I've always loved going to the movies. Most of my childhood Saturday mornings were spent at the Palace Theater in Winchester, Virginia, where I could watch two films, cartoons, a newsreel, a short, and coming attractions—all for a quarter. About three years ago, I was surfing eBay and ran across a listing for a movie poster from the 1956 horror film The Mole People. I became obsessed with that poster and soon found myself in a fierce bidding war. Later, I realized what was really going on. The Mole People poster had rekindled those childhood memories, and I somehow wanted to go back in time and relive those special Saturdays. That's when I decided to design and build an ornate 1950s style home theater.
How do I build a home theater or media room? The question is a complicated one that every reader wants answered. That's why we created this new, ongoing column in AVI. Whether you're going to build the room yourself or hire a custom installer, there's information you can use in Home Theater Builder. We'll discuss all facets of building a home theater here—from construction, to equipment selection, to room tuning. Our first column is devoted to budgeting. How much can I spend, and how do I allocate my budget? Building a theater is a personal experience, so how far you want to go and the design of your system and room will determine your budget. This overview will help you start to think about how to spend your hard-earned cash.
Our home theater started out as an unfinished basement room with dimensions of 14 by 18 by 9 feet. The room is rectangular, with three doors and no windows. Audio problems are inherently more difficult to solve than video problems. Fortunately, the room dimensions are friendly to acoustic resonances. Since the theater would be right under the great room of the house, the main goal was to decouple the theater from the rest of the house as best as possible.
Penn Jillette's home theater is, like his entire house, not what you'd expect. The Slammer, a 6,000-square-foot monument to eccentricity and a macabre sense of humor, sprouts out of the Nevada desert a few miles from Las Vegas, where Penn & Teller perform their remarkable feats of illusion nightly at the Rio Hotel & Casino. From the outside, behind a chain-link fence, it looks like a Frank Gehry vision of Blade Runner in pastel. "Frank Lloyd Wrong," someone comments as we drive up to the gate. Within the courtyard, which has seemingly endless new additions under construction to accommodate an 8-month-old daughter and another on the way, multicolored astroturf and red and yellow concrete patios add to the sense that this is as much an adult playground as it is a residence-a very adult playground, given Jillette's well-known affinity for the scatological and the salacious.
Integrating 21st-century home electronics into the architecture of a newly built 18th-century-style Italian villa would, at first glance, appear impossible. After all, about the only thing technological in the 1700s was the nutcracker. Add to this the advanced needs of a tech-savvy young couple who are inspired by the past but make their careers within the computer and video-gaming fields, and you have seemingly irresolvable conflicts. This property's sheer size further magnified the task at hand. It's a three-level, 12,000-square-foot home situated on 2.3 acres in the hills of Southern California. Enter Sound Solutions of Culver City, California, premier systems integrators with a 29-year history and a reception area full of national awards, including Crestron's first annual Biggest, Baddest Home Award and the CEA Mark of Excellence Award, both given for this project.
Last weekend I took a Sunday afternoon stroll in Greenwich Village. I was wearing an "Upper West Side 10025" T-shirt to show the Lower Manhattanites who's boss. Following an excellent lunch of cold egg noodles at Mingala, as I strolled down Lafayette Street, I put on the Audio-Technica QuietPoint noise-canceling headphones. Traffic wasn't especially heavy, but you're never really free of internal-combustion noise in Manhattan, and as I hit the switch on the left can, I noticed the low-level hum just disappear, to be replaced by the NC circuit's acceptable low-level hiss. I started grooving on Oleg Kagan's and Sviatoslav Richter's expert performance of Beethoven's "Sonata No. 5 for Violin and Piano."