By: Martin Durham
The perfect home cinema recreates the ambience, atmosphere, tension and excitement of a true cinema auditorium whilst adding a few home comforts (such as being able to pause and rewind the film) and not having to suffer interruptions from errant mobile phone owners, popcorn munchers or sweet wrapper rustlers!
To get the best out of home cinema you need to blend together a mix of key ingredients, which I’ll introduce in this article:
- The content you want to watch.
- A large screen that takes up a considerable percentage of your peripheral vision.
- A powerful multi-channel surround sound system loud enough to blot out any other sounds.
- A darkened auditorium so that nothing visual can disturb the film.
- Comfortable seating.
Access the content you want to watch
The starting point for any home cinema system is a source of content that you want to watch. Essentially your choices boil down to buying DVDs containing the content or streaming content by subscribing to an on-line service.
It is worth considering that whilst it may be conventional to think of a home cinema as being for films that have actually been released to the mainstream cinema, it is likely that you’ll also want to use your home cinema setup for watching major TV series (such as Game of Thrones), ‘box-sets’ and major sporting events.
Consequently you might want a range of source devices connected to your home cinema system, including a DVD and/or BluRay player, a live television feed, and/or at least one streaming method.
Have a large screen that takes up a considerable percentage of your peripheral vision
Your options as far as having a large screen is concerned essentially come down to a choice of either a television or a projector.
LCD, plasma & LED televisions are now available in sizes that will easily fill your field of vision in most rooms (at prices that bring home cinema within even modest budgets), whereas a projector offers even larger screen sizes together with the slightly more authentic feel that only a projected image brings.
Projectors and television screens can be permanently in-view, or hidden away in the ceiling to be revealed at the touch of a button – or you could really go for the true cinema experience and reveal the screen from behind automatic curtains!
Install a powerful multi-channel surround sound system loud enough to blot out any other sounds
Whilst it seems obvious that the screen is the fundamental component of any home cinema system, it is probably fair to say that the sound system is actually more important. (If you don’t think that seems right then try watching a film with the sound turned off, then try ‘watching’ it with the picture turned off!)
For the real home cinema deal you need to be looking at 5.1 surround sound quality. That means driving your system with a home cinema amplifier which takes raw audio data from your source equipment and converts it into six channels (centre, left, right, surround left, surround right and low frequency effects) surround sound.
You’ll also need decent speakers. They come in a range of styles and sizes, and they can be recessed in walls or ceilings, mounted on brackets, or be floor-standing.
Darken the ‘auditorium’ so that nothing visual can disturb the film
The anticipation at the cinema builds as the lights fade to near (but rarely complete) darkness. You can achieve something of that effect by closing the curtains and fitting dimmers on the lights in your home cinema room, but modern lighting control systems offer far greater control with preset scenes available at the touch of a button, and curtains can also be controlled at the touch of a button.
Make sure the seating is comfortable
Seating is one area where the home cinema experience can often improve in the experience of going to a ‘real’ cinema (removing the ‘numb bum’ that often results from sitting through a long film with inadequate leg-room and little-or-no opportunity to move without disturbing the people sitting around you.
Your sofa will obviously do the job – but if you’ve got the room and the money then you might want to take a look at specialist home cinema seating.