Building My Home Theater: The First Post

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 1/4/2008 12:00 AM EST


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  • geotech - Sunday, January 06, 2008 - link

    I just found this article, and, wow.

    Simply amazing, I want one so bad.
    Best idea I've heard in a long time. The chairs are great!
    I'm keeping track of this one.
  • seanp789 - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    I've waited years to see something like this, a DIY HT project article. I want to do something similar in the future. Thank you for starting this. Reply
  • kristof007 - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    While I love all your blog posts a lot of them are a little too technical. However this post is awesome. Good luck and im excited for the new developments! Reply
  • Greenhell6 - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    Hey i don't work with you guys!! But i live Raleigh and would love to check it out!! Hey Anand i will hook you up with paper holders(work in building Biz) im sure this sounds creepY Reply
  • ejensen - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    Thanks for spending the time detailing this. For me it is timely because I am staring at a basement room with studs and paralyzed wondering what to do next and consumed with fear whatever I do will be the wrong thing. But you've given me some good direction, and I'm going to contact the consultants you've mentioned. I really look forward to Parts II, III, etc. of the blog. Keep them coming! Reply
  • wetwareinterface - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    for the automation look into lighting controllers for stage/live venue applications. several advantages over home theater designed products.

    1.far cheaper

    2.more features such as light rotation controlling, programmable custom scenes, colored lighting change possibilities, computer controlled via automation software on more feature rich models, several scenes stored locally on controller and can be activated by single button press

    3.can be used as light show to music if you decide to do some listening in the theater

    4. are easy to set up and use as they have several outputs on the rear panel and typically have several sliders and buttons on them to do seperate tasks vs. trying to program automation using onscreen prompts and a few buttons off a home theater lighting remote

    5. fully customizable light levels, timing of fades or instant on off functionality etc... basically not having to rely on presets built into the remote

    6. use midi as the transmission of controller signals so can be done with cable runs or using wireless midi converters

    as far as the screen automation goes...
    use a fixed screen and a movable cover panel or movable curtains.
    less issues and far cheaper to build.
    you can even use a garage door opener for a pulley system on curtains by putting a stop plate in the center where the curtains meet. open up the "clicker" and re-wire it to be "clicked" at all times and simply wire the battery leads to a universal ac/dc adapter with the ends stripped and set to the right voltage and have the lighting controller control when that power goes on too and simply mount the canabalized "clicker" near the projector.
  • Grooverider - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Fantastic work Anand, looking forward to seeing the final product. If I were better off fiscally I would love to start a similar project but for now it will remain my pipe dream. Fantastic renders! Reply
  • Toadster - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link">

    he hasn't update his page in a while, but his theater her in Cali was STELLAR and built it himself for about 1/10th the cost of a professional installer... he has a good hookup for theater seating, screens, popcorn makers, etc...

    Home Theater is a PASSION!
  • Bozo Galora - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Since you are squeezing out every last penny of savings during this project, it gives me an opening to ask about something I have always been curious about.
    During the peak of the dot com bubble, it was reported that Ray Sharkey got $55 million for his SharkeyExtreme website and that you were negotiating a $75 million payout for AT, and during that exact time the bubble burst and the deal collapsed.

    Still, AT must still be giving you handsome financial rewards, so I must assume the drive to DIY and save a few shekels is purely philosophical?

    click on portfolio">

    One guy that spent a million +, including $200 grand on just audio CABLES - lol">

    heres one system control that runs on IP protocol">
  • autoboy - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link


    You don't get rich by spending money like it was free. Frugal people that get rich stay frugal. They may buy more toys, but those toys are bargains. Even when you are rich there there is a satisfaction that you got more than you paid for.

    Also, even if Anand DID sell for 75M, it is pretty unlikely that he owns more than 50% of the company so any payout would be less than $35M, and with $35M you can pretty much do what you want, but you are sure not going to spend $1M on a single room?! That would be retarded. I'm speaking from experience BTW.
  • B Huggy - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Glad to see you've chosen to go with a projector. For the money, you get at least double the diagonal size by going with a projector compared to a TV.

    Which projector are you going to pick? I've had my eye on the Mitsubishi HC5000 but it's still a bit pricey, in the $3700-$4700 range depending on who you source it from. For you, though, I'm guessing that that would be in your price range, so give it a look. (">

    Also, have you given any thought to the screen material and projector tuning?
  • Hulk - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link">

    Isomax kinetics clips. They are the best way to isolate the drywall from the ceiling joists. Plus they are nearly impossible to short circuit as often happens with various hat channel or z channel methods.

    I spent the last year finishing my basement and building a home theater. As a mechanical engineer you can bet I researched every possible angle.
  • Tiamat - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Thats quite a nice project you have going on there! B.Pape is a nice fellow, he definitely knows his stuff! I look forward to reading the updates on your HT as they come! Reply
  • LEKO - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Always feel like this when I see personal projects like that...

    A bit too much, but if Anand have spare money, it's a way to spend it. But seriously, is this necessary? You could go to theater for years for the same amount of money!

    But, overall, it's a very nice project.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Oh it's absolutely not necessary, but I figure it's a good investment, I get to learn about a different area of technology and it'll make a great room for projector reviews :)

  • nowayout99 - Sunday, January 06, 2008 - link

    Ah ha!

    Projector reviews = the room is a tax write-off. ;)
  • treehugger87 - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Home Theatres are becoming a very popular addition to high-end homes, and since you're building at 150k setup for 40k, i'd say thats one hell of an investment, and you'll probably see that in re-sale. Reply
  • Choppedliver - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    People need food , water , and shelter. I doubt he "needs" it. He wants it, is that not good enough reason?

    This is about enjoying your success. He can do afford it, so why not.

    I hate movie theatres, but love movies. If I had the money, I would do the exact same thing.
  • miahallen - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Very nice work Anand, I'm jealous...I'm sure most of us are. But a 12' screen. Are you going to use only 1080p??? Because at 12', that's going to be a bit'll need higher resolution...a smaller screen...or lots of AA for gaming. :D

    Enjoy, I look forward to your updates!

    PS I'm currently using a 32" Sharp @ 1080p for my computer monitor (sitting right in front of me on my desk), I love large screen gaming!
  • miahallen - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    PPS. In my living room, my HTPC is hooked up to my Mitsubishi 48" RPTV at 1080i, with a 5.1 surround sound setup...that's where I watch all my movies. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Oh don't congratulate me on good work, you're just looking at Ryan's renders right now, wait till you start seeing the things I screwed up along the way :)

    1080p is unfortunately the best you can get as far as movie content goes these days, and I don't even want to think about how much JVC's 4K projector is going to be. I ended up with the JVC RS2 and in my opinion that was too much of an expenditure given it'll be worth about half what I paid in 12 months, I wanted the 8800 GT of 1080p projectors. It could've been worse I guess ;)

    Your setup sounds awesome, I've been watching movies on a very temporary setup ever since I moved in here because I kept telling myself that I was just going to build a theater and it didn't make sense to waste any time setting anything else up. Almost two years later and I'm actually close.
  • miahallen - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    LOL, yeah I figured...but I'm sure it won't me more than a few years ad you'll have had a few super HD (4K or similar) projectors in and out of there. ;)

    Here is an older gallery of my HTPC setup in the living room (I only have the 48" hooked up now, the CRT monitor was temporary.">

    Here is a thread at SPCR about my office/gaming rig with a 1080p 32" Sharp.">

    I agree with the digital library comment above Anand. I have my movie collection ripped into the XviD format upscaled to 1/2 1080p (2:35 means most my movies are a resolution of about 960x400) with high quality settings and using the original AC3 soundtracks. My average movie is about 2.5GB so my entire collection (about 200 titles right now) eats up only about 500GB and is DVD quality. I store all the movies on my office PC and stream them to my HTPC on demand, keeps the noise down in the living room (I like that one to be very quite).
  • Jaguar36 - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    So not to bring up any bad questions, but what sort of budget are you looking at for the home theater? Looks like you're talking at least $15k just for the seats. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    There was no set budget for the theater - as little as possible was sort of my goal, there weren't going to be any $100K expenditures here. I expected to be able to complete all of the construction, including equipment and everything in the theater for less than $40K.

    The same local AV shop that I mentioned in this post wanted $150K to build the theater, so if I can stay at 1/4 of that I should be able to get away with a decent investment that doubles as supremely entertaining :)

    Also, I'll talk about this more in a separate post, but I didn't pay MSRP for anything in the theater. There's a ridiculous amount of markup built into anything that goes into a home theater, and I did my best to navigate around that :)

    Take care,
  • jzodda - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Those renderings look flat out amazing, and you have been able to pull it all off at around $40k? Thats also amazing. Can't wait to hear more about this project. I also have spent time reading that exact same thread at AVS, many months ago. That's a great forum and its where I get all my info for every TV and receiver I have ever bought the past 7 or more years. There are some very knowledgeable people who frequent that site.

  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    I think < $40K is quite possible, honestly my biggest expenditure to date is buying the damn seats for the theater. That was the only item I wasn't able to circumnavigate the dealer network for, and believe me I tried. Reply
  • sfreak - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    I just had to sign up regarding this. It is looking spectacular one could say. All the best of luck with it thats for sure. I can't wait for future posts regarding.

    I've been wanting to do something similar for quite a while. I just don't have the house yet(working on it), but I've moved from Computing to DIY Speakers/Audio last few years and learnt a lot regarding.

    Just once again, those renders look sweet. And hope you don't to many hiccups!
  • Greif - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    so your speakers will be hidden behind those half-posts, correct?

    If I'm not mistaken, are those your 2 front speakers on the sides? shouldn't they be on the front?
  • yknott - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    I think the front speakers are going to be behind the front wall since it is acoustically transparent. The first set of columns I'm guessing are dummies and are just there for show. The second set of columns(rear) will house the side channels. The rear set of columns will house the rear right and rear left channels.

    I'm guessing Anand is going for a 7.1 system.

    On a side note, keep the posts coming Anand! I'm in the planning stages of a DIY HT room as well, and I'm interested in how yours turns out. Looks like fun!
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    The system I ended up with is a 7.2 actually, that's three speakers around the screen (left, right and center), four surround speakers (hidden in the four columns on the rear riser, the front two columns have no speakers) and two subs.

    All of the surfaces in the room are acoustically transparent so I can hide the speakers, the three main speakers are hidden behind the false wall.

    Oh there are many more posts to come :)

  • Anh Huynh - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    Are you going to go with Swan Speakers for the audio setup? :) I take it John will be your audio consultant?

    I'm curious to what you'll be running for a receiver/amps, and Blu-ray or HD DVD, or both :D
  • madgonad - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Do you have an option, using your visually appealing column design, to pre-build for likely technology improvements? Specifically the likely bump to 10.2 which adds high and wide surrounds, puts subs on the left and right, and leaves a single rear center channel. The concealed speaker areas are a great idea, and will be future proof if the likely expansion locations are pre-constructed and wired with speaker, line, and power cabling. You may be able to jump from 7.2 to 10.2 painlessly by adding the speakers and an updated receiver/amplifier. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    I can always stick stuff in the front two columns, but anything more elaborate and I'd be looking at a rebuild. It gets easier after the first time right? ;)
  • Allen Iverson - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Now thats a home theatre I'd be proud of. I particularly like the lighting and star ceiling. One thing I think will be great in your HT is a snack bar/fridge bar in built into the walls so it doesn't distract from the ambience. The last thing you want is white snack fridge and visible power cables.

    You must have some courage to go the DIY route! It seems mighty complicated. Whats your timeline for the project going to be?
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    The project is already well beyond what you see in this first post :) I've been working on it since August and I expect that the theater will be watchable by February. I don't expect full automation to be done for months after that though, I haven't had time to put much thought into how I'm going to architect all that yet.

    The original idea was to have something web-based and with an iPhone-optimized version also available. The idea is that most home theaters use these expensive touch screens, so why not have a "remote" that uses the best touch screen on the market today? We'll see, that may be too lofty of a goal :)

    Take care,
  • EODetroit - Monday, January 07, 2008 - link

    Can I come over to watch the NCAA Tournament? My Louisville friend's basement not seeming quite as nice any more!
  • Havor - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    Hey Anand looks like your well on your way till now :D

    A tip for your Media Center software

    I have bin busy whit HTPC’s sins the first XBMC came out for the Xbox
    (even before that I tried but HTPC soft/hardware then was mostly crap)

    I have run a lot of Media Center (MC) I tried almost all MCs from Myth to MediOS and some others but noting was beating XBMC

    Now a days I run the free OS [url="> ]MediaPortal[/url] (MP) whit the TV-server they developed.

    MP was a spin-off from one of the original dev. of XBMC because he felt the XBMC was holding him back whit the options he wanted from a MC and found MS-MCE way to limited so he ported the XBMC to use as a HTPC

    Its based on .NET and runs on any machine that can run that

    Almost everything you wane do whit a MC you can do whit it, and then some more.
    There are loads of plugins you can use like, automation, Audio/(web)Radio, EPG/TV, My Daily Comics (what I really love), Torrent client., ect. ect.,

    And there are some really nice skins out there for MP
    My favorit skins [url=">]Xface[/url] 9/16 and [url=,...">,...]PM III[/url] 3/4 skin
    I like dark skins but there are lots more, and also brighter skins and even some weird skins.

    MP works almost strait “out of the box” you have to follow a first setup install and install your codec’s and then it works like all other MC’s.
    But if you put some extra time in, there are lots of options ware you can fine tune it like a race car it’s a bit of work but then, but when your done it will also handle like one and you have full control.

    PM supports a lot of TV cards but at least all hardware that’s made for MS-MCE works under MP

    I run now 4 HTPC in my house and they are all connected to my TV-server.

    One whit top hardware for HD media, that’s connected to a 1080p TV and projector, and a Harmon Kardon 7.1 DD receiver.

    And the tree other ones that are based on the [url=">]VIA EPIA EX-series Mini-ITX [/url]
    Two are connected to 720p TV’s in bedroom’s,
    And one fitted whit a 15” LCD touch’s screens build in a kitchen wall to use as MC but also to look up recipe’s and so on. (plugin)

    I have installed my TV-card’s (3x sat and 1x dual tuner digital cable TV-card) in the TV-server that is used also as a A/V file-serer

    I have bin looking at the SandmanX tread at AVforum one thing I don’t understand is the fascination whit big touch screens

    I have a Logitech [url=">]Harmony 1000/url], but I still uses my old harmony 880 more because it got real buttons and I can still do anything I want/need whit it.
    And in the bedroom I use the MS-MCE remote and I almost prefer that one over the Logitech one’s its simple and dose what it needs to do, its all you really need.
    (but if I need to pick one now, I would properly get a harmony 890)

    I don’t know if MP fits your bill, but I will give it a good chance ;)

    But as your are a news site why not combine pleasure whit work and test the different MCs and tell what you think about them and of course what you going to use :-)
  • JarredWalton - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    ...AnandTech staffers are eager for their boss to finish building and throw a nice party and invite us over. I figure one of these days I should actually go out an visit my boss' house, right? (Plane tickets optional.) :) Reply
  • Greenhell6 - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    Hey i don't work with you guys!! But i live Raleigh and would love to check it out!! Hey Anand i will hook you up with paper holders(work in building Biz) im sure this sounds creepY Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    You're always welcome Jarred. Team building at my place :)

    Do you think we can get all of the ATers to agree on movie selection?
  • strikeback03 - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Does any of the Anandtech staff actually work in the same location? Or is everyone just spread across the globe?

    Might want to delete the comment about charging admission before the MPAA sends lawyers to check out your new toy.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    For the most part, we're spread out but we're slowly building these groups across the globe.

    Derek and I are both in Raleigh, Jarred and Ryan are both in the northwest, Gary is assembling a team in Texas, Wes runs New York and Johan is building a group in Belgium.

    The MPAA probably won't like my idea for a HTPC then either. I'm done with the format wars, I want to rip everything to a gigantic storage array. :)
  • crazySOB297 - Saturday, January 05, 2008 - link

    Just thought I'd mention if any assistance was needed in Dallas for the Texas guys to let me know. I'm in college and have waayyy too much spare time ;) Reply
  • rykerabel - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    is there any other way?

    Seriously, who wants to get up to change tape/dvd/hddvd/bray or pay for a robotic system?

    With available Terrabyte drives, there's no better option.
  • Paazel - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    300 in HD. Seriously killer soundtrack! Reply
  • ltfields - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    I've got your first movie, Master and Commander with Russell Crowe. I built my HT about 18 months ago, have watched almost 200 movies in it since then, and nothing in my collection has topped seeing and hearing the splinters flying around during the battle sequences. 300 came close though, but nothing has topped M&C. Good luck to you sir, and hopefully not too many things got "borked"... Reply
  • sjm79 - Tuesday, July 05, 2011 - link

    Does anyone know if this was ever continued if so where is it.?

  • mhazelson - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    Having your own home theater can be such a cool experience, and will really make your home the place to be. There are lots of different ways to do it, but when it comes to actually setting up the sound and projector, it's good to have some professionals on your side. Since it's the most important part, putting it in the hands of those who do this kind of thing for a living will make sure that your experience will be unforgettable. Reply

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