15 Dec 2013

Home theatre design tips

Lifestyle | Tips and Advice

As a child, I would often go to the movies with my parents. It was quite a treat, the massive screen, the amazing audio (not to mention popcorn); it was nothing like watching television at home. Nowadays, however, we don’t need to leave home to get this same cinematic experience, providing we have a well-designed home theatre.

home theatre design tips

Note the term: well-designed. Simply selecting a room to be your home theatre is not going to give you the experience you are after. There are many factors that go into creating a home theatre that will give you the required results.

Given that creating an effective home theatre is a detailed subject, and one that requires a reasonable level of expertise, I will not try to cover everything in this one article. Instead, I will give you an overview of some of the key considerations.

Location:

Obviously, the location of your home theatre in relation to other rooms is an important consideration. Regardless of how well insulated your walls might be, you would unlikely to want to place a home theatre next to the sleeping areas of your home. You might, however, want to keep the home theatre reasonably close to the kitchen for mid-movie snacks (remember the popcorn).

Choosing a suitable location is easier when designing a new home from scratch, but can be more challenging when renovating an existing home. However, you will still want to talk to me about the best location for your home theatre needs.

Room Size:

Most people don’t realise that the room for a home theatre should not be square. Nor should it be close to square, as this adversely affects the acoustics of the room. The two things that make a cinematic experience what it is are sound and vision. Square rooms destroy the audio effect, therefore diminishing the overall experience.

Rectangular rooms are better, as are unusually shaped rooms. However, in the ideal world, the dimension of your room should not be divisible by each other. In other words, a room with the following dimensions – 24’ long x 16’ wide x 8’ high, would not be as suitable as a room with the dimensions of 22’ long x 15’ wide x 8’ high. This needs to be considered when building a home theatre.

Seating:

A comfortable seating position is also crucial to the overall enjoyment of your home cinema. Therefore the number of seats and their placement in relation to the screen must be planned for before any building work commences.

Many people favour a seating position that has them sitting reasonably close to the screen, as this creates a greater sense of cinema grandeur. However, it needs to be kept in mind that most home theatre projection systems do not offer the same high-quality images of those found in regular cinemas. Home systems, regardless of price, have a lower picture resolution which is virtually unnoticeable from a distance, but disappointingly obvious the closer you get to the screen. Therefore placing your seats further away from the screen will enhance your viewing pleasure.

Comfort is also important, and reclining seats offer the best level of comfortable viewing. Studies have shown that pointing our eyes slightly downwards, rather than straight ahead, is actually more comfortable, particularly on the neck and spine. Therefore the ability to recline your seat backwards enables you to comfortably achieve this position.

On the point of stress on the neck and spine, consideration needs to also be given to those seats that might not be positioned directly in front of the screen. If you intend to have a number of seats in a row, it is best to angle them in an arch so that all seats allow you to see the screen without you needing to turn your head sharply.

Depending on how many people you intend to cater for, you might also need to consider having multiple rows of seats. In this case, you will need to have a tiered floor that allows clear visibility from every seat in every row. All of these factors need to be considered and then catered for in the design and dimensions of your room.

Audio:

As previously mentioned, the sound is one of the critical factors in creating a cinema experience. Therefore careful consideration needs to go into the number, type and placement of speakers within your home theatre.

Obviously, you will want surround sound, to give you the sensation of being part of the movie, but there are other design considerations that need to be taken into account.

One of the key effects in any cinema is the vibration that you feel during dramatic moments in a movie. If it feels like the floor is shaking as the T-Rex charges through the forest in Jurassic Park, that’s because it is. This is done via the use of Tactile Transducers.

Tactile Transducers work by transmitting low-frequency vibrations, typically through hard surfaces that they are mounted to. Mounting tactile transducers to the underside of your home theatre seats, or into the floor, will give that cinematic vibration, helping to add to the overall experience of your home cinema. The type, style and placement of these devices need to be considered during the design phase of your theatre room.

Some people do not like their speakers to be seen, preferring instead that their room is designed in such a way that the speakers are set back into the walls, ceiling or floors. And whilst this can be done, it is not recommended. Speaker cases are carefully designed to transmit sound in an optimal way. Placing those speaker boxes into cavities in walls and ceilings can reduce their effectiveness, therefore lessening your audio experience.

Screen Type:

There are many different ways that you can display images in your home theatre system, from a large flat-screen television set, to pull down, or pop up screens. The type, size and style that you choose will depend very much on your budget.

But this needs to be researched and decided up prior to designing your home cinema. For example, if your budget allowed, and you wanted a screen that retracted into the floor at the touch of a button, this would need to be catered for in the design of your room.

Of all the factors that need to be taken into account, one of the major ones will be the size of the screen that you are viewing. And whilst it is tempting to go for the biggest screen that money will buy, a more sensible approach is to factor in the size of your room and the distance of your seating from the screen itself. There are numerous formulas that can be used to calculate the ideal screen size given each of these factors, and these should be taken into account during the design phase of your home cinema.

Sound Proofing:

Most people like the idea of soundproofing for their home cinema. After all, you want to be able to enjoy high volume viewing without disturbing the rest of the household, or your neighbours down the road.

But soundproofing needs to be carefully planned, so that the noise outside the room is reduced sufficiently, without impacting on the audio experience within the room itself.

Careful selection of materials and planning of your walls, ceiling a floor designs can ensure that your home theatre delivers cinematic sound inside the room, without impacting on the rest of the home.

Summary:

As you can see there are many things that need to be considered when designing and building a home theatre. And whilst the points I have listed here will give you a starting point, there are many other factors that need to be taken into account if your home theatre design is to give you the fun and entertainment that you are after.

So if a home theatre is something that you would like to add to your home then call my office today. Together we can create a cinematic experience that will bring you years of audio/visual pleasure.

Article by Dion Seminara from dion seminara architecture in Brisbane.

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