Reader's cinema: Car? Park it outside!

HCC reader John Johnston has converted his garage into a sleek, stylish movie room

Introduce yourself... 
I'm John Johnston, aged 33, and I'm a professional photographer.

How long have you been into home cinema? 
My friend Brian got me into it when I was around 18 years old. I remember he had a LaserDisc player and the picture quality it delivered was amazing at the time. And Dolby Pro-Logic was insane, too! Then a few years later another friend had one of the first DVD players on the market and again, we couldn't believe the image quality. I guess this, amongst other things, got me hooked on home cinema.

When and why did you decide to build your dedicated room? 
Me and my girlfriend moved into our home in August 2013 and I knew as soon as we viewed the house that I wanted to build a dedicated home cinema room. It had a garage that was the perfect place to do the build as it was never going to be used for cars.

How long did the project take?
It was done by a professional company, Avcomm.TV ( I would say the job only took around six weeks maximum from start to finish (after getting planning permission from the local council ). Going from other folk who have had this done, I would say that is very fast. I didn't do any of the work myself ( apart from making lots of cups of tea) but I would say I put a lot of thought into the design and look of the room and it's been done exactly as I'd described.

Roughly how much have you spent on it?
I did originally have a budget of £12,000. This was including most, if not all, of the equipment but it did rise to around £16,000. I wanted it looking really cool so when it came down to buying all the stuff, I didn't want to start penny-pinching.

What was the most challenging part of the build? Is there anything you'd do differently second time around?
For me there wasn't really anything challenging as I had a team of skilled professionals working on the job, but looking back I would say the most frustrating part was waiting on the approval of the planning permission/building warrant at the beginning. I'm pretty impatient, though, and I really wanted it done by Christmas. The folk building it and installing the AV equipment pulled out all the stops to ensure I had it done by then. For that I can't thank them enough. I honestly cannot think of anything I would change or do differently.

So, what kit is in the system?
The projector is an Epson EH-TW8100, and it fires at a custom-made velvet fixed-frame screen using Cinesound Acoustic Transparent material. The sound system is a traditional 7.1 array (with rear speakers), incorporating three Monitor Audio WT280s for L/C/R, four Monitor Audio CT380-FX speakers for the rear and surround channels, and a Monitor Audio Radius 380 subwoofer. 

The speaker system is powered by a Yamaha RX-V675 AV receiver, with sources including a PlayStation 4 and my own custom-built home theatre/gaming PC.

All the AV equipment and lighting is controlled by a Harmony Ultimate remote control. The strip lighting on the ceiling and floor can be changed to any colour.

Those chairs look comfy. Where did you get them?
They are really comfy. I got them from a seller on eBay. They were actually not that expensive given the price of a lot of home cinema seats out there on the market. They have a massage controller so this makes them even more relaxing! I've also recently just added a small two-seater sofa behind them [not pictured], in case I have guests over.

Do you have your eye on any kit upgrades at the moment? 
Not at the moment. The image quality off the Epson projector is stunning, both with 2D movies and 3D. It's like my own IMAX cinema! 

What’s your favourite bit of kit?
The PJ is certainly up there, as is the Yamaha AVR for its sound performance, but, strangely, I really like the Harmony Ultimate, given that it's taken away around seven remotes. I can even control my main lights and the strip lights going along the ceiling from this handset. And let's not forget to mention the little fridge I have tucked in between my AV equipment; it's thirsty work watching all these movies/sports events and playing video games...

What do friends and family think of the system?
They're blown away. That's all I can really say about that!

What are your favourite Blu-rays/games? 
Too many to choose from but watching Avatar in 3D is simply stunning. The Dark Knight is up there, too – thunderous sound. Gaming-wise, Call of Duty Ghosts through my gaming PC is pretty special. FIFA 14 on the PS4 is amazing, too.

What do you use to show off the system? 
Avengers Assemble in 3D is a good one to show – particularly the scenes near the end. 

What's your verdict on the finished room?
Absolutely priceless. Ever since I was a kid I've always wanted my own home cinema. What makes it extra special is my late brother – who sadly passed almost ten years ago – always wanted one but never got the chance. Hopefully he's looking down with a big smile on his face.

How often do you make use of it?
Every day actually. Given the job I have, I spend a lot of time working from home, so this gives me the best opportunities to watch stuff, providing I finish all my work, of course. 

Lastly, are you excited by 4K/Ultra HD? 
Truthfully, I haven't seen much of it. But if the step up from HD to Ultra HD is similar to the step from video to DVD or DVD to Blu-ray, then I'll be looking forward to it.

For a video peek at this superb garage conversion, check out John Johnston's website