DIY Reader Home Theater: The SmX Theater

This homeowner takes DIY to another level.

I fell in love with movie theaters after my first outing—to see Star Wars as a kid in the '70s. Since then, the moviegoing experience has fascinated me every time.

Ten years ago, my wife and I purchased our first house. Not knowing much about home theaters, we built a modest movie theater. Because of the odd shape of that particular home, a professional installation was not going to work. Consequently, we settled for a projector and a wall with some theater decorations.

When we purchased our next home five years ago, this time we knew we wanted to invest in a full-blown home theater. I researched online and came across The site featured a section detailing dedicated home theater construction, and I followed it for over a year. With my handyman background, I decided to take the plunge and build a theater.

The couple of rooms I was thinking of converting to the theater were simply not big enough, so we decided to use our two-car garage where we stored junk. The garage was an ideal size for the project, 22 by 18 by 9 feet 4 inches, giving me enough room to build the theater the right way.

It took about 110 sheets of drywall to complete our theater shell—the same amount of drywall used to build some of the houses out here in Florida! We used a great sound-isolating product between the dual layers of drywall called Green Glue that helps keep the sound within the theater. The walls we constructed took some space away from the original area because they were stagger-studded with dual layers of drywall. The final dimensions are 20 by 15 by 9 feet, after all was said and done.

I then turned to a talented guy on AVSForum named Bryan Pape, who helped us design the acoustical treatments for our theater. These acoustical treatments help tame the audio in the room, minimizing the need to EQ the room.

Once I purchased my projector (an Optoma H-79), I began my hunt for an acoustically transparent projection screen. After months of research, I came across an audio transparent screen material that was everything I was hoping for called SmX. Once I installed it in my theater, many other people online were interested in trying it as well. Hence, I started a screen company as a result of my DIY journey! The SmX DIY screen in our theater is 12 feet wide and curved, with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Another really great device we installed was a D-BOX motion platform that vibrates the row of seats along with the movie. (See the review on page 140 of this issue of HT.) This is an incredible experience.

For audio equipment, we used Klipsch's new THX Ultra 2 7.1 surround system with a Danley DTS-20 subwoofer. These are powered by four Crown XTi series amps. To play movies, we used a custom-built HTPC.

Upon completion, we ended up spending a little over $50,000 between the theater and the equipment. The total building time was about eight months because we completed the project in our free time. The actual work time would total about one month.

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vern's picture

where can you get the ceiling lights and what kind is it

Rick's picture

Wow, this is one of the nicest home theaters I've seen, and those Klipsch speakers must put out some high SPLs. More people should use acoustically transparent screens like this, then you don't have to compromise on speaker location. With a screen that big you are probably tempted to upgrade that projector to 1080p. The new 3 chip LCD projectors have been getting very good reviews although I wonder about motion blur.

Ruben Ortiz's picture

Thanks for kudos everyone. I didn't realize people could post to this article. This was a fun project that was done in my free time. I documented the complete build process in AVSforums and at www.smxscreen.comIt has become the most viewed home theater construction thread online to date. The acoustics of the theater were treated as well. Allot of strategic sound treatments went in certain places including bass traps to tame the room.The Klipsch THX Ultra IIs behind the 12' wide SmX ProCurv acoustically transparent projection screen seamlessly work together. There is nothing like watching a movie and having the sound-stage come from the screen like Hollywood intended it. If you are Considering building your own dedicated theater, place your speakers behind the screen. Many people make the mistake of placing their speakers outside the screen area which then alters the sound-stage of the movie. Dialogue is meant to come from the actors mouth on the screen, not from below or above it.Ruben

Ben's picture

Of all the home theater designs I have seen, I keep coming back this this masterpiece. This room is my inspiration and I hope to one day (be it 20 years from now) have a home theater to match the quality of this one. Do you have any clips on youtube? I would love to see more.Regards,Ben

Kevin Davis's picture

I have seen many do it your self jobs by many home owners but I must say that this is one of my favorites. If the acoustics are as great as the appearance you have truely out done yourself. Love the idea of the mains and the center placed behind the screen. From what I see the room has a nice open feel yet very attractive. Great homework and planning of this dedicated theater area.

Eihab's picture

What was the total cost of the project and equipment and furniture used. Beautiful theater

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