Designing The Perfect Home Theater System

The right theater setup can be the difference between watching a movie and being a part of a film. For those who want to immerse themselves in movies as if they’re a part of the action, there’s no substitute for a dedicated home cinema. It is an incomparable sanctuary. The subtle nuances in the audio, the clarity of instruments, the way you can hear objects move around the room and the vividness of the picture make the experience like nothing else out there. If you’ve never been in a dedicated home cinema, it’s unlike anything a public theater could offer. So what details make a dedicated home theater so coveted?

Designing The Room For Comfort: Seating

We want to make sure your custom cinema is a space you enjoy spending time in beyond the movie. If you are working with a designer, we’ll work with you and your design team to make sure the space is aesthetically what you’re looking for. However, the overall look of the theater is only half the equation. The other half is seating.

The right seating will keep you comfortable and relaxed throughout your longest movie binges. Unlike traditional chairs, purpose-designed home theater seats prioritize long-term comfort to minimize fatigue and discomfort during extended movie sessions. That means these seats are offering unique features for optimal support, including lumbar and headrest features. Although we feel the immersion is captured best by a good audio and screen setup, those chasing that extra layer of immesion can use motion chairs. The right seating choice will help pull you into your cinematic journey right from the comfort of your own home.

The Foundation of Home Theaters: An Accoustically Treated Room

While visuals can feel like the center stage of a home theater, great audio is the secret sauce to a great theater experience. The backbone of great audio is a room that is accoustically treated to be quiet and sound great for everyone in the room. That means we digitally create the room, we place our speakers and preferred sitting areas, mimmic the room dimensions. After reviewing the simulation, we determine what parts of the room should be treated to ensure an accoustically perfect space. In doing so, we have complete control of the audio in the room. There are two primary goals in this process: maximum control over how sound moves in the room and to minimize the intrusion of outside sounds.

Controlling How Sound Moves

While speaker placement can move the sound source, acoustical treatment controls how sound moves around the room. When sound waves bounce off walls or other hard surfaces, they can create echoes. Echos are the result of sounds bouncing off a surface and returning to your ear. It repeats the same sound in a delay. To minimize this effect, we install a special sound treatment on all the walls to reduce echoes at all frequencies. We cover this treatment with a sound-passive fabric to hide this treatment in plain sight.

To combat these negative effects, we strategically apply acoustic treatments. This reduces echoes and minimizes the impact of reflections, ensuring a pure and immersive auditory experience just as the director intended. Additionally, we have multiple sound treatment methods. We can use materials to absorb the sound so they don’t reflect. Alternatively, we can use diffusion treatments to spread the sound so that it decreases the volume of sounds bouncing off a wall. This is delecate balance, because too much sound isolation will create a “dead room.” If you’ve never experienced this effect, it feels as if the deadening is pulling the sound out of the room since none of it is reflected.

Acoustical Treatments For A Dedicated Theater, To Be Hidden Behind Sound Passive Fabric

We also strongly prefer carpets for the floor because softer surfaces are less likely to promote echoes. We have a great demo of this phenomenon at our design center in Novato, CA.

Silencing the Outside World: Designing for a Quieter Theater

Hearing background sounds from real life during a film can break the illusion of being in a movie. It doesn’t if no one else is home making noise. Even something as subtle as your HVAC fan noise can be distracting. To combat this, we strategically design the space to keep ambient sounds outside the theater to create a quieter environment.

The lack of ambient noises lowers something called the noise floor. The noise floor is the volume of all other sounds you’re not intentionally listening to. It’s the wind noise in your car on the highway. It’s the sound of the kitchen and surrounding guests at a restaurant. When we lower the noise floor to a low level, you lend your ears to every sound from the movie. This is called decoupling. This allows the director to deliver their intended impact of hearing someone whisper something on camera, yet hear the volume and intensity of an explosion.

Elevating Audio to New Heights

Once the room is prepared, it’s time to bring in a sound system worthy of your room. You may have heard of a 5.1 system: a front left, front center, front right, rear left, rear right and subwoofer system. Unfortunately, this system only brings audio on a horizontal plane. Our dedicated theater systems create sounds in a 3D space, with height, thanks to a system called Dolby Atmos. 

Dolby Atmos revolutionizes the traditional surround sound experience by incorporating speakers not only around the viewer but also above. This provides an immersive audio experience like never before. By intelligently delaying a single sound at different intervals from different speakers, your theater system will create sounds in 3D space. And don’t worry; this is all done with SoundVision’s unique programming.

To ensure the best possible experience, our speakers are intelligently placed depending on where people usually sit.

The Symphony of Great Audio: What to Expect

Great audio means that when you watch Top Gun: Maverick, you feel the jets on the runway in your chest instead of just seeing them on the runway. You can faintly make out whispers from people behind the camera, yet still feel the volume of an explosion during an action scene. In movies like The Great Gatsby, the rich tones of the vocals, the subtle nuances of each instrument, and the reverberation of the ambient sounds are not just heard but felt, creating a sonic tapestry that transports you into the heart of the scene.

This level of engagement isn’t achieved by placing speakers randomly; instead, it is meticulously crafted. The speakers are precisely placed based on where you’re sitting in the room. The volume of each speaker is independently tuned so that it is consistent and well balanced. All the speakers go through a sophisticated calibration process to ensure a quality Dolby Atmos experience and to ensure the equalization is balanced. The speakers and amplifiers themselves are selectively chosen for your specific space and preferences to give you maximum dynamic range and to reach the volumes you want.

Finally, the bass speakers are strategically placed. Bass sound waves are super long, so the subwoofers must be strategically placed to prevent constructive or destructive interference while also ensuring they are an equal volume for everyone watching. It’s the combination of selecting, placing and calibrating equipment that seperates professionally crafted theaters from the rest. The experience is unlike anything else.

A Picture-Perfect Display: Source, Projectors and Screens

As impressive as audio can be, in a theater, it is only as good as the picture to accompany it. There are two primary pieces to a beautiful picture: the projector and the screen. However, large-scale TVs are increasingly becoming a viable option with minimal sacrifice to picture quality or size.

Accoustically Transparent Screen

The screen introduces a unique problem. For maximum fidelity, we prefer to have your speakers at ear height. Meanwhile, we also want the center of the screen to be at eye level. This means we want your screen and front speakers to be the same height. To accomplish this, we use an accoustically transparent screen.

Accoustically transparent screens are made of unique perforated woven material that allows sound to pass through seamlessly. This allows us to put your front center speaker behind the screen, keeping it at the appropriate height while not sacrificing picture quality.

Picking the Perfect Projector

Thankfully, the projector is one of the easier decisions for your home theater setup. When considering the right premium projector, there are only a handful of differentiating features: brightness, color vividness and contrast. 

You can get buried in spec sheets comparing projectors. However, the best choice is usually to pick one that matches the quality of the products you chose for the rest of your theater. If you chose good speakers for your audio, we’d recommend a good premium projector. If you picked the best speakers for your sound system, we’d recommend the best projector out there.

Creating Your Custom Theater

If you’re ready to elevate your watching experience, it’s not too late to get your own theater. While you’ll get the best experience with a dedicated room, you can also make any room turn into a private theater at the press of a button. If you want to see what we can do for your space, give us a call at 415-456-7000 or contact us online.

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