Whether you call it home theater, home theatre, or home cinema, it is becoming a popular home entertainment option around the world, but what exactly is it? Home theater is a home entertainment option that provides the consumer with an exciting viewing and listening experience. Home theater refers to a setup of audio and video equipment in your home that tries to duplicate the movie theater experience. However, what do you need to know in order get that experience?
There is a lot of hype and confusion as to what you really need to enjoy home theater. Read the following useful home theater tips that will help cut through the hype and misconceptions.
Run Wire and more wire…
Don’t let your home theater experience leave you wondering why more wires were not ran while the walls were open. It never hurts, and is easiest done when the walls are open. Many home theater owners are surprised to learn later that they’re options are limited… There are endless possibilities for hardware connections and even sub woofers built into seats today. Make sure you’re room has unlimited possibilities in the future regardless of weather you want to install from the start.
Lay Out the Room Properly
Did you know that one of the biggest factors that contribute to whether or not your media system performs well is the room itself? Its shape, the materials that were used for flooring and interior design, and even the colors make a difference. Bright wall colors, for example, tend to reflect light back onto the screen and can wash out the onscreen image, while dark or neutral shades minimize light reflection and screen coloration. Of course, designers take this more seriously in a dedicated home theater than in a multipurpose media room for obvious reasons. After all, who wants to hang out in a black living room?
When selecting your surface materials, consider sound performance. Hardwood floors or concrete will reflect sound, making the room sound something like a basketball court. If you choose reflective surfaces, temper them with plush sofas, pillows, drapes, or opt for carpet—all of which absorb sound.
The psychological effects of the right lighting are invaluable, and it is even more pronounced when you are dealing with dark rooms and light-sensitive equipment. Colored LED lighting adds drama, aisle lighting helps you find your way in a dark room, accent lighting draws the eye where you want it to go, and back lighting can minimize eyestrain during a long movie. Contrarily, uncontrolled ambient light, while cheerful, can wreak havoc on displays, especially projection screens. Consider blackout shades or an ambient-light-rejecting screen for rooms with lots of sunlight.
Don’t Skimp on the audio
We are a visual species. By nature, we tend to place more importance (and budget) on the picture side of a theater versus the audio. To demonstrate the importance of sound quality, at a recent trade show an audio company equipped two rooms with two home theater systems. In both rooms were the identical projector, screen, Blu-Ray player, and Blu-Ray disc. The projectors were both calibrated so the image was identical in both rooms. In the first room was a mediocre “average” surround sound system, and in the second room a high-quality surround sound system was used. They brought attendees into both rooms and showed them the same movie clip. After the audience saw both, they asked each person which room had the best picture quality. 95% of them picked the room with the better sound system! Nobody said that they were the same. Adding insult to injury, all of the people that went through the room were audio/video professionals. You would think they wouldn’t have fallen for this trick.
What this proves is that the better the sound, the better the overall experience. George Lucas has said many times that sound is at least 50% of the movie-going experience. Great movie sound is not designed to be an experience only an “audiophile” will appreciate, but rather to be an immersive movie-watching experience everyone will respond to.
Don’t leave the cost of acoustic treatments for the room out of your budget. It’s easy to focus on the projector, the screen, the speakers, the soundproofing, the electronics, the seating, etc. However, to get the most bang for your buck, acoustic wall treatments should pay a major role. There are essentially two ways to approach acoustic treatments: complete room or specific locations. For room treatments, the Acoustrack system from Acoustical Solutions or snap-trak from Sound Nice is a nice way to go. For specific locations, you will need absorbers on the front and sidewalls and diffusers on the back. You can purchase these from a multitude of places (search on acoustic panel) or you can build them yourself. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with a dead room – sound-wise that is.
Go bigger than you think you want
Choosing the correct screen size can sometimes be difficult to determine. There are formulas that can help you decide what the “optimum” size is, but this specification is very subjective. After all, some go to the movies and sit near the front and others prefer to sit near the back. Our best advice is to get in front of a normal television screen. Select a movie that makes most people nauseous (any ‘Bourne’ movie is good) and get as close as you can without feeling uncomfortable. Measure how far you are away and how wide the screen is. Share these results with your home theater designer and he or she can calculate your optimum field of view. Do this exercise with your significant other, too, since their preference may differ from yours,
If you don’t want to go through that exercise, use blue painters tape and mock up the screen size you are thinking about on the wall you are thinking about placing the screen. Then sit where your planned seating area will be to see how it feels. Our guess is that you will immediately get a sense of what size is right for you.
Consider Seating Assignments
If you have a theater with multiple rows of seating, be sure to give enough attention to the sight lines from both the front and back rows. This usually involves some calculations and the interplay of riser height, ceiling height, screen height, distance from screen to floor and ceiling, and distance from the seating to the screen. I often thought I was being obsessive about the calculations and being so concerned about this, but it has truly paid off. The back row of seating has a perfect, unobstructed view of the screen, regardless of whether the front row seats are reclined or not. Since riser construction is not easily changed at a later date, it really pays to do the calculations ahead of time.
The Audio / Video Equipment lives where?
Don’t try to hide the audio / video equipment under the floor risers or on a 10′ ledge at the back of the room… Plan a proper rack space in a nearby closet with adequate space… Without using furniture specifically designed for audio and video components, you’re not only running the risk of a media room with tragic feng shui, but potentially damaging your equipment as well. AV furniture has the proper ventilation needed to keep your components from overheating plus the structural reinforcement needed to support heavy gear.