“My goal is to rarely ever go to a public movie theatre,” begins Hemant Naidu. “I love the theatre experience, but I can no longer handle the droves of inconsiderate patrons.”
As an ardent film fan with eclectic tastes, Hemant gravitates towards science fiction and political dramas. “I watch films over and over again, even if I don’t really care for them. It drives my wife nuts!
“I made a conscience decision to wait the three or four months for a film’s Blu-ray release. It’s just as cheap for me to buy a new release Blu-ray as it is for my wife and I to go to a public theatre. Having a good home theatre was critical in sticking to this plan.”
Hemant works as a software engineer, as well as a wedding photographer by day, but hatched a plan to build the ultimate home theatre experience for him and his family to enjoy.
“I am not a professional installer,” he tells CE Pro Eu. “I’m just someone who wanted a nice home cinema. I spent a LOT of time researching how I wanted to build my theatre. Resources such as AVS Forums and Home Theatre Shack were quite helpful and provided a lot of ideas. A lot of the equipment was chosen based on budget and based on reviews I read.”
Hence the rouge home cinema was born, including a 108in screen with a motorised horizontal masking system, a 7.2 channel audio system and two rows of three seats.
“Why is it called the Rouge Cinema?” he asks. “No good reason. I thought it sounded cool and its outside wall is red! The theatre build was part of a larger basement renovation in our newly purchased house in Saskatoon, Canada. The work was split between contractors and ourselves and was completed (mostly) in a few months.”
“I’ve always loved going to the movies,” says Hemant. “When I was six years old I would walk to the local cinema every Saturday to catch the 2pm matinee. I wouldn’t even know what picture was showing, but I didn’t care. I just knew that I would enjoy whatever was playing.”
Throughout his university years Hemant and his friends whiled away many an evening at a discount theatre that fit very well into their student budgets.
“I remember there was one time where we had seen every film that was currently playing in the city.”
Once he started his career and begun a family, Hemant’s visits to the theatre naturally declined, but his love for the experience did not.
“On the occasions where my wife and I were able to take in a movie I started to really become annoyed with many aspects of the public theatre experience,” he reflects.
“Too many people had complete disregard for their fellow theatre patrons. Between people texting or talking on the mobile phones and people talking to each other during the movie, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I knew that I had to have my own home theatre.”
The idea from the beginning was to have a dedicated room for the theatre. As luck would have it, Hemant and his wife bought a new house in 2014 that had an unfinished basement, allowing them to start with a nearly clean slate.
“I say nearly, because I still had to work around a roughed in bathroom, the mechanical room, air ducts, windows and a telepost,” he reflects.
“After many, many hours of staring at the basement dimensions, my wife and I felt that we had found the best option for where to locate the room. The house is 1,600sq-f with the basement being around 1,200sq-f. It’s a good size, but we would have to make some compromises – mainly on the dimensions of the theatre.”
Hemant didn’t want the theatre to take up the majority of the basement since he still wanted to have a family room, office and play area. “Even though the plan was to live in this house for a long time, we didn’t want to limit ourselves when it came to resale. As strange as it may seem to a cinephile; most people don’t want a theatre taking up their entire basement living space.”
In the end the space marked out for the theatre was 18.5 by 10 feet. “In a perfect world I would have liked to have had at least 20 by 14 feet,” he shrugs.
The next step was to determine seating. “I was okay with having one row of seats, but my wife really wanted two in the hope that we would regularly entertain people. With the small size of the room I didn’t think there was any way we would be able to fit two rows of seating. But after reading about similar sized builds I was convinced that I could do it as well.”
With the room being so narrow, Hemant knew that he would need to have an acoustically transparent screen, plus there was not enough space on either side of the screen for speaker placement. “I was really hoping to cut down costs as much as possible for this build, so when I couldn’t use the screen I already owned, I was pretty disappointed,” he admits.
The final consideration for the room was that he wanted the screen wall to be as clean as possible. “There would be no space anywhere else in the room to house the components, so I decided that the storage space under the stairs would work just fine. It was a decent sized space and was located right across the hall from the theatre, minimising the lengths for running wire.”
With a plan in place, the next step was execution. It was agreed that Hemant and his wife would contract out framing, drywalling and electrical while he took care of running all the AV wire, building the riser and screen wall and the general assembly and finishing of the room.
“We toyed with the idea of doing everything (except the electrical) ourselves, but we have two kids under four, we both have full time jobs and we own a retail store – this made it seem impossible. We wanted to start using the theatre and the rest of the basement as soon as possible. Doing it all ourselves was just too unpredictable.”
The Equipment And Build
After some thorough researching, Hemant decided on the following equipment for his home cinema:
• Epson PowerLite 5020UB Projector
• 108″ EluneVision Reference 4K AudioWeave 16:9 Screen
• Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
• Energy Reference Connoisseur 70 Tower Speakers
• Energy Connoisseur CC-10 Centre Speaker
• Energy EAS-6W In-Wall Surround and Rear Back Speakers
• 2 SVS SB-2000 Subwoofers
• 6 Palliser HiFi Power Recliners
• Harmony Ultimate Hub
• Harmony Touch
• Lutron Caseta Wireless Light Control
• Denon AVR-2313CI Receiver
• Sony Playstation 3
• Mac Mini (running Plex)
The framers Hemant hired were recommended by a friend. “She and her husband were engineers by trade so I trusted her opinion. We were told that it would take about two days to finish. I know if I had tried to do it myself it would have taken me two months!
“For the most part I was happy with the result, but I regret not taking more time to determine stud placement in the theatre,” he admits.
“This added some extra headaches when installing the in-wall speakers and mounting the projector. I also got them to frame the screen wall, which would eventually hide the speakers. This turned out to be a waste since I ended up rebuilding most of it.”
Electrical And AV
“Hiring the electrician was easy,” says Hemant, who used a friend and his sons – electricians by trade.
“Once we started discussing how I wanted my AV laid out there was definitely some problems with me communicating all of my intricate plans,” he says tactfully. “At one point he just asked me if I wanted to do the AV stuff myself. That was definitely my wish, but I told him I didn’t know any of the details regarding code. Apparently there is no code for low voltage electrical…
“Since I was going for such a clean look I wanted to make sure I was able to upgrade or replace cables when necessary,” he continues.
“I would have liked to have ran conduit for everything, but in the end I decided to only use it for the three HDMI and four subwoofer runs I needed. Running conduit for all of the speaker wire would have been too costly and probably unnecessary.” In the end he ran just under 600 feet of 12 AWG wire.
“I couldn’t even imagine how much I would have hated my life if I had attempted to do the drywalling myself,” he laughs.
“We hired people to do it and I hated it. The mess it created was the bane of my existence for nearly three weeks. The drywall dust got everywhere and there was nothing we could do about it. At one point our air conditioner froze since the furnace filter got so clogged. I was very happy when we got past this stage!”
“In our previous house, watching a movie in the basement meant that anyone upstairs would have to put up with listening to the entire movie, as well as things falling off of shelves.”
The goal with the new theatre was to not completely soundproof the room, but to limit the sound leaving it. Hemant installed Roxul Safe’n’Sound in all of the theatre walls, as well as the ceiling to act as an acoustic barrier.
“I also had the drywallers install two layers of drywall on resilient channel on the walls shared with other rooms, as well as the ceiling.”
Since the theatre would have two rows of seating, it was essential that the back row be on a riser. “Using a few different formulas I calculated that the riser would need to be a minimum of 13in,” he says. The final dimensions would be 10’x6’x13”.
“I really had to rush the build on this since the carpet install was already scheduled. I finished construction of the riser at 3am the night before the carpet would go in.”
“For the carpet I wanted something durable that could hold up to any potential food spills, as well as something dark with a subtle pattern,” he adds.
“Since the room was only around 200sq-f, buying a more pricey style didn’t really make much of a difference. I wasn’t about to mess around with trying to install carpet and with the added complexity of the riser I knew that I would be happiest if a professional installed it. They were in and out in a few hours – if I had tried to do it myself I would have spent an entire day grumbling and trying to fix unavoidable rookie mistakes.”
“Sticking with the idea of a clean screen wall and the room width limitations, I was constrained to having an acoustically transparent screen,” he explains.
“I was a bit worried since I would only have about 18in for the space behind the screen. Luckily I met the minimum requirements for the speakers’ proximity to the screen. The 18in also gave me just enough room for the two SVS SB-2000 subwoofers.
“Without really thinking, I got the framers to basically frame the screen wall as a second wall,” he admits.
“As I was getting closer to mounting the screen and setting up the speakers, I quickly realised that this wouldn’t work. Once I knew what I wanted I reconfigured the wall and built a platform for the speakers to sit on.”
Screen And Masking System
Hemant’s previous house had a projector setup. “I was very happy with the screen we were using which was a 108in EluneVision Reference 4K 16:9 fixed frame. I had every intention of simply reusing it in our new theatre, but the room dimensions pretty much required me to have an acoustically transparent screen.
“I was not happy about having to drop a bunch of extra cash on a new screen, but luckily the company offered me upgrade pricing which saved me around $600,” he says, relieved.
“Ever since I started using a projector in our previous house I wanted some sort of masking system,” he continues. “I researched many DIY solutions, but nothing really gave me what I wanted. I had watched some videos of the motorised Carada Horizontal Masquerade system and dreamed of having it, but I just couldn’t justify spending that much money for something like this in a non-dedicated room. Once we moved to the new house however, we would have a dedicated theatre.”
He decided to take the plunge and went with the Carada system, and was not disappointed. “It was worth the money. The perceived contrast boost it gives when the masks are deployed is incredible, while the coolness factor it adds to the theatre is undeniable. Granted, a DIY solution would have cost a fraction of the price, but I don’t think I could have achieved the refined and professional look of the Masquerade.”
For the area around the screen frame, Hemant built panels that friction fit into place, comprised of wooden frames built out of 3/4in square moulding and wrapped with black speaker fabric.
However, one limitation of the screen wall is that it does not lend easy access to the left, right, and centre channel speakers. “If I didn’t have the masking system I could simply lift the screen off the wall since it just hangs by hooks,” he says.
“But the masking system is physically attached to the wall and built over top of the screen frame which will make it a real chore to gain access to the speakers. I’m trying to design a solution to remedy this.”
In-wall speakers were not part of Hemant’s initial design. “I already had four Energy Connoisseur CC-20s bookshelf speakers and was planning to continue to use them as the surround and surround backs. But since the room’s width would be a narrow 10 feet, wall mounting the bookshelf speakers would protrude too far into the room.
“I had already bought six Energy EAS-6W in-wall speakers to use in the family room space in the basement. Since I didn’t want to spend any more money I decided to simply swap the theatre bookshelf speakers for the family room in-walls. I added a new Energy CC-10 centre channel speaker to the family room’s setup to complete its 5.1 system.”
Hemant knows that there’s something about having the lights dim right before the film starts that completes the home theatre experience.
“From the beginning I considered it a must to have a remote controlled lighting system,” he states. “After some research I decided on the Lutron Caseta system. I’m happy with the final product, but there definitely were some issues along the way.”
After the electrician wired up the Caseta controls, he realised that they were not compatible with the pot lights he had already installed. “Instead of scrapping the Caseta and going with a compatible system we decided to replace the pot lights,” Hemant reflects.
“We then encountered another problem. The lights would not completely turn off. After some back and forth with Lutron, our electrician discovered that the dimmer would need to have a load capacitor installed. Since we installed LEDs, the little bit of current that is always running to the system was enough to power the LEDs. After the load capacitors were installed, everything worked like a charm.”
Hemant also added the Lutron SmartBridge to the system, which allows the lights to be controlled over Wi-Fi on a mobile phone.
After using the theatre for a few months, the one thing Hemant wishes he did differently is having separate zones for the theatre lights. “Right now all lights are on or off. I would have liked to have the three lights directly in front of the screen on a separate zone from the rest. There are times that I would like to have the lights in front of the screen off, and the rest on. The typical case for this would be before the feature presentation, where something like trivia or photos would be projected on the screen.”
With the basement having three separate zones, each with their own AV receiver and components, a lot of remote control management was required. “I already owned a Harmony Touch remote but it wasn’t RF, so it wouldn’t work the way it was since all of the components would be housed in a separate closet,” he says.
“It seemed if I paired it up with the Harmony Ultimate Hub, I could unlock the Touches RF functionality, plus be able to control everything via a mobile App.
“I was using separate mobile Apps for each component – the Denon App to control my receivers, the Apple Remote App to control my Apple TVs, the Roku App to control my Roku 3 and the Harmony App to control my other components such as PS3 and cable box.
“As one can imagine, this is annoying and not a lot better than just having a bunch of separate physical remotes. After a couple of months I finally upgraded my Harmony Touch to work with the Ultimate Hub, unlocking the remote’s RF features. A cool thing about this is that you can configure what signal will control each device. So all my components in the closet are controlled by the signal from the Hub (initiated by the Touch), and the components outside of the closet (the TVs, projector and screen masking) are controlled directly from the Touch’s IR signal.”
“I knew that server and component racks were expensive,” he begins. “This was confirmed once I started researching racks on the web. I decided that spending money on an actual rack could be back-burnered. Instead I bought a heavy-duty metal framed shelf –the dimensions were 36in wide by 18in deep. What I found was that the components fit perfectly in the 18in deep section.”
“I went into this project assuming that I was going to build my own acoustical panels,” he says. “I read through a lot of DIY guides on the subjects and had a game plan. Then my wife sent me a link to the Primacoustic London 10 Room Kit. For a reasonable price I was able to get 20 pre-made panels without the hassle of building them. Installing them was a breeze using the included impalers. Instead of the screwing the impalers into the theatre walls I chose to hang them using 3M hanging strips. I’ve installed all of the large panels the kit came with, but still have the scatter panels to hang on the back wall.”
Hemant spent a lot of time researching theatre seats; they needed to be narrow enough to fit three seats per row in a 10 foot wide space, while leaving enough room for a step onto the riser. They also needed to be leather, feature power recline and include cupholders.
“As cool as the LED lighting looks in photos, I thought it would be impractical to have in a theatre where light control is of the utmost importance,” he reasons.
“The amount of theatre seating stores on the Internet is overwhelming, but they do include a wealth of information.”
In the end he decided to buy local. “We chose some with a narrow footprint of 94″ for three chairs.”
One reason Hemant and his wife chose the part of the basement they did for the theatre was that there was only one window to contend with. On the other hand, it meant that only one window would be lost in the rest of the basement.
“I didn’t want to simply cover the window with drapes or a pull-down blind, but I wanted to have something more interesting. I felt that drapes would pull you out of the experience of being in a theatre. We decided to use an 8’x4′ piece of Styrofoam insulation to cover the window which was located at the back of the theatre. We wrapped it with patterned wallpaper to give it a much more interesting look.”
To ensure that they would still have emergency access to the window, they simply hung it on the wall using impalers. As designed, the panel prevents any light from seeping in from the window.
“Some people go for a recreation of an actual lobby and concession area as part of their home theatre, but I wanted something more subtle that still added to the cinema experience,” he smiles.
“We painted the exterior wall a nice, deep red – as the theatre name suggests – and hung four film posters along the wall. Each of the four posters represent a film that was very important to me during my childhood, and continue to be import to me today. The posters are printed on canvas and are mounted as 1.5in thick gallery wraps. I’m very happy with how they turned out.”
A theatre would not be a theatre without a popcorn machine, so naturally the rouge cinema boasts a Paragon 8oz Contemporary popper.
Despite finally completing the home cinema and not being a fan of commercial theatres, Hemant admits that he is willing to make one exception.
“I will likely still go to see the new Star Wars films in a public theatre – I simply will not be able to wait for their Blu-ray release,” he grins.