10 THINGS TO MAKE YOUR HOME VIEWING EXPERIENCE GREAT
By Doug Robinson
I’m in my theater at home watching “Blade Runner.” I have seen it several times before, but never like this. In the opening scene the Vangelis score is epic and goose-bump raising as the camera glides toward 2019 Los Angeles, overpopulated and grim looking. Later a flash of a dresser scattered with items tells me more about Harrison Ford’s Deckard character. Little things I didn’t notice before are drawing me into each scene like a magnet. Rutger Hauer’s dying soliloquy in the rain has real power, it’s a roller coaster ride. I always thought it to be a good movie, but this good?
Experiences like that one have motivated us to update both statement theaters at the Omaha store to demonstrate to our customer’s what’s possible. A Kansas City store theater is imagined for the near future. Why are we doubling down on Home Theaters? Because there has never been a better time to see a movie or TV show in full theater glory at home. 4K, high dynamic range, object oriented sound, are technologies that bring a true movie theater experience into your home.
HERE ARE TEN THINGS THAT SHOULD HELP YOU DECIDE HOW TO BEST DESIGN YOUR MOVIE/VIDEO VIEWING AREA
Great sound is the most important attribute of a good movie/video watching environment. Video is the intellectual content, sound is where the emotion is. “Good-enough” sound gets the job done, but great sound is thrilling. From a poignant sigh to t-Rex footsteps, you can’t respond to it if you can’t hear it. For my money, put the effort in great sound first.
Most screens are too small and too far away for the immersion you get in a movie theater. THX specifications prescribe 36 degrees as the ideal angle. That’s about 6 foot away from a 55 inch (1.78:1) screen or 15 feet away from a 130” (2.4:1) screen. Very large flat-screens are changing the choices we have here but get the viewing angle right and you’ll be more involved in every movie or TV show. Even sports benefit.
You need to darken the room. Today’s Flat-screens are bright. Even projectors have improved in that regard. But visual dynamic range improves exponentially with room darkening. Many of today’s commercial theaters aren’t as dark as they should be for ideal black levels, making movies in them a bit “washed out” looking. Reviews that you read on-line to decide what flat-screen you should buy review and measure those TVs in a darkened room. Create a room you can darken and your picture will “pop” with life and dimension.
Bass adds the wow factor to your theater. Most modern movies and lots of TV today has a special bass effects track for explosions, gunshots and car crashes. But bass does much more than that. In the human ear-brain system bass is used to define space and distance. So, adding bass to your theater makes it more dimensional and immersive if it’s done right (And not just supporting the effects channel).
Object oriented sound like Dolby Atmos has improved the quality of the soundfield we hear in our theaters. Each step towards that is a step in the right direction. Some set-ups start with stereo front speakers only. Phantom center channel works, but only for the person smack dab in the middle of the 2 stereo speakers. A center channel is the next step and adds to dialog clarity and specificity, especially for viewers seated on the sides. Add side and rear speakers for a full 360 degree soundfield. Atmos height speakers are the final step. Even without them Atmos sounds immersive and creates a huge sphere of sound.
A home theater is a place to get away from your day and visit a new world. It’s the closest thing we have to Star Trek’s holodeck (Sorry VR headsets, you come in 2nd so far in this). It’s a place you’ll take your guests, relatives, kids and friends. It should be a welcoming, comfortable place. Cozy seating, close-by restrooms, a holder for your coffee, soda, or beer are all welcome.
This category is related to the last one, but I kept it separate for a reason. If your using a dedicated room for a theater make sure you have enough airflow to keep the temperature right, even with the theater full of people. Projectors, subwoofers, amplifiers and people all create a lot of heat. Don’t underestimate the task.
If your viewing area is quiet and uninterrupted, your viewing pleasure is increased. You hear dialogue better – emotional moments are more effective.
You already know this, but that pile of remotes just isn’t necessary. Consolidate everything on one central remote. Use the same system on every video system in the house and even your spouse (the non-technical one) will learn to use it. Automate turn-on and even the most complex theater becomes a breeze to operate. And the more it’s used, the more value it represents for your family.
Most builders that add a home theater area to a home while building get it wrong. Size, shape, wall construction, HVAC. If you’re considering this talk to The Sound Environment first (Yes indeed, this is our pitch to help you with your next Audio/Video project). We’ve consulted on many, many Home Theater construction projects in our nearly 50 years in business and can help you get it right the first time.
That’s it. Get all ten going for you and you’ll be the go-to place for movies sports and video in your neighborhood.