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Things to consider when planning a Home Cinema

Welcome to the April 2015 newsletter from the Electric Playground, the home technology specialist.

This month we wanted to give you a few things to think about when planning a home cinema.
Seating
 
Probably the first and most important factor in designing a home cinema is the seating position. You should be thinking how many and where.
 
Ideally they should be in the center of the room and a minimum 25% from the surrounding walls. We recommend that there’s no more than three rows as the more you move away from the ‘primary seating position’ the less the cinema experience. Also where the ‘primary seating position’ is will largely dictate what equipment you need to buy.
 
On the seats themselves you could just use sofas but why not consider proper theatre seating. They can come with many extras like recline buttons or snack tables. Have a look at Fortress Seating. You could even have ones programmed to move along with the action on the screen. Checkout the D-Box.

 
Screen
 
Screen size all depends on the size of the room but most recommendations suggest that from the primary seating position the edges of the screen should be no larger than a 45˚ viewing angle.
 
The aspect ratio is an important consideration as well. Movies predominately screen in 2.35:1 ratio rather than TV’s 16:9. Showing movies broadcast in 2.35:1 on a 16:9 screen waste about 20% of the screen by putting black bars above and below the screen. You can avoid this by putting an anamorphic lens on to the projector and showing it in its full size. You need to consider what you watch more of, movies or TV?
The screen material is also an important choice. Does it have to be acoustically transparent (i.e. let sound through)? What’s the ambient light situation, does it need to be more reflective?

For a good selection of quality screens check out
Screen Research or Stewart Filmscreen.
 
A few other things to consider are whether the screen is going to be fixed or retractable, maybe even if the screen will need curtains and/or borders?
 
Projectors

Our Home Cinema specialists were quite abrupt when we asked whether a large television could be used in a home cinema. A definite NO.
 
So you’ll need a projector. There are too many different makes and models to discuss here at length so a few things to consider are focal length, contrast ratio, light output (don’t believe what you read!) and control options.


Check out Runco projectors or JVC.
 
We get asked a lot whether to 4k or not to 4K? Our advice is probably not at the moment. With limited material to view and with no confirmed plans when it’s going to be available, you’re just going to be upscaling “low” resolution content. Probably better to spend your budget on a better quality projector.

 
Other equipment
 
Ok so you’ve got the screen and projector sorted so now you need to consider how the images will get to the projector and how you’re going to hear it.
 
Firstly you’re going to need a receiver (or amplifier and processor) to handle all the audio and video processing. This will take signals from your sources (Sky TV, Apple TV, Blu-Ray, etc) and translate them into outputs for your projector and speakers. Again there are too many choices to discuss here but look for things such as lots of inputs, network capability, video upscaling and audio calibration tools.


We like Denon amps but for high end look out for Datasat.
 
You might also consider a movie server. Why waste time trying to find that Blu-Ray disc when you could just flick through a few pages on the screen. Look for such things as storage capacity and ability to integrate with control systems. 
Have a look at Kaleidescape.
Don’t forget the Pop corn machine? Check these out.
 
Speaker placement
 
With a standard 5.1 Dolby surround system we would have three speakers at the front (left, right and center) plus two smaller surround speakers on the left and right sides slightly behind the primary seating position. A single sub (large bass speaker) can be positioned just off to one side of the screen. For a 7.1 there are two additional speakers behind the primary seating position.
 
Basic systems only have one sub but depending on the size of the room you may need more. The best setup for a true cinema experience would be four positioned front, back, left and right of the primary seating position. Placing in the corners can produce more sound but doesn’t really give out a smooth bass pattern.
 
As for speakers we like Bowers & Wilkins but you should also look at Triad.
 
You may want to consider setting up for 3D sound. By placing speakers higher on the walls and on the ceiling you can achieve a 3D effect for sound. Check out the Dolby Atmos system.


Acoustics
 
You need to consider covering your walls in your cinema to achieve a perfect sound. Hard walls can bounce the soundwaves around the room causing a muffled ugly sound. By using the right acoustic treatment in the right areas sound can be drastically improved for little cost.
 
Ambient light
 
Most cinemas are dark for a reason. They focus you on the screen not the room. Consider black out blinds for windows. For a dedicated room why not dark wallpaper and black matt ceilings
 
You’ll need some lighting but you don’t want any to reflect off the screen. Recessed spot lighting is ideal for illuminating specific areas without any spillage on the screen.
 
Control
 

Ideally you don’t want to be messing around with multiple remotes and getting up in the dark to adjusts the lights. A fully integrated control system is a must. One controller to control them all, even the lights.

We suggest a touchscreen controller using Control4 but there are many different controllers and systems out there to choose from.

Can we help?
 
I hope this has given you some thoughts as to what you might want from a home cinema. I hope you found it useful. Why not sign up to our full mailing list for all future monthly newsletters and back issues.
 
Lastly if we can be of any help or you would just like to have a chat about any of the above please feel free to call on 07971255567 or email sales@theelectricplayground.co.uk.


Thanks


Andrew Jackson
Co-Founder
The Electric Playground


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