How to Set Up a Media Room

Plan and design an audio-video haven with these step-by-step instructions.


Photo courtesy of Audio Video Interiors

Photo by: HOWARD TUCKER 216-696-4616

HOWARD TUCKER 216-696-4616

Photo courtesy of Audio Video Interiors

A media room is more than just a TV slapped on the wall and speakers strewn randomly about your den. It has the potential to be an escape, a place where audio and video commingle for an amazing you-are-there entertainment experience. But when the system is powered down, the room should remain an inviting living area. This short guide will help you plan and execute an incredible space.

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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.

Originally a garage, this media room doubles as the client's boardroom. The TV acts as a video monitor and LAN network device for work presentations.

This room has open space for card tables, a foosball table and a large wine bar, and it also allows ambient light for daytime activities. As for its media room role, it has custom sconces that won't rattle during movie explosions, reclinable seating and a 120-by-68-inch acoustically transparent woven-microfiber screen that conceals the center speaker. The projector is concealed in a noise-reduction soffit to ensure clean architectural lines.

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.

This room's 65-inch plasma display is recessed for a clean, polished and unobtrusive installation. A massive hearth made of native stone visually dominates the rustic room, and all the speakers and the subwoofer were positioned in the ceiling so they wouldn’t distract the eye.

When it's time to watch a movie in this room, the projector drops out of the ceiling and the screen drops down from a reclaimed beam in the ceiling. The control system allows the house sources to be shared in the media room along with a local Blu Ray player.

Photo By: Alex Fenlon

Hand-scraped wood floors and traditional design details anchor this luxe living room, which features discreetly placed audio and video components for a high-end entertainment experience that doesn't overshadow the room's design. Design by Audio Video Interiors

Photo By: HOWARD TUCKER 216-696-4616

Genesis Audio & Video turned an unused shell above a garage into 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

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

A large projection screen drops in front of the flat-screen TV from the 10-foot ceiling when the owner of this home wants to watch a movie. The movie screen drops enough to hide the television but doesn't cover the surround-sound system's front speakers.

Photo By: Barry Schwartz

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

Photo By: Eric Perry

Moore Audio Design tamed reflective surfaces with acoustic treatments identically matched to the paint color, and added an area rug. Window treatments 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. Floorstanding surround speakers by MartinLogan offer true, immersive surround sound that is hard to beat. Photography by Jim Schmid Photography

Photo By: Jim Schmid Photography

This inviting room combines traditional design with a high-tech home system that allows homeowners control heating, security, and the entertainment hub. Design by Architectural Electronics, Inc.

Photo By: CEDIA

Optimized for both daytime and nighttime, this room lets viewers choose from a recess-mounted flatscreen and a projection screen that resides in the ceiling when not in use. Design by Starr Systems Design


For must-have media room products, the Panasonic ZT60 series is one of the most venerated TVs available, with stunning image quality. The My Home Screen feature allows you to personalize your experience and seamlessly integrate apps and content as you choose.

With a custom-cast space to fit the TV and a specialty finish on the TV frame, this room provides the best in entertainment without interrupting the design appeal of the home. Design by Starr Systems Design

A swivel-mounted flatscreen lets homeowners follow the action on the screen from all angles, including above. Photo courtesy of Innerspace Electronics, Inc.

With 5.1 surround sound and a sleek recess-mounted plasma TV, this cozy retreat overlooking the kitchen offers a change of pace in this combination live/work residence. Design by Beyond Home Theater

From family movie night to prime-time sporting events, the geometric patterns and artwork, a commanding 85" plasma TV and a full bar area set the stage for everyday this media room. Design by Starr Systems Design

Photo By: Alan Gilbert

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.

Photo By: Eric Perry

Step 1: Optimize your environment

One of the most important factors in your media room's performance is actually the room itself. If you have the luxury of specifying room dimensions, think rectangle. "A square room will present audio issues that may be impossible to overcome," says Bryant Moore, president of Moore Audio Design. "Even if you have to sacrifice some space to build false walls on both sides to accomplish this, it's worth it."

In terms of surfaces, materials like tile and hardwood are not ideal because they bounce sound around the room. Opt for absorptive surfaces, such as carpet, to prevent the room from sounding like a basketball court. If hard surfaces are unavoidable, you can always temper reflective materials with rugs, pillows and even acoustic treatments.

Finally, examine the amount of natural and artificial light in the room. "If you want to watch a movie in the afternoon and the sun is shining on the screen, you're missing out. Natural light should be controlled with the right window treatments. Turn lights down or off to see the full depth, range of color and contrast from your display," says Dave Ohlendorf, lead programmer at Bekins. There are some excellent lighting control systems available that you can tie into a home automation system for energy savings, remote operation and convenience.

Step 2: Get the perfect picture

The video display — the centerpiece of any system — is a good place to start thinking about equipment. "The environment will play a key role in selecting the right type of television," says Ohlendorf. There are three main technologies: LCD, LED and plasma. Generally, LCDs and LEDs are brighter, making them ideal for a room with more natural light. Plasma displays are not as bright, but provide high contrast and great black levels, creating a rich image. They also typically have better viewing angles, providing maximum flexibility for rooms with wider seating areas.

OLED — the latest in display tech — promises to be thinner, brighter and more energy efficient, but is still in its infancy. For the most cinematic image, Ohlendorf recommends positioning your seating area at a distance of 1.5 times the diagonal size of the display from the screen. If you have a larger room and want a picture above 95 inches, consider a projector and screen combo.

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Step 3: Don't forget about sound

For a true media room, the built-in speakers that come with your TV simply won't do, says Moore. A 5.1 or 7.1 surround system — that's five or seven speakers plus a subwoofer — offers the most immersive experience. The biggest challenge homeowners face here is hiding wires, making it a good idea to wire for sound before drywall goes up if possible. You'll also need a receiver, which will power your speakers and handle switching between your various sources, such as a Blu-ray player and a DirecTV receiver.

For the design-minded homeowner, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers are great alternatives to freestanding or bookshelf speakers. Homeowners are increasingly opting for wireless speakers or simulated surround from a "sound bar" that sits below your TV. Both are nice aesthetic solutions, but beware of quality, which can vary wildly from model to model.

Step 4: Tie it all together

Finally, you may need a sturdy piece of entertainment cabinetry to house all your components. Look for plenty of spots for equipment, plus wire management and proper ventilation. A solid universal remote control or more robust control system is also a must for operating your system with ease and eliminating superfluous remotes from various devices.

Last, but certainly not least, a solid wireless network is increasingly important in the media room to stream audio and video to any Internet-capable device in your system and download movies from devices like AppleTV, Roku, Slingbox and Google TV-enabled devices. Many home entertainment components, like your receiver, Blu-ray player or gaming console, also connect to the Web and offer popular Internet services like Netflix and Pandora radio.

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