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The Home Theater: Where Decor & Technology Merge into
One Exciting Component.
By Jose Alvarez


A Home Theater is an environment where families can enjoy the movie theater experience in the comfort of their own homes. You enjoy movie theater experience through two main elements: a large screen and a surround sound.How large should the screen be? Nowadays TV manufacturers refer to large TVs anywhere between 50” and 70” diagonal. However, when you go to the movie theater and for those that have enjoyed a real home theater (which we will also refer to as Home Cinema), you will notice that even 70” diagonal will not give you anywhere near to that feeling of being inside the action, the concert or the game.

The size of the screen is mostly determined by the distance that you will be sitting from the screen. You should seat at a distance equal to one and a half times the width of the screen. If you will mostly see high definition content you can sit as close as 1.3 times your screen width. If you will mostly see standard definition TV or old movies, you may want to sit farther away, close to twice the screen width. That means that sitting at 15 feet from the screen you can have a screen anywhere from 92 to 135 inches.

The majority of real home cinema environments are based on front projection systems. In these systems a projector is normally hang from the ceiling or back wall with the image reflecting on a screen in the front of the room. For those that relate the picture quality of a projector to what they have seen in a business presentation, they are up for a surprise. The picture quality of recent home theater projectors match and even surpass most TVs.

The second key element is surround sound. A good system will get you into the action by moving sounds and special effects around the room to match the picture in the screen. Most home cinema systems have three front speakers (left, center and right) and two surround speakers (left and right). These five speakers, together with the subwoofer, form what is called a 5.1 system. The subwoofer is the .1 part of the equation since it is not used for all sounds but for the low frequencies involved in movie explosions and other effects that enhance the experience.

For larger rooms a 7.1 system is recommended. In these cases two back surround speakers are added to a 5.1 system to better fill the surround effects. Whatever the number, these speakers are powered by amplifiers, one for each speaker, that are housed separately, on a single amplifier box or in an integrated receiver. There is a wide range of audio components of different qualities and prices. Your home cinema retailer and installer will be able to suggest an excellent system for your budget and room configuration. The typical sources of audio and video are DVD, high definition movies and TV broadcasts. Audio only sources include CDs, radio (AM, FM and satellite) and music downloaded from the internet through different mechanisms.

Satellite and cable services are providing many high definition broadcasts with excellent quality that can be enjoyed in the large screen of a home cinema. This helps customers to have a single format for these movies with extraordinary picture quality without concerns of whether they will lose their investment.

Video games have become a common form of entertainment for the family, teenagers in particular. Xbox, Wii or Playstations can be easily connected to home cinemas turning it into a fantastic battlefield, sports court or music stage. Allowing parents to easily control kids is in itself a compelling reason to install a home cinema. These systems have become increasingly affordable due to dramatic reductions in electronic components in general and projectors in particular. Home theater projectors can be found under $1,000 and very good projectors can be found between $3,000 and $6,000. As a result, completely installed home cinemas can start under $10,000 while $60,000 would get you an entire room including excellent electronics, theater recliners, custom woodwork and installation.

Depending on your home size, you may have a large room that you can dedicate to a home cinema. That is certainly the ideal situation but hardly the only one. A spare bedroom can be converted in a small home cinema. In rooms as small as 10’ x 12’ you can have a 92” screen system with four chairs.

In other situations a home office or den can be shared as a home cinema area. In one end of the room you can have your desk and book cases while in the other you can place the screen and seats.Yet another option can be to have a family room, living room or great room as a shared environment where the home cinema also resides. For these situations there are products that allow you to hide the electronic components so they don’t take away from your home decoration. Retractable screens can be pulled up so they are out of the way when you are not enjoying movies or TV. Likewise, projectors can be placed on lifts that hide in the ceiling or inside soffits that will make this component invisible. Electronics can be placed inside elegant furniture or in nearby closets while a radio frequency universal remote control will send signals through walls to a base where the equipment resides.

Additionally, there are two typical concerns when home cinemas will be placed in a shared environment such as a living room or family room: Speakers and ambient light in the room. Floor-standing speakers tend to be big and bulky which is not the favorite piece of decoration for many. However, these can be easily hidden or your home theater retailer and installer can provide you with excellent in-wall or in-ceiling speakers that will satisfy most ears.

A common concern is whether the light of an open room will wash out the picture from a projector. If you have some window treatment and you are watching a bright picture such as a football game, you will have no problems. Dark pictures are the most susceptible to ambient light. That normally happens in movies, and since these are normally watched at night, in the very large majority of cases ambient light becomes a non-issue. Special bright screens also help to fight natural light and reduce this potential issue even more.

Audio and video distribution systems now allow you to easily pull music and movies from central home servers and enjoy it in different areas of the home. Decoration is always a critical point. If your home cinema is part of another home environment, you probably want to hide it as much as possible. If it is a dedicated room, you want to select a theme that enhances the experience even more. Depending on your budget you can work with an specialist in home cinema decoration or your home theater retailer and installer can work with subcontractors to create an amazing environment at a very reasonable price.

Sound treatment is another point that needs to be considered and is closely related to decoration. When most surfaces in the room are of reflective nature, sound from the system will rebound many times from walls, losing in clarity. It is important for key areas to have material that will absorb sound. There are panels specially design for specific purposes that can become decorative elements as well.

The idea here is to give you a brief introduction to this fascinating area that, when properly installed, will provide your family with endless hours of home entertainment. An established and reputable home cinema retailer and installer allow you to directly experience the entire environment by yourself, not show you just pictures, and address all your needs, questions and concerns for an unforgettable experience.

Written by Jose Alvarez of Theater Xtreme, Parkland, Florida. For questions and a tour of various home theaters, you are invited to call 954.341.1252. Or visit