What is your dream upgrade for your house? Is it a pool in the backyard, a craft room or stainless steel appliances for the kitchen? While the task of cooking in your home may be unevenly distributed, and your kids might get more enjoyment out of pool parties than you would, there’s one improvement project that the whole family can appreciate: adding a home theater.
Your own home theater can provide endless evenings of entertainment, if you take the time to plan it out and invest in all the necessary pieces. We’re talking about more than just your TV and extensive DVD collection. This article will help equip you with the knowledge you need, clue you in on the common mistakes to avoid and offer a comprehensive home theater projector buying guide.
Benefits of Your Own Home Theater
Nielsen estimates that, in the United States alone, 116.4 million households own a TV. Having a television can be useful for watching shows on cable, looking up funny YouTube videos or playing on a video game console. Turning part of your house into your own personal theater just takes all those perks to the next level.
One of the advantages of having a home theater is that you’ll save on entertainment expenses in the long run. Sure, you may get sticker shock from the price tag on a larger TV, better speakers or even new wiring, but going out frequently adds up faster than you might think. Movie tickets cost a boatload nowadays, not to mention the soda, popcorn and candies you end up purchasing while you’re there. Watching films from the comfort of your home with your preferred snacks on hand is so much sweeter!
Putting together a home theater is a lifestyle improvement. It’ll completely transform your evenings in, and it’ll make a great selling point if you intend to move in the future. The electric wiring you install, cables you connect, internet upgrades you make and any other fixtures that go along with the setup will increase the value of your home and look good in the eyes of potential buyers.
Before You Get Started
Your excitement about this project is probably steadily building into a crescendo, but before you dive right in and start to purchase your home theater projector and projector screen with us, there are a few things you have to determine. At the top of the list is deciding on a budget and a room. As any home theatre projector buying guide will tell you, gathering the components you need will not be cheap. However, you shouldn’t automatically go for the least expensive gear out there just to protect your wallet. Try to scrimp and save before you start shopping so your budget can be flexible enough for what you want.
When you browse interior decorating online, you come across home theater setups that truly look like a night at the movies, with ample seating and an enormous television. Depending on the layout of your house and the money you have set aside for this project, that may not be feasible. Ideally, you want a spot without windows to let in light or outside noises, and rooms that are square or rectangular in shape are preferable. Based on your individual circumstances, though, you may have to settle for the living room, basement or extra bedroom. There’s no need to fret if this is the case, as you can still integrate a theater into your living room with features like surround sound and a decent television or projector screen.
Once you’ve landed on a room, come up with the optimal layout and keep the general idea of it in your mind. After all, there’s a lot to take into consideration: the size and shape of your television and speakers, where Ethernet jacks need to be installed, the locations of outlets and the presence of extension cords and the factors of proper wiring and adequate ventilation. You don’t want to be constantly dealing with issues, always having to rearrange connector cables or shift a speaker back and forth. Mock up the arrangement you want by setting up folding chairs where you want seating, and using cardboard boxes or tape as markers for where the pieces of the entertainment system go.
Finally, try not to make the system you design so complex that you’re the only one in the family who knows how to operate it. If certain choices, like a universal remote, would be too complicated to figure out for the rest of your household, it’s okay to skip them. Otherwise, you’ll be constantly asked for assistance and unable to relax and enjoy a good show or movie.
Don’t Make These Home Theater Mistakes
Even though setting up a home theater system involves advanced technology, the mistakes people frequently make aren’t just with the technical aspects, but also with the practical aspects. For instance, they may put out some seating, only to realize later that it’s poorly arranged and not suitable for long viewing times. If your home and budget allow it, you should put together tiered seating by building a platform or otherwise elevating the seats in the back of the room.
When that isn’t a possibility, just pick couches and chairs that provide proper support, and put them in a layout where your guests won’t be blocking the screen if they sit in them.
One of the most common mistakes experts warn against is mounting your TV or projector screen too high above the floor. If it’s off the ground eight feet or more, you’ll have to crane your neck to see what you’re watching. In your own home, you control the ergonomics, so you might as well make viewing comfortable for everyone.
To do this, sit down in the furniture you’ve picked for the space and look straight ahead. The top of the monitor should be just above your eye level. Going right along with this, you should never place a screen or television above a fireplace. Not only will you feel the tension in your neck building as the night goes on, but it could also end up voiding the warranty on your TV.
It’s easier than you might think to accidentally buy a TV or projector screen that’s too big or too small for the space. Obviously, watching something on a small television can be underwhelming, but don’t simply go for the largest TV you can find. Low-resolution videos will look even worse if they’re blown out of proportion, and you won’t be able to view the entire image. Figure out the best size for the room and for your planned viewing distance.
On that note, the length of the screen, and how far away you should sit, go hand in hand. While a 35-inch TV only requires you to sit about four feet away, a 60-inch TV would need viewers sitting at least seven feet away to see a clear picture.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to your speakers. Choosing small satellite speakers for a large room will only lead to disappointment. It’s worth your while to invest in surround sound, stepping up your setup to in-wall, floor-standing, or bookshelf speakers. By that same token, don’t place your speakers or subwoofers inside a piece of furniture, such as an entertainment center. The product has already been refined for the highest sound quality, so putting it in a cabinet will just distort it. If you really want your speakers hidden away, install them in-wall or in-ceiling instead.
While things such as speakers, a television, a projector or a screen are the cornerstone of your home theater, don’t blow most of your budget on these big-ticket items. They’re important, but so are all of the little accessories that hold everything together. We’re talking about speaker wires, remote controls, HDMI cables and the like. In fact, some experts recommend buying your accessories first, because substandard adapters, cables and connectors just won’t cut it.
This goes double for the surge protector you choose. No matter where you’re located in the country, it’s good to have a quality surge protector just in case to safeguard your system. You’ll probably have to spend at least $30 and consider springing for a warranty, but this is one area you cannot afford to skimp — it’s all worth it for preventing serious electrical issues.
If you’re able, try not to buy your electronics from a mega-store that happens to sell groceries as well. You’ll find superior products at a dedicated electronics store like us; we specialize solely in projectors, projector screens, and related accessories and our experts can help guide you at any time if you have questions about our products or installation. It can also be unwise to purchase your entire system from the same brand. Just because a brand offers fantastic televisions and Blu-ray players doesn’t mean you should just throw the audio receiver in the package along with them without researching it. Mix and match to get the best components out there. This is especially true for your A/V receiver.
You want audio and video that have been optimized for your individual home, so it’d be a mistake to rely on how everything performs in a demonstration room. Of course, speakers will sound their best in that particular environment. Take some time to scout out a store with a gracious return and exchange policy. That way, you can bring home the equipment and gauge the way the audio receiver and speakers work with your own layout, ceiling height and so on.
After you’ve made your final decisions and your theater is in place, calibrate your video display and audio. Most systems include auto room calibration, so it won’t take more than a few minutes to tweak the settings. You can also customize everything manually with specialized smartphone apps.
Basically, you want your new entertainment system to be futureproof in as many ways as possible. For example, it might be smart to update your internet plan to handle your new living space. You won’t be relying on DVDs, Blu-ray discs and a cable plan for what you watch with Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and other similar options. Invest in a couple extra extension cords and connector cables, and don’t go so old-school with the type of equipment you buy that it’ll be a real headache to update everything someday.
Beyond technology, you can’t forget about vents, ductwork, ceiling joists or other features of your home that could affect your setup. Even reflective surfaces, such as white walls, will influence your viewing.
Choosing a Projector and Screen
Big-screen TVs are a popular choice nowadays, but what you don’t see very often is a home cinema projector guide. There’s no good reason for this omission, seeing as a projector screen gives you a larger image and greater flexibility for rearranging your room. In the past, a projector and screen might have been too expensive to think about, but such technology has become more affordable and there are plenty of projectors and screens priced for the average consumer. However, setting your heart on a projector means you’ll have to do just a little more research.
The first thing you should learn is that there are two types of projectors: Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). DLP projectors use mirrors reflecting light to project images, while LCD projectors have three interior panels in red, blue and green that the light passes through. Each kind of projector has its own pros and cons. For instance, the DLP projector can produce a very smooth image, while LCD can have dead pixels and degrade in image quality over time. LCD projectors are brighter and have better color saturation, while DLP projectors aren’t as bright. An LCD projector will be more compact, but a DLP projector will be more affordable. You’ll have to weigh the benefits of both of them yourself.
Next, you’ll have to match the brightness of the projector with the size and ambient lighting of your room. Projectors with less than 1,000 lumens will be the least expensive, but they also have to be in very dark rooms or projecting onto very small screens. As you increase the number of lumens, the price goes up — as does the brightness — but more lumens should be complemented with a larger or better-lit room.
Just like when you customize the viewing settings on your TV, projectors have different aspect ratios. There’s 4:3, which will work best with regular TV shows and classic films, but 16:9 is the ratio of choice for most movie buffs. Only go with 16:9 if you’re planning on dedicating the space to just film watching. There are different resolutions for projectors, as well. Higher-resolution projectors require a bit more money, but they’re best for high-definition videos as well as gaming consoles.
With projectors, you also need to think about keystone correction, throw ratio and lamp life. Keystone correction is the way the projector automatically makes an image flat no matter the surface it’s on, and throw ratio is the distance the projector needs to be from the screen for a quality image to appear.
The skilled sales team at Projector Screen Store can easily explain those terms in depth. According to home projector buying guides, most projector lamps will last up to 4,000 hours, or, if you use your projector about eight hours a week for watching movies, it’ll serve you for five years before you need a lamp replacement. A new lamp costs between $200 and $400, so make sure you keep up with maintenance like filter cleaning with your current projector to extend the lamp’s life as long as possible.
Finally, you must consider the projector screen. Fixed screens tend to be inexpensive and durable, and they produce the true-to-life imagery the film directors had in mind. However, if the screen is going to be in a room that has multiple purposes, like your living room, then a retractable screen becomes a practical option.
A tensioned electric screen is recommended, as it will retain its flatness for a longer period of time. As long as the material of your screen is Matte White, it will be suitable for a vast majority of situations. Matte White screens offer the least gain, or amount of light reflected back into the room, and work best if you have controlled lighting. The projector screen should be placed on the short side of the room, and just like with a TV, the bigger the screen, the farther back your guests will have to sit to take everything in.
Tips and Advice for Designing a Home Theater
So you have your massive TV, your high-definition projector or your roll away screen — now what? The fun isn’t over yet! For example, you have to decide whether you want to disguise your speakers or make them a feature of the room. Can you tuck away the tangle of wires? Does the speaker box have an aesthetic that coordinates with the room? If they’ll end up looking out-of-place, you can always hide the speakers by installing them in the ceiling. This frees up space so you can get more creative with the layout of the area, enhances audio for high-fidelity and will make for a more immersive experience, no matter what movie you turn on.
If you have the ability to splurge, there are options for hiding your projector, screen or even your TV! Projector screens and projectors themselves can be fitted with motorized lifts, and a television screen can be mounted cleverly in the ceiling to drop down when you want it. At the very least, you should mount the projector so the whirring of it working won’t reach your ears, as this can be a major distraction.
Be smart with your lighting, too. Light placement, control, color, intensity and reflection off of any surfaces all matter. It’s definitely a plus if you can find lamps that have dimming capability, but beyond the dimmer switch, even recessed lighting can really make a difference. You could upgrade to smart home status with LED step lighting, automatically darkening when you pop in a film or brightening back up when you pause to visit the restroom or grab more snacks.
It’d be the ultimate convenience to have light control in the palm of your hand, so you won’t have to leave your seat to get the lighting at the level you desire.
We already know that seating in a home theater should be comfortable. If you’re able, take a step up from basic sofas in favor of seats that recline or include cup holders. You could also position end tables nearby for refreshments and helpfully place coasters on top. For the room as a whole, you might want to consider soundproofing so you won’t have to worry about the neighbors when you crank up the volume, and your kids can get as excited as they want when watching their favorite movies. Air gaps under doors should be dealt with as well.
The finishing touches of any great home theater are decorations and concessions. When shopping for frames to hold your movie posters, look for non-glare glass. You could put out cardboard standups of famous movie characters or put your collection of memorabilia on display. Finish it off with a popcorn maker, baskets for other goodies and a mini fridge to keep your drinks cold. You could even add a bar area if you want — after all, there are no alcohol restrictions in your own home!
Make Your Home Theater Dream a Reality
As you can see, the number one stumbling block between you and your ideal home theater is not doing proper research. Discussion forums, manufacturer websites and tutorial videos are all out there for you to peruse, and you could even get advice from your friends. There’s no reason to make an uninformed purchase with so much knowledge right at your fingertips.
Projector Screen Store is also ready and willing to help! We provide several useful resources — like this home theater projector guide — that will aid you in your shopping. For instance, our Viewing Distance Calculator will make arranging your projector and screen a breeze.
We’ve been in business since the 1960s, offering personalized service and professional installation so you can have the home theater you’ve always envisioned. It’s quick and easy to order from our online store, or you can get in touch with any questions you may have. Contact Projector Screen Store today!