And, finally: Calibration, then - All Done
Mike came by a few days back, and, in about two hours and change, the projector was calibrated, including defining a whopping four user savable presets. The calibration job took more time than it should for the normal person, because Mike has to record for me, every setting and measurement he does, so that I could intelligently report all of that to you, in the Calibration area in the General Performance section.
And what have we learned today?
If the system was impressive with standard DVD, in Theatre Black 1 mode, the first night, it was far more impressive with Blu-ray content from my PS3. But there was a fair (modest) amount of further improvement with the calibration done, when watching movies in Theatre Black 1. Where the calibration really made the difference though, was in the brighter modes. All of a sudden, Living Room mode, somewhat brighter than Theatre Black 1, looked great, instead of "off". When it came to the Dynamic mode, well, we created two different Dynamic settings. Consider that the purpose of Dynamic is to function as your "no holes barred" bright mode, for when you need every last lumen. Even after we created two new Dynamic modes, of course the default Dynamic is still available right off the menus.
What I always recommend when a "dynamic" type mode is significantly off in color accuracy, is to sacrifice some lumens for better color accuracy. The thing is, when going that route, Mike and I see things differently. Mike really tries to get the color accuracy to be really, really good, which he did (our first User saved Dynamic mode), but by my standards he goes too far. His color is great, but he sacrifices too many lumens. In this case about almost 300 lumens, down from the default measured 1422 lumens, to 1157.
At that point, I took over, making only two minor changes, mostly putting some of the green back in (a great way to get a brighter image), but still far less than default. My version yielded an extra 146 lumens. I probably should do a little more tweaking, as I might even find another 50 lumens or so, without really affecting picture quality. Mike's mode looks a tiny bit better than mine, but most people probably wouldn't even notice a difference switching between these two new User defined Dynamic modes.
So, now the Ensemble HD has all of its default color modes (6 in all), plus four, post calibration User saved ones:
Theater Black 1
Dynamic (1) (Mike's settings)
Dynamic (2) (Art's settings)
The Bottom Line: Installation of the Epson Ensemble HD
Because I went "in-wall" (as I imagine only a very small percentage of people will) the total installation time was 9 hours and 15 minutes! And that includes my bothering the guys with questions and photo shoots.
And don't forget, that includes the drywalling and touch up painting, not to mention overcoming some extra "in-wall" work due to some fairly "over the top" building codes down here. (Hey in my town, all new homes built since the mid 80's have had to have fire sprinklers throughout the house (even the garage).
I could predict that an "in-wall wiring" installation that didn't hit those minor hassles, might have taken 30 minutes to an hour less, but in reality, you have to expect some surprises when you go in-wall wiring.
One great thing that keeps it simple, is that all power comes from one source. It gets routed from the AV Controller Subwoofer (which is plugged right into the wall, to provide power for the subwoofer's amp, and the controller, as well as the screen's and the projector's power. With an installation of all separate equipment, you are probably drawing power to three different spots, from either two, or three power locations in your walls and ceiling, so this is simpler!
I wanted to mention, that you need special wiring for power when you go "in-wall". You simply are not allowed to use regular power cords and extensions I don't know of anywhere you are allowed to run a regular power cord through a wall. Our installers followed proper code, using romex wiring in wall, and the romex is connected to proper two gang receptacles, to meet NEC (National Electrical Code) standards.
OK, that's it, installation all done. All that is left, is to enjoy it, and truly, that has been great.
Complete job (less calibration time, but including electrical, drywalling and touch up painting), with all wiring "in-wall": 9 hours 15 minutes
Timeline: Spread out over two days to allow for drywalling to dry, etc.
Best estimate of installation, using Epson's paintable, channels for all wiring, instead of going "in-wall": 4 to 5 hours
Timeline: One afternoon!
The Low Cost of this Complete Home Theater Installation
Installation rates will vary depending on the dealer you work with. I asked the guys from My Custom Theater to provide me an invoice, reflecting how they would charge for the job, and they did. Their invoice offered the standard installation using the channels for a flat $500. They listed the "In-wall Upgrade" at $600, for a total of $1100. (In my case, I didn't have to pay for this - reviewing has its perks).
I figure that either way, it works out to about $125 an hour, give or take. I think that generally, from home theater dealers you are probably looking at between $100 and $200 an hour with most in the $125 to $150 an hour range. If these systems ever get to Best Buy, etc., their rates are probably lower, but they are also probably slower, and not quite as experienced. Still, the basic installation should be well within their skills, which is one of the beautiful things about the whole Ensemble concept. I imagine that if those big box houses (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc., do start offering the system, they too, will probably have a basic fixed charge, but more likely $400 - $500.
Money Left Over? Don't Worry!
Additional thoughts of how you can spend more money: Well, let's see: In our case, we bought a new small couch for the room (and rearranged a few things to make it fit). And some of you might choose to paint your walls darker (and even your ceiling), but the system looks great regardless (our walls are a light/medium brown).
Do you realize, that if you read the Epson brochure, and have read everything in this review so far, plus the final (Summary) page, that your local friendly AV dealer could already have a good start on the installation in your house?
What on earth are you thinking about/waiting for!?!