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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have already gotten partway through building a theater in my home, and I have decided to document it in the hopes that someone else might find it interesting or helpful, or at least not so boring they want to hurl themselves off a cliff.

This is the story of a man, his house, and a small (Ha!), low budget(Yeah, right), theater.

It all started innocuously enough. A couple years ago I built a new house for my wife and myself. It was a trifling 4700 square feet with the daylight basement, so the two of us could go weeks without actually having to communicate or even see each other - marital bliss!

I designed and built the entire house by myself, with the occasional laborer from craigslist (when they would actually show up). I also hired a foundation contractor, a HVAC contractor, and a roofing contractor, but the rest I did with my own two hands, with some help from my family. And seeing as how I am a Software Engineer, it all came quite naturally. :confused:

The conceptual front drawing I came up with was this:




And the one the engineer gave back to me when he said mine wouldn't work - the changes should be hugely apparent. I guess he earns all that money by inserting roof textures?



And the house when we moved in looked like this:



And on the 366th day, I proclaimed the house finished, and we lived happily ever after, or at least until I thought of the next project approximately 3 minutes later.:whistling:
 

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Discussion Starter #2
When I was excavating the lot for the foundation, we had a small snafu. By small, I mean it only became a $20,000 cost overrun, and by snafu, I mean a huge problem that caused me to have to re-engineer the foundation and turn the front walls from 3' stub walls to 12' behemoths that would support rebuilding one of the twin towers, with enough steel to build a bridge between them. And it took 2 months of waiting to get them engineered and approved from the county so we could get moving again.

In the meantime, it snowed and half of the open pit mine I had going collapsed and had to be dug out again for the low, low, one time payment of $5,000.00.

Eventualy, I ended up with a foundation for my house, but with a big problem. The depth under the location for the garage floor was now 12' instead of 3'. That is a whole lot of expensive fill.

The guy in the red flannel is standing right at the area where the garage is going to be:



You can see my dilemma. Either I fill the whole area for the garage floor, or that is going to be one steep driveway!

So after talking to my engineer, I decided to suspend 3" of concrete floor on top of TJI joists @ 12" centers and 1-1/8" T&G plywood. That way I could just leave the 8' crawlspace under the garage. A lot of work, but cheaper and faster than filling and compacting 11' of fill.

So during construction the framed floor would look like this:



And underneath the floor looked like these two pics:

North (Right side is ~9 feet high, left side is ~6 feet):


South:


The reason the dirt was piled up so high at the front wall is because the engineer said that without a floor at the base of the wall, the extra weight was needed to help hold the walls in place. Hmmmm. I will take his word, but those walls are 12" thick with 3/4" rebar every 12" both directions.

And so we had a house with crawlspaces that even the monster alien rats could comfortably live in.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Now, all this crawlspace did have its bonuses. I was able to make part of the space below the garage into the equipment room to house the furnace for the top floors, both water heaters, and all the high tech equipment.

To access the equipment room, I had to traipse through the crawl space. After a few of these trips to wire my network and phones, a lightbulb went off - "I could haul a bunch of this dirt out, pour a concrete floor, and turn this crawlspace into something useful".

After moving 14 yards of dirt down and out a hallway (with very beat up walls now) and pouring a new concrete floor through a vent, voila! A cold, unheated, concrete floored paradise for spiders. What to do, what to do.....

Of COURSE that question was rhetorical. A THEATER!. Oops, did I say that loud enough for the wife to hear?

I would have to add heating/cooling duties. A lucky end of year buyout at grainger netted me a 3 way, 2 ton (32,000 btu) mini split for 25% of its normal price ($1500) and it even came with free shipping to my garage!

The initial stab at a layout for the theater:



After some discussions in various forums, I decided:

Subwoofer(s) - Infinite Baffle with (4) Fi Audio IB3-18's 4ohm powered by an EP2500 and EQ'ed by a BFD. I had just enough room to build a false wall to house the screen, speakers and subwoofers, and if I left it open to the adjacent equipment room, It would handily accommodate the 10x Vas optimal for the IB. Plus what guy does not want 4 ginormous subs staring at them!

LCR Speakers - Many options were considered, but factoring in the narrowness of the room and the width of the screen desired left only one option for the type of speakers: In-wall behind an acoustically transparent screen. After some suggestions and lots of looking around, I decided to go with the NatalieP in-walls.

Surround Speakers - Some small 2-ways of my own devising. I am fairly happy with them but no telling what happens with these later.

Screen - DIY screen with Seymour AV screen material. This is some very, very good stuff that is comparable or better to most of the AT screens out there, some costing 10X the raw material prices.

Amp(s) - The LCR front speakers will be powered by my Earthquake CineNova Grande 3 channel, and the surrounds will be powered by my Onkyo 876 receiver.


So my conceptual floorplan for the room eventually looked like this:



And my concept for the screen wall:


So I was now ready to start throwing cash around willy-nilly to get all the toys. Merry christmas to me! I have to stop saying this stuff out loud. 8O
 

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Discussion Starter #4
After pouring the concrete floor, the first thing I noticed was size of the concrete column bases. They were gigantic, and were more intrusive than Raymonds mother. So I rented some temporary supports for the Glu-Lam, jackhammered the concrete down to the floor, and replaced them with full length 6" x 6"s.

Much cleaner look.

A few weeks later, after the framing was finished, I was working on the wiring when my know-it-all neighbor decided to drop by. He takes one look and proclaims "You got way too many circuit breakers for that one room. That will never pass code". Now I may not have the knowledge base of God (or even L & I), but I am pretty sure that there is nothing in the UBC that tells me the correct number of breakers to use for a specific room. So I continue to work while he tells me all about the theater he built for the Sheik of Abda Babba, and the 'Secret' wiring he did for Bill Gates' basement. BUT NOBODY HAS EVER ACTUALLY SEEN HIM WITH A TOOL IN HIS HANDS! He must be very, very clever to hide his activity like that.

Another couple weeks, and here we are:




The soffit on the upper left hides ductwork that feeds the upstairs. It was originally 24" flex duct that I ripped out and replaced with rectangular duct to make it fit much tighter in the corner. So I just made the soffit go all the way around for looks.

The header over the opening below the screen is just one of many leftovers from building the house. Oriented Strand beams are very stiff and have very low deflection.

There are a few problems with the room, such as big metal straps on the wall that are not going to sit very flat, some framing that will be a little in the way, and the one duct feeding into the furnace on the left, but this was originally designed to be plastic covered dirt so I will just have to make the best of it.
 

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:unbelievable: Your house looks awesome. Very very cool that you built it yourself. Wow. And you're an I.T. guy at that :bigsmile:

I run 2 18"s off an EP2500 and am considering doubling that. I'm also looking at a subwall and possibly a DIY AT screen, so I'm really interested in your build. Any info (or build pics :)) of the screen would be great. Good luck man, but it looks like it is going to turn out great.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
:unbelievable: Your house looks awesome. Very very cool that you built it yourself. Wow. And you're an I.T. guy at that :bigsmile:

I run 2 18"s off an EP2500 and am considering doubling that. I'm also looking at a subwall and possibly a DIY AT screen, so I'm really interested in your build. Any info (or build pics :)) of the screen would be great. Good luck man, but it looks like it is going to turn out great.
I will post the pics of building the screen when I get to that stage in the thread, I wont keep you waiting too long though.:foottap:

I would like to show a couple more details before moving on to the next stage.

1. I decided to do a double coffered ceiling and chandelier at the entrance to the theater. Lots of work to frame, and later for all the crown molding, but should be spectacular. The only problem is the height of the ceiling is only 9' so I have to find a shallow type of light.



2. I put low voltage electrical boxes (the orange open back ones) everywhere I thought I might ever want to run a speaker for HT or music use. I then ran a speaker wire to each one from the equipment room area.



3. I ran 2" pvc conduit to the projector mount from the area behind the screen. The projector mount I purchased actually has a threaded 2" hole for pipe in the top, so I used an adaptor and ran my conduit right to it. I nailed a 4" x 12" piece of beam in between my joists to screw the mount into later and drilled a hole to accommodate the conduit. That way I never have to worry about what cables are run because you can always run another.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Deciding on the style was a tough decision. My house is trimmed in authentic craftsman reproduction style. Big, heavy moldings without too much fru-fru like a victorian - like this:



(Please ignore the flock of seagulls late 80's couch. It has since retired to search for the last remaining Rick Springfield fangirls.)

But I wanted the theater to be a little fancier and more ornate. So I finally decided to do it in what I like to call "Fluted [email protected] Arts and Craftsman". 5" crown molding and 8" baseboard. Big fluted columns with raised panels and chair rail.

Any one who has done some finish work knows how tedious and time consuming it is. Especially when you are making all your own fluted panels, raised panels, etc. as you go.

Here is the existing hallway to the Theater. It will eventually have "Now Playing" posters on the walls, and the floor will be a dark brown marble with tan insets:



The next decision I made was to incorporate the surround speakers right into the columns. This would make the columns a little trickier, and I would also need to build some false columns on the wall to match, but I thought it would be quite custom.

The basic columns just start as a box that I routed out fluted patterns on, then assembled in place:



Then I made matching ones for the wall. I had to make the angled speaker parts seperately for the big columns because they were wider and lumber does not come that wide.



I also built a raised platform to set the second row of seating, and a third row that will consist of a bar table with some stools:



I incorporated 4 low voltage lights in to the step that wrapped around the platform:



And I wrapped the step all the way around and across the entrance doorway for looks. A router took care of rounding off the front edge of all the steps:

 

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Discussion Starter #9
Lighting always seems to be a bugaboo for me. I change my mind 20 times, I can't figure out what style, yadda, yadda. We finally settled on (4) wall sconces, a small chandelier where you come in, a rope light behind the crown molding, (6) recessed lights for general use, and the (4) low voltage lights in the platform. I am going to put the platform lights on a dusk sensor so that they will only come on when the other lights go out and it gets dark.

The crown molding over the main part of the room was held down from the ceiling so I could run an led rope light behind it. To support it correctly, I cut and glued in a bunch of small triangular pieces after the crown was up.



I had also wired an outlet in a corner of the ceiling that went to one of the switches by the door.

To finish the columns off, I made 19 raised panels out of MDF. These would be glued on the surface of the lower half of the columns, between the base and the chair rail. The outside edge was done using a Roman Ogee bit, and the groove was done using the same 1/2" box bit I used for the upper flutes.

The chair rail was done in two parts. The top part was a piece I ripped down from 5/4" x 3" to be 2" wide.



Closeup view (you can see some evidence of nearly a quart of glue that was used in this room - my wife accuses me of having stock in Titebond)



If I had not had the dust collection on my router, they might still be trying to dig me out. Anyone who thinks I am exaggerating too much has not spent much time with a router and MDF. The dust gets into EVERYTHING. Even with the dust collection, you still find a list mist of it everywhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
My next bullet point in the construction was to make the equipment room as unnoticeable as possible. So I covered the wall with a sheet of MDF from the column to the corner, and cut a door into the closet from the MDF. 7 cabinet hinges and some molding later, you can hardly even see the door now that it is painted.



And with the door open:



The first type of hinge I tried wouldn't work, so I had to go get a second kind that opened with better clearance. I also added a small chain as a limiter to people wouldn't slam the door into the wall.
 

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Love the house and the trimwork detail. Sort of a Tudor / Bungalow hybrid -- both styles the wife and I like.

As an amateur handyman/woodworker I always like finish carpentry and cabinet building. Those panel details and fluting are excellent! They will look awesome when painted.
 

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(still) looking really great. The columns look spectacular. The only thing I disagree with is getting rid of the seagull couches :)
no problem about the screen build pics... don't want to mess up your flow :)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The next one was a source of some small disagreements between the wife and myself. She even mentioned that she thought the paint color was more important than this - one of the most fundamentally important questions facing me during this build was: What the was I going to use for a subwoofer?

I have built and read about so many varieties that at times I thought I might never decide. But after some input from various forum members, and reading a bunch of stuff over at the Cult of the Infiinitely Baffled, I decided upon an IB.

Not just any IB would do, though, as it must me powerful and monstrous, and most importantly, look totally kick-a#@. So a wall of four 18" Fi Audio IB3 subs powered by 2500 watts of pro goodness in the EP2500 was going to do the LFE duties.

How to mount them? I got the idea to do kind of a raised stage look, and this is what I ended up building to house the subs:



The front baffles are 1-1/2" thick mdf, and yes I routed the outside edges of all four panels to match the column panels. Eventually, the baffle will get braced to the concrete wall behind it at each joint to keep these bad boy subs from shaking it apart.


Moving on to the next issue facing me, we have a furnace/hi tech panel room that needs a door. But the door is 32" wide and only 77" tall (instead of 80"). After getting a couple estimates from the door suppliers and lumberyards that were north of $300, I decided to buy one of the cheap ($100) metal six-panel exterior doors from Lowes and cut it down myself. It was not as hard as I feared it would be. I pried the weatherstrip from the bottom, taped it off, cut both sides using a jigsaw with a fine toothed metal cutting blade, then reglued the old strip back to the bottom of the door.

The paint color and scheme we chose for the woodwork is supposed to look kind of like old, worn leather. It involves painting a light brown basecoat, then coating over it with a very dark one, and while the dark one is still wet, wiping off some corners and places. Then a black aging patina is applied and wiped off.

Here is the door after being cut and painted:



The only reason the step goes as far to the left as it does is due to some metal straps that stuck out. I couldn't cut them off, and they were ugly. I also had to chisel some reliefs in the back of the baseboard in places to hide some more of the same.

Also, it always amazes me how long dust can hang around in the air. For days sometimes. I finally came up with a solution - a large box fan with a furnace filter on the intake side. It works quite well at removing dust from the air.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
One thing I haven't really talked about is soundproofing the room. Or, rather, soundproofing the rest of the house FROM this room. There is a fairly good reason for this. Since it is being built below my garage, it is 85% encased is concrete, wood, and insulation.

The ceiling is 3" of concrete on top of 1-1/8" Tongue and Groove plywood covered in a vinyl waterproofing. This all sits on the big TJI floor joists at 12" on center, and the whole thing is stuffed with r-33 fiberglass and covered with a double layer of 5/8" sheetrock to resist cracking while cars drive on the top.

All the walls except one are 2"x4" studs insulated with r-13, and spaced out 1" from 12" thick concrete foundation walls. No, that is not a misprint. The concrete walls really are 12" thick because they are also 12' tall. They are also buried competely underground.

The only remaining wall to the house also has a hallway on the other side, is sheeted with 1/2" OSB on both sides, and has a double layer of 5/8" sheetrock on the inside and a single layer on the outside.

So really, the only problem area I am going to have is where the IB area leaks out a combustion vent in the furnace room (See red vents in picture). I have no idea what I am going to do about that, or if I will even need to do anything.

 

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Discussion Starter #16
After a few days, and approximately 3,000 paint samples later, we had come up with our color scheme. All the paint was Behr, and they have a new line that features a built in primer for all the hard to cover colors, like deep wine reds and dark browns.

1. Main color - 'Divine Wine' in Behr Ultra Eggshell. All the walls and ceilings except for the ceilings in the crown molding areas. Very light amount of sheen.

2. Ceiling color - 'Formal Maroon' in Behr Ultra Flat. A slightly lighter color, but still pretty dark. A lighter color makes the ceiling appear higher. No sheen at all.

3. Woodwork and wainscoting areas -
  • Primer tinted to Behr 'Crantini'
  • A 50/50 mix of Behr Ultra 'Polished Leather' Satin and Behr Ultra 'Sweet Molasses' in Satin. Looks almost like a Hershey bar. Kind of a warm toned very dark brown. Light sheen, just enough to make it look like woodwork. Immediately after painting a surface, I would wipe random corners and areas to take small amounts of it back off. If I had really wanted to, I could have beat the woodwork up first with hammers and chains and it would have had a nice, distressed look.

    Chair Rail after paint/before black glaze:



    Column after paint/before black glaze:


  • Black wash made from ebony stain and oil based glaze. This was painted on then allowed to just start getting tacky. I then wiped off all the raised surfaces.

    The right stage column finished:



    The base of a wall column finished:


 

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Discussion Starter #17
I was very happy with the way the equipment room door came out. You can't even see it from more than about 5 feet.

Where's Waldos Door?



And close up straight on:



Close up open:



I know that it is not the most ideal equipment room, as there is no easy access to the direct back of the equipment. I will just have to deal with it.

I also need to come up with methods to control the heat generated by all the equipment in the room.

This is pretty much how it looked after the painting was finished. It is very hard to get a really good, accurate picture of a minimally lighted room.

 

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Discussion Starter #18
Now that everything was painted, I could do the finish electrical. There are a lot of outlets in this one room, but there is going to be a lot of power running from them. I have two seperate 20 amp circuits feeding the closet, a 20 amp circuit behind the screen area, and two more circuits for the lighting and general outlets.

I am not real up on remotes controls and fancy doo dads. I got a 4 way IR repeater to mount in the box beside the equipment closet, and that was a far as I thought it through. I am not sure if I can trigger my receiver from my projector, or vice versa, or what. Suggestions?

I was a little worried that the recessed can trims I picked out would be too visible on the ceiling. They are the ones that are black on the inside, but have a very narrow white trim ring that sits on the ceiliing. To my surprise, they were hardly even noticeable.

I bought an inexpensive rope light and installed it behind the upper crown molding. I turned it on and was very, very dissapointed. Way too dim and blotchy looking. I think I am going to have to spend a little dough for some pricier led rope lights if I have any hope of appearing on 'Cribs'.

The outlets and switches gave me some issues. White or almond were out of the question on the dark wine and brown walls. I bought a couple of black ones, and they just didn't look right. I finally settled on the dark brown outlets and switches, but the brown switch plates were all shiny and fake looking. I finally found some nice unfinished wooden ones, and I painted them with the same color as the lower walls. They look great. I also bought some blank ones, then drilled holes and installed speaker binding posts on them for the speaker hookups on the wall. These also looked quite good.

We still had not picked out a chandelier or the sconces at this point.

Also, in the middle of a lot of this mess, I had decided to build some more speakers, as much to learn more about them as to accomplish something. I built the M8a MTM version that Jon has on the HTGuide forum. I got fairly fancy with them, using a mix of cherry veneer and maple edging to get a distinct look.

These monsters are big and heavy. I sat them on a plinth, and the top portion of the baffle is a full 2-1/4" thick. The other advantage is that they use the same drivers as the Arvo, so if I want to try my hand later at some Dipoles, I could sell these cabinets or use them for something else and try the Arvos out. Maybe with the passive MTM/Active LF version.



And a closeup of the baffle - beautiful graining in the maple on this one:



Another thing about these - in an effort to save some dough, I made all the large caps from a buttload of 5mf ge caps. That was a total pita and I will be seriously tempted in the future just to spend the extra bucks.



You can see the rest of that build here

These will be strictly for music and stand in the side of the room away from the screen. They will probably also serve double duty as monitors for when I am jamming with my bro and friends.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The screen. Another one of those phrases that engendered a shudder down my spine as I knew very little about them. But, as with many other things theater, a bunch of forums users gave me their .02 to help me decide.

Since the room really wasn't wide enough at the screen to have floor standing speakers, and mounting the speakers behind an acoustically transparent screen is really the best auditory approach, I decided to build a set of 3 NatalieP's with the in/on wall crossovers and mount them in the wall behind a DIY screen made with the fabric from Seymour AV.

Since I am somewhat OCD about my construction, and I also like to do things in a way that saves as much time as possible, I made the front baffle for all 3 speakers on one full sheet of 3/4" MDF. I then glued and screwed it to the wall, and added a strip at the top to come to my final dimension (96" x 54") for a 110" diagonal 16:9 screen.

Closeup of one set of speaker cutouts:



After mounting the giant baffle on the wall:



I will try to describe what I did for the frame around the outside and why it is there. I needed it first of all to mount the screen frame to. I also thought (rightly or wrongly I still don't know) that the speakers would move some air, so I wanted the space between the speakers and the screen fabric to be vented. So I ran a piece of 1" x 3" first to bring it out. I then cut a whole bunch of 6" pieces, and ran them through the table saw to vary the thickness from ~5/8" to ~7/8". I did this so I could compensate for any variations in the wall flatness.

I mounted the four corner pieces using 8 of my 6" pieces, and used the level to get them fairly plumb. I then ran string from corner to corner on the faces. That way, I could try different thicknesses until each spot was perfect. The dowels are there for a reason and will get explained when I show the actual screen build.



I made three speaker boxes of the appropriate size and mounted them from behind with glue and screws. I left the tops off of them for now, to mount the crossovers later.

 

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Discussion Starter #20
Now I need a screen. My screen material cost around $225 from Seymour AV. They shipped it to me on a roll, and I bought 10' of the 98" wide material so I could build the screen with the material at a 15 degree angle. This is to reduce moire I guess or something.

Seymour AV has a couple of examples on their website about building your screen. I read through them, and took some of the info to use, but decided to build my screen seperately from the black velvet border that will go on top as the finished step - maybe come up with a simple low tech masking system later. So my screen material will be installed on the front of the frame, to be hidden by a second frame later.

I scrounged through my big piles of leftover wood from building the house and found some 1" x 4" oak ([email protected]' and [email protected]') that I ripped down to 2-1/2" wide. I then cut a dado on the front that exactly matched some aluminum screen channel that I bought at Lowes. I think it was about 3/4" wide x 9/32" deep or so. I actually made it about 1/32" deeper so there would be no chance of the channel protruding above the surface of the wood. I brushed a very light coat of Gorilla Glue on the back of the aluminum and clamped it in the wood to dry.



The I basically made a picture frame from the pieces. I cut it to fit exactly around the screen area that I already had up on the wall, and I tacked it in place temporarily while I glued the ends together so it would fit exactly.

I also took the opportunity to drill a bunch of 1/4" holes through the frame and into the supports behind them. That is where I installed the 1/4" dowels, so that the frame will always be positively located, and not get bent inwards from the tension of the fabric over time (or immediately as I found out). I also drilled and countersunk places where the frame could be screwed down tight.





I then removed the frame from the wall and set it aside to install the fabric later. First I wanted to get the wall painted flat black so there would be no artifacts showing through the screen:



I then installed some brackets at the corners of the screen just to reinforce it:



I put some diagonal braces on the frame to help hold it as I thought (quite correctly) that tensioning the material onto it would want to squeeze the sides together. I should have added a couple braces straight up and down in the middle because it did get squeezed and I had to undo it and redo it to get it to fit on the wall:



Installing the fabric was a tedious task, and definitely a 2 or 3 person job. I installed it just like you would door screen - using .125 rubber spline and a spline tool that you can get at any hardware store. The main issue I faced was that the relationships and dimensions changed as you pushed the material down into the channel. I found that the best way for me was to do the whole thing just trying to get it close, then going back, undoing a side and having my buddy keep the material taught while I reinserted the spline. Too little tension = ripples, too much tension = impossible to get the spline down in the groove.

Finally got it looking good:



And my screen is now ready to install!
 
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