Once the preserve of the rich and famous, including Premier League footballers and Hollywood superstars, the home cinema experience is becoming increasingly affordable. Gone are the days when you needed to wait for months – if not years – for the latest releases to be available for home viewing, with blu-rays appearing close to release date and back catalogues populating many a streaming site. That, allied to the expense and relative hassle of visiting the once revered local cinema, is seeing more and more homeowners create or convert a dedicated room in their home to recreate the big screen experience.
Achieving the ultimate home cinema, however, requires a degree of technological acumen, brand awareness and creative planning, so what are the main factors in designing and installing the perfect home cinema setup?
Kelley Malcher of Surrey builders, Refresh Renovations, believes that the same principles apply to home cinemas as to any other extensions or renovations within the home. ‘At Refresh we carry out the full suite of renovation and extension projects, from kitchens and bathrooms to annexes and loft conversions,’ comments Kelley. ‘With all these projects we follow a tried and tested process which starts with planning, before moving into design, budgeting and, when everything is approved by the client, the build. And for us, home cinemas are no different. Whether you’re extending the property to add the home cinema or allocating and refreshing an existing room prior to installation, it’s really important to consider the size and shape of the space you’re going to work with. Clearly, the technology is vital, but so is the planning for cabling, sound, wifi and creature comforts such as seating and carpeting.’
Size and shape
The size and shape of the room you are going to use are probably the two biggest defining factors as they will not only have an impact on the equipment you install but also on the acoustics and overall feel. In general, rectangular rooms lend themselves better to home cinema than square configurations, especially in terms of acoustic quality, although with a clever design it is possible to work with any space. Each project is unique and will be led by the room itself, but it’s useful to consider tiered seating if space is limited but the potential audience is sizable. In most cases, however, rows of floor level seating will suffice. Remember to position seating for optimum viewing for all seats, and to avoid the screen entering people’s peripheral vision wherever possible.
It’s important to keep the end result top of mind with any home renovation project, and even more so with a design-led project such as a home cinema. Focusing on the desired outcome and covering all the basics will prevent the need to drill further holes or pull down plasterboard to improve the aesthetics. Areas such as the location of the technology, the lighting and the overall décor should all be covered off during the design and planning phase.
Projector or TV?
This decision will be based on two key factors: size and budget. Smaller home cinemas can be serviced with a slimline LED TV, which can be easily wall mounted, but there really is no substitute for a separate projector, in particular, if your room can accommodate a screen size of 100 inches or above. The majority of entry-level and mid-range projectors run quietly and can, therefore, be located inside the room without disrupting your viewing, but high-end models can be noisy and can also generate considerable heat. One option is to have the projector stored in separate ceiling space with external ventilation to keep the mechanism cool. It’s therefore advisable to select your preferred screen size for the space available and then decide on the specification of the TV or projector.
Options for your source equipment include a blu-ray player, a Sky+HD box, a film server, a gaming console or even a DVD player. Practicality may dictate that whatever you choose for your source equipment is located inside the home cinema space, but the ultimate solution is to have the equipment stored on dedicated racking in an external cupboard.
Nothing will destroy the sleek effect of a home cinema more quickly than unsightly cables trailing from the equipment and detracting from the impression of seamless multimedia delivery. In the planning phase it is advisable to plan for the treatment of all cables to ensure not only continuity of service but also accessibility should something go awry. While wireless and Bluetooth configurations are all the rage, a well-designed cable infrastructure will guarantee ongoing enjoyment. Solid bandwidth enables trouble-free streaming so a wired internet connection is therefore recommended in most instances.
There’s little point in investing in the ideal home cinema room and setup if you end up cutting corners on the sound. Most home cinemas work on a 5.1 configuration, which includes five satellite speakers and one subwoofer to control the low-pitched frequencies and bass. In this scenario, three of the satellite speakers would be placed around or behind the TV, with the remaining two speakers behind the viewing area. If budget allows, then other configurations, such as 6.1, 7.1 and 7.2, are available, but given that more speakers don’t automatically guarantee better sound, it’s preferable to install a high-quality 5.1 setup rather than a lower-end 7.1 system.
In addition, it’s prudent not to ignore the effect that the home cinema may have on the remainder of the house and the neighbours, especially if you’re likely to use the room at unsociable times. Building soundproofing into your home cinema project is to be recommended, and this can be achieved with a double layer of acoustic-grade plasterboard with green glue – which takes acoustic energy and converts it into heat – in between. Acoustic wall panels can be effective, and you can also increase wall insulation and add soundproofing strips to the doors. And don’t overlook the fact that sound has a tendency to bounce off hard surfaces, so soft furnishings and deep pile carpeting will help to prevent the sound booming around the room.
As Kelley Malcher concludes, the concept of creating a home cinema might be very appealing, but with so many options on the market, it can be a daunting prospect for the uninitiated. ‘At Refresh we offer a unique combination of design, project management and build, so we’re perfectly placed to create brilliant home cinemas for our clients,’ comments Kelley. ‘ We understand that it can seem rather overwhelming to bring your home cinema dream to reality, so we spend time with our clients to talk through all the options, develop a detailed design that includes all their requirements, set a realistic budget and timescale, and then oversee the build to ensure that everything goes to plan.’
Get in Touch
Refresh Renovations UK are builders in Surrey offering design and build services. To discuss your home cinema project, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.
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