You’re ready to make your movie viewing experience better than the large-screen television in your living room. Forget the man cave, the playroom, the craft room, the room that your mother-in-law might be eyeing as her second home.
It’s time to create a home theater.
Before you jump into buying all the expensive equipment and drilling holes for light fixtures and wires, let me share some common home theater design mistakes, with hopes you will avoid them.
- Picking the wrong room. The home theater sound system isn’t a one-room-fits-all component. You need to choose a space that will provide the best sound quality. That means a square or rectangular room with no windows—not even if they’re covered with heavy drapes or blinds. Not only will it let in some light, but the outside noise will filter through.
- Cutting corners on the speakers. If you don’t have a great picture and sound quality, your home theater will be a flop. A good set of speakers is the best investment because they will deliver the quality and durability you expect. And be sure that the ohms and wattage for the speakers match your amplifier so you don’t blow them out.
- Wrong screen placement. Long ago and far away, people stared up at movie screens in theaters. Then came the reality of ergonomics. Looking up causes neck strain. So, sit down in your new home theater furniture. Look straight ahead. The top of the monitor should be just a few inches above your eye level gaze.
- Wrong seating placement. No matter how good the movie, if you’re not sitting comfortably, you won’t enjoy the experience. Choose comfy seating and place it so that your moviegoers don’t have to contort themselves to get a view of the screen. Tiered seating is ideal, if you don’t mind building a platform or two to elevate the seats behind the front room. And set up the room so that anyone entering or exiting is not going to block the screen.
- Seating is too close or too far from the screen. The ideal distance for the best visual acuity will depend on the size of the television screen and your vision. If you have 20/20 vision and a 50-inch screen, 10 feet is a good distance. Here’s a Home Theater Calculator to help you figure out the best viewing distance for your screen.
- Too complicated for the average non-techie. For some people, using a universal remote seems like rocket science. If you’re sharing with other household members, don’t make the home theater system so complicated that you need to be called in every time someone wants to use the system. Install a control system that operates the various components (television, DVD player, receiver, game console) and perhaps a movie server, like Kaleidescape, that allows users to access the movie collection.
- Hiding the speakers. “No one puts Baby in the corner.” Your speakers have a job to do. When you hide them in a cabinet or behind a fake plant, you reduce the sound quality.
- Poorly connected system. If you want maximum quality, utilize the right wiring and settings. Use HDMI cables, but you don’t need the gold-plated ones. If you’re not sure, invest in having someone come in to set it up right the first time.
- Forgetting the surge protector. Your home theater is an electronic system. Don’t risk avoidable damage from a power surge.
- Omitting the concession stand. A movie theater style popcorn machine and a small refrigerator for cold drinks add the finishing touches to your room, and maybe a basket with other movie snacks.
A home theater can be a big hit in your home. Follow these tips to avoid the most common home theater design mistakes.