The Ultimate Demo Theater

Prather Warren, owner of Innovative Home Media (IHM), had no idea what he’d signed up for when he agreed to take Triad’s CinemaPlus demo theater after the 2009 CEDIA Expo. It’s not uncommon for manufacturer’s to sell off some demo gear after a trade show so they don’t have to ship it back to the factory…but a whole room? A long time AV enthusiast, Prather founded IHM in 2006. However, the one thing he needed to take his high-end custom AV business to another level was a demo theater. To that end, he had plans drawn to add a floor to his house for a dedicated theater. As he was preparing to built-out the new space, a fortuitous discussion with Bill Ruark, a sales consultant with Triad Speakers, caused him to alter his plans.

Ruark felt that Triad’s CinemaPlus program might be the perfect solution for Prather’s new theater. CinemaPlus is a partnership between American-based Triad Speakers and PMI, Ltd., the company founded by Anthony Grimani, formerly of THX and Dolby. This partnership provides unprecedented support, expertise and resources for custom installation firms like IHM, allowing them to create theaters with performance levels well above the typical theater. A CinemaPlus system consists of a complete high-end Triad multichannel speaker system that is custom designed for the specific room, including a full one-off plan drawn up by PMI.

At this point, the theater changed in scope focusing on a CinemaPlus system. Again fortune intervened and Ruark informed Prather that Triad and PMI were planning to build a fully-engineered, ground-up, CinemaPlus demo theater room on the show floor of CEDIA in Atlanta, and asked if he would be interested in purchasing “some” of the system after the show was over.

Prather ended up flying into Atlanta a few days early to offer his expertise in what turned out to be an over-the-top demo. With theater seating, this would have cost about $400,000 if purchased at retail. Ultimately, Prather purchased a good deal of the components, speakers, acoustical treatments, cabling and all of the sound isolation materials.

After four days of continuous and impressive demos at the expo, the room had to be taken down carefully, all the gear packed properly, and somehow get it to Prather’s home in Baton Rouge, over 525 miles away. A dozen people worked for two days to unscrew drywall, pack amplifiers and speakers, coil wire, and disassemble the Triad BaffleWalls. The estimate of the total weight was at least 25,000 lbs., requiring an 18-wheeler to make the long haul to Louisiana.

“By now, the project had grown exponentially, and was well beyond the scope of the original demo room I’d envisioned,” recounted Prather. “However, I was confident we’d transform these materials back into a superb home theater again.”

After arriving in Baton Rouge, the shipping crates and pallets were loaded into smaller trucks and transported to Prather’s home. The shipment was large enough to fill his carport, back porch, courtyard, and a good deal of the driveway. Over the course of the next six months the materials were continuously sorted and rearranged to locate the pieces and parts that were needed as the project progressed. Moreover, everything had to be carried up a flight of steps since the theater was upstairs.

The actual construction of the room was anything but typical. In order to achieve a room that was perfectly quiet, the walls ended up being 13” thick including acoustical foam and several soundproofing materials from QuietRock ( The floor consists of 2 x 12s on 10″ centers designed to support the load. Rubber isolating material was placed on top of a 1-1/4″ layer of plywood flooring along with QuietWood and mass-loaded vinyl. All the seams were filled with QuietSeal. The finished measurements of the theater were 16′ 4″ wide and 23′ 6″ deep. An 18″ tall riser, 10′ deep, extended across the room and 50% filled with rock wool. The upper surface consisted of two layers of 3/4″ plywood, then sealed and glued with QuietGlue.

When the frequency response was measured, it was determined that 3/8″ diameter holes (1,523 of them) drilled across the entire top of the deck would naturally attenuate peaks at 45 and 63 Hz. An extensive rattle test was performed, however, absolutely everything had been glued and screwed together, leaving few issues to address.

The air handling capacity of the HVACs supply and return grills was implemented utilizing three times the surface area that would normally be specified for the number of cubic feet in this room, rendering it virtually silent.

Terry Hill of PMI spent a week applying the finishing touches including the projector housing and installation of a 300 lb. QuietDoor. Robbie Burns of Better Acoustic stepped in and installed the acoustically transparent fabric on the walls and ceiling, hiding all the acoustical materials and wall mounted speakers.

The final system consisted of CinemaPlus versions of Triad’s Platinum LCR in-BaffleWalls, six Gold Surrounds, and twelve 12”, 500-watt Silver DSP Subs. The Parasound Halo amplifiers delivered over 12,000 watts, capable of attaining peaks that exceeded 113 dB, however, sound levels outside the room were literally inaudible. Incorporating PMI’s 2.0 video projection solution, a Stewart Filmscreen’s Director’s Choice 2.0 160” wide 4-way masking screen was coupled with Digital Projection’s Titan 1080p Dual 3D projector. (For details about PMI’s 2.0:1 screen concept go to

“I was amazed at the flat response of the room even before equalization,” said Prather Warren. “This really demonstrates how important it is to professionally design a room. When combining science and great equipment, it’s possible to create terrific custom theaters in a wide range of budgets and needs, and not just at the upper end.”

While the CEDIA attendees were wowed by the Triad demo, they missed the truly insane part of the story, which was disassembling an entire room, board by board and screw by screw, transporting it 525 miles, and then re-engineering and reassembling it into a world-class home theater.

Equipment List

Digital Projection TITAN 1080P Dual 3D projector
Stewart FilmScreen’s Director’s Choice 160” wide 4-way masking screen
3 )Triad’s Platinum LCR in BaffleWalls
6) Triad Gold Surrounds
12 ) Triad 12” Silver PowerSubs
12) 500-watt Silver DSP amplifiers
3) Parasound JC1 amplifiers
3) Parasound A21 amplifiers
Crowson Tactile Motion System
MSR Acoustic Treatment
Kinetic sound Isolation and suspended ceiling system
Denon AVP-A1HDCI Ultra-Reference preamplifier
Oppo BDP-83R Bluray player
DirecTV receiver
Lumagen Radiance XS Video Processor
Ashly ne24.24M Multi channel matrix audio processor
Fortress seating
Exactpower 10 kVA Powercore power conditioner
2) Middle Atlantic Racks
3) Middle Atlantic 293 CFM venting system
1) Dedicated 10,000 BTU portable AC unit for equipment rack cooling
Crestron AV2 control system and Crestron C2ENET-1 ethernet card
Crestron TPS-6X touchpanel
Crestron infiNET lighting

Photography by Prather Warren

Company Info

Innovative Home Media
Prather Warren, THX, HAA, CEDIA, ISF Certified
Baton Rouge, LA.
225 766-0885

A Show House with Dramatic Stylings

Building a theater was part of the plan for a designer’s show house that entailed the complete renovation of an old mansion for community events. Everyone donated their efforts and the two key contributors to the theater were Interior Decisions, who created the design, supplied the decorative appointments including custom cabinetry/millwork and Woodbridge Stereo/Video, who donated their integration services, the AV equipment, acoustical wall fabric and seating.

“For this project it was critical that we had tight coordination with Craig DeAndrea, one of the partners with Woodbridge Stereo/Video. We created the design and then Craig worked with us to provide suggestions for the most effective implementation,” said Karla Trincanello, owner of Interior Decisions.

The theater was placed in the basement, where they once stored coal. The walls and floor were concrete and since it had never been heated, the project included a new Gio-Thermal heating system. The result was ductwork on two walls and the ceiling, which made it necessary to designfalse walls and a drop ceiling to hide them. Threehorizontal steps on the soffit facade concealed the ceiling drop. By continuing the stepped soffit design on all walls, a balanced perimeter was created. The ceiling medallion provides a sense of more room height and the monochromatic aubergine color offered a highly dramatic effect. Interior Decisions designed a custom cabinet/bar unit for the lobby, which also housed the AV equipment.

“We knew this show house would attract a wide range of people from both the design community and general public,” said Criag DeAndrea. “We wanted to demonstrate a modest music and cinema system that provided an emphasis on quality sound reproduction.”

A pair of KEF XQ40 floor standing speakers were selected for the front L/R channels with a matching XQ50c placed on a stand for the center. Rounding out the 7.1 channel system are four KEF CI200.3QS in-wall speakers concealed behind the upholstered acoustical wall treatments, plus two KEF HTB2 powered subwoofers were neatly hidden behind the draperies flanking the screen. The electronics included a Marantz SR8002 receiver and BD8002 Blu-ray player. For video, a Marantz VP15S1 1080p DLP video projector was placed discretely behind the rear wall and projected onto an 82” Da-Lite wall mounted screen. This kept the ceiling free for decorative painting. Rounding out the system is a Lutron Grafik-EYE to manage the 6-zones of lighting and a URC MX900 remote control.

The biggest challenge were the acoustic treatments. Since the space was small, thick ceiling and wall treatments couldn’t be used. Moreover, the acoustical solution had to be economical, yet, capable of isolating the theater from the floor above. For the ceiling, a combination of mineral wool insulation coupled with an isolation method that reduced the ceiling height by less than 2” was employed. For the walls, rather than having fabric-covered acoustical wall panels that were fabricated to fit, they used a ” flexible acoustical material that was laid in place on the walls and then upholstered over with an acoustical fabric, which was also carried into the lobby area. The combination of this treatment and the solid surfaces of the columns and soffits provided the perfect acoustical balance.

Due to the limited ceiling height in the rear and the room’s overall shallow depth, a combination of commercial-style theater seats on a low riser in the back and two sets of high-quality, fully-reclining, leather theater seats for the front, were chosen.

By working closely together and staying open to suggestions from both the design and integration perspective, the end result was a beautiful space that sounded and looked fantastic. Not surprising, it was the hit of the entire show. CONTACT INFO

Interior Design

Karla Trincanello
140 Columbia Tpke
Florham Park, NJ 07932

Systems Integration

Craig DeAndrea
751 Amboy Avenue (Route 35 South)
Woodbridge, NJ 07095
office: (732) 636-7777

Outside of the Box

Room challenges make for an innovative design in this dream home theater, which sounds as good as it looks.

When you think about growing old with your significant other, you probably think of retiring to a secluded community and maybe traveling together. But did you ever consider home theater as part of your future plans? It is for this couple in Chino Hills, California, who had the luxury of building their dream house—the house they will eventually retire in. They fitted it with all the amenities they know they will want down the road. Thinking long-term, they installed a complete home-automation system with lighting control, security cameras, an alarm system, climate control, and wholehouse audio, as well as a putting green and an elevator. Their plan also includes a dedicated home theater on the bottom level of their home, where they can enjoy their favorite movies in a perfectly controlled environment.

Making for an interesting installation, the homeowners brought in Josh Christian of DSI Entertainment Systems after they’d allocated the space for the theater. “We were about six months too late for the planning stages and had to work within the confines of what was available,” says Christian. “The theater room was square. Standing-wave acoustic problems are much worse if the room dimensions are square or divisible by one another.” Luckily, the room adjacent to the space originally planned for the theater, which was designated as the gym on the blueprints, was rectangular. Christian persuaded the clients to switch the rooms and use the room with the more acoustic-friendly dimensions as the theater. The homeowners agreed.

Secret Room, Superior Sound

Still, the room had a design issue: “There was a jog in the wall, so the room wasn’t a perfect rectangle,” says Christian. He decided to think outside of the box and used that jog to form a false fabric structure that would serve as the screen wall. This would create a hidden room behind, accessible by a hidden doorway to the right of the screen and behind the curtain. The false wall is covered with acoustically transparent fabric, so the speakers housed behind it can fire through unhindered.

The homeowners had only one parameter: They wanted to use M&K; speakers based on previous good experience with them, and they wanted the sound to blow them away. The false wall was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed enough space behind the screen for ideal speaker positioning. Normally, space constraints behind the screen force you to place the speakers right up against the wall. However, “front-channel speakers are designed to be positioned a few feet from the wall,” says Christian. “If not, the voices sound honky or otherwise distorted because the midbass is boosted. Many speakers have a boundary-compensation switch to compensate for this dynamic, but the M&K; 150 monitors we used don’t. Because of the generous depth of the hidden room, we were able to move the speakers 4 to 5 feet away from the wall, which is similar to placement in an audiophile setup. You get great front-to-back imaging, and the speakers are totally hidden.”

Christian, having recently studied the latest acoustical research from sound guru Floyd Toole, wanted to install four subwoofers instead of one. “If you don’t use several subwoofers and equalize the bass, the bass at different seats is going to sound varied,” says Christian. The M&K; LCRs, with two M&K; MX-350 subwoofers, took care of the front part of the room. For the rear subwoofers, DSI installed two more MX-350 subwoofers in the lower cabinets on both sides of the doorway cabinetry at the back of the room. The tops of the cabinets on both sides are filled with Von Schweikert TS-150 surround speakers. (This model has since been discontinued by the manufacturer.) Two more are hidden in custom wood columns at the sides of the room. They feature backlit mica panels and wrought iron above and below the speaker niches.

The secret room also houses an equipment rack with two Meridian G57 amps and a balanced G68XXV digital preamp. Christian used the preamp’s DSP room-correction mode to tighten up the sound. To do this, an installer simply wires a sound-pressure meter and a laptop to the back of the preamp, which then sends out test tones to the speakers in a preset sequence. The computer then downloads the data and figures out which bass frequencies have problems. “Every enclosed room has standing waves and gets boomy at certain frequencies,” says Christian. “The Meridian works by shortening the time that these frequencies are played back. You hear cleaner, tighter bass, and that boom frequency is not noticeable.” Also, the secret room is entirely acoustically absorptive, so you don’t hear any equipment noise when you sit in the audience.

Categories: Formal, High End, Pro Interiors

The Philharmonic House of Design

It’s almost out of vogue to champion the merits of a hidden install in today’s home theater magazines. As technology becomes more and more efficient and form factors shrink, blending interior design and technology has never been easier. At this year’s Philharmonic House of Design project, however, sleek flat panels and discreet in-wall speakers were just the first step in creating a home where technology plays as important a role in the overall design as the gorgeous old-world Spanish fittings.

The Philharmonic House of Design is a traveling home showcase that happens once a year, featuring cutting-edge interior design from some of California’s top designers. This year, 19 different designers descended upon the location, a 8,700-square-foot new home construction in the exclusive Village of Covenant Hills in the Ladera Ranch community in Southern California. Each designer was given his or her own room to design, creating an opulent dream home with breathtaking views of the surrounding hillside.

Many of the past Philharmonic House of Design projects have included technology in the form of a simple dedicated theater or media room. But this time, technology became part of the interior design planning itself. In fact, the technology, like the Spanish Revival dcor, is a theme that unites the various rooms in this home. Rather than simply one room with technology included, this year, the home got a head-to-toe whole-home infusion of audio and video, complete with carefully labeled and organized structured wiring.

Ken Hoffman and his partner Cesar Guerrero, of Digital Home Design in Irvine, California, had worked very closely with several ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) members, who began encouraging him to get involved. “As high-end clients bring in high-end interior designers, they are asking to incorporate technology into the design,” says Hoffman. “This pushes interior designers to learn more about technology and what is actually possible. If a project isn’t coordinated well and interior designers, architects, and installers work in a vacuum, then the home will seem disjointed. I think we’ve accomplished quite the opposite in the Philharmonic House of Design.”

Hoffman and his team began wiring the home for technology back in December of 2005, having only four months to do the entire installation. He began meeting with each of the interior designers to ascertain their technological needs. Most of them, Hoffman states, had no idea the extent of customization that was available to them. “It was an interesting experience working with so many interior designers,” says Hoffman. “We tried to identify what the vision of the room was and how technology could compliment the design and the dcor of the room.”

As you walk into the Philharmonic House of Design, the first thing you notice is the gorgeous family room just off the kitchen with bright sunlight washing in. The eye then goes to the fireplace and the 61-inch plasma, framed to match the wood furnishings in the room, one of many custom solutions to follow. But the real wow factor was the X-arm, an innovative robotic display mounting system by CLO Systems that lets you control the angle of the plasma. If the light changes throughout the day, say, or you switch seats, the plasma can be tilted left, right, up, or down for the best viewing angles. When Hoffman asked me to identify the speakers in the room, I couldn’t. They were completely invisible speakers in a 5.1 array. The five speakers and the subwoofer were in-wall models that had been drywalled over and painted to match the rest of the ceiling or wall.

Moving on to the kitchen, I was tempted to ask myself, “Where’s the beef?” But, before I could get the words out, Hoffman had pressed a button on a remote, and out of gorgeous custom cabinetry above the countertop, two Sharp LCD panels descended. Of course, I only knew it was a Sharp because I asked—Hoffman had custom-framed these LCDs, again, to match the woodwork. He says that such custom bezels can add about $1,000 to the cost of the display.

We then traveled downstairs to the wine cellar and secondary dining space with a completely customizable and interactive proprietary touchpanel on the wall, whose sole function is to monitor the wine cellar. This amazing little bit of custom installation lets you scan the bar code of the wine, which then enters all of the details, the name, the year, the type of wine, and even what the wine might go well with into the hard drive. You can then search by wine type—champagne, syrah, merlot—or any other criteria. The touchpanel even monitors the temperature of the wine cellar.

On the second story, a full-blown media room features a 7-foot-wide Stewart Filmscreen, which offers an amazing image, even with some ambient light. The Vidikron two-chip DLP projector fires from the custom coffee table/ottoman. When the screen is not in use, a gorgeous Media Decor HideandChic motorized 7-foot-wide art screen of a Whiteface Mountain artwork replica silently rolls down over the screen. “Once the other interior designers saw this, they all wanted one in their respective room,” says Hoffman. A proprietary quad processor allows the Vidikron to project four separate 16:9 images, with four different cable-box feeds so homeowners can watch PIP programming on the big screen. An IP-based NetStreams automation system allows easy access to the wholehouse system and includes custom graphics based on the environment. For movie-watching duties, a Kaleidescape DVD server lets potential homeowners store and access their DVD collections at the touch of a button.

Hoffman and his team worked around the clock to meet the opening day in the third week in April. All the different trades converged on the house at one time, including designers, cabinet makers, plumbers, and the A/V crew, which made for an extremely hectic work schedule. “Working during the day, we had to park several blocks away and trudge equipment up the hill,” says Hoffman. “That’s why we put in 12-hour nights.

“I think by participating, we were able to show off what can be done with high-level technology,” says Hoffman. “By showing potential clients how clean the wiring can be, how you can actually hide an LCD behind a mirror in your bathroom, and how you don’t have to be stuck with the oftentimes unattractive industrial design of products, we make our industry more user friendly.”

Entertainment, comfort, and security are perfectly integrated throughout the kitchen, the bath, intimate spaces, entertainment areas, patios, and the spa and pool area. Donations from the public benefit the wide range of music and education programs that the Philharmonic Society provides.


Designers participating are Lori Hankins, Sheldon Harte, Elizabeth Burris, Adriel Cogdal, Jason Titus, Michael Fullen, Steve Stein, Frank Pitman, Wendy Miller, Marvin Stark and Kerry Harker, Anne Figueroa, Chris Kittrell, Beth Whitlinger, Barbara Coulter-Phillips, Susan Wesley, Gayle Lee, and Joan Wilson. Built by custom homebuilder David Mulvaney of Mulvaney & Co. Installation by Digital Home Design. Photography by Martin King and Stephan Brown.

How It Works For You

Think big. Just because a plasma or speaker doesn’t fit with your dcor, if you have a truly innovative interior designer or custom installer, you can have custom solutions for your particular environment.

Don’t miss out on technology. If you think you don’t want audio/video capability in your home because you don’t like the way it looks, consider options like in-wall speakers that can be covered with drywall and painted to match your dcor or an automated screen that covers plasmas or projection screens with world-renowned artwork.

Categories: Formal, High End, Pro Interiors