The Importance of Professional design and planning for home theaters (part I)

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Properly addressing room finishes, room build-out regime, seat placement, and acoustics will have a significant impact on the enjoyment you receive from your home theater.

You're about to embark on a new adventure and enjoy the excitement provided by a cinema in your home. This investment in family entertainment should result in many hours of enjoyment with your family, friends and close associates. Much like any other major investment in your home, such as adding a swimming pool, you want to extract the maximum value such an addition can supply.

Much like a swimming pool or tennis court a home cinema is a significant investment that can return the same level of enjoyment. Unlike swimming pools, however, those who sell and install home theaters are not required to be licensed, accredited, trained or credentialed professionals.

Yet, most home theaters require an investment larger than a swimming pool!

When you install a swimming pool your contractor must deal with the many engineering aspects of the installation from material choices, soil stability, plumbing, drainage, filtering heating and others. A home theater requires similar attention to detail.

This includes room size, room ratios, throw distance, screen brightness, projector location, finishes, lighting, seating and even the method of framing and applying drywall. All of these items can affect usability, image quality and acoustics.

It is not uncommon to see photographs of home theaters that look attractive with the lights on. But when the lights go down and the movie begins the illusion ends. In many cases the cost difference between a nice home theater and a truly outstanding theater is insignificant in the overall scheme of things.

There is one more analogy that should be made before we go on and that analogy is to chocolate. Recall your first experience with chocolate. It was great! It tasted good, it gave pleasure and you enjoyed the experience. As you went through life, you continued to enjoy chocolate and couldn't imagine how it could possibly get better. Then one day someone attempted to explain how much better it could be. Eventually, you spent the extra 50 cents and tried a piece of imported Belgium chocolate. After that everything that had preceded the experience was not as good as you thought. While someone may have attempted to explain the difference, they couldn't - it was something you had to experience to understand. The same holds true with home cinemas.

Until you experience a properly designed, calibrated and set up theater, you cannot possibly contemplate the improvement in the experience.

I recall a homeowner sitting in his theater for the first time. He was awestruck with the sound. He kept commenting on the astounding audio of his theater. Then I turned off ProLogic and switched over to Dolby Digital. ProLogic wasn't as good as he thought it was! The bar had been raised.

So what's the purpose of this document?

Plainly, it is to encourage you to proceed with the adventure; but, in the process, to engage experienced, credentialed professional advice throughout the entire project. We are enthusiastic evangelists of home cinemas. At the end of the day, we are less interested in who gets your business than we are in the final result.

We want the project done right. We don't want the owner to be happy, we want the owner to be enthusiastically overwhelmed with the experience.

In the following paragraphs, we want to talk about some of the many issues and myths that need be considered in your project. We want to convince you this is more than five speakers and a TV set. We want to provide you with information that may assist you in finding the appropriate professional, explain how this professional would work with your architect and/or interior designer, and, finally, provide you with some examples of the level of detail you should be getting from your home theater contractor.

In the end, if that level of attention to detail is not present, look elsewhere.

The Room as a Component

We treat the room as the basic, if not primary, component of your system. Traditionally, speakers, electronics, screens and projectors are looked upon as the components in your ‘system’. When purchasing individual components, considerable research, listening, shopping, and viewing occurs before a purchase decision is reached.

Comparisons made, opinions sought.

We view the room, the room design if you will, as not only the single most important component of your system, but also the most ignored and overlooked. It, more than any other item you can purchase, will have the largest single effect on sound and video quality.

Spending considerable sums on cables, upgraded amplifiers, and new electronics will have a less marked affect on sound quality then spending the same amount on proper room design.

Proceed to Home theater design and planning part II

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