Friday, May 31, 2013

Take the Fun Outside: Building Your Own Outdoor Home Theater

Woman at Outdoor Cinema Before Showtime
Image from istockphoto.com
Now that summer is here, many of us are looking at our outdoor decks and thinking “movie night”. While it is easy enough to take your laptop or tablet outside to watch a flick, nothing beats the experience of a full-size outdoor theater. There is something nostalgic about sitting under the stars and watching a movie with family and friends. For older people, it brings back memories of drive-in theaters with window mounted speakers. For others, it may be a whole new experience that creates whole new memories. Either way, nothing beats sitting outside with your favorite drink and some freshly grilled BBQ while watching a great movie on the big screen.

Setting up your own home theater is not as expensive as it sounds. The idea is to watch a movie outside, not try to replicate the 5.1 surround sound of your inside home theater. Drive in theaters were nowhere near IMAX quality anyway. A decent outdoor venue can be created with a homemade screen, consumer level projector and receiver, standard stereo speakers and a laptop/Blu-Ray player/game console or set-top box. A simple setup like this is also desirable in case you need to take everything inside if Mother Nature decides to crash the party.

Sound: For the outdoors, a simple 2-channel stereo setup is ideal for two reasons. The first is ambient outdoor noise. There is no way to completely shut out ambient outdoor noise without walls and insulation. The second reason is that you do not want to annoy your neighbors and people the next block over with ground-shaking bass. Teenagers with oversized car stereos already have a lock on that.

This brings up a good point. Always invite your neighbors to your outdoor screenings. This lets them know about your planned event even if they can’t attend.

Picture: Unless you have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on your home theater setup, you will need to wait until it is dark before showtime. When you set up your screen, make sure that outside light pollution like a neighbor’s porch light or street lamp does not interfere with the picture. Even a full moon can detract from the picture’s quality. A screen can be as simple as an ironed bed sheet strung up on a wall, or a sophisticated inflatable screen like the Airscreen Airtight. Any consumer-grade projector will work fine as long as it is set up properly. Many projector set-up guides exist online to help you find the perfect projection angle. Likewise, the Web has numerous tutorials on building your own screen for indoor or outdoor use.

Friday, May 24, 2013

TheaterSeatStore.com Offers Customers 3 Ways to Save this Memorial Day Weekend

TheaterSeatStore.com Memorial Day SaleAs Memorial Day Weekend ushers in the summer months and a plethora of cookouts, picnics, get-togethers and other social engagements, TheaterSeatStore.com has unveiled a new Memorial Day Sale that is designed to help you make the most of entertaining family and friends. This sale offers three different ways to save money and get ready for summer festivities quickly:

Free Power Recline on Klaussner Home Theater Seats – Klaussner makes some high quality home theater furniture, most of which is able to house motorized power recline mechanisms. Power recline works with a quiet motor that leans your chair back into any comfort angle. During the Memorial Day Sale, you can get a free power recline upgrade on any Klaussner home theater recliner except for the Twilight series (which cannot accept power recline). This promotion can be redeemed by calling (888) 602-7328 and speaking with one of our friendly and knowledgeable Sales Experts.

6% Off Everything Else – If you are not in the market for Klaussner Home Theater Seating, you can still enjoy a 6% discount on almost any other item on TheaterSeatStore.com. This discount is good for everything from home theater seating to Entertainment Centers and Accessories like popcorn makers. Products by Palliser, Catnapper and Jackson Furniture are not eligible. To take advantage of this discount, just enter the Coupon Code SIXTSS into the online shopping cart at checkout.

48 Hour Turnaround on Quick-Ship Items – This offer applies to those items that TheaterSeatStore.com has in stock. Every time a Quick-Ship item is purchased, TheaterSeatStore.com will ship that item within 48 hours of receiving the sales order. There is no charge for this service. This promotion is especially important to anyone who needs to receive their new purchase in a short amount of time. The promotion automatically applied to all Quick-Ship items, so the customer does not need to do anything more than complete the order.

You need to act fast if you want to take advantage of this sale. It will end on Tuesday May 28, 2013 after Memorial Day Weekend. Order now and get ready for summer fun!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Home Theater Highlights: The Top 3 Expensive Home Theaters of 2013

We’ve all thought about winning the lottery and what we would do with all of that cash. You could keep it in a giant vault to swim around in like Scrooge McDuck, or a better alternative would be to build a monumental home theater like the ones that we found below.

Star Trek Home Theater – Cost 3 Million: Images of this Star Trek themed home theater exist all
Home theater Looks Like Star Trek Enterprise Bridge
Image from geektyrant.com
over the Web. This residential home theater was designed for a hardcore Star Trek fan with deep pockets by ECS (who may not be in business anymore as their website link is broken). Exact instructions were given to the designers to keep the room as close to the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise as possible. With high-end video and audio systems, touchscreen control, seating for 9, concert style lighting and a commercial HVAC system, this home theater is closer to a commercial venue
Inside and Outside of Crimson Home Theater
Image by slaymancinema.com
than a home rec-room.

The Crimson Home theater – Cost 3 Million: Inspired by the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood, this 8,000 square foot theater has all the trappings of a movie palace of yesteryear. Designed by home theater designer Jason Vorhees and Slayman Cinemas, the Crimson Home Theater’s look was inspired by a single piece of red fabric. The Old World d├ęcor of this theater hides a sophisticated 18 speaker setup that delivers 8,400 watts of power. Add to that an 18 foot diagonal screen, and this old timey theater can showcase the latest blockbusters with ease.
One of the greatest features of this home theater is the opening which is made to resemble the front of an old movie palace.

The Kipnis’ Outer Limits Home Theater – Cost 6 Million: We have covered music producer Jeremy Kipnis’s home theater
Kipnis Outer Limits Home Theater Center
Image by kipnis-studio.com
, and it still stands at the pinnacle of home theater spending. The six-million dollar price tag of this huge home theater includes a 22 foot diagonal screen, no less than 20 audiophile-worthy Snell speakers, and a home theater setup that gets the best possible sound and video from anything from digital media and DVD’s to old formats like VHS and LaserDisc. Plus, a copy of the Kipnis Outer Limits Home theater can be yours! Just contact Jeremy Kipnis through his website for details.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Building Your Own Home Theater PC on the Cheap – DIY HTPC Systems Under $500

Laptop with folder and film reel symbols
Image from istockphoto.com
With so many different gadgets attached to your home theater system, you might ask why you need to add a PC (personal computer) into the mix. The answer is simple, a Home Theater Personal Computer, or HTPC is capable of integrating many of the tasks that previously required different components. These tasks include recording TV, watching steaming video, storing digital media files and playing music, to name a few. The best part about HTPCs is that they can cost very little money to build or program, even by computer novices. Also, HTPC’s can be configured to work with a remote, eliminating the need for a keyboard and mouse on your couch.

If you would rather purchase a fully functional HTPC off the shelf, there are many options available that still meet a low budget. Companies like Assassin HTPC and Performance PC offer complete systems for less than $500. System costs go up from there with high end systems available for thousands of dollars.

For those who don’t mind (or even relish) getting their hands dirty, here are three inexpensive ways to build your own HTPC:

Convert a New Computer – Computer manufacturers have created smaller computers called Small Form Factor for light computing tasks like internet browsing or running a cash register. Despite their size, these little PC’s pack enough processor and graphics power to stream HD quality video. They are also small and quiet so they won’t take up much space in your entertainment center. Ideal products include the Shuttle X350 and the ASUS EEE Box. As an added bonus, Windows 7 and 8 come with a Media Center that can do most of the tasks you need. For those who want to stay away from Microsoft, an Apple Mac Mini also makes a great HTPC with plenty of blogs and forums dedicated to it.

Convert an Old Computer – Most people have an old PC gathering dust in their closet or basement. These can easily be converted into powerful HTPC’s with very little money. All you need is an HD capable video card and the XMBC operating system. This Linux-based system is designed to control all of your media functions with very little memory usage. How-to guides and tutorials are available all over the web like this great article from Tech-2.

Build One from Scratch – For those who love to build things from scratch, the Raspberry Pi development kit is a perfect solution. This is a Linux-based computer board that is the size of a credit card and has enough computing and graphics power to make a good HTPC. It’s used for hardware development and DIY projects by students, hobbyists and entrepreneurs. Lifehacker, the DIY website, loves the Raspberry Pi and has a great tutorial on building a raspberry Pi HTPC.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Indianapolis – Area “Superman” Home Theater Goes the Distance with Style and Power

Superman Theme Home theater by Vikram Rao and Jeff Parkinson.
image from electronichouse.com
Vikram Rao did not originally set out to create a superhero-themed theater, but as his “Fortress of Solitude” took shape with high end components, professional sound-proofing and a striking red / blue / black color scheme, HT fans watching his progress on AVS Forum quickly dubbed it the Superman/Man of Steel Home Theater. Rao has been passionate about movies and music since childhood, so he spared no expense to transform a room in his basement into the ideal entertainment space. Rao hired many experts to help complete his vision, including custom home theater builder/contractor Jeff Parkinson, who brings his passion and mechanical engineering background into every project. As this massive project took shape, every detail was displayed on this AVS Forum thread that quickly grew to 32 pages.

Soundproofing: The room is built more like a bunker with 12-inch concrete walls on three sides, and rebuilt walls and ceiling are stuffed with R19 and R25 material. The wall studs (doubled for strength) hold four layers of drywall with Green Glue noise dampening compound in between each layer. The flooring hides acoustic rubber mats underneath the plush carpet, and the stage is filled with many bags of ordinary play sand.

Audio: The peak output of this massive sound system is 15,000 watts. Seaton Catalyst front speakers combine with JTR, Procella Audio speakers and an 18 inch sub to deliver rib-shaking sound that has driven some patrons from the room! Rao worked directly with JTR and Seaton Experts to get the system working perfectly. The seat riser also works as a bass trap to keep the sound from traveling to the rest of the house.

Video: The 144-inch Seymour Screen takes up the front of the room and is acoustically transparent to allow all sound from the front speakers and subwoofer to thunder through. Crisp video is delivered by an Epson Powerline Pro Cinema Projector. This is linked to an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-Ray Player and Sony PS3 to get the best out of DVD and Blu-Ray media.

Design: The Red, black and gray walls and floor are broken up by sweeping curved risers and soffits. Blue LED rope lighting runs throughout the theater and is hidden by custom-made wood lips. The glowing blue light contrasts nicely with plush red carpet, giving rise to the Superman/Man of Steel moniker. Six plush leather home theater seats provide the ideal seating for guests to enjoy movie night.

Electronic House Magazine recently interviewed Vikram Rao about his home theater. You can read the article here. For a jarring contrast, see their slideshow of 5 Bad DIY Theaters.