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By Steve Milano, Brand Publishing Writer
Creating the perfect home theater to wow your friends and family
requires the right balance of form and function. “Whether you’re on
a budget or have tens of thousands spend, it’s important to understandhow
technology, furniture and decorating affect the performance
and comfort of a home theater. That way, you can create an
entertainment space you’ll enjoy for years to come,” says Nadine Katz,
design consultant for Baer’s Furniture, a family owned company trusted
for almost 70 years with 15 retail showcases throughout Florida.
“The idea for the perfect home theater is to build a room within
a room,” says Julio Rosello, owner of Golden Media Technology of
Wellington, Florida. “Everything that you build needs to be isolated
from the structure of the home so you don’t have any sound transfer
through the walls to the rest of the house.”
To achieve the highest quality theater experience without sacrificing
style, technical experts and designers work together to create rooms
that fit the home. “With the jobs we do, the homeowner is usually
working with the designer on the rest of the house,” says Rosello. “We
bring that flow from the rest of the house into the home theater so it
looks and feels as if it’s an extension of the house.”
“Designers work in concert with the technical contractors to meet the
customer’s needs, and the customer doesn’t have to come into contact
with the vendors,” says Katz. “If someone wants to put in a home
theater, we have all the resources to take it from an empty room and
turn it into a magnificent home cinema.”
Assess Your Room
For the best sound, experts advise putting your theater in a rectangular
room, not a square one, and to place your screen along or on one
of the short walls. “I’ve seen people put the screen on the wrong wall
because they want to seat as many people as they can,” Rosello says.
“Unfortunately, then they’ve sacrificed sound quality .”
Also take into consideration not only the viewing angles, but ease of
access during screenings. People will move about before, during and
after movies as they arrive late, need to take a phone call or make a
quick trip to the bathroom. Consider putting a door to the side of the
room so that when it opens, light won’t shine directly on to the screen.
Make access quick for most viewers by centrally locating the door
instead of putting it in the back — and look into sensors that raise
and lower illumination and provide floor lights so members of your
audience can easily find their way in the dark.
Choosing the Screen
You’ll have a dizzying array of screens to choose from, but a pro can
help refine your options. For example, bigger isn’t necessarily better.
How far away your seating will be from the screen is a key factor in
determining ideal screen size. A pro will use formulas to arrive at a
recommendation based on the size of your theater and its seating
Selecting a Sound System
If you don’t know the difference between bipole, dipole and monopole
speakers, what Dolby is or how to select preamps, you’ll need
expert advice. You might end up with six or more speakers to place,
so guidance from a professional is important. As a rule of thumb, put
your main speaker up front, under the middle of the screen, and place
your woofer (which provides bass) in front, as well.
Don’t plan on debuting your home theater until you’ve watched all or
part of a movie and determined that all speakers are properly placed.
Remember that your theater can absorb, reflect, distort, diffuse —
basically “bounce” sound around — decreasing your enjoyment of
TV shows and movies. For the best audio, maximize the acoustics of your theater based on your budget. You can install expensive isolating
wall blocks, or purchase more affordable acoustic wall panels made
especially for home theaters. “You don’t want bare walls and bare
floors, which cause the sound to bounce around,” says Katz. “You want
to have a combination of walls and floors that absorb sound and
walls that reflect sound for the perfect surround-sound experience,
otherwise, the walls will be dead and you won’t get as much sound
out of the system.”
Consider tiered seating: Add floor risers so that guests sitting in the
back have an unobstructed view of the screen. Decide in advance if
you want reclining seats; this determines the number of chairs and
how much space will be required between rows. Depending on your
budget, you can separate chairs with food/drink tables, or buy chairs
with built-in cupholders and areas for placing cellphones, bowls of
popcorn or dinner trays.
Old-style recliners point your head up when you tilt back, Katz
reminds consumers. “I’m all about comfort, but when you’re reclining
in some chairs, you’re staring at the ceiling. Many recliner manufacturers
are more cognizant of the fact that you need to be looking ahead
while you’re watching TV or movies, and you now have adjustable
headrests so you don’t have to wedge a small pillow behind your
head,” she says.
If you’ll have plus-size people watching TV and movies with you, add
a larger or double seat with an armrest on each side for their comfort,
When choosing colors for your home theater, opt for dark tones that
will absorb, not reflect light from the screen. Choose flat paint to avoid
light reflection, and don’t place glass-covered art on your walls, which
can bounce light and sound. If you’re looking for an alternative to
drapes and curtains, try wood blinds or shutters, suggests Katz. “Anything
that’s matte and covers is fine. Your home theater doesn’t have
to feel like a cave,” she says.
Your floor should absorb, not reflect light and sound, so stick with carpet
instead of a finished wood. If you’ve used fabric, acoustic wall tiles,
curtains and other techniques to “deaden” the room, adding carpet
might make the room too much of a dungeon. A thick wood floor that
isn’t polished and shiny might work in this situation. “In many homes
and professional theaters, you see darker-pattern carpets, which are
very good for light and sound absorption,” says Katz.
Wiring the Room
Unless you’re tech savvy, it’s best to have a professional hook up your
audio and video components. A home theater pro can help you not
only with basic wiring, but give you suggestions for screen and speaker
placements for an optimal viewing experience. Ask about technologies
that might be coming in the near future — you might be able to
install extra conduit or wires in your walls to avoid having to open up
drywall when new gadgets become the latest thing in a few years.
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