MOVIE NIGHT TO THE MAX
Home Theaters Feature Big Screens, Comfy Seating and High Tech Sound
By Barbara Canetti
Call it whatever you want: home theater, media room, man cave or just an upgraded living room. No matter what its name, the idea of a fully immersive entertainment experience in the home is a popular and growing trend.
“From what we have seen, [the popularity of media rooms] has been on an incline since the late ’90s and hasn’t slowed down at all,” says Adam Henry of Capitol Technology Group.
With the growing inventory of affordable audio and video equipment available, builders are designing homes with dedicated media rooms that are prewired for electronics. And, says Henry, some developers are even soundproofing rooms during the building process.
To create a successful home theater, the design of the room is at the top of the list. The size of the system to be installed depends on the size and layout of the room and the furnishings selected hinge on the overall plan.
“In most home theaters we will mount a large to extra-large sized TV on the wall with a sound bar under it for a ten-foot by ten-foot room with only a couch. Or, in a full blown theater room in the range of 20 feet by 25 feet and beyond, we recommend projectors paired with large to extra-large projection screens and audio,” says Henry.
A rectangular room is preferred for the best acoustics and viewing, placing the screen and speakers along a short wall for optimal sound projection. A room with few or no windows is best, and if there are windows that might admit distracting light it’s best to use heavy drapes or shades in a blackout style to seal out light. Heavy surfaces with glass could cause sound distortion and framed artwork might reflect sound and light.
The walls in the room should be dry walled and painted dark in a flat or eggshell paint. Avoid red or blue paint colors and stick with brown, gray, tan or olive green. Acoustic wall panels are an option, but probably not necessary. If the theater is located in a basement or concrete block area, be sure to cover the walls with studs and drywall.
“If it is not in a convenient location in the house, people may not use the room as much,” Henry says. “Generally speaking, we would like to see media rooms above garages, or on first floor exterior walls in order to not disturb the rest of the house when the room is in use.”
Controlling sound in the theater makes for a quieter house. Adding wall-to-wall carpeting on the floor helps absorb ambient sounds and makes a good place for kids to watch movies, either lying on the floor or in beanbag chairs. Some rooms are designed with an incline in the floor or platform seating, making it ideal for viewers in rear rows to avoid having to look around the head of the person sitting in front. Seating should be no closer than seven and a half feet from a 60-inch screen and no more than 12 and a half feet away.
The center of the screen should be at eye level. If the room has a low ceiling, tilt the screen slightly towards the viewing area.
Speakers are a major component of any theater design. “Aesthetics are very important to most clients and speaker manufacturers understand this. They are designing in-wall and in-ceiling speakers that have incredible technology built into them so that you no longer need massive tower speakers sitting on the floor to achieve big time, quality sound,” Henry says. “The number of speakers in the space are based on client expectations, budget and room layout.”
Of course, the accessories needed in a home theater depend greatly upon budget, but certain items make for a better experience, such as integrated lighting control, motorized window treatments or shades and automation control and integration. For example, Henry says, viewers can “with the press of a single button” power on the lighting, projector and media equipment as well as lower the shades, if applicable, to prepare the environment. Once someone hits “play” the room lighting dims to pre-selected preferences and the cable, Bluray, AppleTV or Roku starts. When “stop” is selected, the movie stops and the lighting comes back up. And finally, when finished viewing, simply press “off” and the system gives viewers enough time to leave the room before it completely powers down.
Home theater seating is all about comfort, too. K&D Home and Design Studio carries Estella theater seating for two or three persons, as well as a Preston sectional for the whole family. They also stock the Sanai Chair, a power recliner in soft half leather, and an oversized Rajah Chair that offers the ultimate in golden luxury. K&D’s electric-powered Sabrina Recliner Chair also can be paired with a matching three-seater sofa, if desired.
And what would any movie be without popcorn or snacks? Gerald Shallenberger of B&G Popcorn says his company has seen an increase in sales of the smaller Fun Pop machines as the home theater trends continue to grow.
“These are designed for the home use and they are easy to use; no measurement required,” Shallenberger says. “We have pre-measured kits with popcorn and oil and they come with more than 30 flavors of shake-on sprinkles.” He says his company also sells snow cone machines, as well as equipment to prepare nachos and hot dogs.
“They just add to the experience,” he says.
Capitol Technology Group
27218 Sonata Creek, Cypress
K&D Home and Design Studio