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
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.
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.
WHERE TO PLACE THE HOME CINEMA
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
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
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 www.theaterxtreme.com