This is the 2nd of a 4 part series that will walk you through the process designing and building a home theater.

Here is a link to Part 1

Your extra room is carpeted, painted and the screen is ready to be hung.  What’s next?  Let’s consider the projector.  There are many home theater projectors on the market and it would not be practical to discuss all of these in this article.  There are some features that you should look for in a projector. 

How to Build Your Own Home Theater - Part 2 - The Projector

Len Calderone

August 2011

How to Build Your Own Home Theater - Part 2 - The Projector

Author: Len Calderone

This is the 2nd of a 4 part series that will walk you through the process designing and building a home theater.

Here is a link to Part 1

Your extra room is carpeted, painted and the screen is ready to be hung.  What’s next?  Let’s consider the projector.  There are many home theater projectors on the market and it would not be practical to discuss all of these in this article.  There are some features that you should look for in a projector. 

 

The resolution should be 1920 x 1080 for movie quality images.  The projector should have keystone correction or lens shift.  The display technology can be DLP, LCD or LCoS.  Look for a contrast ratio of at least 3000:1.  The lumen rating will be determined by the amount of ambient light in the room.  The more ambient light in the room, the higher the lumens need to be.  Discuss this with your dealer. 

The Mitsubishi HC4000 is a home theater DVD projector, which sells around $1,300.00 and might be a good starting point, as you look for just the right model for your room.

All though you can buy projectors for under $500.00, the features and quality are very limited.  Here are four of the best selling projectors, which are reasonably priced.

Epson 8350, $1,299.00; Optima HD20, $999.00; Mitsubishi HC4000, $1,298.00; and the Vivitek H1081, $949.00.  If you can afford a better projector, the features and quality will be worth the up charge. 

The first consideration in the placement of the projector is the location of the center of the screen.  Unless the projector has keystone correction or lens shift, the projector must be level, and the lens aligned directly with the center of the screen.  If the projector is off center, either high, low or off on the side, the image will be keystoned.  “Keystone” means that the image is wider on one side than the other if the projector is off center to one side, or that the top or bottom of the image will be wider if the projector is above or below the center of the screen. 

Most projectors have a built-in vertical offset.  If the projector is mounted upside down on a ceiling mount, the projector will throw the image down.  If the projector is upright on a shelf, the image will project upwards.  When ceiling mounted, the lens should be even with the top of the screen if the projector has a 100% vertical offset.  If the offset is greater than 100%, the projector will have to be mounted higher than the top of the screen.  In a low ceiling room, this could be a problem.  Therefore, you will need to verify that the projector has vertical offset, and if it does, look for a projector with only a 100% offset.

If you plan to set the projector on a shelf, the lens should be even with the bottom of the screen if it has a vertical offset.  The projector must be placed so that someone’s head does not block the projected image.  There is a good possibility that the projector will have to be mounted higher than the center of the screen to project over everyone’s head.  If such a position is needed, you must have keystone correction or lens shift.

 

Description: http://www.avitav.co.uk/images/stories/JVC_x3/jvc%20x3%20jvc%20dla-x3%20projector%20-%20lens%20shift.jpg

 

Most projectors have vertical keystone correction, but some have both vertical and horizontal.  Using digital keystone correction could cause artifacts along the edge of the correction, if the correction is extreme.  Using lens shift will produce the best images.  To make things simple, try to mount the projector so that the lens is aligned with the center of the screen.  If this is not possible, buy a projector that has lens shift.

There are three ways to mount a projector:  a ceiling mount, a wall mount, and sitting on a shelf.  

 

RPA Ceiling Mount from Chief Mfg.
WM230 Wall Mount from Chief Mfg

 

When deciding on a mount, select a universal mount.  Projector mounts come with detailed instructions.  Follow them.  When using a projector mount, be sure to fasten the mount to the wall or ceiling studs to prevent system failure and personal injury.  Use heavy duty anchor bolts, as stress over time could weaken normal screws. 

With some mounts, you will need to purchase a projector plate for your model projector, which is attached to the projector and then to the mount.  If you have a drop ceiling, you will need a special plate to fit into the drop ceiling.   In some cases, you might need a threaded pipe, which you can buy at a hardware store, to lower the projector from the ceiling, but this should not be the case with an 8’ ceiling height.  Mounting the projector is the most difficult part of the installation but if you take your time and properly align the projector with the screen, your effort will be rewarded.  As with all DIY projects, careful planning leads to a great finished product.

The location of the ceiling mount will depend on the throw distance of the projector.  Check the specs of the projector, which will tell you how far the projector needs to be from the screen to fill the image area, or google your “brand/model+ throw distance.”    As you can see, it is very important to plan ahead so that the screen position aligns with the projector’s point of view.  The two go hand in hand.

If you plan to use a wall mount or set the projector on a shelf, the throw distance is critical as you can’t move your wall like you can the ceiling mount.  You must confirm that the throw distance of the projector will fit your wall mount distance from the screen. 

If you are planning on setting the projector on a shelf, you can purchase a finished shelf system or build one yourself.  Since we are working with a finished room, I suggest that you build a shelf system from the floor to the ceiling.  It should be wide enough to hold your DVD player, cassette player, UPS device, and deep enough for the projector.  The shelves should be movable so that you can adjust them.  Make sure the shelving unit is fastened to the wall. With adjustable shelves, you can use the extra space to store DVDs. 

The equipment rack (shelving) looks better if inserted into the wall, but that might not be practical, as the rack would protrude into another room.  You might also have to relocate in-wall wiring. 

Check the AMP rating for the nearest electrical wall outlet, by opening your breaker box and finding the breaker for that area of the house.  The breaker will have the rating printed on its face.  Add up the AMP ratings on your equipment.  If the total AMPS of your equipment, using that breaker, has a heavier rating than the outlet will allow, have an electrician change the breaker. 
Description: SR2900-5FT
Let’s take a minute and discuss wiring.  Unless you are an electrician or know what you are doing, hire a qualified electrician to handle your power requirements.  Do not use extension cords to extend the power cords from the equipment.  You will need an outlet near the projector in the ceiling and at least one near the equipment rack (shelving). 

To run cables that do not conduct power, you can purchase wiring raceways from your local hardware store.  Paint these the same color as your wall and you will be able to hide all wiring, giving the room a finished look.  You will need to hide the cable from the projector to the DVD player, as well as all of the audio cables, unless you buy a wireless audio system.

 

Continue to Part 3 - The Sound System

This article contains statements of personal opinion and comments made in good faith in the interest of the public.   You should confirm all statements with the manufacturer to verify the correctness of the statements.


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