Justin-NI's Home Cinema & Computer Room Setup

justin-ni

Active Member
Update: As promised, here are some demo pics of the screen!

Hi Guys,

After much time, saving and advice from this forum, I’ve finally finished my new setup. I’ve been running for quite a while on an antiquated, 1st generation HD plasma which is starting to fuzz slightly, and I give it another 9 to 12 months before it’s tattie bread. My sound system, although 6.1 was very soft and the low notes were not very punchy at all. Computer wise, I’ve really abstained from my usual gaming habits, and used a work laptop for the odd bit of coursework and idle chat / web browsing.

I’m a big fan of technology, and so have lots of bits of equipment and wires trailing everywhere, so I wanted a finished project that was very tidy and elegant.

So here was my wish list:
Big full HD display, everything 1.3 compliant
Bigger, sharper, more punchy sound system
High spec computer suitable for gaming
Relatively future proof
Tidy!

And here’s what I’ve ended up with:

Home cinema
* 42” LG Plasma Screen
* 92” Draper Luma Projector Screen
* 1080p Panasonic Projector
* 7.1 THX Creative Surround System
* 6.1 Creative decoder & up mixer
* Playstation 3
* SuSE Linux Twonky uPNPav media server
* Sky+ HD
* Various HDMI splitters / switches & leads

Computer setup
* 24” Apple iMac
* 7.1 Creative Surround System
* 5.1 Griffin Firewave surround adapter
* Lacie ½ TB USB hard drive
* Netgear gigabit switch

And of course lots and lots of cable management!


Home cinema

42” LG Plasma Screen
I’ve had this 42PX5D for quite a while now, and it’s served me well but upon close inspection I’m noticing an increase presence of fuzziness in some areas of the picture, and general warm-up times are noticeably slower. However I retained this screen for random channel surfing, when I don’t want to fire up the projector, or when I don’t want to black out the room to watch something. I wall mounted this at eye height, when seated.


92” Draper Luma Projector Screen
I was initially going to install a 100” screen, and I had originally ordered some brand less piece of tat off eBay. When the screen arrived, it turned out to be 91” and I decided that anything significantly bigger at my viewing distance of 2m is just asking for neck pains. Either way the screen was botched and was returned. After this experience, I decided not to be such a cheapo and shell out for a decent branded screen. The very helpfull Nik at cvsmedia.co.uk (also a forum member here) was able to assist my in picking a screen that would suit my steep projection angle, and in order to reduce ‘sparkles’ and light reflection issues on the screen, he selected the ‘mattest’ screen from his selection and needless to say I am thrilled at his choice. It’s also a grey high contrast screen, as I do get a small amount of ambient light and the white ceiling does reflect some brighter pictures too. However, my projector is still more than capable of displaying great whites on this surface – and the contrast is fantastic.


1080p Panasonic Projector
I was previously looking at the budget InFocus DLP projectors, as they offered fantastic value for money, but the long throw distance was an issue for me. I was about to purchase the Sanyo Z2000, as I loved the idea of lens shift and the quoted operating noise was really low - I then stumbled across the Panasonic AE2000, which gave me everything the Sanyo did, plus much more brightness, contrast and a sharper picture as well as blacker blacks. Many thanks to ‘halcs’ on the forum classifieds who made me a cracking deal on the PJ which is as good as new. It’s mounted high up on the wall, as I didn’t want to mess around looking for load bearing beams in my ceiling. This PJ and screen make a great combination; the picture quality from HD feeds really is excellent. I’ll get some demo pics up as soon as I can get my hands on a decent camera!


7.1 THX Creative Surround System
Yes, this is a sound system designed for a PC (Gigaworks S750) – however, it’s been lying around for quite some time gathering dust, and when I compared it to my old Sony 6.1 system it really blew the Sony out of the water. The sound was so much crisper and the bass had a lot more of a firm punch. It really is a great sounding system, so to keep costs down; I opted to use this system instead of shell out on a new package.

6.1 Creative decoder & up mixer
This piece of kit (DDTS-100) is apparently very rare these days, and goes on eBay for an absolute fortune. I was lucky to have one from yesteryear lying about. It basically allows you to connect in various analogue and digital sources to your PC sound system (which is a 3-jack arrangement.) So in essence this is the piece of kit which allows me to decode and up mix my 5.1 and 6.1 sources over optical, to my 7.1 system.

Playstation 3
My brother has always been harping on at me to get an Xbox 360, but I’ve used PS3s before and the thing that sways it for me was the built in Blu-Ray drive, and the great media support. The XMB interface looks cracking on the big screen, and I find the UI far more elegant than the 360. I ended up getting the 40GB model because all of my media is stored centrally on my media server, so there was no real need for a beefy hard disk.

SuSE Linux Twonky uPNPav media server
I’ve got quite a few media players dotted around the house, displaying on various displays downstairs, in my rooms and in my brothers room. I’ve even got a Wi-Fi music streamer in the garden! So, it seemed like a good idea to move all of our media from separate laptops and computers onto a central location, where we can update it and access it all from one place. It’s a standard installation of SuSE Linux and runs the TwonkyMedia sever, which operates over uPNPav so is accessible by a number of devices including my PS3, my brother’s 360, and various other streamers around the house. It serves up most formats of audio and video without any hassle. Any new media is added by dragging and dropping it into a Samba network file share, and is automatically added to the library every minute.

Sky+ HD
I’ve had normal Sky for quite a while now, and while there’s not a huge number of channels available in HD at the moment, a lot of the stuff I would watch (movies & documentaries) is. Plus, I wanted something else other than my PS3 to power my HD PJ. I was conscious of the price though, but my Sky contract was up, so I was able to blag Sky Retentions into giving me a brilliant deal, including free movies, free install, half price box, and half price HD etc. I must say though, the quality is fantastic – and I never expected even the ads to be in surround sound!

Various HDMI splitters / switches & leads
I wanted a setup that required minimal fiddling, so through an initially complex system of switches and splitters, I’ve been able to achieve a relatively simple solution. All source devices are plugged into an auto-sensing HDMI switch, which flicks over when a new source is powered on. The output of this switch is plugged into an HDMI ‘Y’ cable, which is basically a passive splitter which breaks 1 HDMI out into 3. Of course due to HDCP it is not possible to have multiple displays showing the same content at once with this kind of splitter, but in my setup only 1 display will ever be on at any one time. This allows me to power down my plasma and power up my PJ (and vice versa) without swapping out leads. The 3rd port is for a future HDMI cable run through the wall, into my bedroom. I made sure that all of my switches and splitters, as well as cables were v1.3 compliant.


Computer setup

24” Apple iMac
I’ve been using Windows PCs since I was 11 (12 years ago) and building / repairing them since I was 13, so it initially seemed unusual to me that I was considering getting a Mac. However I realised that all operating systems have their merits, and up and till now Windows had been ticking all of the boxes for me. However for this computer I wanted something that would play my favourite games well, browse the web and send email – nothing else. While a Windows PC could do this no problem, I found Macs to be so much more elegant and simple in the way the functionality which I needed was implemented, and I’ve since started making movies too, which I never predicted! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan boy of either technology and I do like Windows, just on this occasion I felt the Mac was the right choice, and I’m really pleased with my decision! I went for the 3.06GHz model, mainly because I wanted the fatter graphics card, and it runs so well. I play World of Warcraft with all the options enabled at between 60 and 78 frames per second – nice! I upgraded the RAM in this myself to 4GB – Apple were going to sting me quite a bit to do it, so I just picked up 2 x 2GB sticks off eBay for 30 quid.


7.1 Creative Surround System
While the whole idea of a Mac is to keep things simple, there was one thing I absolutely could not do without – in game surround sound! For this I got a bargain off my brother on a set of nice T7900 7.1 Creative speakers which he no longer had a use for. Granted they’re not THX certified like my main home cinema system is, but nevertheless the sound quality is cracking.


5.1 Griffin Firewave surround adapter
It was actually quite difficult finding a decent surround sound adapter in the UK, so I ended up purchasing this Firewave from an eBay seller based in America, for only 20 bucks! While it will only output up to 5.1, my Creative system does a great job of up mixing to the 2 extra effect speakers.

Lacie ½ TB USB hard drive
The TimeMachine feature on the Mac is great, and I thought I’d make use of it from the start, so I had this 500GB hard drive ready to create a backup of my Mac as soon as I turned it on, while it was still factory fresh. While the initial backup takes about 30 mins, after this you wouldn’t know it’s there, keeping everything safely backed up.

Netgear gigabit switch
With my PS3, Mac and Media Server all capable of gigabit connectivity, I decided to upgrade my network switch from 100Mbit/s to 1Gb/s. I didn’t actually think I’d notice a difference, but the 2 – 3 second lag in starting a video stream to my PS3 from the Media Server has completely disappeared and it’s now totally instant!


In order to keep all of this technology clean and tidy, I used about 8m of 16mm x 16mm trunking to hide all of my cables. I then painted the trunking the same colour as my wall, and the result is really quite nifty. Although at one point, trying to squeeze a mains cable, an HDMI cable and 6 speaker cables into 16mm trunking nearly caused me an aneurysm!


Another neat bit of cosmetic work was to install a bracket that would push my PJ screen out by 6 inches so that it would deploy in front of the plasma screen. I had a builder friend knock this up for me, and again I painted it the same colour as the wall.


I used small painted shelf brackets from Ikea to hold my centre speaker below the plasma.


I also used some Ikea shelves to hold my AV kit.


Here's some extra pics to help give you an idea of the room layout.


I hope to get some demo photos up soon of my screens in action once I can find a decent camera that isn’t grainy like the one used for these photos – so check back soon and hopefully I’ll have something more impressive to show off!

Huge thanks to everyone on the forums who has helped me and given advice on PJs, screens, Macs, splitters / switches, hdmi cable lengths, optical connections etc. All much appreciated!

Cheers,
Justin
 
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Ashketchup

Active Member
WOW! I think I've fallen in love with this setup!

But seriously, this has inspired me, I think I'll go for something simular. :D
 

- johnyc -

Active Member
nice one mate :smashin: i recently got an ae2000 as well it does give a crackin picture.
 

Mark Botwright

Distinguished Member
Fantastic set-up you've got there. Can i ask what distance you've got the projector away from the screen. I'm interested in this model but don't know if i'll have room as i've heard differing accounts of how far it'll throw from for a decent sized image.
 

justin-ni

Active Member
Fantastic set-up you've got there. Can i ask what distance you've got the projector away from the screen. I'm interested in this model but don't know if i'll have room as i've heard differing accounts of how far it'll throw from for a decent sized image.

Hi Mabo,

I found the quoted throw ratios on the Panasonic website to be spot on. Using the zoom feature you can get anything between 1.37:1 to 2.73:1. In my setup the lens of the PJ is about 3.8m away (not taking into consideration the height difference) from the screen surface. I was able to project a much larger image, but I scaled this down to 92" to fit my screen.

Cheers,
Justin
 

isayisay

Active Member
Having just got a pj myself what can i say they make movies and sport very enjoyable indeed,nice set up you got there.:smashin:Ive noticed too my LG plasma has developed fuzzy edges when you look up close and ive only had mine less than 2 years.:(I hope its not on its way out as ive been very happy with the picture.
 

justin-ni

Active Member
Having just got a pj myself what can i say they make movies and sport very enjoyable indeed,nice set up you got there.:smashin:Ive noticed too my LG plasma has developed fuzzy edges when you look up close and ive only had mine less than 2 years.:(I hope its not on its way out as ive been very happy with the picture.

Yep I've heard a few reports of the earlier LG models going a bit fuzzy in the corners. Mine sometimes has a little bit of red fuzz, and until the plasma warms up, there is a little green fuzz in dark areas which have just changes from light to dark.
 

richard plumb

Distinguished Member
very nice. you got that imac hooked up to the projector? if not, thats definitely worth doing if you watch any HD stuff on it.
 

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