May 03, 2010
by Arlen Schweiger
The long, heavy drapes that adorn this home theater entrance are just a preview. Step inside and the visual drama really unfolds. It’s not uncommon to see curtains cover a projection screen before the movie starts, but in Mike and Dawn Moats’ room, the curtains flow freely on every wall and even the ceiling.
(Click here to view additional photos)
The design was the brainchild of the homebuilder, Mike Ratzlaff of Cornerstone Homes in Fresno, Calif. Ratzlaff collaborated with custom electronics pro Hi-Tech Home on the planning while the house was under construction.
Ratzlaff had included a dedicated theater space in the home’s blueprints - one of the big attractions for the Moatses. He also coordinated with the electronics installers on house-wide systems for audio distribution, multiple flat-panel TV setups, and surveillance and security - all commanded by Control4 automation system.
“Matt does some interior design as well, and he tinkers with home theater,” says Hi-Tech Home’s Jay Cobb. “The rest of the house has a lot of dark woodwork, but in here they liked the light woodwork better, and the drapes were a good contrast.”
From a performance standpoint, Cobb and Ratzlaff appreciated the sonic value of the draperies. The absorptive material nicely balances the reflective woodwork to smooth out the 7.2 channels of surround sound. The drapes also enhance the room’s symmetry. The room isn’t an entire departure from the rest of the home, as the hefty entry doors and dungeon-like sconces carry over the dark woodwork and iron used throughout.
The cinematic drama provides the Moatses and guests plenty more eye candy. A 92-inch Vutec SilverStar screen amply serves the 16-by-20-foot space and its two rows of seating, and the high 6.0 screen gain maintains performance even when the lights are on. Mounted on the ceiling, a Panasonic projector fires onto the screen for all the DirecTV, Xbox and DVD content. There’s no Blu-ray player in there yet, says Cobb, but the Moatses love the convenience and quality of the high-def Vudu movie player in their bedroom, so it will likely be added to the theater later.
All of the gear resides in a well-ventilated equipment closet just outside of the theater, which includes the Denon receiver powering the seven Sonance Symphony speakers and two Sunfire subwoofers. The front in-wall speakers surround the screen but blend into paneling, while the dark subwoofer grilles look like they’re the bases to columns - details that can be overlooked amid the drapery, but that made this theater stand out.
Keeping Value in Mind
The budget for the Moatses’ theater was divided almost equally between construction and technology. Part of that happened because they really liked the system they experienced in Hi-Tech Home’s showroom, which is geared toward brands that produce solid performance and don’t bust budgets.
“They wanted a really cool look and great sound quality at a reasonable price,” says Hi-Tech Home’s Jay Cobb. “The Sonance speakers hit the nail on the head, as did the Panasonic [PT-AE2000U] projector and Vutec screen. What we have in our showroom fell pretty well in line with what’s in this theater - and we designed the showroom theater that way because we didn’t want a theater that people would love but couldn’t afford.”
As such, all of the electronics and installation labor from Hi-Tech Home amounted to about $16,500 - including the A/V, automation, lighting, user interfaces, design and consultation (after-market chairs ordered by the homeowners were around $9,000 total). The aesthetics end—featuring homebuilder Matt Ratzlaff’s construction, woodwork, granite entry steps and drapery - came in at $14,500.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.