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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Barefield Home, Duluth, Ga.

Aug 1, 2007 2:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

Overcoming Space Limitations


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An InFocus SP777 projector helped transform a walkout basement with an unusual shape and high ambient-light levels into a classic, intimate home theater.

When it comes to residential installations, homeowners usually seek AV technology that meets their viewing and listening needs while also fitting naturally into their homes — often tucked away inconspicuously or designed to match the décor and architecture.

For Jon and Donna Barefield, aesthetics were key in selecting projection technology for their new home theater in Duluth, Ga. Donna wanted a classic movie theater feel with heavy drapes and faux-painted walls. In this case, the couple was building the home theater into the existing infrastructure of their new home, so the residence was hardly wired for home theater applications. Making things more complicated, they decided to transform a walkout basement room into the theater, causing certain difficulties in integrating the required systems for such a room.

Indeed, the room doesn't even have the usual box shape — its five walls form a pentagon. To complicate matters, four windows, French doors, and a large opening on three of the five walls limited wiring possibilities for speakers and lighting. Because of the numerous windows and entryways, the room also needed heavy lighting control, as well as a projection system and screen that provided more brightness to the image quality. The room is about 22ft. long, 17ft. wide at the front, and 10ft. wide at the back, with a 12ft.-high ceiling.

Raj Birbal, owner of Home Cinema Entertainment in Atlanta, handled the Barefields' previous home theater installation, and was brought in to work out solutions for their new home. Initially, Birbal and the Barefields discussed making structural changes to the room to create a classic movie-theater feel, but that would have involved a long, expensive process, while the Barefields wanted a more immediate and affordable solution.

Birbal and the Barefields next discussed housing the projector in a custom-built cabinet, but given the shape of the room, they thought a cabinet would only accentuate the awkwardness of that design. In the end, all parties concerned decided they wanted the projector to be as unobtrusive as possible, which meant mounting it up and out of the way.

PROJECTION SELECTION

The Barefields visited Birbal's showroom, and after testing many projectors on his show floor, they selected the InFocus SP777.

“Conventional projectors did not quite have the throw necessary to place them at the back of this room,” Birbal says. “Luckily, the 777 was not a conventional projector. We fitted it with the optional 030 extra-long zoom lens, and set it slightly off-center to place it out of the way.”

The InFocus SP777 projector uses a Texas Instruments 0.8in. 720p DarkChip3 DLP chip, which delivers native 1280×720 resolution. As more consumers educate themselves about the higher definition of native 1080-line projection, it's not unusual to find users wanting the latest technological breakthroughs without really understanding the practicalities involved in knowing whether, for instance, additional lines of resolution are worth it for their particular needs. But the Barefields were certainly concerned about image quality.

Birbal wants all of his clients to understand more about the technology they are purchasing, so he uses his showroom to show them native 1080 projectors side by side with native 720 models. Specs aside, he says, clients typically can't tell the difference between the two.

“It's like when people look at a computer because of its fast processor, but they aren't looking at the whole system,” he says. “You have to demo all the sources on the projector, not just high def. If you take an ISS class, you'll learn picture quality is what our eyes perceive the least. Looking at the actual picture, there is no comparison.”

Although the family didn't particularly care about the technical specs of the projector, they did want the best image quality for their money. But after a detailed demonstration regarding the differences from Birbal, and seeing the SP777's performance, they eventually realized that 1080 wasn't necessarily the best option for them.

“I try to sell practical solutions to customers, but more importantly, I want customers to assess for themselves what makes a good-quality image,” Birbal says.

LIMITED WALL SPACE

Wall space for a fixed screen in such an unusual room was limited. There was sufficient space between the front windows only for a 100in.-diagonal screen. Birbal installed a 100in. Stewart Filmscreen Luxus Deluxe screen with Grayhawk RS material. Because most typical home theaters exist in darkened spaces without windows and other ambient-light sources, home theater projectors often tend to be less bright than their industrial counterparts. Although the Barefields used drapes to block out much of the ambient light emitted from the room's many windows and entry ways, the projector also had to be brighter than average. The SP777 provided 2000 lumens to serve this agenda, and the Grayhawk RS screen provided a .92 gain, which increased black levels.

The installation also included an Energy Veritas loudspeaker system, a Denon AVR-3806 receiver, a Denon DVD-2930CI universal disc player, a Scientific Atlanta HDTV cable tuner, a Home Theater Master MX-900 RF remote with RF base station, Lutron Spacer System programmable lighting dimmers, a Panamax MAX-5100EX home theater power center, and Tributaries interconnect cables. The rackable gear was installed in a Sanus Euro freestanding component rack in an unused closet in the room.

Despite the limitations of their physical space, after nearly 30 man-hours of consulting, designing, wiring, and installation, the Barefields had the classic, intimate home theater they had envisioned.


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