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My Home Theater

My topic this month should be the slowing economy and the effect that it is having on the custom installation business. Instead, Ill save that discussion for my one-on-one conversations at CEDIA Management Conference later this month, turning instead to the inspiring news that the once-mighty and unbeaten Patriots were finally toppled by the very surprising New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

If youve read this column regularly, you may recall that I attended last years Super Bowl in Miami. I wrote that by experiencing the Super Bowl in person, I actually missed the comforts of my own home, where the resolution of the TV was almost as good as the real thing, I could control the volume of the auditory experience, and I could participate in the American tradition of criticizing dumb Super Bowl commercials. What I also admitted at the time, however, was that my experience at Super Bowl XLI delivered something that a home theater could not: the tactile reality of pouring rain in the tropical Miami night. Though not exactly pleasant, wet socks and soggy pants cuffs provided a convincing reminder that there is a big difference between realistic and real.

This year, on Super Bowl Sunday, in my new house in the suburbs, I got closer to real than ever before. For the past seven months, Ive been putting the pieces together for a real home theater, like those many of you install for your big-time clients. Its still a work in progress, but I got pretty close to my goal by game time.

Before I moved from New York to Indiana last June, I had acquired a Niles StageFront 5.1 speaker system to start the project. Next came a TGR-3 (Theater Grand Receiver) from Sunfire and both fire-rated speaker wire and HDMI cables from Tributaries. It was then time to use the installation skills that Id picked up from my CI friends over the years. It wasnt easy, thats for sure. Through the process, I gained even greater respect for the work that you all do, especially in retrofits.

Fortunately for me, I have a drop ceiling in my finished basement. That made running wire relatively easy, though I still had to fish speaker wire down the walls to the LCRs and rears, which was made more challenging by very tightly compressed insulation behind the sheetrock. I mounted the boxy, but robust, Niles LCRs on simple shelves along the front wall and hung the beautifully designed Niles surrounds on the sidewalls.

Installation of the screen, a 120-inch diagonal beauty from Screen Research, was my big challenge. Assembling the parts, which arrived via freight from France in two imposing wooden crates, was not the hardest part. The difficulty was hanging the Clear Pix, Xmask screen three feet in front of the wall to accommodate my LCRs. Thanks to the generous support of my mechanical engineer step dad, Victor Dorsten, and my home improvement mentor dad, Joe Glowacki (and some much appreciated heavy lifting from brothers Chris and Todd, and step mom Leslie) over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, we got the job done with some inventive twists.

Less than two weeks ago, I finished the screen frame with fabric and finally added a major piece of the puzzle: a Runco RS-1100 Ultra 1080p DLP projector with AutoScope. After some assistance from Ken Whitcomb, a local Runco calibration professional, I was nearly ready for the big game. The last detail before Super Bowl Sunday was installing a very intuitively designed Peerless PRG mount in my back storage room, cutting a 10×10 portal widow in the wall, and hanging the RS-1100 from the ceiling. A few tweaks later helped the Runco becomes a Runco, and the game look about as close to the real thing as the real thing.