What to look for in a Designer - There are no answers here because there are no pat, formula answers in cinema design. But there are things to look for in selecting someone to design and install your home theater.
You may not want a THX cinema, but you do want a THX Level II certified individual. Even if you don't believe in THX, an individual with THX certification has an understanding of theater and room acoustics, understands the acoustic challenges and, perhaps, how to avoid them. But, more to the point, the individual cares enough about his craft to have taken the time, effort and money to acquire professional training.
An individual certified by the Imaging Sciences Foundation has taken course and practical work to fully understand projector and television calibration and set up.
They understand the issues of "beam spot size", color temperature, contrast, geometry and all those other issues which go into getting a $50,000 picture from a $50,000 projector. But again, ISF certification is a measure of the individual's desire to fully understand his craft. You have to seriously question one's commitment to craft if they claim years and years of experience and no professional training.
The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association recognizes organizations who have subscribed to a code of ethics, maintained professional standing in the industry, and have requisite experience and insurance to deliver quality results. In addition, we’ve been participating with CEDIA in the development of a certification process for “Home Theater Designer”. Seek
out individuals with this certification.
Home Acoustics Alliance.
HAA is the ISF of audio. This organization provides training in small room acoustics and proper acoustic calibration for home theaters.
Other professional memberships or certifications which are appropriate include the Society of Motion Picture and
Television Engineers (SMPTE), the Cinema Audio Society (CAS), Acoustical Society of America (ASA), and the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE).
As important as the above, are the work products the designer will provide. If the designer simply points to where speakers should go, gives you a list of components and then returns to install the equipment, you don't have a designer, you have an equipment salesman.
The professional designer will insist upon being a part of the project team from concept through completion. The work product would include floor plans, framing plans, HVAC requirements, electrical requirements, acoustical analysis and design, and direct involvement in design decisions as to fabrics, colors, finishes and lighting.
The Point of it All.
This is not your father's stereo system. It's a complex organism, if you will, requiring the integration of acoustics, design, electronic systems and visual effects. It is you who is making a significant investment into an entertainment venue that can provide years of immense satisfaction.
Building a home cinema is not a simple process and you shouldn't be fooled into thinking it so. Building that Mercedes was not a simple process either; but, you left the design and engineering up to the professionals at the factory ... not to the salesman at the dealership. As complex and complicated as it may be, working closely with a professional will enhance the results, protect your investment and greatly simplify the entire process.
And, a final word about price. We all want a bargain and you can always find someone to sell something cheaper.
But, if it's the same product from a different dealer you must remember the dealers all pay the same price. So if they reduce their price something's got to give somewhere else. That somewhere else is always quality and service.
Finally, enjoy your home theater!
About the Author
Mr. Erskine is a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television
Engineers, THX Level II Certified, Imaging Sciences Foundation
Trained, a member of the Audio Engineering Society, and the Institute of
Electronics and Electrical Engineers (Consumer Electronics and
Computer Societies). Mr. Erskine is a Subject Matter Expert for CEDIA
in their certification process for Home Theater Designers. He is an
instructor for the Home Acoustics Alliance training dealers and
enthusiasts in small room acoustics. He has been credited with the
development of several new technologies and can be found in Who's Who
in Communications. He can be reached by email at