Slideshows
DIYer Digs Deep for the Perfect Theater Spot
Dr. Waqar Shah added an underground bunker to build his dream room.
October 12, 2011 by Rachel Cericola

It’s easy to dream about home theater. However, Dr. Waqar Shah had always planned to make that dream into reality. When the good doctor decided to have a home built three years ago, he went into it with a very specific idea for his home theater room.

His plan even included where the theater would be placed. Dr. Shah commissioned his home-builder to add a special spot below his new home’s three-car garage. This would allow him to lay out the room with seating for about 15 people. “I had the theater plans before I had plans for the rest of the house,” he says. “I knew what I wanted.”

How the room looked and performed was certainly important. However, what was going on inside the walls was just as crucial to this project. To keep the install clean and easy to upgrade, Dr. Shah had his installer run all of the cables and wires through 3-inch PVC conduits.

That wiring scheme wasn’t just something that Dr. Shah read about on a forum. It was something he learned from past experience. Years ago, he worked on a home theater room for his sister. “At that time, I ran an S-Video cable in the wall for the projector from the AV rack,” Dr. Shah says. “Since installation, we have gone through component cable, then DVI, and now HDMI. The conduits make it easy to exchange cables for new technology. PVC pipes in the wall always ensure for a clean look for future upgrades. In my sister’s theater, we had run wires along the walls and ceiling.”

Three months after the home was completed, Dr. Shah had the theater room he had planned for so long. The soundproof room has a floating wall and ceiling drywall for internal acoustics. There’s also room-within-a-room-style noise dampening and insulation between the concrete exterior.

Upon entering at the back of the room, visitors are greeted by three rows of seating that descend towards the screen. Along the walls are a series of movie posters—all autographed, which add another exclusive touch.

Of course, the image is quite eye-catching. Dr. Shah had a screen custom-built by Theater Xtreme. It measures 180-by-86 inches, and is matched with Sony’s now-defunct Qualia 004 SXRD projector. That component is not just the showpiece, but was also a steal. During the projector’s heyday, it went for about $35,000. However, Dr. Shah was able to snag one brand new, with an upgraded 1080p logic board, for a little over $8,000. “They stopped making that particular projector model the year I was building, and I snagged a closeout price,” he says proudly.

The audio is equally impressive. The room is officially wired for 7.1 individual channels, but features a mind- (and ear-) blowing 13 speakers and four subwoofers. “I compared one 15-inch subwoofer to four. It indeed makes a difference in sound/air movement,” says Dr. Shah. “I discussed these options with various technical support providers at Dr. HSU’s lab in California. He is a PhD in engineering from MIT. His goal in life was to make the perfect subwoofer. He did!

The seating pattern is just as scientific. The first row is about 15 feet from the screen, which Dr. Shah admits to being too close for most movie enthusiasts. (“My 4-year-old and 12-year-old love to take those front seats along with their friends,” he says.) The second row is the sweet spot, about 23 feet from the stage. Those two front rows include a total of 10 Pro ButtShakers built into the seats. The last row is more of a chill area. Located an additional 10 feet back, it features a plush leather sofa, two oversized chairs, and ottoman.

Although the room appears to be stacked, it was done so on a budget. Dr. Shah bought almost everything from closeout sales, eBay, and just by doing a lot of bargain shopping online.

Despite the cost-cutting measures, he didn’t want to cut corners where it counted. To get the room he wanted, it required a lot of planning. “As an Interventional Radiologist, I have the luxury to always work with cutting edge electronics, computer systems, and medical equipment. I have always been a gadget-junkie,” he says. “Applying my electronic savvy skills to the theater was simply one step in the direction of the audio/video world.”

For a closer peek at Dr. Shah’s home theater, check out our slideshow.

Quick Hits
City/State: Du Bois, PA
Room Size: 33-by-21 feet
Year Completed: 2008
Time to Complete: 3 months
Total Cost: $50,000

Equipment List
Apple TV
Barcalounger Theater Seats (10)
ButtKicker LFE Shakers (10)
Carver AV-634 Amplifier
DISH Network VIP722 HD DVR
Escient Fireball DVDM-100 DVD Manager
Google TV
HSU Research 15-inch Quad-Drive Subwoofers (4)
Kenwood Sovereign MX-5000 Amplifiers (2)
Klipsch RC-62 Center Speakers (2)
Klipsch Reference Series R-5650-S Speakers (9)
Linksys Internet Hub
Opera Consonance Calaf Tube Amplifier
Panamax M5400-PM AC Power Conditioner
Rotel RDV-1060 CD Player
Rotel RS-1072 Amplifier
Rotel RMB-1077 Amplifier
Rotel RSP-1098 7.1 Surround Preamplifier/Processor
Sling Media SlingPlayer
Sonos Music Player
Sony BDP-S5000ES Blu-ray Player
Sony DVP-CX777ES DVD Changer
Sony Qualia 004 SXRD Projector
Sony SLV-R1000 VCR
Theater Xtreme 180-inch Custom Screen
Universal Remote Control MX-6000 Remote
Universal Remote Control PSX-1 iPod Adapter
Usher Audio Dancer Series CP-8571 Speakers (2)

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.

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