Building a home theater can be a challenge, here are a few tips that may make things simpler.
Keep it simple
You don’t need to start out with the best of everything, start out simple and then build on what you have. The cost of everything electronic is dropping every day so you can save money by waiting until you really need that motorized screen or those expensive speakers.
Use a flat white wall for a screen and add curtains later for a nice effect. If you purchase a screen, you may find that you are locked into a fixed format or screen width. With a wall you are only limited by the walls on the side of the theater.
If you are placing anything behind walls, be sure to use the highest quality, so that you are not tearing out walls to replace inferior cables. Install DVI or HDMI cables of the best quality to be sure that you are compatible with current and future products.
Locate the controls at a convenient location. A control console next to where you are seated is nice, or if you are planning on using a remote, be sure that the receiver is in front of you so that you are not turning around to change channels or the volume.
Think about the seating and how many people you want in your theater at any one time. you want everyone to have a perfect seat. avoid placing seats too far to the sides or behind one another. You will need at least twelve feet of width to accommodate four comfortable chairs.
If you planning a large theater with more than a few rows consider stadium style seating to ensure that everyone has a clear view. A sunken floor would be best, where you enter from the rear and walk down to the front row. If you have a basement with 10 or 12 foot high ceilings, build up the floor leading to the theater and then ramp down to the screen area. Be sure to keep the crawl space well ventilated and dry. This would also solve the problem of routing cables and power.
Avoid a room with windows or block them completely. Provide control lighting for the walk area that does not shine onto the screen. Rope lighting is great or even night lights evenly spaced.
Projector or large screen display?
I like a projector best for cost savings and better overall viewing. 1080p projectors under $5,000 became available in 2006. Some even ship with a spare lamp which will be the largest expense to maintain your theater. HDMI inputs are a must for any new equipment you install.
With a projector and a dark room you can create almost any size viewing screen you like, just don’t sit so close to a large screen that you have to keep turning your head to catch everything.
Plasma TV screens have wider viewing angles than LCD flat-panel televisions. That means you can sit at more of an angle and still get the best picture. With most TV technologies, including plasma TV, the picture stays the same from virtually any angle. With LCD TVs’, however, sitting too far to one side will result in a loss of brightness. 50 inch screens are about limit for Plasma TV screens at the present and the heavy weight should be considered when mounting to a wall.
In the near we will have Organic LED displays (OLED) which should be light, emit light like the Plasma and come in just about any size. These screens are just now showing up in small hand held devices and laptops. SONY has announced a 27-inch Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) capable of Full HD (1080p) performance in what SONY calls a “razor-thin” form factor.
A final nice touch would be a central control panel for all of those remotes. Try mounting all the remotes in a box with the front open for the IR light and clamp it to the side of your favorite chair. Use foam to cut out recesses for the controls so that the buttons are flush with the top of the box.
Try to keep your theater flexible and don’t lock yourself into a small screen or older analog equipment.