Brian’s Home Theaters & Hi-Fi
Movin’ On Up to a Truly Immersive Home Theater
When this couple built their 12,000-square-foot dream home outside Nashville, they called Brain Warford, who had designed and installed a home theater in a converted garage for them nearly ten years earlier while he was with a different company.
This time around, as the President of his own Nashville-based Brian’s Custom Theaters & Hi-Fi, Warford was engaged to design and install the whole-house automation and control, distributed entertainment, lighting, and security systems for the couple’s new home, located on a sprawling 65 acres and “right across the street from the horse farm that their kids and grandkids live on.”
With such a grand-sized home, these empty nesters knew they were going to need a high level of control and automation. “They wanted to build a state-of-the-art home with all the electronic goodies. When they learned about the features that Control4 had to offer, including the ability to access their systems from anywhere in the world with their phones, they were interested,” says Warford.
Ease of use was paramount. All of the home systems, from the surveillance and security system to the lighting, temperature, and entertainment systems are integrated and controlled through Control4. To ensure a consistent experience, the on-screen graphical user interface (GUI) used to operate the Control4 system is identical across every type of display device, including portable and in-wall Control4 touchscreens, the Control4 mobile app for phones and tablets, as well as the interface displayed on the 10-plus televisions located around the home. “We’re controlling more than 100 lighting loads in the house,” Warford states. “It’s a well-integrated system, and the ease and convenience of using the system helps them feel secure and comfortable in the house.”
High Impact, Immersive Entertainment
When it came to designing the home theater, Warford says, “The clients really wanted something that was several steps above the first home theater in terms of the overall scale and impact of the system.”
Knowing that the couple had entrusted him with providing the best quality image, Warford called the Atlanta headquarters of Digital Projection (DP). He had been selling DP projectors for several years and has a great relationship with them. “So when I talked to Digital Projection I said, ‘I know I want a 3-chip, and I’m thinking about this HIGHlite model.’” With seating for 12 people, the home theater measured approximately 18 feet wide by 30 feet long, and the Vutec screen was 12 feet wide (152-inch diagonal), which meant the projector needed to have enough light output. They recommended that I look at the HIGHlite series for this application.
“Of course with 100 percent lighting control in that room, I went for the higher contrast ratio and chose the HIGHlite 330 HC 3-chip DLP projector,” he says. The projector has a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a full on/off contrast of 20,000:1, and is capable of up to 3,000 lumens. “You don’t have a color wheel in there as you would with a 1-chip DLP, so you don’t have any chance of anybody seeing any kind of moiré patterns. The color is very natural, very life-like, and there’s plenty of light output. Plus, Digital Projection does a great job at producing blacks with their light engine, so I concluded that it was a really good choice.”
DP calibrates the projectors before they get shipped, says Warford. “So if you bring up their 6,500-degree kelvin setting, they guarantee that right out of the box the grayscale is going to be accurate. Once we got the projector hung, the curtains up, and everything finished in the room, I used Joe Kane’s HD Basics Blu-ray to fine-tune the sharpness, the brightness, and the contrast, and really dial the projector in.” A 2.35:1 Panamorph anamorphic lens with a motorized sled was attached to the projector so movies can be viewed in the native aspect ratio.
To complete the immersive movie-watching experience, Warford chose the JBL Synthesis One system. “When you get into a room as large as that one and your primary goal is movie playback, I believe that horn drivers do that really well,” he says. The Synthesis One System includes the preamp processor, digital equalization, amplifiers, and a total of 12 speakers. The left, center, and right units are two speaker cabinets each, including high and low frequency units. Additionally, “We’ve got two of their big, 18-inch subwoofers in the front corners, and four JBL Synthesis large, in-wall, surround speakers.”
“We had an engineer from JBL come down and do the professional calibration of the room with the digital EQs. He measured the room and calibrated the speakers so that we’ve got a certified frequency response in the room.”
Brain’s Custom Theaters & Hi-Fi created a customized acoustical wall system and panels to combat the challenges of the slopped ceilings, and to also achieve the right balance of reflection, absorption, and diffusion in the sound field.
There’s never a shortage of movies or shows to watch in this home theater. A Fusion Research Premier Movie Server and an attached eight-terabyte hard drive can hold hundreds of movies and DVDs. The movies can be easily accessed from the Control4 on-screen interface. A Sony Blu-ray player is available if someone wants to pop in a movie that hasn’t been recorded into the library. DIRECTV turns the theater into a comfortable place to watch favorite shows and sports.
Creating a Fun Lifestyle
While only two people live in the Nashville home, every room and space inside—and outside—the home was designed with family in mind.
The family gathers in the home theater after Thanksgiving dinner to watch a special movie that has been a long-standing tradition. The game room located off the home theater is always active with grandkids, and the attic playroom provides another fun outlet.
The couple worked with landscape and pool architects to create a playground for their kids and grandkids. Televisions are located in the pool house, the cooking area, and porches.
The pool area is for music—loud music. Sitting on 65 acres there were no worries about bothering the neighbors. Warford consulted with the engineers at James Loudspeakers. “We put in two subterranean subwoofers in corner areas up against the house. We’re using the walls of the house to reinforce the base, and then we have eight satellite speakers distributed evenly around the upper and lower areas of the pool, plus we have speakers under the eaves in the ceiling of the pool house and the porch of the main house. Two amplifiers drive the pool area—one for the subwoofer and one for the eight satellites. All together, that allows them to play music pretty much as loud as they want.”
Home Theater Acoustics—The Process
The sloped ceilings and hollow walls of the Nashville home theater posed some acoustical challenges. Brain’s Custom Theaters & Hi-Fi created the custom acoustic wall system and panels. Brian Warford shares his process:
“In the area behind the screen, on the upper part of the wall, we used cotton denim batts. The lower part where you see the pink insulation, we actually stuffed that entire cavity with batts of insulation to create about an 18-foot-wide x 3-foot-deep x 4-foot-high bass trap. The bass response in that room is not lacking, and with the bass trap and the professional calibration it’s just really, really even and smooth.
The LCR speakers are located behind the woven, acoustically transparent screen from Vutec. Every surface behind the screen is absorptive. I used the polyethylene foam packing material and glued it down to the ledge we built behind the screen to hold the LCR speakers in place and to isolate them from making the screen vibrate, and we worked to get them in far enough from the sidewalls to minimize reflections.
We measured to get the absorptive materials in the right place to catch that reflection off the front speakers, and then we left the areas around the surround speakers mostly drywall to get as much reflection and diffusion in the sound field as we could.
Then we built the acoustical panels on the wall, and alternated between absorption and reflection so that we didn’t overly damp the room. I can’t stand over-damped rooms.”
EQUIPMENT AND SYSTEM HIGHLIGHTS
Digital Projection HIGHlite 330 HC 3-chip DLP Projector
Vutec 153-inch, 2.35:1, Vision XWF SoundScreen
Panamorph 2.35:1 Anamorphic Lens with Automated Transport System
JBL Synthesis One Array, 7.2 Multichannel Bi-amp Cinema and Music System
Fusion Research Premiere Movie Server
Brian's Custom Theaters 8 Terabyte NAS Hard Drive
Gefen HDMI EDID Detector/Recorder
Sony Blu-ray Player
Perfect Path Cables High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
Straight Wire Speaker Cable
SurgeX Surge Eliminator and Power Conditioner
Brian's Custom Theaters Custom Acoustic Wall System and Panels
Control4 Room Automation and AV Control
Overall Home and Outdoor Areas
Control4 Whole House Automation and Control
Control4 Lighting and HVAC Control
Control4 Distributed Audio System
Control4 Portable, and In-wall Touchscreens (some with cameras)
Control4 iOS App
Samsung 65-inch LED Backlit Slim Panel HDTV
Marantz 7.2 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Flat Panel TVs Throughout (32-, 46-, and 52-inch)
SnapAV Episode 700-Series In-Ceiling Speakers
Living Sounds Audio LSA Bookshelf Monitors
James Loudspeaker Landscape Speakers and Amplifier
Perfect Path Cables
SnapAV WirePath Structured Wire and Panels
Straight Wire Speaker Wire
SurgeX Surge Eliminator and Power Conditioner
Middle Atlantic Equipment Racks
Wilson Electronics Signal Boosting Cell Phone Antenna System
GE Security System
Photography courtesy of ©Brian’s Custom Theaters & Hi-Fi