Home Theatre

There have been renovations of our once-dark playroom, such as carpeting it or installing a skylight. This time, however, we take advantage of the fact that it can be quite dark, by installing a Home Theatre.

For some time Kay and I have found it difficult to read the credits on letterboxed films on our old 23" TV (not to mention PAL stuff on a 15" TV). About three weeks ago, we started looking at alternatives.

We eventually abandoned tube systems, as none function properly when greater than 32", all work best on 4:3 instead of 16:9 media, and even the 32" ones are less than ideal, mainly requiring three people to manoeuvre them.

The back-projection type, even those with a DLP engine, have disappointing polar properties... you can adjust brightness by raising or lowering your head, for instance. The worst ones are brighter directly at eye level than at lower or higher points on the screen! Also, getting a model that can handle PAL as well as NTSC would not be simple. As a final insult, these things sell for US$2-6k!

The plasma type are nice, but still outrageously expensive. They start at about US$3k5 and go over $6k.

In the end, we settled for a full projection system using an InFocus X2 projector, and a Klipsch DMX 5.1 surround sound system. The X2 has a TI DLP engine, and is capable of 1600 lumens, meaning that it is quite bright enough to be watched in day time, though with reduced contrast. Projecting an image with a diagonal size of about 84", the whole setup cost US$1250 plus cables and brackets.

Here you can see Kay during one of the setup tests (excuse the mess), the picture being a one-second exposure, using the corridor light. The X2 is ceiling-mounted, and you can make out a test (on credits) on the screen (which at this stage is just recently-painted wall), and a dash of light hitting the ceiling just above where the X2 is mounted. You may be able to see the X2, directly above Kay's head in this picture.

The greatest drawback so far is that films are so engrossing that we stay up past midnight several times a week. In fact, Kay has yet to get around to removing the wallpaper from the second half of the room. Hopefully this preoccupation will wear off. In the long run the cost of projection globes is the greatest drawback... they have a typical life of 3000 hours and cost $300, so it costs you 10c/hour to watch. In the mean time it is absolutely super fun!