Like smartphones, paint colors and appliances, home technology does eventually grow out of date. What was cool and edgy ten years ago — like the debut of the first smart LED lightbulb in 2012 — is passé now. While manufacturers are working to create built-in technology that updates automatically to keep up with the industry’s pace, products that came out with the advent of the smart home undoubtedly are in need of replacement.
That’s where integrators like Michael Storch of Storch Entertainment Systems find the kindling of big installations. He was called to help with the renovation of the basement home theater in a 7,000-sq.-ft. home in Winter Park, Fla., with the recommendation of building partner E2 Homes.
“It was a pretty room but a hot mess,” said Storch, explaining that this 15-year-old home theater had been “bandaged up” once before and sported sloppy wiring and dysfunctional tech. “The clients have three kids, and since this home has this room, they wanted to find a way to enjoy movies together as a family.”
Deciding to Upgrade
The existing theater included Bowers & Wilkins speakers — including LCR, four sides, two rears, two small subs — a Runco projector/anamorphic lens with a motorized lens and a 96-in.-wide masking screen. It masked down, so some video watched on that screen turned out even smaller than the screen size.
“The amount of moving parts between a masking screen and video projector with a moving lens makes for a complicated animal,” said Storch.
A third party hired between the original installation and Storch’s firm had made the screen as big as possible and then unplugged it before putting in the video projector, so that way there was no motorized masking. They had angled the projector and held it up with guy wires, which adversely affected the quality and shape of the video.
After the builder saw the quality of the install, Storch was called in to evaluate. To get an idea of what they might be able to get in a modern home theater, the integrator invited the family to the company’s demo facility, which happened to be less than a mile from the project itself. According to Storch, it was this moment — actually meeting the clients and talking with them— that made the project fun.
“For some jobs, we don’t meet homeowners prior to designing and specifying the electronics systems,” he said, adding that it was there that he found out that the teenage kids were hoping to also use the home theater for playing video games. “Just to have the opportunity to have this family in our demo room and hear what they love it is really satisfying.”
Finding the Right Cost
Since the family enjoyed the whole set up of the demo facility, they asked first for the cost for a complete remodel. The $125,000 price tag for all new electronics plus an additional $70,00 for seating— was too high for their budget. Instead they asked what they could reuse from their existing home theater to cut the price down.
“For the home theater, most of the experience is technologically and practically created by the items in the front of the room, like the front speakers, the screen, projector and subwoofers,” said Storch, adding that the elements in the back of the room are important but not quite as integral on a value-engineering scale. “We figured that we can keep the in-wall speakers and their associated amplifiers, but put in the new gear and really improve this space.”
For a new quote of about $75,000 for labor and parts, the integration team worked to install several new items of gear, including a 140-in. Screen Innovations acoustically transparent screen, an Epson 7,000 lumen laser projector, an Acurus Muse processor, and new speakers and amplification from PRO.
A Complete Movie Experience
The acoustically transparent screen was key, since in the original project, the screen was not transparent, and the center speaker was small in order to fit the space underneath. Before the new screen was installed, the team installed a Pro Audio a 12-in. two-way speaker directly centered behind the screen. This center speaker was laser leveled with the left and right Pro Audio speakers — in combination with existing surround speakers from Bowers & Wilkins, two additional Pro Audio subwoofers and a pair of in-ceiling immersive Atmos speakers and controllers — for a complete movie experience.
The existing Lutron lighting system was reprogrammed to work with a URC remote control for simple use, while the existing recliners and wall panels remained in the space. The builder made some integral upgrades with the air flow in this attic room; insulation and additional air conditioning was installed to make the theater substantially more comfortable for the family.
“We’ve done this work for a long time, but in a home of this size, there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of electronic systems,” said Storch, explaining that no sooner than they finished this project, the homeowners returned to ask them for help with other TVs and other electronics in the house. “This project continued to expand for us to other parts of the home, turning what was a nice home theater project into a larger installation.”
1 Acurus Muse processor
1 Epson ProL 1060 7000 lumen laser projector
Lutron Homeworks Lighting
1 PRO ALC-3316 Amplified Loudspeakers Controller
1 PRO DMA-9900 Amplified Subwoofer Controller
2 PRO LFC-15sm subwoofers
2 PRO SCRS-6c-iw Atmos loudspeakers
3 PRO SR-12ai loudspeakers
1 Screen Innovations Acoustically Transparent Screen 1 URC MX990 remote control