Home Theater

Below is a picture tour of my most recent additions to my Home Theater.
 
History
I have owned a "Home Theater" since 1974.  Until recently, we referred to our Home Theater as the TV Room.  In 1974 the TV Room consisted of a state of the art quad sound system and a 25 inch color TV.  For video we owned a Sony 3/4 Umatic VCR and recorded many movies off the air.  My favorite video recordings were the simulcast Don Kirschner's rock concerts.  These simulcasts were before the age of stereo sound on broadcast TV and the sound was simulcast on a local FM station in stereo.  Why 3/4 Umatic?  It was before the introduction of betamax and VHS.  My sound system consisted of 4 large JBL speakers, 2 Olympus S8R, and 2 JBL L-200.  I still use them today.  In 1978 I got my first big screen TV.  It was an Advent Videobeam.  This was a 3 tube CRT front projection system using a special curved silver screen 6 ft. diagonal measurement.  Over the next 20 years I upgraded to VHS VCR and then SVHS.  I made 4 complete changes to the sound amp system including adding a 5.1 speaker setup using an Infinity subwoofer with dedicated 285 watt amp.  Due to the layout of my room, I chose to mount in wall Boston Acoustic speakers for the surround speakers.  My Olympus S8R speakers were moved to another listening room for music only.  I have to admit, with Home Theater, today, I rarely sit and listen to just music.
With the coming of CD's I eventually retired all cassette and reel to reel tape formats and also retired the record turntable.  These are in storage now in case I need to play some of those old tapes or records.  When DSS first was introduced, we added the 18 inch dish with Direct TV and USSB. Recently, in February, 2000, I have added Dish Network's competitive programing to this Home Theater.
The Project
In 1999 I decided it was time to retire the Advent Videobeam having served us well over 20 years.  It had become problematic to keep tuned up and considering the introduction of HDTV, figured it time to do the overhaul.  My wife and I began plans to do the change modestly over the course of the next year.  I carefully selected the equipment and decided on another Front Projection CRT, since LCD and Rear Projection systems didn't demonstrate the quality we desired.  We also wanted it as big as the room would handle.  We installed an Electrohome ECP-4000 and a Da-lite 120 inch diagonal electric roll down screen.  The sound system was upgraded with a new Denon AVR-5700. The video was upgraded to a DVD player from Toshiba model 3109 which is a dual tray player.  After 3 weeks of getting used to the new projector we discovered that a line doubler was a must!  After much discussion, we decided on the Turbo Scan T-1500.  We are very pleased with it's picture quality as a mate for the Electrohome picture.  The company I bought the T-1500 from gave us a bonus.  It was a Home Theater universal remote control SL-9000.  At first I thought, oh just another remote but soon discovered this little freebie was to become one of the best bargains in my entire Home Theater.  It is much easier to use than all the other remotes we looked at.
Seating area in my Home Theater
The Home Theater room is approximately 20 ft. by 12 ft. and has a slant ceiling 13 ft. on one side and 9 ft high on the other.  Because of this ceiling and the fact that we have a fan hanging in the center we chose to use a floor mount for the projector.  The seating furniture is specially designed for Home Theater use.  It is a full wall saver recliner on each end seat,  has a fold out center table with drink holders and a telephone with caller ID.  The arm rests open up to reveal deep storage pockets with massage controllers and drink holder.  The deep storage pockets are great for storing the remote controls.  The love seat on the side is a rocker, full recliner and massage system with arm rest storage pockets.  The window coverings are opaque mauve vertical blinds and full draperies for assisting in daytime darkening the room for viewing.  So as not to get too flabby, I have my treadmill in the corner that folds up and out of the way when not in use.
 
 
Two views of the screen from each corner of the room
Shown above is the 92" X 69" electric roll down screen.  It is a Dalite Cosmopolitan in Matte white.  I chose this matte white screen because of the reports I heard that it is always better to spend effort in darkening the room as opposed to buying a high gain screen.  The matte white in this room is adequate for daytime viewing and spectacular at night.  The above photo on the right was taken at night with 35 mm film.  It was shot using a strobe in auto.  The WB logo image (16:9 in vertical squeeze mode) was shot at 1/15 second exposure f 2.8 using asa200 film.  I supered the images together using Photoshop.
The screen is controlled by a custom installed relay inside the ECP-4000 projector.  On the wall behind the left curtain is a wall switch that overrides the projector screen control.  I normally operate the screen in full 4:3 AR (aspect ratio) mode but it has controls or limits to size it for any AR.  Shown are the L-200 JBL speakers for the front left and right.  They are not optimally placed but certain compromises have been made at this time.  Future plans are to replace them with tall upright HT speakers that mount the 15 inch woofer on the side which will allow them to be moved back toward the screen wall with less profile.  The computer console in the left picture above is scheduled to be completely removed and a new CPU installed in the HT equipment rack shown in the right picture. This small cabinet is to be replaced with a more substantial cabinet as soon as I find one I like.  The center channel speaker is a Klipsch KLP-C7 and the subwoofer is an Infinity SSW-210 which is located in the right corner of the screen.  When we first installed the Dalite screen we noticed how bare the wall looked. In addition, we had a gable window that allowed light from the adjacent Florida Room (has lot's of glass and outside light) to glare off the screen in the daytime.  We put up this drapery and valance to frame the screen like a real theater as well as to mask the natural back light.  When the screen is up, the wall reveals a door passage to our Florida Room shown below:
Home Theater Room with screen up
 

Miscellaneous

I have added an X-10 remote control of electrical appliances and lighting.  I use an IR control so that the Home Theater Master can be programmed to control all lights and other stuff from one remote.  The ECP-4000 has two RGBHV inputs and two composite video inputs and one SVHS input.  I still have the SVHS input hooked up but only switch to it to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Line Doubler to those inquiring souls visiting.  Normal viewing is with the line doubler except for computer display.  The second RGBHV input is connected to my Gateway 2500 notebook and drives the projector to 1280x1024 and other screen resolutions.  Since the ECP-4000 only has two selectable RGBHV inputs, I have had to use a plugin cable to allow my HDTV equipment (described below) access.  I have a cable modem and LAN hookup for the notebook giving about the fastest internet connect available to home use.  The center table on the main viewing couch makes a great place for a mouse if I get tired of using the notebook's built in pointer.

In December, '99 we finally located an ideal table to straddle the projector and work in the space we had available.  It is constructed of tempered glass and steel.

 
HDTV and Satellite Programming
My favorite programming source is HDTV and DBS (Digital Broadcast Satellite)  I have had DirecTV since its beginning and now have an RCA DTC-100 installed for reception of the two available channels in 1080i HDTV that DirecTV provides.  These are channel 199 for Demos and late night PPV movies and channel 509 for HBO HD movies.  The other receiver I recently installed was Dish Network's 5000 receiver with the HDTV accessory.  Dish Network is a competitive DBS service offering mostly the same satellite networks but it also offers Showtime HD (channel 9430)  while DirecTV does not at this time.  The DishNetwork5000 receiver is not a stand alone system to feed a Projector like the ECP-4000 in HDTV mode.  It only works in stand alone for Standard Definition programing.  I feed it's output to the DTC-100 channel 3 input as an Over The Air signal.  This gets my Dish programing converted to a compatible HDTV input for my ECP-4000.

To receive both HDTV programing channels and regular channels from DirecTV and DishNetwork I had to install 3 separate small dishes, two are with dual LNB's.  In addition, I had to install two switches, one for each of the receivers.  The DirecTV dish is a DSA8900 which picks up signals from the 101W satellite and the 119W satellite.  The 119W is the one needed for HDTV.  Both of these are located on the same dish but use a multiswitch to select the correct signal depending on what channel you have selected.  Use of a multiswitch makes the operation transparent and automatic.

It is important to locate your dishes so that they have a clear line of sight to open sky using the correct azimuth and elevation for your geographic location.  DBS tools make installation easy in that you can determine these locations to point the dish from your zip code and a computer program or from the dish setup in the receiver itself.  Notice the last of the "61.5 Bird just..." picture.   It just clears a clean path to the sky through my neighbor's tall trees. The other picture shows the two dual LNB dishes have plenty of clear sky since they aim a different direction.  One additional adjustment is required for the dishes that have two or more pickup LNB's.  This is the tilt or skew setting.  This is supplied in your manual that came with the dish for your zip code.

Integrating both Dish Network and DirecTV was not a simple task from the equipment operation standpoint.  The key to making this an easier procedure required that I use a certain wiring configuration to enable the Dish5000 receiver to feed both standard and HDTV signals to the DTC-100 for it's single HDTV output to my projector.  I have wired the Dish 5000's outputs (2) to the DTC-100's 2 inputs for the OTA antenna and I have the DirecTV dish wired to the third input (Satellite)

 
 
There is a redundancy in the 119W LNB in this system and I could have used a location to mount a third 110 LNB into the center of the DSA-8900 but this switching arrangement requires expensive specialty switches and additional power insertion so I chose to install the system using three separate dishes.  The 61.5W dish must be a different dish since it's location is almost at right angles to the other satellites.
The latest addition is a Panasonic HDTV tuner model TUDST-50 and the PVHD1000 DVHS recorder for recording HDTV videos.  There is currently only one way to record HDTV and that is via the output of the DishNetwork's HDTV modulator channel 3 feeding a Panasonic tuner that is coupled to the PVHD1000 DVHS recorder via a IEEE1394 firewire connection.  Since the only output from the Panasonic Tuner is Y, Pr, Pb I had to insert an Extron CVC200 transcoder to get the required RGBHV signal for the Electrohome projector.  Fortunately the Projector has 4 IR remote selected inputs.  Additionally, there is a bug in the audio of the PVHD1000 in that it exhibits frequent dropouts when using it's fiber optic line into the Denon 5700 receiver.  To correct this I added a compatible Techniques SH AC500 Dolby/dts decoder and then feed analog audio via 6 lines to the External audio input on the Denon 5700.  Not shown in the above drawing are the other video sources such as the DVD player, the SVHS VCR, and betacam SP player.  These all have Y/C outputs that feed the analog and digital coax to the Denon 5700.  These standard definition video sources are all routed to the T-1500 and the T-1500's RGBHV output is shown driving the Electrohome projector.

With the above wiring, I was able to program two macro buttons on my SL-9000 remote to select the channels for HDTV and SDTV on Dish receiver and then switch to DirecTV and select channels both HDTV and SDTV with ease.  One of the problems in integrating so many program choices and so many different screen sizes in a home theater is that selection of any one of these is a maze of equipment set up.  While it still could be easier, the above system seems to make the process the easiest that I have tried so far.

With the integration of HDTV into the home theater we find that the ECP-4000 should have it's own programed memory for both SDTV and HDTV.  This has to do with the special scan frequencies that are slightly different from the SDTV frequencies of the line doubler output.  Therefore, I now have three viewing modes for the ECP-4000:
1. HDTV mode 16X9 screen size
2. SDTV mode 4X3 screen size ( including letter boxed formats)
3. SDTV squeeze mode for 16X9 anamorphic sources (DVD-enhanced for 16X9)
 Additional screen sizes I use and have programed into memory of the ECP-4000:
4. Non-line doubled demo* mode for Y/C input
5. Non-line doubled demo* mode for composite input
6. Computer VGA input for 1024x768
7. Computer VGA for 1280x1024
8. Computer VGA for 640x480

* I only use these demo modes to show what the differences are between a line doubled image and an NTSC standard scan image.   As of March 15th I have removed the composite NTSC video input board and replaced with a second RGBHV board for inputs #3 and #4 as shown.

 
 Variable Screen Size and Tensioning
One of the problems with watching the various program sources today is that with DVD and HDTV we have so many different screen sizes and shapes available.  The advantage of using a front projector is that it is possible to accommodate all these sizes with proper planing and design.  The concept here is to achieve maximum picture size and avoid CRT burn in of the image as much as possible.  Therefore I decided to use a 92 inch wide by 69 inch tall screen size as my basis for the design since this size was well suited for the room size.  Normal 4:3 aspect ratio television and computer games would use the full screen dimensions.  When watching any letter boxed movie or wide screen program such as anamorphic DVD's or HDTV the image could be sized to maintain the proper 92 inch width but now only 52 inches tall for a 16:9 HDTV screen size.  A movie using a 2.35:1 original aspect ratio would be shorter yet at 92 inches wide by 39 inches tall.    While all of these programs will fit on the screen the picture quality is diminished by the white screen displaying non picture above and below from the projector.  This is sometimes misrepresented by calling these areas of the screen "black bars"  as if they are masking or hiding some of the picture when the reality is that this area is simply non picture but in the case of a front projector using tubes designed for a 4:3 screen actually lights up the non portion of the screen which I feel is distracting.  The solution for this is to mask off the screen with a non reflective black material so that the picture portion will pop at you against a black border.  The trick here is how to apply these masks.  I have discussed this with many home theater experts and came to the conclusion that the best solution for my home theater is to design the masking system around a real theater like system they use on a stage.  For the side masks I use normal draperies as shown:
Screen in 16X9 size
For the top mask,  I use a special flat black shade that is lowered from in front of the Dalite roll down screen but hidden behind the Valence of the drapery.
  Finally the bottom mask was the most difficult to conceive but finally an idea came to me that was simple and effective.  Normally a home theater can use a simple black painted wall behind the screen or some other type of permanent behind the screen black surface.  Then the screen is simply stopped at the bottom of the picture.  Because of my special problem with a door behind the screen and a light gray wall which I was not allowed to paint.   I needed to figure a way to skirt the back wall lower than the screen
and easily remove it for temporary storage until I watched video again.  I wanted the installation quick and simple. yet out of the way when not in use.  I show a black cloth material sewed into a skirt that is on a simple string stretched across the wall that is high enough to accommodate all picture screen heights.
 
     It is easily stowed when not in use on one side behind the right side curtain.

Screen tensioning is a problem that sometimes occurs when the screen is not fully dropped and a V shaped wrinkle will form.  Da-lite makes a self tensioning screen that works quite well but is very expensive compared to a standard screen.

To tension my screen I simply mounted a screw into the wall and attached a rubber band as shown to the base rod of the screen.
This looks very simple but works!  There is enough tension on the rubber band that will pull the V wrinkles completely out giving you a nice flat surface.  I do have to manually mount these rubber bands when I change my screen size but it is not such an involved process.  To completely set all masks and two tensioning bands on the screen takes less than a minute.

In order to operate the screen for various drop distances I had to buy a Low Voltage control switch for the screen from Da-Lite.  To allow my projector relay to also control the screen drop and return automatically I had to make a compromise.  The Da-Lite system only allows one programmable stop.  This I set for the full 69 inch 4:3 AR screen size.  Then I switch the control from the relay in the projector to the wall switch so I can manually set the size of the screen according to the picture height.

New Equipment Cabinet
 I finally found an equipment cabinet that was big enough to house all my hardware, provide for an adequate tape and DVD storage, plus have a small cabinet for storage of extra remote controls, equipment manuals, and spare batteries and other small misc. accessories.  The cabinet was located at a Scotty's store that was going out of business and was obtained for 75% off sticker price on the last day.  It is made of Oak solid wood shelves and front with some parts that are non support of particle board.  Consequently it weighs over 300 pounds.    While it is in part, conventional design for a TV monitor, I have converted this area for DVD, CD and tape racks for now.  I had planned to put a small popcorn machine in this area but decided we didn't have enough of an apetite for popcorn to support something of this capacity so we decided to continue using microwave popcorn.  We really fell in love with the storage library on the right that opens up to reveal a very efficient area for our HDTV tape library that is rapidly growing.  As the HDTV tape library is growing, I quickly found a need to add shelving to the right of the cabinet.  These shelves now hold an additional space for 250 tapes and a hundred CD's (second shelf).  Currently, shown is my Science Fiction collection on the top shelf and the remaining shelves are the Drama section.  Within each section the tapes are classified in alphabetical order by title.
Observe that my entire DVD library is rather sparce, consisting of less than 25 DVDs, half of which are DTS.
In the back of the equipment cabinet (not shown) I have installed 2 Radio Shack 4" 120 VAC fans to keep the enclosure cool in the large shelves and 2 smaller 3" fans for the smaller shelves.  The equipment runs at 100 degrees now while without the fans that area runs 145 degrees when the glass door is normally closed.  Heat is a real killer of electronic equipment but I feel the current air circulation is adequate to prolong the life. Note that I have no problem with the IR remotes working through the glass.   The entire cabinet is on roller casters and can be pulled away from the wall to get at the back for rewiring.   I have a small 5 inch RCA TV set to monitor the recording VCR's when I am watching another program.
In October 2001, I acquired a Panasonic E20  DVD-R/RAM recorder for the video edit suite (Scuba Tech Inc.) and since the Toshiba SD3109 would not play the DVD-R format, I upgraded the home theater player to a Panasonic RP-56 Progressive scan player.  In order to accomodate the P-scan player I had to utilize the component switch in the Denon 5700 amp to select between the Panasonic TUDST 50 tuner and the RP-56 source that feeds the Extron converter.  While this further complicates the video source switching in the home theater, the improved video quality for DVD's on the progressive scan player vs. the line doubled Toshiba was worth it.
 
 

Future

No current plans are in place now for expansion.
 

Equipment List

  1. Electrohome ECP-4000
  2. TurboScan T-1500
  3. Panasonic  DVD Player RP-56
  4. Mitsubshi SVHS HSU-790
  5. UVW-1200 Sony Betacam SP
  6. DaLite 92x69 Cosmo Electrical with LV control pad in matte white
  7. Denon AVR-5700  200 watt 5.1 THX DTS receiver
  8. Monster HTS 3500
  9. Denon CD CM 340
  10. FLR JBL L-200 with S8R tweeter modification
  11. SLR BA 8" 3-way flush wall mounts
  12. Center Klipsch KLP-C7
  13. SW Infinity SSW-210
  14. Home Theater SL-9000 remote
  15. DTC-100 HDTV receiver
  16. DishNetwork5000 with HDTV modulator
  17. DishNetwork 6000 receiver
  18. PVHD1000 D-VHS recorder
  19. TUDST50 HDTV tuner
  20. Techniques SHAC500 Dolby decoder
  21. Extron CVC-200

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