Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bringing The Cinema Home: By Mario Estrada

I have a fun surprise for you today. A guest post from my dear friend Mario. Mario and his partner created a home movie theatre right in their home and he was gracious enough to share with us how he did it. Can I just add I've watched a movie in this theatre and it's awesome!!! I wish I had one in my home. Mario and his partner did a great job and I'm super excited to share his post with you so without further adieu let me introduce you to my friend Mario...

I love going to the movies. It's doesn't matter if it's an A or D flick to me, the exhilaration of getting lost in a world of fantasy is the most exciting part. I don't however, enjoy sticky floors, screaming children, and inconsiderate phone users. It is these reasons that my partner and I decided to sacrifice a downstairs bedroom to construct a home theatre. Sure the prospect of a home theatre can be daunting, but replicating the cinema environment was pretty easy.

We began by removing everything from the spare room, including the closet doors. Once the room was clear, our next challenge was sound. How does one enjoy the full experience of an action packed flick without a significant amount of sound? You can't, but we can't have the whole house booming either.

We needed to soundproof the room, so, we meandered to Lowes after finding out that real Sound Studio foam was out of our budget. Besides, this will become a theatre, not a studio. While at Lowes, we found a medium quality sound board at about $9 a sheet that we promptly picked up and screwed into the barren walls (we even covered the window and ceiling as well).

After our soundboard was secured I had my better half run all the necessary cables for the speakers and projector to the front of the theatre because they would be hidden when complete. Next we had to solve the issue of seating. Having removed the closet, we constructed a riser made of 2x8 plywood and plywood sheets to fit inside the space left by the closet. Barren wood is unsightly, so we used spare carpet remnants to cover the riser before affixing rope light to the step's edge for safety. Once the back row was raised, we installed the projector to the closet ceiling and projected the image to the adjacent soundproofed wall.

Soundproofing is brown, non-descript and not very conducive for image viewing so I needed to create a screen. Spackle is cheap, abundant, and with enough patience and practice will coat soundboard. Long smooth strokes are key to a smooth finish, but don't worry if it's a little rough, several coats are needed and a light sanding when dry is recommended. I learned a hard lesson the first year, so I'll impart my solution now to save you frustration later. Use drywall tape between the seams on the screen to prevent cracks and separation due to expansion/contraction caused by the seasons. Once the screen is spackled, dry and sanded, a coat of paint is all that's needed. There are companies who sell special movie screen paint but this is about ingenuity and creativity, so I started with "Silverscreen" colored paint from Lowes and added a metalic accent paint to the mixture. How much? Well, I added just a splash. The whole point to to get the metal flakes into the paint to help reflect the light to give the screen a bit of sharpness. Paint is great because you can always do another coat.

We've sound proofed, installed a projector, run wires, created a back row, and made a screen, now it's time to cover the walls. Knowing my local fabric shop wouldn't have nearly the amount of fabric necessary to cover a room a trip to the metro Fabric District was in order. Felt is expensive, Satin more so... but Chenille is cheap and comes in large bolts for upholstery use. The best part about lining a room with fabric is that you can get a discount for purchasing the entire bolt and not just a section. Rushing home with my fabric in tow I immediately got to work on covering the walls. Sure draping the fabric covers ugly soundboard, but pleating it while stapling it to the wall makes it look like a curtain. (Remember it's going to be dark, no one will see the staples but I used magic marker to minimize the shine).

At this point all that was needed was to add furniture and speakers. Three recliners in the closet and three in the middle of the room facing the freshly spackled and painted screen, give the illusion of a real theatre. The projector behind you above your head ensures no one walking by becomes part of the movie, and the media center in front of you gives you full control of all theatre functions. Using a receiver allowed us connect more than one device and even incorporate our gaming systems.

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