As automation systems have made their way into the average home, the home theater has become more affordable. TVTI, a company that offers digital signage and home automation products, can design and install the most in-demand systems. From intelligent home design to state-of-the-art control systems, our team does it all. The custom home theater, with its modern video, audio, and lighting technology, is one benefit, but first is a look at why home automation has become so important.
Importance of Home Automation
Nowadays, it’s possible to control just about everything from a remote control, or even a smartphone or tablet. This is not only convenient but important in many ways. Home automation is important because it is directly linked to:
- Control: Lighting, appliances, and devices such as TVs and a range of other electronic devices can be controlled; even turn off the oven after cooking. Set the lights to go on and off at certain times to save electricity, or to convince would-be intruders you are home. Door locks can be automated so you have full control of who enters your home. If someone forgets to lock the door, no worries—it can be locked remotely with the press of a button.
- Remote Management: Manage your home no matter where you go. It’s no longer necessary to hand a key over to your neighbor; an automation platform enables you to allow remote entry by command or at set times. This is ideal if the dog needs taking care of or the plants need watering. You control access and needn’t worry about keys getting lost.
- Comfort: Never come home to a house that’s too hot or cold. If you don’t adjust the thermostat in the morning before work, adjust it remotely to make sure things are cozy when you arrive home in the evening. This option means less to do in the morning and time saved in general. The option to control your home’s security, lighting, comfort level, and more avoids rushing out the door, losing productivity, or worrying all day.
- Peace of Mind: Constantly worrying about whether everything was taken care of earlier in the day can be mentally exhausting. Home automation systems take this burden away. Automation, therefore, reduces stress in and out of the home, as much as it simplifies using digital signage. It can also add to your enjoyment during your downtime, which leads to our main focus—the home theater.
Planning a Home Theater
While home theaters are no longer amenities only found in mansions and the priciest real estate, they are an investment and require sufficient planning to ensure a genuine experience. Creating a design plan is the first step to building your home theater. Even at this stage, there are numerous steps and considerations:
- Location: Identify a sufficient space in your home where the activities won’t disturb anyone, such as near the family room or in a spare bedroom. Ideally, the space should be isolated, around 20 x 13 feet, and rectangular in shape.
- Construction: A home theater should be adequately framed to separate it from other rooms. Insulate the exterior and interior walls, floor, and ceiling with material that can block loud sounds from reaching the rest of your home. Use standard R30 and loosely packed R11 insulation for noise.
- Pre-Wiring: First, prewire the surround sound system. The typical home theater has seven channel speakers and one subwoofer (a 7.1 surround sound system). To get the pre-wiring right:
- Mark where each speaker is going to be.
- Identify where the hub for the receiver and A/V equipment will go.
- Run 16-gauge cables from the hub to side/rear speakers, and stronger 12- or 14-gauge cables for the center, left, and right speakers.
The wiring for the video projector, in larger home theaters, requires running an HDMI cable for high-definition video, and a CAT5 control wire that enables the use of an RF remote. The cables should reach from the back of the room, at the ceiling (the location of the projector), to the equipment hub, where cable, satellite, and high-speed internet connections should be made.
Electrical wiring for the lighting is run now, too; its precision is as important as with intelligent office design. Run each wire to recessed lighting fixtures on ceilings and sconces to be hung on walls. Dimming systems can be RF-controlled or activated automatically when movies are played; connect the lights to the dimmer before installing drywall and sound barriers.
- Hang Drywall/Install Sound Barriers: The drywall will seal off the room, but you must make precise cuts where the electrical and audio cables will pass through. Additional soundproofing is installed at this stage, such as specialty drywall, a drywall material lined with vinyl or other sound dampeners, or a specialized sound barrier. Paint the drywall according to your aesthetic desires.
- Video and Sound Setup: Your home theater equipment can now be put in place. Install the screen (A 110-120-inch HDTV is most suited for a 20- x 13-foot theater).1 Hang the projector and speakers, as well as acoustic panels to hide the center and left/right speakers to create a more professional look. Other speakers can be camouflaged with acoustic panels printed with artwork or photos to make the room more personal.
Next, connect the receiver to the projector, speakers, and multimedia devices such as the cable/satellite feed, Blu-ray player, home theater computer, or game console. Blu-ray players and other types of equipment can stream high-definition movies and music directly from the internet.
- Install Seating: There really aren’t any limitations when it comes to furnishing your home theater. If you want authentic theater-style seating, the basic-sized theater described earlier will accommodate two rows of four seats. You could even add a platform to elevate the back row, but, if you prefer sofas and loveseats, these will work fine as well.
Key Elements of a Home Theater
Video and audio are the basic elements of intelligent office design, among other things, and also a home theater—namely, large-screen video systems and surround-sound audio. You could use a big-screen television with built-in surround sound. However, there are so many other options that work in a family room. Here’s a closer look at some of these elements.
There are many types of screens you can use, but, for today’s digital theaters, HDTV is standard in home theater design. In general, you’ll want a TV that is at least 27 inches, but larger sizes enhance the impacts. Your choices include:
- Rear-Projection Televisions: These aren’t so common anymore, but classic big-screen TVs such as the Cathode Ray Tube and Digital Light Processing system were pretty good at creating a home theater experience.
- Liquid Crystal Display: The LCD flat screen is a popular option that lasts a long time. It can cost from a few hundred to up to $5,000, but, if a size up to 50 inches is suitable, you could get by. Larger-sized LCDs have reduced contrast and a slow refresh rate, causing edge-blurring as fast objects move across the screen, compared to plasma TVs.
- Plasma TVs: Costing as much as $10,000, a plasma screen has over a million fluorescent picture tubes containing plasma.2 The screens are as small as three inches thick, so are suitable for small spaces. Unlike LCDs, plasma screens have a higher picture quality and are susceptible to burn-in, meaning static images can permanently burn into the screen if left on for a long time.
Many home theater systems accommodate the illusion of sound movement seen in movie soundtracks. Audio effects moving from one side to another can, therefore, be replicated; marketers use this technique with digital signage as well. For the best results, speaker placement is important. A basic 5.1 surround sound system has a woofer with three speakers in the front and two speakers on the side or slightly behind from where you are viewing. More sophisticated systems have speakers on the side and even on the ceiling.
Distance is another factor to consider. The significance is how what you see equates to what you hear. You could tweak the volume controls to get the best quality, but higher-end speakers let you adjust the delay, or time that sound is projected, so audio reaches your ears from each speaker at the same time. This is suited for larger rooms. More sophisticated audio components let you adjust sound projection in millisecond increments.
The center speaker should not be overwhelmed by fancy side or rear ones. It delivers audio directly from the screen unit, especially dialogue. Placement of the woofer is important as well. If you’re using just one, do some experimentation, but a corner location often works.
The receiver is your hub. All input devices are connected to it, and the unit then sends the video to the TV and audio to all the speakers in the home theater. This setup enables you to manage everything from one device.
The types you’ll most likely use include HDMI, composite video, component video, speaker cables, and Ethernet cables. Label each one to eliminate the guesswork. Power strips let you plug in everything in one place and keep things organized. Intelligent office design implements this concept in many forms.
An immersive experience requires just the right angle. Balancing display size and viewing angle can be a challenge. In the HDTV and home theater world, angles are measured from the edges of a screen to your nose. The optimal viewing angle is 30 to 40 degrees, which lets you take it all in with as little eye movement as possible.
The best distance is typically 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal width of a screen. If you have a TV that is 60 inches wide, the best sitting distance is between 7.5 and 12.5 feet. You can also select a display size if you know the viewing distance. If you’re eight feet away, or 96 inches, average the optimal distance (dividing by 2), and that comes to 48 inches—the optimal-size HDTV for this setup.3
Consumer Reports offers a more detailed look into choosing viewing angle, screen size, high dynamic range, and smart TVs.
Trust TVTI to Build Your Home Theater
These are the major considerations when creating a home theater. Adding one to your home does not have to be expensive. A quality home theater system can cost as little as $3,000,4 but the final cost depends on the system and your expectations.
You can save a great deal of time by letting TVTI bring a Tunnel Vision designer into your home, using CAD design systems to render your home theater and plan every detail. From arranging the room to choosing the best quality equipment, to options for accessing/distributing/storing multimedia content, these experienced designers can create your dream home theater.
Learn more about TVTI, a leader in home automation, digital signage, and intelligent office design, by viewing our online resources or calling 312-829-9145; or request a custom home theater consultation in Chicago today.