How to Build Your Own Home Theater PC for Viewing AVATAR

Jake2 Learn how to build a home theater PC or HTPC for the release of AVATAR and other visually stunning films. A home theater PC can be inexpensive and small, or expensive and large, depending on what you make of it. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Guest post by Ty Wingfoot

A home theater PC, also referred to as an HTPC is a computer that acts as the digital engine to provide all the content to your television. The HTPC is for more than just watching DVDs on your TV through your computer. The HTPC is a super geek project that gives you an awesome viewing experience with the versatility to watch online videos and view pictures, listen to songs and any other kind of digital media. You can build a home theater PC for as little as $600 or as much as $2,000 or more. It all depends on your quest and your personal preferences. Now that AVATAR and its stunning visual effects are available on DVD and Blu-Ray, it’s the perfect time to build a home theater PC.

Choose Your Home Theater PC Case

Picking a case is the first and maybe the most important part of this project. The case will let you know what you have to work with. While it’s not the sexiest part of the PC, if you get a case that lets out too much noise or causes too much heat, all your hard work may be wasted. Pick a case that fits your space, has a quiet fan, has enough power and is easy to use. You can use a mini computer form factor like the Mini-ITX or use a bigger form factor if you have the room and want a bigger case. You should pick a case that has a remote for easy TV viewing.

Under the Hood

If you’re going for a small-size basic home theater PC, you may want to use an Atom processor. However, if you want the mega powerful HTPC, you should choose a powerful processor such as a high end dual core or mid range quad core. You may want plenty of power, but remember with great power comes great heating and the need for more cooling, which can raise the sound level and cause your PC to overheat.

Find a good motherboard. You need a motherboard to match your processor but make sure you choose something with a lot of ports and options. You’ll want USB, Firewire and of course a video HDMI output. Integrated technology is fine for this type of use-- you’re not going to be watching the video on your monitor so a built in video card is fine as long as it has HDMI support.

Since you’re just watching video and not editing it, two gigabytes of RAM is a good start; however, four or even six would provide more options for your home theater PC, such as for some gaming and other future possibilities.

If your home theater PC is going to be more than just a DVD or BD player, make sure you install a TV tuner card.

What’s Driving the PC

You need a hard drive that has plenty of space. To allow room for growth, something in the lines of a one terabyte drive is in order. Noise and heat output are also essential to consider, so a drive like a Western Digital WD10EACS GreenPower hard drive is a good choice if you’re making a full size HTPC. If you’re shooting for something smaller, you may want to use a solid state drive.

Of course, no home theater PC would be complete without a Blu-ray player. You have to be careful because many Blu-ray drives are too big to fit correctly into many PC cases. Do your homework and find a player that fits in your case. Even though HD DVD lost the format war, you can find players that play both formats in case you have DVDs in both formats or want to buy low priced HD DVD formatted DVDs.

Putting It Together

Assembling the PC shouldn’t take much time, but be careful to pay attention to the air flow of the case and what kind of fans or heat sinks you may need to add. You’ll need to install an operating system capable of handling all your media needs. Windows Home Premium or higher is a suitable choice, but if you really want to go for extreme customization and control, you can always install Linux and run software like Myth TV.

Sponsored by Panasonic VIERA. Return to the world of AVATAR in stunning full HD with the Panasonic VIERA HD TV.

What's your dream home theater? Describe it!



My dream theater would be a hybrid of consumer and comercial digital cinema components. It would be fully DCI compliant just like the big movie theaters, but also support consumer formats like blu-ray and satellite TV, anything that has an HDMI output. So, if money is no object, here's my dream theater!

-First off I would need a decently sized room, something like 40' x 25'. and good sound absorbing wall material.
-Tiered seating, raked steeply enough that every seat has a clear view of the screen even when fully reclined.
-7.1 surround with bass shakers installed in the seating.
-240" 1.85:1 (flat aspect ratio) silver screen with automated horizontal masking for scope (2.39:1) movies.
-Automated lighting
-Crestron touchscreen remote control system or better.
-Oh, can't forget to find a film booking agent for getting those DCI movies still in theatrical only release.

Now for the equipment.
-Projector: Christie CP2000-ZX with RealD ZScreen attachment for 3D
-DCI Player: Doremi digital cinema player
-Format Converter: Doremi 3D signal converter
-Digital cinema audio decoder/pre-amp
-High-end home theater A/V reciever/pre-amp with built in video converter/scaler
-amps for each audio channel up to 300 watts per channel max rated 400 (i know this is overkill)
-dual LFE amps 2000 watts each and matched drivers
-buttkicker bass shakers installed in each seat amps to match
-Home theater PC/server with 14 TB of storage RAID 5, BD/HD-DVD/DVD combo drive, hdmi 1.4 compliant video card nvidia 400 series?
-VHS player, just in case, ha ha :-)
-DirecTV reciever
-commercial grade hard wired surge protector and power filter and/or isolation transformer with battery backup power.
-in my basement under garage, ceiling made of pre-stressed concrete panels, then suspended ceiling with flat black sound absorbing panels, will double as a storm shelter if I'm located in tornado alley like I am now.

Whatcha think? ;-)

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