Inside a $3 Million Home Theater Masterpiece
This 45-seat home theater took four years to complete and gets so much use the projector lamp, which is rated at 2,000 hours of use, had to be replaced within the first year.
Lisa Montgomery · May 15, 2013
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was this elegant, reference-performance home theater. Nor was it built in a few months or even a couple of years.
From build-out to final tweaking, this 45-seat cinema took four years to complete, to the tune of more $3 million. Admittedly, that’s a lot of cash to commit to a single room of a house, but according to CE pro Jason Voorhees of Cantara in Costa Mesa, Calif., this home theater, the Best Home Theater $150,000+ in the Electronic House Home of the Year Awards, has seen more use in one year than most do in a lifetime. “They haven’t even had the theater for a year, and we’ve already had to replace the lamp on the projector, which is rated for 2,000 hours of use,” he says.
It’s easy to understand how this family would have a hard time staying out of a room this spectacular. From the overall design to the smallest of details, it’s a shining example of home theater at its best. And remarkably, it all started with a small piece of red fabric.
After the room had been constructed, as part of a new 8,000-square-foot addition to the existing 25,000-square-foot house, the owners had no clear idea of how they wanted their home theater to look or perform. “All they knew is that they wanted it to be really big,” Voorhees says. “It wasn’t until a home theater designer from [Laguna Beach–based] Slayman Cinema held up a piece of lush, red fabric, and the owner said, ‘I want my theater to feel like this piece of fabric,’ that we knew the type of theater we needed to create.”
If the goal was to design an environment as luxurious as that swatch of material, Cantara had to go just as sophisticated on the equipment. Choosing from the crème de la crème of A/V, Cantara suited up the space with a generous supply of Genelec speakers. Based on acoustics and other room parameters, the engineers at Genelec recommended 13 reference-grade speakers and five subwoofers, which would bring on 8,400 watts of ear-splitting audio. Big and beefy, the speakers are definitely meant to be heard but not seen.
So before the inspired red fabric was applied on the walls, the team at Cantara recessed the surround-sound speakers into the studs, each in its prime location based on diligent speaker diagnostics. Even the fabric was given special treatment. Explains Voorhees, “Since the material wasn’t acoustically transparent it would have dampened sound from the speakers. Collaborating with Slayman Cinema, small “portholes” were cut from the fabric and covered with decorative grilles.”
The front three speakers sit behind a massive 18-foot-wide CinemaScope screen from Stewart Filmscreen, and one of the massive subs went underneath in a custom-built proscenium. Unlike the wall fabric, the screen material was designed to allow the audio to flow freely through it.
A Titan Reference 1080p 3D video projector from Digital Projection International lights up the enormous display with video content from components stored for all to admire in an equipment rack in a room just outside the theater. In addition to the essential amps, switchers and processors, the gear includes a Samsung Blu-ray Disc player, Apple TV, Autonomic media server, Xbox 360 gaming console, DirecTV receiver and a soon-to-be-installed Prima Cinema media server - a specialty server that delivers current theatrically released movies straight into the home.
Cantara added a second Lumagen video processor to the mix so that some people could watch in 3D while others viewed the same movie but in 2D. The projection screen is dedicated to 3D content, with 20 XpanD 3D glasses available to viewers in the main seating area.
D-Box SeriesIV-BD Motion Controller
D-Box 4400i 3-Axis Integrated Actuator Set
Genelec HT324AC Large 3-Way Active Speaker (3)
Genelec AIW26 Architectural 2-Way Active Loudspeaker (10)
Genelec HTS6 4 Driver Subwoofer
Genelec HTS3B Subwoofer (2)
Genelec HTS4B Subwoofer (2)
QSC RAVE522aa Digital Audio Processor (2)
Arcam AV888 Surround Sound Receiver/Pre-Amplifier
Digital Projection Titan Reference 1080p 3D Projector
Digital Projection Theaterscope Lens System for Titan Projector
Lumagen XE-3D Reference Level Video Scaler
XpanD 3D Sync Emitter
XpanD X104 3D Eyewear (20)
Samsung UN46D6000 1080p LED Display (2)
Stewart Filmscreen 234 inch Diagonal Cinecurve Filmscreen
Product Description: Media Player
DirecTV HR24 HD DVR
Lumagen Radiance Mini-3D Video Scaler
AMX MVP-5200i-GB 5.2 inch Wireless Touch Panel
Middle Atlantic 54 Space Equipment Rack
Furman Sound IT-Reference 15i Power Conditioner
Product Description: Gaming System
Autonomic MMS-5 Media Server
AMX NI-3100 Control Systems Processor
In the balcony and bar area (which is outside the theater), however, the family felt more comfortable skipping the glasses and simply watching the movie in 2D. The Lumagen processor does some complicated manipulation of the native 3D image so that the two 46-inch flat-panel Samsung LED displays in the balcony and another Samsung display in the bar can present the movie in 2D. It was one of the most complicated feats of engineering his team has ever accomplished, says Voorhees.
When the action switches to gaming, which it often does with two kids in the house, the owners can activate the D-Box motion actuators planted beneath the front row of seats by touching an icon that’s displayed on the screen of a portable AMX touchpanel. The seats now rumble, shake and shift with the on-screen action.
This same panel, which controls the lights and temperature in the theater, also functions as an intercom. Although a seemingly minor feature of the initial design, it has become an essential part of the theater environment. Without it, the family may have never heard the doorbell ring at the front gate. The AMX system automatically pauses the movie, mutes and sound and emits a ring through the touchpanel whenever someone presses at button at the home’s entrance. The family can see the visitors and converse with them via the touchpanel’s built-in microphone - and welcome them to join them in their masterpiece theater.
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Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in adding electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home. Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Lisa at email@example.com
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