Reader's cinema: Three-screen media den

HCC reader Chris Mul turned his loft into this impressive cinema room in just eight weeks

This issue’s install isn’t a typical professional conversion. Rather, this loft-cum-cinema-room is the work of HCC reader Chris Mul, who, with the help of some plasterers, wife and sons and a considerable amount of elbow grease, has fashioned a multichannel audio/HD video system to be proud of. Particularly if you’re a fan of multiplayer gaming...

Chris admits that the idea wasn’t necessarily all his own – his children played their part, too. ‘When we first decided on refurbishing our property, our two oldest sons – who are big gaming enthusiasts, and one of which is also hugely into movies – thought it would be a great idea to turn part of our top floor into a media room.’

That was, indeed, a great idea. But one that ended up costing around £23,000 (for all the hardware, furniture, materials, etc) and took eight weeks to realise.

The work begins

Once the plastering on the room-shell had been finished, it was time for the Mul family to get to work. Alongside cosmetic jobs like painting, wallpapering and laying the (albeit temporary) flooring, all the electronics and lighting had to be plumbed in, too. After all, this is a room with in-ceiling and in-wall speakers and its own ceiling-fitted air conditioner. Such is the attention to detail that the black-finished air-con unit matches the speaker grilles.

And there was the small matter of the dedicated media storage – this is a room dominated by packaged movies and games, lining both walls. Yet rather than take a Transit van down to an out-of-town superstore and blow a chunk of the budget on flatpack shelving, Chris opted to build his own. Not only does that mean they fit snugly under the room’s angled ceiling, it saves money, too.

In fact, Chris had to find a way of storing over 3,200 DVDs, a small but growing collection of Blu-rays and items of movie memorabilia ranging from Planet of the Apes to Predator. We think he’s probably only half-joking when he says that the biggest challenge during the whole build was ‘Sorting our sons’ collection of DVDs into alphabetical order.’

The units were made from 18mm MDF (with 6mm MDF back panels to help prevent unsightly sagging), and then painted in a three-stage process with lots of sanding in between. Time-consuming, but worth it for the professional-looking finish.

Speakers everywhere!

Browsing the full equipment list for the room throws up a few surprises. For instance, there are actually four subwoofers and nine surround speakers (the latter being six Jamo U80 ceiling speakers, a pair of Jamo C660 CS in-walls and a Bowers & Wilkins CC6 S2 centre). A combination of an Onkyo TX-SR607 AV receiver and a BK Electronics subwoofer amplifier make them all tick, with a pair of the U80s being used for front-height duties when the mood strikes. Blu-rays with 7.1 mixes are being actively hunted down and purchased.

The video side of the room is even more alluring. The main focal point is, naturally, the 120in projector screen fed by an Optoma HD80. But when the screen slides it up it reveals a pair of 42in Loewe Individual TVs, side-by-side and ready for some HD gaming action. The Mul family has two Xboxes, so proper ‘split-screen’ is essential. Other sources include a Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray player and Sky+HD.

Cinema chic

There’s also an element of retro cinema chic (and hunger pangs) in this AV attic, with Chris finding space in the budget for a pair of under counter fridges, a popcorn maker, and slush puppy and hot dog machines. The coup de grace is without doubt the Han Solo-in-carbonite replica for the rear wall, which was found by his wife on eBay, when she wasn’t doing the decorating/furnishing (‘this is what you call a family business,’ says Chris).

The good news for is that the hard work has definitely paid off – everyone is happy with the final result. ‘In fact,’ Chris told HCC, ‘I would go as far as saying that it turned out better than we had imagined. It’s more comfortable than a regular cinema and everyone who has used it has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.’ And the room is being used regularly – family film nights are taking place every weekend and frequently during the week.

Not that there aren’t a few things that he would do differently. For instance, the projector screen slightly overlaps the front soundstage speakers when it has fully descended and there’s not enough seating – despite there being eight leather recliners. ‘If we were to do it all over again, I guess we would make sure we had more seating, as since its completion we’ve had a lot more family and friends over to watch movies!’

As for new hardware, Chris is currently very content with what he has – although the prospect of 3D movies is tempting. ‘When the time comes, probably in the near future, the only thing we would like to upgrade would be the projector, the [Optoma] 3D one looks amazing. ‘And we would over time like to replace our normal DVDs with Blu-ray.’

As for Chris’ favourite demo disc to show of the system’s talents, he’s quick to answer. ‘That’s easy – it would have to be Jurassic Park. In particular the T Rex sequence, which sounds great!’

Family affair

From the dual TV screens and flexible speaker setup, to the Han Solo carbonite replica in the rear wall and custom-made media storage, this room is something of an eye-opener – and shows what can be achieved without having to call in the professionals. A lesson for all of us – sometimes your children know best.

Kit Checklist...

Jamo: 6 x U80 in-ceiling speakers
Jamo: 2 x C660 CS wall speakers
Bowers & Wilkins: CC6 S2 centre speaker
ElectroVoice: 4 x EVID C10.1 ceiling subwoofers
BK Electronics: BSBPV 500 subwoofer amplifier
Optoma: HD80 Full HD projector
Sony: BDP-S570 Blu-ray player
Onkyo: TX-SR607 7.2-channel AV receiver
Sky: Sky+HD box
Toshiba: Air conditioning unit
Loewe: 2 x 42in LCD screens for gaming purposes
Microsoft: 2 x Xbox 360s

Plus: 120in motorised projector screen; 2 x under counter fridges; popcorn machine; slush puppy machine; hot dog machine; Han Solo carbonite replicate; 8 x leather cinema seats