A low-priced Home Cinema configuration

Willing to install a Home Cinema configuration (that was an old dream of mine), I decided  to buy according to my limited budget. Here is how it turned to be and how you can do the same.

Video projector

Sony VPL-CS5 video projectorI started by buying a fairly good video-projector. You should always be sensitive to what is producing the image that you will be looking at. Knowing that my appartment is adorned with very large windows that cannot be blocked with shutter blinds, I needed a very bright and powerful projector. I bought a Sony VPL-CS5 (the more recent VPL-CS6 are still very bright). It’s only drawback is the noise level produced by its fan. I would not recommend it out of this need of extreme brightness.

Anyway, it is very beautiful in his cool pearly white paint.

The impossible choice

But there is a major constraint to take into account from the beginning. I believe that, like me, you do not intend to rebuild your living room and, thus, the location of the screen and of the projector is set in advance. Because of that I advise you to check precisely by visiting a web site including a calculator for projection distance (you may not know that some projectors are built for short distance use – from a table in a small meeting room – and some are made for long distance projection – in a large living room projecting from a furniture block or from the ceiling).

My prefered web site for this is Projection Calculator. It will allow you checking that the object of all your desires will be working well from where you intend to install it.

A screen for your eyes

I am still completely convinced that the best screen is a nice wall painted mate white. The pearly screens and other high tech surfaces tend to reinforce brightness only in the axis of the projector which does not look like a desirable feature to me if your living room is not as large as a real movie theater.

Thus, I chose a mate white flat wall for my screen.

DVD player

I decided not to install a usual DVD player but a PC computer. Advantages:

  • More flexible and able to grow
  • Supports a fully dezonned DVD drive
  • Supports video gaming on a great screen

However, it quickly appeared that the needed configuration is not really impressive. All tests showed that the following features are more than enough:

  • AMD Athlon @ 750 MHz (it’s not new, isn’t it)
  • 64 MB RAM (it could be less)
  • A Pionneer (2x) DVD drive which has been fully dezonned
  • A big 100GB hard drive (to hold plenty of DivX videos without playing with CD-ROM)
  • An old graphic card: PowerColor Radeon VE (during a long time, I even used an even older Radeon, but the PowerColor has both DVI and VGA outputs)
  • A Video DVD playing software provided by ATI
  • BS-Player for reading the other video files (MPEG-4 or DivX)

Sound section

To please my ears, I linked the basic normal sound card of the PC to the HiFi stereo of my living room. A big nice sound in stereo, no Dolby 5.1 or other multipoint solution, but I could not afford the large number of good speakers (and I did not want to replace them with these odd little boxes that are sometimes described as loudspeakers and should keep the name of tin cans).

Result

For months now, I can take full advantage of a real movie theater at home. My technical choices helped avoid breaking the bank (The largest investment stays the video projector, but it is far less expensive than an LCD screen – I never could have bought a 78 inch flat screen).

Beware: Always remember that the projector’s lamp is by far most expensive consumable part of this configuration. Given for 2000 hours life time, it will certainly live much more than that if vous always let it cool down before switching off the projector, if you allow a generous air flow around it to keep the atmosphere quite temperate and if you avoid always using the full light feature when not needed.

I wish you a pleasant time viewing your own movies.