Getting Started

you know you want it. but you’re not a designer or acoustician. don’t know how much money you need or can get. and haven’t swung a hammer or cut some lumber. you’re a musician, producer, or just someone who wants a great place to listen to music or watch movies.

without some understanding of the basics of acoustics, video, and construction, you’ll be pretty limited in how much you can achieve without getting some help. and that help is often going to cost you. money, time, aggravation, promises to be kept, and other bartering. even so, getting started in the right way can go a long ways towards having the facility you want. i’ll be skipping the whole site selection bit as thats covered in another blog, but we’ll visit the design steps a bit more.

step one – do you really want to do this? are you really committed? if not, we can stop right here because you’re not going to pull it off so save yourself the frustration and find other means to get into the facility of your dreams – rent, lease, etc.

step two – plan. you must figure out your market, your needs, a proposed budget, skills of the people involved, and how you’re going to get paid or pay back (yes, even personal studios need to provide value). this should be put together into a plan so you can track your progress, and if need be, get investors on-board to help.

step three – if you need help and have limited (low) budget – consider exchange/barter for services, materials, recycled materials, reduction in scale/scope, etc. there are some excellent examples of people putting out advertisements for people to help build a studio in exchange for recording and mix time. one studio in LA, the owner got over 200 responses in a week. his studio was built by a handful of construction professionals (he paid for materials) in about a month.

if you’re looking for investors, work with your designer to get some basic comps, renderings, and ballpark estimates (usually by taking the high level construction per square area costs X your square area = rough approximation – add another 15-25% – and then price retail on your equipment – because you’re likely to be paying installation costs even if you do get discounts on the equipment later, then another 10% of the total – worst case you’re high but its often easier to be high then to have to go and ask for more money later).

step four – be there. show up everyday on site and see whats going on as your facility is built. ask questions, bring coffee or soft drinks (don’t get the crew drunk while they’re working ;-)) show enthusiasm for your project. keep your investors up to date on progress. if this is a commercial facility, start working on your marketing, you want projects lining up in anticipation of your opening. take lots of photos and keep a log of the activities. track costs and time to your plan to see where you guessed right or wrong. plan a party for the construction crew and a party for your clients/friends to celebrate opening day.

step five – get to work! this is the best job in the world! if its your home theater, go relax, you’ve earned it!

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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.