Martin Feusi and his cellar cinema
Portrait

Martin Feusi and his cellar cinema

Luca Fontana
Zurich, on 05.06.2019
Electrician, plasterer, carpenter. Martin Feusi isn’t any of the above. Nevertheless, he built a cinema in his own basement – by himself. This is his story.

Cinema. This is Martin Feusi’s kingdom, and the middle leather-backed armchair in the back row of the viewing area is his throne: Martin Feusi built a cinema. In his own basement.

The man has short blonde hair and some stubble. Excited, he leans forward. The cinema-enthusiast’s attention is firmly fixated on what’s happening on the acoustic screen, which is about three times two metres in size: Agent «K» and the replicant Sapper Morton are fighting to the death - the opening scene of the blockbuster «Blade Runner 2049». After the scene, he turns on the lights. His bright eyes wander across the entire 25 square metre cellar room.

Rotate the camera by 360° to see the entire cinema.

The leather armchairs have adjustable foot- and headrests. They're burgundy, as are the walls. An LED light integrated into the ceiling ring above Martin's head projects a violet light onto the black ceiling. Two pairs of Klipsch loudspeakers are placed in the two back corners. The rest of the loudspeaker set-up is hidden in an alcove hidden behind the screen. This is also where the electronics are stored.

Martin's eyes are glowing. His trademark mischievous grin spreads across his slender face. Satisfied, he takes a sip of beer - Adler Bräu, from the region - and puts the bottle back in the armchair’s cup holder.

Your own cinema

Whenever Martin sits like this he’s quiet, almost unnoticed. Maybe that’s part of the job when you’re a trained computer scientist such as him. But the pride in what he has accomplished is palpable when he speaks. It always is. He’s a husband and a father of three, the cinema is his greatest passion. It’s the only place he watches movies – he doesn’t own a TV.

Martin Feusi, part-time cinema builder.
Martin Feusi, part-time cinema builder.

«I used to collect all the movie tickets I bought. There must have been hundreds,» Martin says coolly. A good example of the man’s subtle humour, with his light grey Captain America T-shirt. «But now I don't have to collect them anymore.»

Martin separates work from play. Something that allowed him to pursue his cinema dream. The computer scientist, who works in urban Zurich but lives in the Netstal valley surrounded by mountains, has been renting a small office space for years, about 200 meters from his house. This is where he does his home office, pays his bills and leaves his work. In the past, the office wasn’t just a study but also his hobby room. With a sofa, projector and screen. «My man cave,» says Martin. There it is again, that cheeky grin.

Then a new project, about two years ago: building his own home.

The father takes another sip of Adler Bräu beer. «When I entered the cellar for the first time, I was dreading what it was going to look like once I stored all my junk down there.» So he started looking for alternatives. Then, the idea appeared in front of him: This bare cellar with pipes across the ceiling would become a cinema. «Pretty much the same thing as I had in my hobby room, just done right this time.»

Martin's cellar, February 2018. The drain pipe is gone, replaced by canvas.
Martin's cellar, February 2018. The drain pipe is gone, replaced by canvas.

He didn’t have to talk anybody into it. His wife was quickly convinced by the idea – he applauded her motivating attitude, giving him enough space to let his crazy ideas take shape. The real challenge would actually be acquiring the necessary knowledge to build a small, private cinema in your own basement.

Switzerland, the developing country

Remembering this time around February 2018, Martin rolls his eyes, wipes his brow with his hand and pulls a face: «As far as home theatres are concerned, I felt like I was in a developing country in Switzerland.» This is apparently due to the fact that there are almost no local providers for home cinema equipment. And the few there are don’t offer enough to satisfy Martin’s needs.

When you look at the screen, you have two pairs of speakers and a projector at your back.
When you look at the screen, you have two pairs of speakers and a projector at your back.

Armed with pen and paper, on which the floor plan of the cellar was drawn, he spent weeks browsing websites, forums and Youtube channels. Questions such as «which screen», «how wide and high must the canvas be» and «how far away will the seats be» arose. In general: «Where will I get seats from» and «fabric or leather upholstery» are just as much a part of research as «what about insulation», «how do I hide the drain pipes» and «what the hell is a facing shell or an absorber».

«It was maddening. I'm not a craftsman, electrician or a plasterer,» Martin says a year later, resting comfortably in his cinema chair. In February 2018 he still saw himself as a mere office worker. Martin smiles. Sheepishly this time.

I had no experience whatsoever, but lots of ideas and even more questions.

Every day, Martin was confronted with new questions. Questions whose answers raised new questions. Questions on tools, for example. «I suddenly had to get hold of a router or a jigsaw. Then I needed special attachments for my work surface. It went on and on and never seemed to stop.»

The desk warrior had no idea how to handle these new acquisitions. He speaks of «hard labour». «For four months I invested time and money without even having started with the actual work. I really had to be patient. But it was necessary, otherwise the reconstruction would have ended in tears.»

Martin is proud of what he achieved.
Martin is proud of what he achieved.

By June 2018, the time had come: start of construction. Martin got down to it.

Building a cinema on your paternity leave

The family man started with the ceiling. It had to be painted black while the drain pipes were hidden – a kind of wreath around the ceiling protects them. The same panelling hides the cables that connect the projector as well as both pairs of loudspeakers – one Klipsch set at ear-height and the other higher up – to the receiver behind the screen.

Martin uses an Auro-3D setup.

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October also marked the birth of his third child. Martin took full advantage of this. He got four weeks of paternity leave. «That was my timeframe,» Martin says, nipping at his bottle of Adler Bräu.

All electronics are located behind the suspended screen.
All electronics are located behind the suspended screen.

He hung the canvas, which is stretched over a home-made wooden frame with velour flocking, on the self-made plaster wall – a cladding in front of the untreated masonry. There are about 60 centimetres between cladding and masonry. Enough room for the receiver, two treble speakers, two subwoofers, two central loudspeakers, one pair of speakers for the left and right sound channels as well as a whole bunch of cables. All under the Klipsch brand. Except for the front left and front right speakers. They’re from Studer and Revox and unfortunately no longer for sale.

This is what it looks like from a distance.
This is what it looks like from a distance.

Then he built the platform: a wooden construct made of coarse chipboard. The rear row of seats now rests on it. The platform is stuffed with mineral wool. And there's a good reason for this: the two rear speaker columns, which Martin designed himself, have an open bottom. This way, excess sound waves are reflected directly downwards into the platform. Directly into the mineral wool. Perfectly insulating the platform.

Wooden frame covered with acoustic fabric...
Wooden frame covered with acoustic fabric...
...and screwed onto the columns.
...and screwed onto the columns.

Martin also constructed the other walls in the room from plasterboard. He mounted six foam absorber panels on each of the side walls, which absorb sound waves so that they don’t reverberate through the room. The wall colour corresponds exactly to the armchair colour.

Martin explaining his cinema. In the background: the red plasterboard walls and the absorbers.
Martin explaining his cinema. In the background: the red plasterboard walls and the absorbers.

Martin laid the vinyl floor after applying the plaster wall. A carpet was out of the question: this wouldn’t at all be compatible with the soundproof door system, which prevents the transmission of sound from or into the room.

«You wouldn't believe how many carpets I had already looked at before I found out,» says Martin, «that must have been up to fifty items. At least.»

That mischievous grin is back.

The night shift

The four-week deadline wasn’t enough.

Completely overtired, he continued working all night long; after his paternity leave ended, Martin had no other choice. He couldn't just stop and declare the project a failure, because the complex installations would take as long to demolish as the ambitious project would take to complete. In addition, Martin had already invested more than 10,000 francs and countless hours of work.

Stop? Never. All these troubles couldn't have been for nothing.

There was only one more path left: to trek on.

Martin invested seven months of blood, sweat and tears as well as countless hours of work into his cinema project.
Martin invested seven months of blood, sweat and tears as well as countless hours of work into his cinema project.

His nerves were completely shot when looking through armchair options. «There are very few actual showrooms with models in Switzerland,» Martin explains. And the few there are again didn't meet his expectations. The computer scientist had a choice to make: to either drive over 600 kilometres abroad for a seat test, only to find out that the seat isn’t suitable, or rely solely on extremely subjective experience reports from Internet forums written by people he didn’t know.

Martin opted for the latter.

He ordered five leather cinema seats for a total of 8,000 euros from a dealer in Germany. The delivery time was three months. «Imagine,» Martin says, his voice getting higher, «you're transferring a huge amount of money abroad and then have to wait months for the goods to arrive without knowing exactly what you're getting.» Martin puts his hand to his head.

Red leather armchairs with adjustable foot- and headrests as well as cup holders.
Red leather armchairs with adjustable foot- and headrests as well as cup holders.

March 2019. The seats had arrived. And they were perfect. A huge wave of relief flooded over Martin. Full with new-found vigour, he installed them, sat down, browsed through his film database – he had connected the whole system to his NAS via a [Nvidia Shield](/en/s1/product/nvidia-shield-tv-remote-only-de-fr-it-en game console-6604685); Martin manages the films via Plex – and watched the first film in his own cinema.

«Interstellar».

Gazing at the heavens

Martin leans back and thinks for a moment. The problem with such projects, the man with the Captain America shirt says, is that there are no instructions and no one showing you how to do it. In addition, it’s important to start half- or even completely unsuccessful works from scratch instead of simply leaving them standing.

«Be willing to learn the hard way. The really hard way,» a lesson Martin had to learn on his own. «That’s why I want to help other cinema enthusiasts to build their own home cinema». In you feel addressed by this: you can reach Martin via e-mail at cinema@martinfeusi.com.

«Then there are those ideas that only come to mind when you're already in the middle of a project. Ambilight, for example,» Martin says. He points at the screen: an LED band is throwing lights matching the on-screen frame onto the plaster wall behind it. The colours adapt to the images currently visible on the screen.

A home cinema with homemade Ambilight.
A home cinema with homemade Ambilight.

«Fortunately, I at least had a manual for the Ambilight», he says smiling.

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«At some point, I just stopped counting how much the whole project had cost me. Otherwise, I'd have gone bonkers. It’s certainly more than 20,000 francs». Again that grin. «I mean, every single cent was worth it.»

Cinema chair number two: Martin's Throne. Where he feels the most comfortable.
Cinema chair number two: Martin's Throne. Where he feels the most comfortable.

The project isn't finished yet. He still has hundreds of questions. And hundreds of ideas. The father of three looks up at the ceiling. He could install dozens of little LED lights there. Martin takes one last sip from his bottle of Adler Bräu.

«Stars would certainly give it something, yeah.»

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Luca Fontana
Luca Fontana
Editor, Zurich
I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.»

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