Home Theater

I always liked the theater, I just hated the loud, obnoxious people and high ticket price. Now what can you do about that? Build your own theater! Over the past couple of months I’ve been working on this major project. Come have a look-see!

I’ve always wanted my very own home theater. I can’t tell you how many times I have been disappointed after paying my fare to see a motion picture that gets completely ruined by annoying teenagers or screaming babies. However there has never been any alternative to fix the situation. Enter the home theater!

Front view of the theater.

Location selection was easy. I just needed a dark little hole big enough to fit my projector, screen, and seating. The perfect choice was obviously the basement. A new basement for a matter of fact, we just completed renovations to our home that included doubling the size of the existing basement. This allowed half for my disposal and half for my sister to meddle with.

Back view of the theater.

I won’t go into any boring details about the actual construction of the room. It was just a little framing, sheet rock, and paint. I will say that in order to hide the floor joist from sight, we installed a drop ceiling. Instead of using standard ceiling tiles, I chose to use the plastic “light cover” type tiles. It looks cool, but isn’t very sound friendly. (Low bass will make the tiles vibrate!)

Optoma HD70 Mounted to the ceiling.

Long before erecting walls I started buying my equipment. I already had a decent surround sound system. It’s a little aged, but its still got 5.1 surround and 700 watts of audible power. It took a while for me to decide on a projector. I was looking for the perfect price to quality ratio. I finally chose the Optoma HD70. It’s capable of 720p high definition and has a 16:9 native aspect ratio. Plus, I got it on sale for under a grand!

110" Screen mounted on the wall.

While saving money on the projector was nice, saving money on the screen was even better. Instead of buying a screen I constructed one. I made a frame for it out of 2×4s and bought some actual screen material from an online store. After the frame was built, I stretched the material over and secured it with clamping devices on both sides and to keep it tight, I used double-sided carpet tape. I feel bad I didn’t get any good pictures of the actual assembly, but you can see the final product. The screen is a 110″ diagonal measurement. Actual measurements are 96″ wide by 54″ high which makes for a perfect 16:9 ratio for a 10 foot display.

Remote controlled dimming wall sconces.

I have initially installed two sets of lights. One set of florescent lights mounted in the ceiling I can use when I actually need to see. The second set are wall sconces that are connected to a remote control dimmer switch that allows me to dim the lights whenever the movie’s starting. These are mounted between the rear speakers and the screen, out of forward view while seated.

Indiana Jones trilogy! Of course!

Finished screen with hidden wires.

After throwing down some carpet and more paint, it was time to work on some ascetics. I put up some bills from my favorite movies and hid the speaker wires the best I could. I also setup my home theater PC as the center to all my entertainment. I shoved it in the room under the steps (behind the screen) along with some miscellaneous A/V equipment.

The Blue Bar!

Before everything was said and done, I added a good bar in the rear section of the theater. It has really added a lot of value to the room. It also gives something else to do instead of watch movies. Building the bar is a post in itself. So, I’ll just leave it at that.

Comfy Chairs

The last step was of course one of the most important, seating! I looked everywhere for some nice theater seating that would actually fit into my area. I finally found what I was looking for, cup holders included. My parents actually bought it for me as a Christmas gift. Thanks! I know what you’re thinking though, “You only have enough seating for two people, what’s up with that?” Well, I do plan on adding another row of seating. Most likely it’ll be my old futon on a raised platform behind these seats. Note, ticket prices vary.

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Blue Bar!

Some may say that it’s a sign of alcoholism, I say it’s a necessity! A bar is a great addition to an entertainment room. I’ve been mixing drinks as kind of a hobby for a while and it’s always been awkward having to work off the top microwaves and card tables. I figured it was high time to get more professional and build my very own bar.

Some may say that it’s a sign of alcoholism, I say it’s a necessity! A bar is a great addition to an entertainment room. I’ve been mixing drinks as kind of a hobby for a while and it’s always been awkward having to work off the top of microwaves and card tables. I figured it was high time to get more professional and build my very own bar.

As with all projects of this caliber, you need to plan. I first sat down with pencil and paper to figure out exactly what I wanted. Once I had the dimensions, I used some masking tape and made an outline on the floor where I wanted to build. This allowed me to see exactly how big it was going to be. I did decide to make it a little smaller after seeing how big it would have been with the original specs.

Framed out with 2x4s.

Here’s the bar framed out in 2×4s. I planned for it to be roughly 8 feet long by 3 feet from the wall when complete. As you can see it fits the area just right!

Back side of the bar framed out with 2x4s.

Framing out the bar didn’t take very long and really gives you an idea of what the end product will look like. After framing the bar out the next steps were to add the sides, shelves, plyboard on the top, trim, and start laying out the tiles. I got a little busy doing all that and forgot to take pictures.

Bar almost done. Laying out the tiles!

I decided to paint the bar sharkfin grey with white trim to match the rest of the room. The siding is made from wainscot which is a pain to paint by the way. Also, painting the shelves was very awkward. I practically had to lay down to paint them.

Back side of bar with tile layout.

The final touch ups include the under-bar lights and grouting the tile. I purchased a xeon light kit from Lowes that was cheap and easy to install. The lights only worked one time, so I wouldn’t recommend them. Originally I had LED lights planed, but they’re on the expensive side.

Back view of the completed bar, showing off the lights.

The tile work wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Basically you get your tiles laid out just like you want them, glue them down, then grout. I wound up having to get about 15 tiles cut to make the top even. That’s not a big deal, I took them back to Lowes and they cut them for free.

Here's a better view of the booze shelf and lights.

Grouting the tiles is messy, but doesn’t take too long. The longest part is the number of times you have to sponge the tiles clean after you get finished. Using a vinegar water mixture, you have to keep wiping the tiles down until they’re spotless.

Here's the completed bar!

In the end, I have a really nice bar stocked and ready to entertain. Now where can I find some good bar stools?

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Modular Cat5 A/V Cables

Price of cables got you down? To hard to get that VGA cable exactly where you need it? In this mod I’ll take standard Cat5 cable, yes the stuff you network your computer with, and show you how to make quick and dirty modular A/V cables. They look somewhat professional too.

For Christmas my dad received a nice new BIG LCD TV. Wanting to get the most out of his new TV and move into the HTPC age the only thing standing in the way of getting the computer connected was cabling. With no room to house a computer near the television, cables would need to be run nearly 30 feet in order to reach the display. As you may know cables of this length can be expensive and VGA cables are quite thick to try and run through a wall. So thinking like a true modder, copper wire is copper wire.

I had a few different ideas of how to connect the computer to the TV. There are a number of inputs available, the two I was mostly concerned about were the VGA and the component inputs for video. While researching the pin-out of your standard VGA cable I came across this site. My first thought? That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.

While mounting the television, we went ahead and ran two cat5 cables downstairs and placed a wall plate behind the TV. This is where the modular part comes in. The wall plate has two standard cat5 punchdown blocks installed which will allow me to make whatever type of cable I need for the TV and add an RJ45 connector to the end.


VGA Connector and hood.

The first cable I decided to make was the VGA side to connect the PC. All that’s needed is a strand of network cable, a male 15-pin HD D-Sub connector (VGA Connector) along with the metal hood, and a little soldering skill.

Cat5 wire with outer shielding removed.

Cat5 stripped and ready to be soldered.

First step is to prep the network cable. Cut the outer shield from the cable about two inches back and then use some wire strippers to prepare the wire pairs for soldering.

Connector and cable ready to be soldered.

Soldering can be a little tricky if you don’t have a set of “helping hands” to hold the connector and wire while you work. I would also suggest soldering the middle row of posts first, it’s a little easier.

The pinout for the VGA Cable is:

VGA Connector

  1. red video — connect to Orange
  2. green video — connect to Green
  3. blue video — connect to Blue
  4. ID2 — no connection
  5. ground — no connection
  6. red ground — connect to Orange/White
  7. green ground — connect to Green/White
  8. blue ground — connect to Blue/White
  9. key pin — no connection
  10. sync ground — no connection
  11. ID0 — no connection
  12. ID1 — no connection
  13. Horizontal Sync — connect to Brown
  14. Vertical Sync — connect to Brown/White
  15. ID3 — no connection

Finished soldering!

After you get started, it doesn’t take long to finish up the soldering. As you may have noticed I decided to add a little bit of shrink tube around the leads to make things look neater.

Finished VGA to Cat5 cable.

The last step is to screw the hood assembly together and add a standard RJ45 (type B) connection to the end. This cable is ready to plug into the computer and head straight to the wall jack.

Component Cable

I originally thought I could adapt the VGA signal from the computer to a component input for the TV. I found that I was mistaken. It’s possible, but you need an extra device called a scan converter and I really didn’t want any extra devices in between. Of course, I didn’t discover this until I had already made my component end. (I wound up making a second VGA cable to run to the TV.) But, if you’re just wanting a component cable here’s how you make one.

Metal Phono Plug with solder leads.

You will need three RCA phono plugs for this cable. I found some rather cheap ones here. You can get cheap looking plastic ones, but I would rather spend the extra 10 cents and get the cool metal ones. Just like in the above cable, you will need to prep your network cable for soldering by stripping the wires.

The pinout this time is:

  • RED Positive (PIN) — Orange
  • RED Negative (Shield) — Orange/White
  • BLUE Positive (PIN) — Blue
  • BLUE Negative (Shield) — Blue/White
  • GREEN Positive (PIN) — Green
  • GREEN Negative (Shield — Green/White

Soldering the phono plugs.

Again, having a set of helping hands really helps the process. These plugs are really easy to solder compared to the VGA type connector. I suggest soldering the center lead first. Otherwise you might run into a wire length problem. (I know from my first attempt.) The other lead allows you to stick the wire through a small hole and solder it directly to the flat plate. Be sure to put the shield and shrink wrap on before soldering the leads, it’s no fun having to unsolder something when you think you’ve done such a good job.

Finished component cable

Again, you finish up by crimping the RJ45 connector to the end. The finished product is a fairly nice looking modular component cable. I left the brown pair looped around the cable, just in case I need to add a connector in the future.

AUDIO Cables

Audio cables are just as easy to make as the component cables, in fact they’re identical. Only this time you only need two phono plugs instead of three. That is if you’re just looking for simple stereo sound. If you’re going for multi-channel audio you’ll need a few more phono plugs, but keep in mind you only have four pairs of wires to work with. That translates to four total sound channels. Although if your devices permit a digital coaxial input/output, then you could just use the brown pair from the previous cable.

Stereo audio cables.

The pinout I used for the stereo audio cable was:

  • RED Positive (PIN) — Orange
  • RED Negative (Shield) — Orange/White
  • WHITE Positive (PIN) — Green
  • WHITE Negative (Shield) — Green/White

As you can see, making custom cables doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. They can be pretty much any leangth you want them to be, up to around 50 feet. With the modular ability of the RJ45 jacks, you can estimate exactly how any pairs of wire you need to complete your home theater connections and take care of all your wiring with the cables I’ve shown you and they’ll look neat and tucked away behind your equipment. So, don’t ever let that sales rep. talk you into over priced Monster Cables!

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