DIY Friday: Your Own Home Theater System!

For today’s Do It Yourself activity, all you need is some wood, carpeting, a TV set with DVD and a surround sound system, and… oh, yeah…. an indoor pool.


Electronic House provides the details: 

Swimming pools, even indoor ones, just aren’t all that tempting in regions where the mercury rarely reaches above 80 degrees.

So when the owners of this Wisconsin home purchased their residence, they decided to convert the indoor in-ground pool that came with the property into a fully functional home theater. Flooring and carpeting were added to the concrete bottom of the 20-by-40-foot area, and draperies were hung over the room’s windows and metal walls to soften up the space. However, not all signs of the building’s former life were removed. Wiring for the audio and video components was pulled through the pool’s existing plumbing systems, and the slope of the pool floor was maintained to create a stadium-style seating arrangement.

The concrete sides of the pool precluded speakers from being built in, so the homeowners opted for Klipsch floorstanding models. The 106-inch Draper screen was suspended from the room’s existing rafters using aircraft cabling and secured at the edge of the pool to keep the material taut. Last but not least, the Marantz video projector was mounted to the ceiling, and the audio and video components were stowed inside an equipment rack at the back of the room.

Sound like too much work for a simple DIY Friday project? Or, more to the point — don’t have a high-falutin’ indoor pool? 

Well, luckily there are options for the more proleteriat among us.

DIY Home Theater Design provides a good run down of all your different options, walking you through the pros and cons of LCD, DLP and LCOS screens, as well as a summary of what you’ll want in your sound system:

 The basic surround sound setup consists of 5 speakers plus a subwoofer, known as 5.1 surround. The center speaker, called the center channel, is positioned just above or below the television and is intended to handle dialog. A pair of left and right speakers are placed to the sides of the television about 6 to 8 feet apart; wider if you have a very large screen. The left and right speakers handle the heavy lifting of the soundtrack like music and sound effects. A pair of satellite speakers are placed on each side of the viewing audience to add atmospheric sound effects like the sound of a crowd or bullets whizzing by. The "point one" in 5.1 is for the subwoofer. The sub handles low frequency sound and adds emphasis to explosions or to a dramatic music score.

The only bad advice from DIY Home Theater Design comes when they advise: "Don’t let the new terms and acronyms spook you because it’s really not rocket science."

We, of course, beg to differ. It is rocket science.

An even cheaper mini-home theater system can be created using your existing television components and a Mac (details here), but if you really want to combine your computer and home theater system into one seamless operation (and solve the "last 50 feet" problem that must be overcome before non-rocket-scientists really start to embrace the nexus of IP and broadcast technology) and chuck the whole DIY concept out the window in the process, then check out the just-released Apple TV.

The New York Times has a good review:

So what is Apple TV? Basically, it’s an iPod for your TV. That is, it copies the iTunes library (music, podcasts, TV shows, movies) from one Mac or Windows PC on your wired or wireless home network to its 40-gigabyte hard drive and keeps the copy updated.

The drive holds about 50 hours’ worth of video or 9,000 songs; if your iTunes library is bigger than that, you can specify what subset you want copied — only unwatched TV episodes, for example.

At this point, you can play back videos, music and photos even if the original computer is turned off or (if it’s a laptop) carried away. (Photo playback requires iPhoto on the Mac, or Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements on Windows.)

A tiny white remote control operates Apple TV’s stunning high-definition white-on-black menus, which are enlivened by high-resolution album covers and photos. You can see the effect at

The integration of iPod, iTunes and Apple TV offers frequent payoffs. For example, if you paused your iPod partway through a movie, TV show or song, Apple TV remembers your place when you resume playing it on your TV. Cool.

Cool indeed.