Home Theater Design

it’s an interesting thing doing this type of design. much of the design tactics you would use in a control room or live room isn’t always applicable to a home theater (HT) design. in addition, the HT needs to have video considerations that are different than video monitoring or windows in recording studio.

one trend i’m seeing is a lot of people recommending “dead” rooms as the best solution for most HT layouts. i have to disagree with that position because a HT needs to have spaciousness as well as the usual timbre/coloration and spectral content controls. a dead room is definitely not spacious… i also see a lot of recommendations for a completely blacked out (and black painted/trimmed) room. yikes!

no doubt the room needs to have the ambient light (as well as reflected light from the presentation itself)  under control, but there are definitely better ways to handle this that is tasteful and less dungeon like. yes, you definitely want black-out drapes to close off windows, but you shouldn’t deprive yourself of natural daylight when the room isn’t in use as a theater, or when you’re cleaning etc.

so folks, there are definitely better ways to make your HT a spectacular place for family and friends to enjoy a “near-theater” experience, without subjecting yourselves to dungeon like rooms that make your ears ring from the deadness.

first off, pick an interior designer to help with color selections if you’re not comfortable with the task of working with dark(er) and flat(er) colors – remember the colors should complement your home as well as be neutral to ensure the colors don’t interfere with your viewing. windows can be treated with hinged “plugs” to block light as well as provide some isolation, or heavy blackout drapes used. the room should have bass trapping installed, low noise air handling, noisy equipment put somewhere it can be isolated, and the bare minimum of absorption to keep the room under control without making it dead.

and of course, contact me for expert help with your home theater project.

Do I need a designer?

Of course you do! but that doesn’t mean the designer isn’t you! without wanting to use “it depends”, sorry, it depends. to be an effective designer of a complex studio construct where isolation, treatment, layout, aesthetics all play important roles, it will take a lot of study and practice to create a proper design. and if physics and acoustics and construction engineering are not your primary skill set, then its an uphill road. on the other hand, if you are simply looking to treat an existing room using DIY or commerically available acoustic treatment products (such as GIK Acoustics, Real Traps, etc), you can probably learn what you need to know in just a few weeks of self-study on the product sites and main acoustic forums.

You might need to learn a bit of math and some terminology but the essentials are learning to accept room modes as the primary problem area for small spaces, and getting the RT60 adjusted for your space. a room mode is simply the result of sound waves being trapped within a set of walls, floor, and ceiling. RT60 is the reverberation time. usually, once you add the treatments for room modes using broad band treatments (broad band meaning wide number of frequencies) you can often find that RT60 and miscellaneous echoes also come under control. in “dry rooms “(low RT60) you might need to add some panels (like plywood or boards) to get some life back into the room. in “wet rooms” (large RT60 or lots of echoes) you will want to add absorption to get all the energy (sound is energy) from bouncing around for too long a time. It depends…

Did that sound alien? possibly. but in a short time you can review product sites for examples of solving common room problems, some reading up on the acoustics forums, you can learn what all this means to you and prepare you to make the decisions needed to shape your space.