Trekkie Theater

By Mike Schroeder

I have been involved in the consumer electronics industry since 1972 and have always had some type of theater, so when I built my home I wanted to incorporate all my accumulated knowledge with the latest smart-home products and technologies. The theater was an integral part of the whole-house design that features multiple zones, automatic shades, cabling and a high level of control. Not only do I have the best home theater I could build, its performance surpasses many commercial theaters. For the whole-home AV, everyone in the family can choose their own personal source from any room in the house.

A Trekkie since the original series, it stands to reason I’d give the dedicated theater a Star Trek theme. The design was taken from various internal ship plans and photos. I drew the plans with exact specifications for the room, the lighting and the “Bridge”. The panels you see throughout the theater came from Paramount, however, the custom light boxes were built based on my design.

The ceiling is hung on springs to isolate the room’s 12,000 watts of power from the upstairs. Additionally, the upstairs floor is made of metal pan decking with 2” of concrete and nothing can be heard in the theater below. The drywall in the theater is mounted to 8” concrete (sides-only)walls using rubber isolators. The walls do not have physical contact with the ceiling making the entire room completely isolated from every part of the house.

The theater is 20’ X 50’ and pitched downward like a commercial theater. Three Klipsch KPT-941T Cinema’s are installed on a platform behind a Stewart 16X9 foot Studiotek 130 perf screen with horizontal masking for viewing 2.35:1 cinemascope films displayed by the Digital Projections 1080P Titan 3D reference projector. There are four 18” Velodyne 1250-watt subwoofers below the screen. Klipsch KPT-250 THX speakers are used for the side (2) and rear (3) surrounds. The front speakers are biamped using DX38 Electrovoice crossover/equalizers and powered by three McIntosh 501 mono block amplifiers. Four McIntosh MC252 amps power the front horns and five surrounds. The heart of the systems is a McIntosh MX150 12-channel, 2-zone preamp

Electrically isolated from the rest of the house, the theater’s equipment room is powered by its own 200-amp voltage stabilizer feeding a dedicated 200-amp panel. All sub-woofers have their own 16-amp circuit and all the amp and theater switching is done by Lutron. There are four Middle Atlantic racks where all the computer equipment, AMX controller, Autopatch, DISH satellite receivers, digital amps and other equipment reside. All zone amps, computer networking equipment including a commercial router and about 45 Ethernet ports are integrated here, too. Digital amps power all the zones in the house except for the library, great room and hearth room which use separate Denon 7.1 channel surround systems with a variety of Paradigm and Klipsch speaker systems. In essence, we have four theaters throughout the house.

The main theater sources are located in the theater for easy access, including a Sony Blu-ray player, a Pioneer Laser Disc Player, and an SVHS player for all the various media I’ve collected over the years. I can monitor all sources including four DISH satellite receivers from the “Bridge”. There is also an analog editing system for 8MM tapes, which will be converted to computer digital editing later for home movies. Yes, I’ve had a lot of hobbies over the years.

In a separate music room, there is a Request music server mixed in with some “antique” equipment I like to keep around including a cassette player, turntable and a classic Crown open-reel tape deck. Everything is connected to a Lexicon MC12 Preamp, the hub for another Klipsch 7.1 channel music system powered by a McIntosh MC207 amp. I guess you can tell I’m partial to the McIntosh/Klipsch combination, which I’ve used most my life. Only the models change.

I installed a complete AMX control system under the supervision of Digital Home Design of Indianapolis, which runs all the various AV systems throughout. I programed all the page and screen designs while they provided the interface and complex programming. Following my specifications, AV Solutions in Cottonwood, AZ pulled and terminated all the wiring and set up the racks. Both companies have been a key player in harnessing the complex control required in my overall house design.

RPG Acoustics handled the room layout to ensure optimum acoustics and seating positions. There are four base traps in each corner tuned to four different frequencies, utilizing five different types of panels. The two seating areas are recessed in the concrete, plus shock supported platforms where constructed for the seats which are powered by four Buttkicker transducers driven by two, 2000-watt Carven amps.

Lighting control is part of a 180-circuit Lutron Home Works system that I designed from scratch which is located in six mechanical rooms around the house. For the theater, lighting is a combination of back lighting and dimmable Lutron fluorescents with Rosco color tube filters. The blue stripes were created with electro-luminescent light strips covered with Rosco color film, and the star field consists of 750 strands with 1400 points of light that extend through the acoustical material creating an increased depth of field. There are multiple Lutron scenes depending on what we are watching. For instance, the ceiling stars and Trek panels stay on when watching sports but for movies, all lights are turned off except for 70 fiber-optic lights that are gradually dimmed over 15 minutes, allowing the eye to adjust to the darkness. Additionally, no light leaks into the room when people enter and exit from the theater.

The house has 19 HD sets not including the four theater screens that vary in size from 19” to 73”. Even the indoor pool has a 50” rear screen projection system. Thirteen AMX touch screens are located in different areas of the house and we added two iPads for the great room and library. All in all we pre-wired over 100,000 feet of cable plus installed 2” empty PVC pipe for future upgrades. Perhaps, I go a tad overboard but this is my passion, so I image this will be a constant work in progress, yet, it’s been meticulously customized so that every member of the family can easy operate the various systems.

Equipment Rack

Photography by Mike Schroeder

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