May 01, 2008
by Arlen Schweiger
When you’re pumping 7,000 watts of surround sound into a theater room, you’d better make sure the rest of the house doesn’t rattle. Especially if you don’t want to wake the baby.
Good thing homeowner Curt Fluegel knows a lot about home theater design. When the co-owner of Trikin Home Theater got the green light to build his own theater as part of a four-story addition before his daughter Lilah was born, Curt decided to dig deep. So much so that he calls the space in his Hudson, WI, home the Bunker Theater.
“The theater is under the garage, so for us, the addition was literally based on the theater dimensions,” says Fluegel. Above the theater is a three-car garage, a master suite and a third-floor room overlooking the St. Croix River, which separates Wisconsin and Minnesota. “We actually dug down 14 feet, so I didn’t have to deal with 8-foot ceilings, and we started with a raw concrete room. I came up with dimensions, and the architects worked around that. It worked out to be the perfect size for the garage, and for sound isolation it doesn’t get a lot better than concrete and earth all around.”
From there, Curt began constructing the design of his dream theater, loading it up with killer audio/video gear. To keep most of it hidden, he built walls in the front of the theater and installed an acoustically transparent screen, plus a faux wall in the rear from which the Digital Projection dVision 1080p projector could peek. Curt went with Digital Projection because it filled his needs for a long-throw lens—it’s 26 feet away from the screen—and featured a full anamorphic lens package that uses a motorized sled when he wants to view 2.35:1 superwide flicks. It also optimizes the 1080p resolution of high-def DVDs.
Knowing he was going grand scale, Curt chose a 150-inch auto-masking screen from Screen Research, which also conceals the Triad Platinum LCR speakers. Six Triad Golds add the surround sound, while four Triad Platinum subwoofers—one in the middle of each wall—add some serious low-end thump, aided by 1,000-watt sub amplifiers. A Halcro preamplifier/processor and three Halcro amps help crank out the audio.
“I have a whole demo disc of THX intros that I play, and coming through 7,000 acoustically treated watts, “immersive” would be the best word to describe it,” Curt says.
His friends and family—including his teenage daughters Briana and Kait, and wife Sarah, who is also Trikin’s accountant—become immersed in the authentic cinema experience before setting foot in the space. A preshow button on an AMX Modero touchscreen turns on the lights in the adjacent lobby, warms up the projector, closes the screen curtains and plays XM Radio tunes. When they hit the showtime button, the AMX system shuts off the lobby lighting, dims the theater lights, opens the projector shutter, clears the curtains and starts the movie. An intermission button triggers the old “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” trailer so everyone can take a snack, drink and restroom break.
Clean sight lines come courtesy of risers Curt constructed from concrete and wood. The back riser is actually a bar inlaid with translucent onyx tiles that glow when the rope lighting stretched beneath is turned on. The bluish light complements glowing soffit lighting above, while curved track lighting on the ceiling serves to counterbalance the theater’s mostly clean, straight lines. Jewels Art and Interiors’ Julie Speer helped choose the fabrics and color scheme.
“The theater design was a combination of my wife and an interior designer, and me not willing to give in on performance,” Curt says. “That’s why I’m thrilled it came out looking good. For most people, they’re going to notice that it looks what it’s worth. For me, I’m more worried that it’s going to sound what it’s worth.”
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.