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Modesto, CA Design and Build a Quality Home Theater

Modesto, CA Home Improvement Guide


Home Entertainment - Theater
Home Theater Systems; Television Dealers; Furniture Dealers; Electrical Contractors; Painting Contractors; Remodeling & Repairing Building Contractors; Sound Systems & Equipment

One of the most popular trends in home improvement is the creation of a dedicated home theater room. Homeowners are remodeling basements and dens to make room for creating a movie theater experience in their own home. There are several elements to consider when designing the ideal theater room, including electronics, sound system, seating, floor material, and paint color. Use the advice and guidance outlined in this section to ensure home theater basics are covered and implemented. This creates a memorable experience in a comfortable and cozy room.

Consumer electronics have changed significantly over the last few years with new developments being released every few months. Deciding which technologies to use in your room can significantly alter the overall experience. Purchasing the latest system doesn’t guarantee the best picture which may cause you to overspend for the room. The layout, room acoustics, lighting, and style of seating also dramatically affect the overall experience of a theater room. Consider the nuances of each element and learn the optimal layout for your room before making final home theater decisions.


Electronics
Home Theater Systems; Department Stores; Television Dealers; Television Repair & Service; Sound Systems & Equipment; Stereo, Audio & Video Equipment Dealers

Recent technologies have drastically affected the television viewership within the home. The recent broadcasting move of transmitting in digital versus analogue has opened the way for home televisions to have clearer, sharper pictures. High-definition makes television pictures more dimensional and lifelike. Vibrant colors and crisp images enhance the picture quality as well. As modern technology becomes mainstream, pricing becomes more affordable making these advancements available in average sized homes. This has significantly increased the popularity of home theater rooms.

To create an optimal home theater experience, consider a screen size of at least 32 inches or higher. Depending on the size of the room and placement of the screen, the size dramatically affects the viewing experience. Purchase the largest size possible based on the room and budget.

There are three basic screen types to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Rear Projection
Based on the standard technology of classic big-screen TVs, rear projection televisions reflect the image onto a mirror which then projects it onto the screen. Unlike standard projectors which project onto the front of the screen, the image actually comes from behind the main screen. The main advantage of this type of television over its LCD or plasma competition is the size of the screen for the price point. Real projection televisions range from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the size and technology. Larger LCD or plasma screens cost significantly more when considering a larger size screen. Rear projection offers three types of projection technology. Each technology is different, providing distinct advantages, disadvantages and results in picture quality.

CRT: Following first generation rear projection televisions, this technology uses three small CRTs (Cathode Ray Tube), along with a magnifying lens which projects the image onto a mirror and then onto the screen. Each tube represents a primary color and creates an excellent, sharp image. The color quality itself is also outstanding as this technology creates deep black images that when combined with color, offers the full, richness of the spectrum. As this technology has been around for decades, it is inexpensive to create offering a quality picture at a lower price point.

The disadvantage with this type of technology is that the television is still quite large comparably. The inner hardware requires a significant amount of space which you’ll need to be willing to forfeit in the room as well depending on where it is placed. Tube alignment is critical to producing a sharp image and if any become out of alignment, professional maintenance is required to reset them. Maintenance costs are expensive and if one tube goes bad, all three will need to be replaced.

LCD: A rear projection LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) passes a light source through an LCD chip which is made up of several individual pixels. The pixels display the moving picture which is then projected through a magnifying lens, off a mirror and then projected on the screen. As the chip is significantly smaller than projection tubes, the television itself requires dramatically less room than a CRT television. While still not small enough to hang on a wall, it provides more floor space and look less daunting in the room. It also offers a more efficient technology, requiring less power which saves money on the energy bill.

There are a few disadvantages to an LCD rear projection technology. At a larger size, the pixels become quite large making it appear as if you are watching TV through a screen door. Also, if one pixel goes out, it creates a black or white dot which can be annoying as you are watching the television. As individual pixels cannot be replaced, a new chip will need to be installed, requiring professional maintenance and additional cost. The cost to create the chips is still relatively high which is reflected in the overall higher cost.

DLP: Also using a chip, DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology reflects the image through a specialty chip which includes thousands of smaller mirrors. The micro-mirrors on the chip tilt as the image changes which creates a gray scale foundational image. Light passing through a high-speed color wheel adds color to the image. As the light bounces off the micro-mirrors, the image is sent through a lens, then a larger mirror and onto the screen. Providing a higher overall resolution, the DLP image is close to movie theater quality. The television itself is smaller in size, and the micro-mirrors offer exceptional color quality while eliminating the screen door pixel appearance.

While the screen door affect is not a problem, the DLP chip can create a rainbow effect. This is caused when a viewer rapidly looks away from the screen or rapidly moves their eyes from one side of the screen to the other. A brief rainbow may be visible and while it occurs infrequently, it can cause irritation when it does. As DLP rear projection televisions require an alternate light source, similar to a movie projector, this bulb eventually burns out and will need to be replaced. Replacement bulbs require maintenance and costs on average $200 or more.

Flat-Screens
Two types of technology exist for flat screens, offered in a wide variety of sizes.

Plasma: Available as small as 3” thick, plasma screens create an image using over a million tiny fluorescent picture tubes. Each fluorescent tube contains plasma, which provides the technology its name. The technology of the fluorescent tubes creates a superior picture which is often reflected in the price, ranging from $4,000-$12,000. The picture represents a truer black and therefore, offers a more vibrant color spectrum. Due to their smaller size, plasma screens can be hung on walls or hidden in cabinets to minimize space.

While the quality of plasma screens is preferred over their LCD competitor, they are susceptible to “burn-in”. This is created when a static image appears on the screen for an extended period of time. If this occurs, that image is permanently burned into the screen. For this reason, plasma screen are not recommended for video game playing. Plasma screens are also best viewed from directly in front of the screen and make side viewing more difficult.

LCD: Using the same technology of a laptop computer, LCD (liquid crystal display) technology has been used for years in calculators, digital clocks and watches. The flat screen image is created as the liquid crystals electronically turn millions of pixels on and off while rotating polarized light. This technology has a long lifespan and is immune to the “burn-in” factor of plasma screens. They are also more cost effective with prices ranging from $500-$8,000. Their slim shape, as thin as 2”, makes them a space saver which can be hung on walls, hidden in cabinets or displayed on thin, sleek stands.

There are some disadvantages to LCD in that they have a hard time holding fast moving images. LCD panels have a slow refresh rate which makes images appear blurry as they cross the screen. Large size screens are not as sharp as smaller screens but the technology is continually improving.

Front-Projection
If budget is not a main concern or the highest quality system is the major priority, a front-projection television is the ideal product. Most like a real movie theater experience, front-projection televisions work the same as rear projection but in a stand alone unit, separate from the screen. Much like a film projector, these projection systems are mounted at the back of the room and the screen size is limited only by the size of the room. The screen is typically a fabric screen that is either non-perforated or perforated. As a more expensive option, perforated screens allow sound to pass through holes in the fabric permitting the speakers to be housed behind the screen. Front-projection systems require a darker room and projection power varies greatly depending on the projector. Therefore, they are most ideal for a dedicated home theater room rather than a family room or den. Television tuners are not built-in to these systems so for television viewing a separate tuner is required.

Front-projection systems are available in the same technologies as rear projection and are much pricier ranging from $1,500-40,000 and higher. Depending on the technology, the system may need to be professionally installed and calibrated from time to time requiring additional maintenance.


Layout
Interior Decorators & Designers; Home Designing & Planning Services; Furniture Dealers-Retail

Designing a home theater room should start with defining a layout. To maximize the experience, a centrally located screen with surround sound is the most ideal.

Room Size
When creating the ideal layout, the size and shape of the room play a major role. Rectangular rooms are often the preferred shape for a theater room. This allows for the screen to be placed on a smaller wall with the majority of seating placed in the center for optimal viewing. Multiple rows of seating accommodate more guests and platform levels ensure everyone has a great view of the screen. Square rooms require a diagonal placement of the screen to ensure maximum viewership.

Placement of the screen and speakers creates an optimal theater experience. The size of the screen plays a key role in determining the placement of furniture. Larger screens require a greater viewing distance. The ideal distance varies based on viewing preference and screen resolution but as a rule of thumb, a distance of 1.2-1.5x the screen width is recommended. Therefore, ensure the necessary amount of viewing room is available prior to selecting a screen size.

Dedicated Home Theater Room
If new building or remodeling plans call for a dedicated home theater room, designing the layout becomes much easier. Special accommodations can be made for housing the necessary electronic components and electrical. Speaker wire can be hidden behind the dry wall, colors can be specifically chosen and seating options can ensure ideal comfort and placement for optimal viewing. A dedicated home theater room sets the stage for creating a true movie experience.

Designing a Home Theater in an Existing Room
However, if space and budget are more limited, blending a home theater system into an existing room is an option. As the room serves more than one purpose, considerations need to be made regarding video and speaker placement, window treatments, lighting, furniture and wall color. Some elements may need to be scaled back to protect the primary function of the room. But modern technology advancements of sleek, elegant screens and smaller sound systems easily blend in any room.


Acoustics
Home Theater Systems; Department Stores; Sound Systems & Equipment; Stereo, Audio & Video Equipment Dealers

To maximize the sound quality in the room, establishing ideal room acoustics is critical. Sound is equated to energy waves that travel throughout the air. When these waves hit objects, they start to vibrate. Bouncing off too many hard surfaces traps the sound waves causing excessive reflection. Ideal room acoustics are achieved when the sound is absorbed by its surroundings and reflection is minimal. Furniture, carpet, area rugs and throw pillows all help to absorb sound waves. If your theater room has hardwood flooring, area rugs are a must. For plaster walls and ceilings, consider carpeting the walls or adding acoustic form panels. Texturing the surfaces also helps absorb the sound and reduces the amount of bounce.

Speakers
The quality of a surround system is defined more by where speakers are placed than the technology that made them. Even the best technology improperly placed will not sound better than a standard speaker system. Therefore, it is critical that proper placement is achieved to maximize the quality of your system. A standard 5.1 home theater surround sound system includes at least six speakers. Make sure all six speakers are capable of full range of sound and are similar in quality. Whenever possible, stick with the same manufacturer and technology composition.

Right and Left Front Speakers: These two speakers carry the majority of sound effects and musical sound and are placed on either side of the screen. The distance from the screen should be minimal with the speakers an equal distance from one another and turned slightly inward toward the seating area.

Center Speaker: This speaker carries the primary weight of dialogue and is placed directly above or below the screen. Most systems prefer it to be placed just behind the right and left front speakers. Avoid placing it in front of the side speakers.

Rear-Surround Speakers: Providing sound effect support, these speakers are smaller in size as they do not carry the bass sound. Ideally, they should be placed at the corners behind the viewing area and angled upward toward the seating area.

Sub-woofer: Carrying the weight of the low bass, sub-woofers reproduce explosions, crashes, heavy footsteps and other heavy boom sounds. This component rounds out the overall surround experience finalizing the optimal surround sound system. The component can be placed near the front of the screen or behind the seating area so listeners not only hear the rumble, they feel it.

Higher end surround systems come with 1-3 additional speakers to further enhance the sound quality. A 6.1 surround system includes a rear center speaker that is located behind the seating area, pointed toward the screen. A 7.1 surround system includes the rear center speaker and two additional left and right side speakers. These speakers are ideally placed 2-3 feet above the seating area or directly to the side of it.

Take the time to listen to each system prior to purchase. The right system for you depends on your sound quality taste, listening preference and budget.


Lighting
Lighting Fixtures-Retail; Lighting Designers & Consultants

Establishing just the right amount of light in the room is an important part of creating the ideal theater room. During the movie, glare from windows, lamps or other light sources diminishes the screen quality. An entirely dark room is also not ideal as some light is needed to ensure the safety of the viewers. Creating the right light ambiance enhances the overall experience and sets the mood for the room.

Controlling Light
An ideal dedicated home theater room is one that includes no windows. If this is not an option, light from the windows can be minimized with heavy curtains or blinds. This provides optimal viewing regardless of the time of day while ensuring adequate natural light when the system is not in use. Utilizing lamp shades that direct light downward cuts down on the amount of screen reflection and dimmer controls adjust the amount of light needed for each situation.

For dedicated home theater rooms, developing a lighting strategy controlled remotely mimics a typical movie theater. Consult a lighting professional to determine what is ideal for your room. This may increase the overall budget but the ambiance and elegance created may be worth the cost.

Wall Sconces
Taking cues from a traditional movie theater, including wall sconces adds a dramatic flare and elegant touch to the room. The style of the scone can be plain or more elaborate based on the design of the room. Decorative movie theater-esque sconces can be found at specialty store or online websites.


Seating
Furniture Dealers-Retail

When sitting down to watch a two-hour movie having comfortable seating makes all of the difference. A variety of furniture manufacturers offer custom home theater furniture designed to make any room look elegant as well as offer long-term comfort and amenities. Recliners and love seats come equipped with cup holders and tactile transducers. Bringing the vibrations of the sub-woofer directly to the seats, tactile transducers are speakers that are specifically designed to only cause vibrations, not sound. Following the bass vibrations, tactile transducers are connected to the audio channel of the sub-woofer enhancing both the sound and the experience. If a true movie theater experience is more your style, manufacture’s create mini-theater seats that mirror a traditional theater row but with comfortable recliners as seats.

Building riser platforms in the room allows for multiple rows to be included offering an optimal view from wherever you sit. As standard ceiling heights are 8 feet, make sure there is enough head room on the final riser. Ceiling clearance runs out quickly depending on the number of risers. For dedicated theater rooms, ceiling heights can be set higher to accommodate multiple risers. Make sure to also account for the location of the projector and any fan noise that can be easily heard by those sitting in the back row.

When integrating a home theater system into an established room, seating selection needs to be more traditional. However, adding recliners and comfortable love seats provides comfortable seating for movies as well as the elegance needed for everyday living.

 
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