You don’t have to go to the cinema to fully appreciate a film – by following simple guidelines, it is possible to enjoy surround sound and high-definition imagery even in a small city apartment. Keep reading to find out how to set up a perfect home theater wisely and with minimum investments.
Choose the space
The first thing you need to do is choose the right space. Ideally, a movie room is long and rectangular, with an area of 200-300 square feet and no windows. According to experts, irregularly shaped spaces, such as rooms with niches, walls that diverge at smooth angles, split-level floors or ceilings, provide the highest quality of sound. If your apartment does not have these, you can convert a regular living room or a bedroom into a home cinema. It is preferable that the room does not share a wall with the neighbors.
Prepare the room
Keep in mind that the core motif of the room will have to be centered around it being a home theater. For example, light colors are best painted over with darker tones. This simple technique increases the contrast of the image on the screen. Adding sound insulation is crucial–to avoid disturbing the neighbors and family members during movie time, equip the walls with special sound-absorbing panels. Pillows, blankets and carpets will help strengthen the desired sound effect. Next, think ahead about how to conceal wires and cables. Plastic boxes, baseboards with built-in cable channels, decorative niches and furniture are well-suited for this purpose. Lastly, the room should be as dark as possible. Consider blackout (or even better–soundproof) curtains. Modern manufacturers offer myriads of fabrics designed specifically for home theaters.
Less glossy surfaces
Rough and matte textures work best for a home cinema. Unlike glass or glossy surfaces, they do not create glare or other distractions. If you can’t completely remove furniture with mirrors, metal or glass elements, try not to place it between speakers and spectator seats: smooth surfaces cause reverberations when the sound is reflected, amplified and turned into an echo. The same applies to polished wooden and concrete floors. For a cleaner, more balanced sound, use carpets and drapery. In cinemas, echoes and vibrations are suppressed with mineral wool. At home, a few paintings and a couple of bookshelves will reduce reverberations and the transmission of sound energy to the walls.
Select the screen
A large screen is the beating heart of any home theater. It ensures maximum immersion and enhances the effect of action sequences. Retailers offer lots of solutions for home cinemas ranging from giant plasma screens to ready home theater kits which connect to your TV. If the space allows it, we recommend using a projector paired with a white screen. A projector with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels is enough for home use. In order to save space, it is usually mounted on the ceiling in the middle of the room. A white screen can also be installed on the ceiling or on a tripod stand. To choose the right screen size, use a special calculator. Also, if there is a flat wall in the room with nothing on it, maybe there is no need to buy a white screen after all–you could create a projector wall with a so-called screen paint.
Alternatively, a large LED TV and a sound bar can be mounted on a mobile TV stand, converting your living room into a movie theater whenever you feel like it–a cheaper option, yet it provides an equally immersive experience.
Arrange your speakers
As powerful as built-in speakers of a TV or laptop can be, they will not provide the same deep surround sound as an audio system. The larger the area of the room, the more speakers you should use. The two most common audio formats are 5:1 and 7:1. That is, there are either five or seven speakers per each subwoofer. Speakers are usually built into walls or mounted on special stands. An AV receiver will contribute to an even better immersive experience. This device amplifies the sound and redistributes the audio signal between the speakers, so that the sound effects "move" around the room in the same way as they would in real life. If the movie room is small, a smart TV and a compact soundbar are more than enough. The latter provides surround sound of almost cinematic quality.
Do not forget to install a source of soft light—watching movies in complete darkness tires the eyes quickly due to high contrast and brightness of the screen. It is best to arrange several levels of lighting in a home theater. Ideally, light sources should be dimmable. Use light panels, string lights, wall lamps, or spot lights that provide evenly diffused lighting.
Poorly designed space can negate any effort and money spent on expensive electronics. Draw a sketch of the room on a sheet of paper or in a mobile app to save time and effort. The rule of thumb is that the interior of a movie room should be strictly symmetrical. Usually, the screen is placed in the center with the rest of the furniture and decor all facing the TV. Avoid putting the seats too close to the walls—the sound should evenly reach the viewer from all sides. If there is enough space in the room, move the setup away from the window to minimize the street noise. When choosing furniture, trust your instinct. Armchairs arranged in two or three rows are a classic, but you might be more comfortable on a large bed, a sofa, or even on a bean bag.