Building a Home Theater, Step 8: The Official Reveal

This post has been a long time coming, and frankly, I shouldn’t have delayed it this long. I haven’t updated followers on the progress of my home theater construction project in three months. As I last left off, the room was still mostly in disrepair. Some readers may have gathered based on other blog posts and Blu-ray reviews I’ve written recently that my theater room is operational at this point. In fact, it’s been mostly completed for quite a while. I’ve withheld a formal unveiling because I still have some finishing touches that I’d like to put on. Unfortunately, budgetary and other issues have pushed those back again, and there’s no point in waiting any longer. So, without further ado, please enjoy this tour of the long-in-development Cinema Zyberdiso.

First, let’s start with a video walkthrough. Because I shot this on my cell phone, you’ll have to forgive the crummy video quality and the camera’s annoying auto-focus. (Be warned that the volume on the video kicks in after about a minute.)

I think many of you could have guessed which movie I’d use to inaugurate the theater.

You’ll quickly notice a ‘Dune‘ theme at play. The theater’s entry door is graced by original production art that I acquired from the film’s production illustrator. (Click on any of the following photos to enlarge.)

Beyond the front door is a lobby area with a good chunk of my movie and TV collection on Elfa shelving from The Container Store. Here you’ll find box sets, SteelBooks, Digibooks, and other high-def discs and DVDs in special packaging.

Moving inside the theater room itself, to the right of the interior door is another video shelf. This one contains my Criterion Collection Blu-rays, TV-on-Blu box sets and 3D. That plastic bin on the bottom shelf and the trunk below it hold hundreds more discs that have been moved to DiscSox sleeves to conserve space.

Whenever I bring a new person into the room, invariably the first question I’ll get (I’m not kidding, literally 100% of the time this will be the first thing asked) is to explain these acoustic treatments on the walls. After completing construction of the room, I had a terrible echo in here due to sounds reverberating off the bare drywall. Adding carpet and furnishings helped somewhat, but these treatments greatly improved the sound quality of my audio equipment by absorbing reflections throughout the room. I have panels at reflection points on both side walls and the back of the room, plus bass traps in the front corners. I obtained these, along with extremely helpful placement advice, from GIK Acoustics.

For seating, I chose a pair of very comfortable Lane “Rally” powered recliners. This theater room was designed for two people, myself and Mrs. Z. We may need more seating in the future, but we can make do with two chairs for a couple of years.

My primary video display is the JVC DLA-RS40 D-ILA projector mounted to the ceiling with a Panamorph UH480 anamorphic lens on a slide mount.

The JVC is a remarkable projector for 2D image quality, but it’s downright terrible at 3D. I got so fed up with its rampant crosstalk artifacts, in fact, that I added a second projector dedicated for 3D viewing, the Sharp XV-Z30000 DLP. This one sits on a shelf immediately below the JVC.

Putting a shelf there has the added benefit of preventing me from accidentally bumping my head on the JVC projector, which I had done several times due to the low ceiling height of the room.

My projection screen is a Stewart StudioTek model 130 (1.3 gain) in Constant Image Height 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

My front speakers are Cambridge Soundworks Newton MC600HD mains with a Newton MC300 center. My surrounds are the same brand, S305 on the left and right sides of the seating position, and a pair S100s in the back for 7.1 format.

My powered subwoofer is a Cambridge Soundworks P300HD. It currently resides behind the seats. There are arguments to be made both for and against this, and I am not necessarily fixed in leaving it there permanently. However, I tested the subwoofer in several other locations in the room, and this is what I liked best. I may revisit this in the future.

For times when I don’t feel like firing up either of the projectors, I also have a 32″ Vizio TV that I can wheel out into the center of the room on a rolling cart. Why waste my projectors’ precious lamp hours to watch TV shows or play videogames?

When not in use, the TV sits on top of my equipment rack.

Shelf 1:

  • 3D emitter for Sharp projector
  • Comcast X1 DVR
  • Lumagen Radiance XS-3D Video Processor
  • OPPO BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
  • Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player
  • Denon AVR-3808CI A/V Receiver
  • Pioneer XLD-X9 Laserdisc Player

Shelf 2:

  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Microsoft Xbox
  • Nintendo Entertainment System

The shelves themselves are Walker Edison Everest Multi-level Component Stands.

In what I felt was one of my smartest design decisions, I arranged the room so that the inevitable clutter of cables connecting my equipment is hidden from normal view behind the rack, but I’ve given myself plenty of room to access everything for when I need to change my electronics around.

Along the right side of the room is my ‘Dune’ shrine, which displays my extensive collection of movie memorabilia. Among many other things here are toys, games, coloring books, original production storyboard art and continuity photos, set and prop blueprints, several drafts of the script, and 35 unique video copies of the film.

Beneath this lies my Laserdisc collection in Expedit shelves from Ikea. Most of these discs haven’t been watched in years, but I still have a sentimental attachment to them.

After all my struggles (well documented in previous installments of this series), I think the room turned out pretty well. I have some projects that I feel still need to be completed, but I’ve accomplished most of the major checklist items that I set out to do when I started this crazy pipedream of mine.

This will probably not be the last post on this subject, but I felt that I owed it to all of you who’ve followed the story so far to finally display the fruits of my labors.


  1. Ted S.

    Looks great Josh, I’m planning to redo my man cave home theater too. My room is about your size, maybe just a bit bigger. I can only fit four people in there right now, I plan to expand some more.

    How wide is your screen? I think I can go as wide as 120inch on my wall.

    • Josh Zyber

      The screen is 8-feet wide at 2.35:1. That was the sweet spot for my wall size and seating distance.

      Remember, with larger screen sizes, brightness becomes an issue. You may need either a really bright projector and/or a high gain screen.

  2. William Henley

    BTW, I like it – I always wanted a room with that color scheme. My co-workers are talking about how much they hate it, but I love it. I was litterally planning on creating a media room at my old house and painting it that exact color.

    And sorry that the “pipedream” ended up being a “pipe-nightmare”. (Har Har). It really did come a long way from the begining!

  3. Barsoom Bob

    Thank you Mr. Zyber for completing the saga, and congratulations the room looks really, really good. Although we are seeing it second hand from the video footage, the image looks terrific, rich in color and sharp with nice rich blacks. Enjoy it, you deserve it.

    Excellent choice for first movie, I too, love that movie and some day hope for a proper restoration that incorporates much more of the unused footage, especially the aftermath of the knife fight in the seitch and Thufir Hawat’s real fate.

    It is only the thought of creating something like this, although it will not be as technically proficient, in my new home that is getting me through this last month of disengagement and packing for an 1,800 mile relocation. I have one of those full size Dune posters, the one with just Paul and the large type, “A World Beyond Your Imagination…” text, that I intend to display in my theater room. Good job.

    • Josh Zyber

      The video quality of a movie on my screen looks much better than what you see in that YouTube clip or the photos. My cell phone and digital camera don’t do well in low light.

    • Josh Zyber

      Question from BB moved from another post: “Josh, how far do you have your projectors located from your screen? The space I am going to use only allows me to get the recliners about 12 feet away from the screen so I’m pretty sure I will go with an eight foot scope screen. Now trying to figure out if I should ceiling mount or use a closet behind the recliners, with some air ventilation, to make a little projection booth. Any insights?”

      My projector is mounted 12 feet from the screen. In my conversations with a rep from Panamorph, he advised that this was the sweet spot for the anamorphic lens in conjunction with this model of projector to minimize pincushion distortion. My seats are 10 feet from the screen.

      Where you mount the projector will depend on the specs of the specific model – the throw ratio, brightness, etc. The web site is a good resource for throw ratio calculators.

      Building a projection booth out of a closet in the back of the room is an interesting idea if the projector’s specs can accomodate that distance. Keep in mind, however, that most projectors display a brighter image when ceiling mounted vs. shelf/table mounted.

      You may also run into problems getting your equipment to respond to remote control commands if it’s locked away in a closet behind you. You’d need to set up an IR repeater or some other automation method.

      • Thanks. That is helpful. I am happy that seating at 10ft with an 8ft screen is okay. I found that throw ratio calculator at projector central when I was pestering you and Drew about lumens and FLs. I have had a lot of fun playing with all the different variables.

        BTW I now understand that lumens are raw light output from the projector and FLs is the amount of light bounced off the screen after all the variables, screen reflectivity, throw distance, zoom extension take their toll on the lumens.

  4. TRB

    Thanks for showing the end results, it looks great. Congrats on it and I am soo jealous now. Been thinking about doing my basement forever.
    Enjoy it.

  5. malakai

    Congrats on the great looking home theater setup. As you may know, I’ve been working on my ‘home theater’ room for a few years now, but I sure hope I’m not going to have to have acoustic treatment panels in my build.. Only time will tell.

  6. August Lehe

    I was beginning to worry this posting would never come! Bravo, Josh! Is your ceiling flat or arched/domed? Seems we both chose twin leather recliners, (our seating is backed up by a leather loveseat recliner for overflow seating). PLEASE follow up with more postings in the future. I’m sure you will make changes and discoveries as time goes by.

  7. I-Liang Siu

    Congratulations! It looks like you don’t have a separate a-lens for the Sharp – what size do you project 3D scope movies?

    • Josh Zyber

      I use the Zoom Method for Constant Image Height with the Sharp projector. Images are the same size as the other projector, but I let the black letterbox bars spill off the screen.

      • Pedram

        Is the spill fairly noticeable?

        I was playing with the idea of CIH for my next HT, but I would probably have to use the zoom method. With my current projector (Optoma HD33) however, I noticed that the “black” bars at the top/bottom weren’t quite that black compared to the darkness around it so I was concerned about what it may look like using the zoom method.

        • Josh Zyber

          Since my walls are a dark color, they absorb most of the spill once I turn off the lights. The bigger issue with the Zoom Method is that you lose a lot of brightness on the screen, which is especially problematic in 3D. Discs like The Dark Knight with a variable aspect ratio are also an issue, but my video processor can correct for that by blanking out the top and bottom of the image.

          You can see some photos of that in this post:

          • Pedram

            I had read that article actually, and wasn’t too concerned with variable AR films since I only know of 2 (TDK and TDKR) and only one of them I’d probably watch again.

            I guess I’d have to play around with it to see how it handles the image spill, since I already have my projector zoomed to max and I don’t have any complaints about the brightness with the lights turned out (even in 3D).

          • Josh Zyber

            Tron Legacy and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Walmart “Big Screen Edition” disc) also change aspect ratios like the Dark Knight movies. That’s it.

  8. Pedram

    OK T:L I might be watching again before the sequel comes out, but I doubt I’ll be watching Transformers 2. So still, 2 movies isn’t bad.

    I saw a more comprehensive list of movies that change AR on another site as well, but none of them seemed like they did it very much or that it impacted things as much as the above mentioned ones.

    • Josh Zyber

      Those four (The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Tron Legacy and Transformers 2) are the only movies available on Blu-ray with alternating aspect ratios, such that the bulk of the movie is 2.35:1 while selected scenes expand in height to 16:9.

      Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Star Trek into Darkness were similarly shot with selected IMAX scenes, but the Blu-rays for both are entirely 2.35:1 with no alternating ratios. (It should also be noted that most Blu-ray copies of Transformers 2 are constant 2.35:1. Only the Walmart-exclusive “Big Screen Edition” has the variable ratio.)

      Life of Pi is primarily a 1.85:1 movie, with a few scenes that switch to a reduced-height 2.35:1 letterbox for effect. That’s the opposite of these others, and should be watched in 16:9 mode on your screen. You’re supposed to see the letterbox bars when they appear. That’s part of the intent.

      Avatar was originally composed for 2.35:1, but James Cameron changed his mind after-the-fact and opened the mattes to 16:9. The Blu-ray is only 16:9.

      A small handful of movies are available on Blu-ray already in Constant Height format on the disc. Some scenes are windowboxed with bars on all four sides of the picture, while other scenes expand in width to 2.35:1. Off the top of my head, some of these would include Enchanted, Galaxy Quest, Disney’s Brother Bear, The Horse Whisperer, and Brainstorm. There may be more, but that’s all I can think of right now. These are all safe for viewing on a 2.35:1 screen, and in fact are best watched that way.

  9. Mike


    Theater looks great. I have followed this from the beginning and felt bad for you when you were having the pipe problems. Glad everything is in place and you can enjoy your theater now.


  10. John Burton

    Great job. Glad to see you are done. Now quit worrying about the little things, and watch/enjoy a movie. That is why you went through all this!

  11. Timcharger

    Josh, are you a gotta-sit-in-the-middle-of-the-screen man? I hate it when the theater is too filled and I’m sitting on the sides.

    So since there are 2 chairs, is the exact middle in between the chairs? Meaning both seats are slightly off center. Or does Mrs. Z not really care, and your seat is dead center?

      • Timcharger

        I have a sofa (3 seater) and the middle seat is
        nearly dead center.

        Wifey likes the arm end, and she makes me sit at the other arm end. But I cheat towards the center area. But if she’s not watching, I get the middle seat.

        But when the kids are also watching, I’m lucky to get a seat at all.

  12. Josh Zyber

    It occurred to me that I didn’t have any good wide shots where you could see the whole front of the room (or the back), so I’ve added a couple more photos.

  13. August Lehe

    JOSH forgot to mention my ceiling is barn-style and comprised of double-thick interlocking knotty pine paneling. The kind of stuff workers tell me I would have to import nowadays at great expense…IF I could find it. Whatever, it seems to enhance the audio. Although I have a full Cambridge Soundworks Speaker System, my ZVOX 580 Surround Bar seems to be performing great so I am delaying installation of a deluxe Marantz Receiver.

  14. August Lehe

    Uhhhhh….sorry Josh, but I think Tongue ‘n’ Groove is the correct description for my ceiling and wall home theatre paneling treatment. Together with massive book cases and six window and door curtains, I get all the sound proofing I will ever need! Rough cut ceiling beams with metal straps and bolts help, too!