Building a Home Theater
Home theaters have become a popular feature in all types of homes, and there are several important considerations to keep in mind if you'll be building a home theater any time soon. A custom entertainment space can add to a home's resale value as well as its enjoyment factor, and it provides a prime gathering space for family members and guests alike. Home theaters run the gamut in terms of complexity of design and expense, so if you're considering building one, you'll want to keep these key factors in mind to ensure you end up with the space that suits your design tastes and budgets best.
Beam Me Up, Scotty
Walking into this unique home theater feels eerily similar to walking aboard the Starship Enterprise or Voyager. Equipped with computer-controlled LED lighting, this virtual spaceship can change from color to color at the touch of a button even to "red alert" if problems arise. The room has 11 seats, a large screen and state-of-the-art electronics. Designed by Audio Advisors, Inc. in West Palm Beach, Fla., the room is so impressive it was named best overall themed theater in 2007 by CEDIA.
Under the Sea
A 360-degree custom oceanic mural was the springboard for the design of the theater pictured here. An asymmetrical ceiling creates the impression of a smooth rolling wave, and the screen seems to float before the audience (they're actually attached to custom-made quarter-inch steel brackets attached to the back wall). Dimmable LED lights glow behind the screen and spill down the walls, providing the sensation of being in an aquarium. The thick-pile carpet and pad absorb some of the sound energy in the room.
Retro Hollywood Style
Go back in time and spend a night at the movies with this Hollywood-inspired media masterpiece. The audio system features eight powered woofers, 10 surround speakers and three massive screen speakers. That equals 8,400 conservative system watts. Design by by Cantara Design, Interior Design by Slayman Design Associates
Lonely Space Becomes Popular
An unused shell above a garage became a multifunctional media room to a include access to the house-wide DVD and music server, in addition to the home's security cameras, the Internet and house-wide lighting controls. Rather than hang the projector from a pole in the ceiling, technicians used a cantilevered wall mount to install it sleekly at the top of the rear wall. Photo courtesy of Genesis Audio & Video
Rockin' Around the Theater
It's impossible not to have a rockin' good time in this 1950s diner-inspired entertainment center. Not only does it feature a theater screen surrounded by a mural of the classic drive-in scene, but it also includes a private bowling alley and incredible decor. Audio One Sound and Video Inc. in Miami also amped up the theater system with 12 speakers, two subwoofers and a high-end front projector.
To the Batcave!
The Batcave is the perfect place to watch a flick. This home theater is designed for the ultimate Batman fan, and it also features cozy details from Wayne Manor and a life-size replica of the Batmobile seen in The Dark Knight, which sits in an adjacent room. Photo courtesy of Elite Home Theater Seating
Entry-Level High End
This media room represents what you might get at the entry level of high-end home entertainment ($20,000 to $30,000). It features a relaxed, open environment, suitable for watching movies and playing video games. The 133-inch screen creates an immersive environment, while media equipment is stored out of the sight, though still easily accessible. Dynamic A/V, Inc. of Granger, Ind., worked to incorporate all the homeowner's desires, including a projector that provides great audio performance and a clear picture in any light.
User-Friendly Home Theater Controls
In this lower-priced ($30,000 to $75,000) professionally designed home theater, the control system provides easy, full-featured use, and a custom screen allows for an optimum viewing experience in a room that is shallow in depth. The seating is arranged in tiers, and the room is completely blocked off from light and outside sound. Photo courtesy of Dynamic A/V, Inc.
Beneath the Garage
This upscale ($150,000 to $300,000)theater room is built in a large, enclosed concrete space below the home's garage. The room's design mimics that of the home, which features tons of dark cherry wood. This classy space seats at least 12 people. Photo courtesy of Home Technology Systems in Wichita, Kan.
This high-end ($500,000 to $1,000,000) theater features a 180-inch screen, exclusive projector, star-field ceiling, 15-person seating, surround channels for each row of seating, custom-built speakers, and audio/video components that rival the real theater experience. The projector is concealed in an imitation ticket booth. Photo courtesy of Admit One, Inc. in Edina, Minn.
High-Dollar Home Theater
This stunning million-dollar-plus home theater is a world-class screening room. It features two-and-a-half-inch-thick acrylic windows that look into the 98,000-gallon pool. The chairs are from Radio City Music Hall, and the carpet and wall materials were custom dyed to match. Design by Future Home in Los Angeles, Calif.
This high-end ($300,000 to $500,000) modern home theater was designed to create a high-performance space for movies and sporting events. Isolated acoustically and equipped with complete surround sound, the room provides a high-quality, immersive experience. The sound system features 20 discrete channels: the main left, center and right speakers; four side surrounds; two back-wall surrounds; and 11 subwoofers. The room also has an independent cooling system to provide ultimate comfort. Photo courtesy of La Scala in Vancouver, B.C.
$6 Million Theater
Dubbed the $6 million theater, this media room leaves almost nothing to be desired. Designed and built by Jeremy R. Kipnis of Kipnis Studios, the theater offers a 22-foot state-of-the-art screen. The theater also includes a double-story balcony, orchestra section and special acoustic materials that help make the room completely noise isolated.
His and hers HD DVRs as well as two additional DVRs for guests takes this charming living room to the next level of entertainment. Homeowners have access to four DirecTV HD DVRs, Blu-Ray movies, AppleTV content, ROKU content, a computer and dual Mirage Media sources such as Pandora, Rhapsody, LastFM, XM radio, iTunes music and an iPod dock.
Framed Artwork TVs
In the 2013 HGTV Smart Home canvas artwork retracts to reveal flat-screen TVs. When not in use, TV covers scroll down to create a framed art experience. The media system is controled by a smart tablet or Web-enabled device
Multipurpose Entertainment Room
Moore Audio Design used window treatments to help eliminate natural light, while a Screen Innovations 97-inch Black Diamond Zero Edge screen amplifies light coming from the projector. Aside from the main screen, homeowners can view either of the 40-inch Samsung LED TVs if they are playing poker or getting a snack in the back of the room. Photography by Jim Schmid Photography
In the 2012 HGTV Green Home a 59-inch flat-screen TV, mounted above the fireplace, is a family room focal point. When mounting a TV above the fireplace make sure seating is located far enough back to avoid irritating neck strain.
This media room is any NBA fan's dream come true. Equipped with more than 20 plasma and LCD displays, a bar/kitchenette, bathrooms, and billiard and poker area, basketball lovers have no reason to leave. HomeTronics, Inc., of Dallas, designed this sports paradise, which even includes motorized telescopic poles around the poker table that lower screens from the ceiling, allowing each player to watch whichever game they want. This room took home CEDIA's 2006 best overall media room award, and for good reason.
For Art's Sake
Disguised as a stunning art gallery, this home theater features a stealthy but innovative design. It is adorned with beautiful works of art but also boasts a retractable 14-foot multimedia screen, drop-down plasma screens, and a hidden gallery kitchen and guest quarters. Designed by Baumesiter Electronic Architects of Niles, Ill.
Lord of the Theaters
Inspired by one of the most popular movie franchises in history, this Lord of the Rings themed home theater offers a unique flair with its cutting-edge technology. Equipped with a wireless touch-screen monitor, huge theater screen and comfortable chairs and bar area, the theater brings the movies to life. Silver Screen & Sound, Inc. of Towson, Md., designed this beautiful one-of-a-kind room.
1920s-Style Home Theater
The pinnacle of class and elegance, this home theater was designed to resemble a 1920s movie palace, complete with 12 plush chairs with custom-patterned fabric, a chandelier and wall sconces to add warmth. The space also features a coffered ceiling treatment with custom moldings and an embossed copper ceiling. Photo courtesy of Elite Home Theater Seating
A Movie Gold Mine
This unusual home theater is the ultimate underground experience made to feel like a mine shaft. The home is located in a town known for mining in the 1800s, and the experts at Aurant in West Valley City, Utah, made sure the theater reflected that atmosphere. From the long entrance hall leading down to the dark mine that doubles as the theater, every detail stays true to theme.
Beneath the Stars
A work of art itself, this French country chateau theater was inspired by French architectural design. Its emphasis on lavish interiors and close attention to detail bring viewers out of the theater and into the countryside. Aurant in West Valley City, Utah, turned this room into a beautiful star-studded home theater.
Accurate Sound Stage
The front speakers in this theater are hidden behind an acoustically transparent screen, an arrangement that provides a very accurate sound stage and optimal visual impact. The entire room is treated with just the right amount of absorption and reflection, completely disguised behind sound suede fabric attached with an invisible track system. The 12-inch riser for the rear row of seating is filled with insulation and framing running from the front to back of the room, with the front face left open to act as a bass trap; the carpet hiding the opening allows low frequencies to be absorbed under the riser.
This theater was conceived as the centerpiece of a new home construction, a room to serve as the primary space for family gatherings and entertaining guests. The theater maximizes its "wow" factor by positioning the 164-inch screen opposite the entrance so that moviegoers are greeted by a high-definition image upon entering. Precision engineering and top-of-the-line acoustic paneling counteract the sound-dampening effect of the 15 cloth-upholstered seats.
Room for a Buffet
This theater achieved an architectural consistency with the ornate trim and plaster details in the rest of the house while maintaining a subdued level of finish that wouldn't detract from the video presentation. And moving the right wall in 30 inches allowed room for a buffet that blocks the entry door from view in the seating area.
The space designated for this project was an unfinished basement with a 7-foot ceiling. No projector could be fastened to the ceiling at that low height, so a floor-mounted cabinet is housed in a separate enclosure at the back of the room, contributing to the theater's clean, futuristic aesthetic. Since there wasn't enough height to install tiered seating, the homeowners chose the next best thing: comfortable pod-shaped gamer seats. The chairs were finished in brown to blend with the other earthy tones of the room.
High-mass materials and mechanical isolation were used on the walls, ceiling and floor of this theater to create a sound-isolation envelope. All trim, acoustic materials, platforms and stage materials were chosen based on their soundproofing qualities. Acoustic materials included specialized diffusion and absorption products, some of them custom-designed for the space. Surround speakers reduce seat-to-seat variance in sound, and the seating platform was designed to function as a bass trap. The design of the solid mahogany ceiling facilitated high- and mid-frequency diffusion while also preventing image reflections from the screen.
This mountain-chalet theater features decoupled inner-wall and ceiling construction to minimize sound transmission into and from neighboring rooms and the floor above. The interior acoustical materials offer a balanced sound field despite the small size of the space. The variegated acoustical palate is neatly concealed behind a stretch-fabric system.
This extravagant home theater was designed with comfortable theater-style seating to accommodate young children and a large extended family. All amenities contribute to the true movie theater experience, including a candy counter, popcorn machine and refrigerator for cold drinks. Copyright CEDIA 2011. Used with permission.
Form and Function
This visually stunning theater is large enough to accommodate friends and family and also rivals the audio-visual performance of the best commercial theaters. The space features comfortable seating, a huge screen, 3-D capability, theater-quality audio and high-end decorative elements, which add to the luxury. Copyright CEDIA 2011. Used with permission.
Acoustic Wood Detailing
A cabinetmaker was called in to help create a design in which the hard surface detailing on the wood in this theater would disperse sound and minimize the wood's impact on audio performance. Significant sections of the walls are covered with fabric, and rich cashmere with excellent acoustical properties conceals the surround speakers and acoustical treatments.
The design possibilities are endless when it comes to creating an elegant, inviting dedicated media room. In this urban space, a custom frame and a welded-steel support "float" the backlighted screen in the urban condo pictured here. White LED lights create a custom glow around the screen. The spiral staircase leads from the media room to an upper-level living area.
Before the first hammer swings to begin construction on your new home theater, you'll need to decide where it should be located in your home. In general, unless you have the square footage for a large, truly cinema-like space, you'll want to keep the confines of your home theater somewhat snug. Somewhere in the range of 20 x 13 or 20 x 15 feet is considered optimal for a home theater. A portion of a finished basement can often work, as can an enclosed wing off the living or family room, or a spare bedroom situated upstairs.
Soundproofing and lighting are two extremely important considerations for a home theater, and it's also a space you won't want to interrupt the overall business and traffic of the home. It should be as self-contained as possible, which brings us to the next factor: soundproofing. Optimally, sound shouldn't be able to enter the room from outside or escape from inside—which means starting the build with R30 insulation for the walls, floor and ceiling is a must. You'll then want to consider further soundproofing after the wiring has been installed, but this standard level of insulation is a good start.
Speaking of sound, your next step is to pre-wire your sound system. Most home theaters use 7.1 surround sound, which includes one subwoofer and seven channel speakers, left, right, center, two side and two rear. The center speaker is generally located just above the TV or projection screen, left and right to either side, and side and rear are located on the side and rear walls of the room.
Next up, you'll want to pre-wire the lighting for the room, which will be essential to creating ambiance in your movie-theater-like space. Home theater lighting often includes recessed lighting in the ceiling and sconces or similarly low-profile fixtures along the side walls. Connecting the lights to an RF dimmer will allow you to control the lighting with a remote. If your theater is gong to feature stadium seating, you'll also need floor lighting so guests can navigate the space when the lights are dim.
After the lighting is wired, it's time to install soundproofing and drywall. There are brands of drywall that are soundproofed as a feature, or if you want to use regular drywall, you can install high-density vinyl or other soundproofing material behind the drywall.
Next up, it's time to set up your video and sound systems. After your drywall is installed and painted (and you've made incisions in it to thread electrical wiring), you can hang your speakers, projector and screen or TV. You can disguise speakers with acoustic panels if you want a more seamless look for the space.
Finally, you'll want to install the furniture. Your options are many in the realm of home theater furniture, but in general you'll be able to choose from a range of armchair-like seating, either in single- or bench-seat form, in varying pricing and quality tiers.
See Also: Planning Your Own Home Theater
- CEDIA 2012 Home Theater Finalist: Stylish Comfort
- CEDIA 2012 Home Theater Finalist: Feel the Noise
- CEDIA 2012 Home Theater Finalist: Private Retreat
- Home Theater Products
- CEDIA 2012 Home Theater Finalist: Bold Statement
- CEDIA 2012 Home Theater Finalist: Rec Room Fun