Michael is a fan of Screen Research's acoustically transparent screens, which use woven fabric rather than tiny perforations to allow sound from the speakers placed behind them to pass through. "With a lot of perf screens, if you sit too close, you'll see artifacts," Michael says. "With the SR screen, you can have people sitting 7 feet away, and the image is still absolutely stunning."
The screen has a custom-built 5-inch wooden frame with an aluminum-alloy tube running down the center for strength and rigidity. "We upholstered the frame in black theatrical velour," Michael says, "and it really looks much more substantial than the powder-coated aluminum frame that everyone else uses."
The Samsung LCD TVs that flank the screen were chosen for their high contrast ratios and deep black levels. The TVs and the projector each have their own DirecTV HD receiver, so that up to three games can be viewed at a time. And the LCDs each have Sennheiser headphones, so that Dave's friends can monitor other games while a different game is being shown on the big screen.
Michael chose a Philips Pronto TSU9600 touchscreen universal remote control to handle the system. "I like the Philips remotes," he says. "If you really learn the product, they're considerably more robust than most people realize." Michael created macros for the Johnsons, so watching TV or a movie is as simple as pressing a button. And he added a special feature for Dave: When the Pronto turns on, he's greeted by the Vikings' logo.
What seemed like one of Michael's biggest challenges - coordinating his activities with those of the other contractors - turned out to be a non-issue. "They all communicated a lot more than usual," he says, "letting each other know when and where they were going to be working."
What did turn out to be a challenge was pinning the peripatetic Dave down for a chat. "He's on the road a lot, doing million-dollar deals," Michael says. "And I finally had to stomp my feet like a kid and say, 'You have to give me the time to do my speech, because it's the only way you're going to know what's going to happen at the end of this and understand why this is a better fit than that.'"
Michael calls Stacey a very key player in the room's design, and Dave concurs: "I worked with Michael on the gear, but Stacey coordinated everything. She dealt with Michael more than I did, because she was home." Michael adds: "She was one of the best clients we've worked with. We'd make suggestions, and she asked the right questions, did some research on her own, and made decisions quickly."
Both Dave and Stacey are blown away by the result. Not only is Dave now enjoying football games with his buddies, but the room has become a popular hangout for the Johnson daughters' friends.
"I'm ecstatic with how things turned out," Dave says. "The great thing about Michael is that he gets as excited as you do. The guys who play in my fantasy-football leagues came over the second week of the season. Michael showed up an hour beforehand and stayed the entire afternoon just to make sure everything was working the way it should. He appreciated the fact that if something went wrong in the heat of the game with all my buddies there, it would have made for a really bad day. That blew me away. It's not just a job to him."
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