If you’re about to start a home theater project, you probably have a lot of questions about how to design it for the best visuals and sound possible. But before you begin the construction process, you need to think big picture. Your first decision is where you will put this area and how to design it. The most important component of the theater area is the room itself. The room and the environment will have a bigger impact on the movie watcher’s experience than any other single factor—more than the screen, the receiver, or the speakers. This is a short article to help architects and builders in the Rapid City, SD area take the first step toward excellent home theater design.
Step 1: Know the Space’s Purpose
First, evaluate the location you are setting up. Is this a dedicated home theater space or media/mixed use room? If you are creating a dedicated home theater space, you should expect to optimize the room for that use. That means screen and speaker location will be selected for best performance. If the room has multiple uses, you need to evaluate all the various use cases. Where does movie/sports/TV watching fall in the mix? What is important to the homeowner? Perhaps, the layout of the room should focus on primarily media consumption. Or, If it is a more even balance between media and game playing or other entertaining activities, then you will want to find a balance for the placement of equipment, speaker, screen, and other furniture.
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Finding balance is not a question of right or wrong. It simply depends on how the homeowner will be living in the space. The only “wrong” thing is expecting the room to be able to do a variety of things equally well. You will need to make compromises. So consult with the homeowner about the priorities for the space, and then move forward, knowing you have established a plan for the space that everyone can agree on.
Step 2: Know the Space’s Limitations
A common mistake homeowners make is trying force a home theater/surround sound experience into a room/space that cannot support it. By working with the homeowner and interior designers right from the start, architects can ensure that the space is built to accommodate the room’s needs, especially regarding surround sound and screen placement. Good and proper sight lines to the screen are essential for extended viewing that happens when you watch a movie. In particular, the elevation of the screen is critical. When the screen is located too high, it can make anything more than casual viewing for short periods of time very uncomfortable. Speaker placement will have a huge impact upon how immersive the experience is.
The most common expression of this error is trying to make a Great Room environment into a surround sound experience. Because the room is designed as a Great Room, it means that it will be next to impossible to locate speakers or screen in any location that will yield an immersive audio/video experience. All the priorities for the room point in directions other than audio/video optimization. In these spaces, I encourage my clients to give up on the idea of surround sound. If some audio/video experience is still wanted in that room, then architects should work with an audio/video integrator to set up a 2 channel audio system instead. This is most likely a more easily accomplished and realistic goal.
Whether you’re a homeowner, architect, interior designer, or builder, Encore Sight & Sound can help you create the dedicated home theater of your dreams. Give us a call today or click the chat window at the bottom of the page, and we will be happy to help you move forward with your project.