out of a box”, concludes Clowes. “Everything is original and hand-made from raw materials and nothing was machine lathed. Every architectural element is a first time, one-of-a-kind design by us, including the 53-feet of down-lit baseboard. Our clients know that what we offer are the most exclusive and unique theaters in the world because each and every one of them is completely personalized.”

Photography – Joseph Ziser

CONTACT INFO

Interior Design
Mario Panelli Studio
Aaron Clowes/CEO
1101 Plumber Way # 103 Roseville CA 95678
1-866-928-4677
aaron@mariopanellistudio.com
www.mariopanellistudio.com

Systems Integration
El Dorado Home Theater
Brian Smith
722 Sutter Street
Folsom, CA 95630
916 933-5777
Brian.smithedht@sbcglobal.net
www.eldoradohometheater.com

High-End Flat Panel Speakers

With a focus on leading edge technology for lifestyle products, Artison incorporates it’s patented DualMono Center Channel technology into the ultra-thin Masterpiece M- LCR-DM speakers that rest beautifully along side a flat panel TV.

The Masterpiece LCR-DM combines three, front channels (LCR) into these slim enclosures. Using their exclusive DualMono technology, the Masterpiece speakers are able to project clear dialog from the center of the video display, for the most accurate center channel placement. This replicates the kind of sound you would get by hiding speakers behind a projection screen. However, for flat panels there is usually no other placement other than above or below the screen and the sound will not be exactly “centered”.

The Masterpiece speakers are designed to be attached to a flat panel display or mounted to the wall. The side-firing tweeters widen the “sweet spot” for a more encompassing and accurate soundstage. Featuring Artison’s exclusive Curved Line Array, there are thirty-two, 25mm Artison Reference Theater drivers, which controls the vertical dispersion pattern and creates a wider horizontal soundstage. This array is combined with an Inverted Magnet Structure with two, 5.5″ long-throw Kevlar midrange/woofers that ensure a low crossover frequency of 80Hz.

Custom Grilles can be cosmetically matched for both height and color of any flat panel TV and are delivered within 48 hours after purchase. The thin mounting bracket allows attachment to newer, super thin TV’s ranging in size from .28 to 4.5″. Designed for larger video displays, the Masterpiece M-LCR=DM speakers are compatible with most displays starting at 55″ diagonal. Complementing today’s sleek and contemporary flat panel TVs, the Artison Masterpiece speakers integrate seamlessly into any decor, yet, deliver sound quality on par with high-end, floor-standing speakers.

A pair of Masterpiece M-LCR-DM speakers retail for $2,800/pair, including the custom grilles.

European Delight

Beginning with some postcards depicting old european towns and villages, the homeowners of this “French cobble-stone town” wanted a themed area that would lead into their theater. Designed by JP Themed Theaters along with systems integrator Audio Advice, this basement theater whisks you away to an early 20th century French Quarter.
“The whole-street scene idea was taken to another level when the homeowners asked for a unique way to incorporate their private collections,” explained James Potter, owner of JP Themed Theaters. “So, it was decided to create actual shops that you can enter off the street to view these collections.”

Visitors can mosey through the “shops”, chat in the courtyard and loose themselves in this quaint setting. When showtime comes, they enter the theater through two large wooden doors into an ornate and spacious area that seats eighteen. The overall size of the street area is 21 x 43 feet with the actual theater measuring approximately 27 x 36 feet.

In an effort to make the visual experience in the street appear authentic, Potter used a number of techniques. The building exteriors were plastered, then several layers of paint were applied using 3-4 different colors, creating a feeling that decades worth of maintenance and change had taken place. Utilizing a technique of his own, Potter aged the surfaces to imitate the effects of natural weather conditions. Posters were painted to further create the illusion of a specific time period. For a sense of depth, buildings in the front were painted lighter than the buildings in the back. The final touch is five zones of lighting, with the street lighting capable of representing different times of the day.

Larry Lawyer, of Audio Advice, said, “James and I developed this ongoing partnership throughout the entire project to ensure the design of the street space and the theater meshed perfectly.”

Once seated in this grand theater, you’re treated to a no-compromise cinematic experience featuring high-end audio components and a 2.35:1 image. For reference quality 7.1 multichannel audio, all Classé Delta Series products were installed including the SSP-880 AV surround processor along with the CA-3200, CA-2200, and CA-2100 power amplifiers, which drive PSB CW383 reference in-wall speakers and CHS212 reference subwoofers.

On the video side, a Runco VX44D-CWAS 2:35:1 Cinewide 1080p projector was paired with a Stewart 165″ Cinecurve Firehawk cinemascope projection screen. The projector is capable of brightness levels several times that of most projectors and the curved screen rejects ambient light while reflecting the projected image evenly to all seats, providing exceptional corner focus compared to flat screens. Additionally, the curved screen, along with an anamorphic lens attached to the projector, displays movies in their original widescreen aspect ratio while utilizing the full resolution of the projector, ensuring optimum image quality.

To hide the Runco projector from view, a custom mounting system was fabricated to place the projector vertically behind a faux building facade. The image is reflected off of an observatory telescope grade mirror and then through a 5” x 12” aperture in the building door. A custom cooling enclosure ensures silent and cool projector operation.

The theater’s equipment rack was located outside in one of the themed rooms with other whole-house equipment placed in a different room. For simple control from any location, a Crestron’s DM “Digital Media” ADMS Media Server was installed, which shared all the video sources with the theater and the rest of the house. A Crestron TPS-6X wireless RF 5.7” touchpanel is used in the theater to access media as well as control the AV gear, lighting and climate. An auxiliary TPS-6L wall-mounted touchpanel was installed just outside the theater for whole-house control.

“What makes this theater so amazing is the pristine video reproduction coupled with the finely detailed sonic performance of the Classé/PSB gear. It’s about as near perfect as you could ask for in a home theater,” concludes Lawyer. “Plus the operations in this fully integrated, state-of-the art theater are as simple as turning on a light switch. To say the least, the homeowner’s expectations were far exceeded.”

Photography by Jill and William DiMartino

Contact Information

Interior Designer
JP Themed Theaters
James Potter
Kansas City, Missouri
816-739-4534
jamespotter@me.com
www.jpthemedtheaters.com

Systems Integrator
Audio Advice
Larry Lawyer
Tulsa, Oklahoma
918-664-1933
www.audioadvice.com