Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Transformers, my son, and my theater

OK, I am not going to lie. A few years ago, before the first Transformers movie was released I was super pumped for it. I was a TF fan all of my childhood life and into my adolescence. When I found out that they were making a live action movie I almost came in my pants. I stalked the websites that had news about for ages just literally vibrating with anticipation over what was sure to be a visually stunning masterpiece.

I have a son, I got him pumped for it to. It was all we talked about. I would ramble on about it to anyone who would listen and even those who weren’t! My boy and I would discuss for hours at a time the old series and speculate on which characters would be brought into the film. I found my old collection of the original series and let him watch so he could be well versed in all that which was cybertronian in nature.

I believe this to be one of the things that truly bonded us together and made us the inseparable pair we are now.

Getting to the point.

I have been an active member over at AVS Forum for quite a while. I, like many people who share my interests, love electronics and naturally found a sort of sanctum in that place. Though not everyone shared the same interests in many of the oddities that I did, they all loved audio and video and, like me, were obsessed with learning everything before venturing into something.

I spent months (before I even knew of the Transformers movie) pouring through the pages of guys who converted a garage or a basement into a full on theater with projectors and acoustically transparent screens with starfield ceilings and network controlled everythings. I was watering at the mouth and growing more and more jealous of the fact that I would never be able to afford any of it. Even the guys who were labeling their conversions as DIY still never did it themselves, and the amount of money they would pour into speakers and receivers seemed more than the value of my entire home.

Fast forward.

The commercial trailers had started playing for Transformers and my boy and I were almost drunk on anticipation. I was again, as always, looking through the pages of theaters when I saw someone had built their own subwoofer. It was actually pretty common, I had noticed it before but I don’t know what triggered it in me at this particular setting. I had a eureka moment, an epiphany of sorts. I started looking around at other threads to see how to build a screen, looking at cheap but quality projectors and finally just how can I build an entire set of speakers?

I was determined. I had a full basement. Unfinished. The house is older than sin. On one side the basement had a dirt floor in most places, on the other concrete. That was where my band had all the equipment stored. We were on our way out. Everyone was going their own way so I made a few calls and had everyone come get their belongings.

My plan was now in effect. But what exactly was my plan? I still can’t afford any of this.

I decided then, that I would have a working theater by the time Transformers was released on DVD (Blu ray and HD DVD were still duking it out and I was up in the air)

I had no idea how I was going to do it but I was GOING to do it. I wasn’t going to just read about it anymore. I was not going to be jealous anymore…

That day, I calculated many things, and I began quite a bit of research. I learned how to do it all. I wore myself down to a nub working and learning. Granted I am a bit technically inclined but I had no idea how to do any of this stuff.

  • I learned how to make my own speakers and made them. 

  • I learned how to make my own acoustically transparent screen and made one (3 actually)

My first try, before I realized a black frame was the right choice. I want to say this material was a fabric from Dazian called Celtic Cloth, but I honestly can not remember. It did the job of being AT and you could project an image onto it, but the colors were washed out and even as an inexperienced amateur with no frame of reference I could tell it was not a good picture. 

I did not take a picture of my second screen attempt but I tried a material used for patio furniture, the perforations were just slightly to big for my 720p projector and I was plagued with a moire pattern. The size I had purchased was just wide enough to cover my screen so angling it and trying again was not an option. 

My third, best and final screen. I custom made the frame with two supports going through it in 3rds, marking them to not interfere with the speaker placement. Painted the frame black. The material was a very very very difficult venture. I was obsessed with finding out what the professional screens were made of and using the same thing but buying it directly. Long story short, if you are interested in doing the same it will be a difficult venture, not because the material is hard to figure out but because of the bulk that it is sold in when you try to buy it from a supplier. To this day, I love this screen. 

  • I learned how to make an acoustic sound stage, how to model a room, how to set up a projector for cinemascope viewing and build a homemade anamorphic lens.

 I was going for a fancy design, like an eyeball, instead I ended up with something like a Klingon bird of prey

 bout' 2000 pounds of sand

This one here is not my screen, it is just some material strung up in between the 2x to see how it looked, but I didn't have any other photos of the very tippy front of the stage floor. See how it is supposed to look like an eye. In hindsight I wish I would have used a larger variation in wood sizes to really see the height difference.

This next set of shots shows the wall studding I did. Nothing real interesting here. 

Little knockout for the equipment rack. 

I may not have become the best at any of this, and I never finished my theater due to my health, but when Transformers came out on DVD, my son and I watched it in our own private theater. With no walls or furniture.

I would love to be able to get back down there and finish, but it has become difficult to do so lately. 

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