My home cinema

My home cinema setup

Introduction

The main goal of my HomeTheater was to fully automate it in such a way that it completely mimmics the experience in a true cinema, including the lights, pre-show trailers, pause slides, background music etc etc. And all this just at the flick of a button. It had to support both DVD as well as media files from oher sources such as CD or HDD.

Key features:
* Single button control. No need to manually switch hardware, switch of lights etc etc.
* Playlist is randomly generated from a large library of movie trailes
* The lights, pause slide show and background music are synchronized with the playlist
* Basic control by remote control. Play button will start pre-show and main movie, pause will pause the show and stop will stop the show

Hardware

HTPC (HomeTheater PC)

Hardware: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz, 8GB RAM, Onboard (VGA + HDMI), Onboard sound (S/PDIF, analog)
OS: XBMCbuntu (Linux)

Marantz SR5600 (surround receiver/amplifier)

The main audio amplifier in my home theater. It is connected to my PC with a digital connection for normal operation (stereo + 5.1/7.1) AND analog stereo for background music during film pause. The receiver is also controlled by the HTPC through its RS232 port to switch from digital to analog and to alter some presets.

Sony CRT projector VPH-1272Q

A good-old but very very good projector. CRT definitely still rules. Not extremely sharp, but sharp enough to throw a descent 720p picture and contrast ratio and color rendition is simply superb. No DLP/LCD/DLA projector is able to match that!
Setup was hell! But what a beast! 75kg just above the couch. Many vistors did not dare to sit below this beast until they got used to it.



Additional hardware

300W Class D Subwoofer Amplifier

True 300W class D subwoofer amplifier, based on a Hypex UCD400 class D amplifier module. I'm very pleased with these amplifier modules, since they deliver rock steady output, almost no distortion, are very quite and stay cool (even under heavy load).

MCE USB IR receiver

Works out-of-the-box with XBMC.

USB Dimmer

Homebrew, since I was unable to find any PC controlled dimmer that could dim smoothly and slowly enough. Used to control the lights in the HT room.


Software

XBMC 11.0 (Eden)

The 'core' of my HomeTheater. A lot already works just after installing XBMCbuntu.
XBMC runs in 'Windowed' mode to be able to adjust aspect ratio / masking, depening on which screen XBMC is displayed.

Multi screen support

XWindows is configured to drive both the onboard VGA AND HDMI at the same time (Windows, eat this!). A script is used to switch from the TV (HDMI) to the beamer (VGA). This script is called from lirc.
The position and size of the XBMC window is adjusted depending on which screen

Slideshow

A slideshow is automatically shown when the pause button is hit. This script picks random pause slides and updates the xwindows background.
A seperate script is used to automatically rescale and crop the pause slides and add a overlay (pause + cinema logo).

Custom automation plugin

Some XBMC events (play/pause/stop/video/audio) are captured by a small Python script. This scripts looks for a corresponding shell-script and executes this script when available.
These scripts control: lighting, receiver, background music, slideshow etc etc.


Additional setup

Playlist

The presented playlist has to mimic the playlist presented at the dutch movie theaters. This playlist is automatically generated and synchronized to ZoomPlayer by ZoomAssist.

MediaMusicLights
Blank (black) screen or home cinema logoOnOn
Dolby Digital / DTS / THX trailerOffDimmed
Home cinema welcome teaserOffDimmed
Random 1.85 trailer (2x)OffDimmed
Home cinema no-smoking / phone-off teaserOffDimmed
Random 2.35 trailer (1x)OffOff
Movie part 1 (or complete movie)OffOff
Pause picture (star wars background with pause text)OnOn
Movie part 2 (if applicable)OffOff