A couple years ago, I went through the process of building a home theater in my basement. With a limited budget, but with a keen eye for quality, I found a way to build the theater that I’d dreamed of for years. For my freelance writing gig at Residential AV Presents: Connected Home, I decided to chronicle the whole experience. This chronicle lasted upwards of four months and six newsletters. Here’s an excerpt from part 1 of the series.

In my new home, with its basement unfinished for the time being, I focused on building a modest new living-room theater until a larger-scale basement theater would become a reality. I was able to reuse my audio equipment in the service of a much larger, more acoustically dynamic space. The sound field opened up dramatically. But, with no room for my huge, blocky Mitsubishi set, I bought my first flat-panel plasma HDTV—a Panasonic—to fit into the area next to the fireplace. This setup marked my first foray into true HD imagery, as I took my first tentative steps into the technology through HD DVD and eventually Blu-ray. This theater took care of that essential 720p-to-1080p evolution that every 21st century home-theater enthusiast will undergo: I had absolutely pristine imagery matched to the audio nirvana of a great surround system. The multipurpose, angled room was a challenge, but I learned essential lessons about fitting existing AV equipment into new spaces and making them work.

Now that I’m staring into the face of my ultimate home theater, in a dedicated 15’x20′ basement space, I’m ready to gather all the lessons I’ve learned and embark on an extremely careful theater project. This time, I’ve hired an out-of-work contractor who has a similar mindset regarding smart, common-sense acoustical treatments (as well as bass-dampening building materials to mitigate the screeches and thumps felt upstairs), cosmetic touches, and lighting. I’ve measured out my seating area and taken precise measurements from seated positions to screen. This will also be my first experience with front-projection HDTV, so I’ll also need to be exceedingly cautious about that and other new and even forward-thinking choices.

In future installments of this series, I’ll keep you up to date on those choices and show you photos of the project in process. I’ll show you the compromises I’ve needed to make to adjust to the requirements of the space. I’ll show you how, in a budget-conscious frame of mind, I’ve incorporated older components into a theater than also brings in new technology. By the end, I hope I’ve built a modest home theater that impresses any visitor without breaking the bank. And who knows, maybe your experiences can help me in my process. Feel free to comment with ideas or suggestions!

You can read about the whole build process at Residential AV Presents: Connected Home. All six parts of the series are included there, as well as a gallery of photos taken along the way.