When should you start thinking about your cinema room? The answer is simple – as early as possible! Think about it before you start creating any plans to submit for planning applications. Whilst it is possible to plan and install a cinema room yourself, appointing a specialist professional will make life much easier. For a list of industry certified professionals near you, check out industry body CEDIA’s website (cedia.org.uk). They will work with you and your architect and help you get the best out of the room taking into account, room size and height, acoustics, viewing angles, speaker positioning, equipment and even seating.
Type of room
First of all, think about how the cinema will fit into your home. Will you have a dedicated room for it? Or would you prefer to have it integrated into a living space like a lounge or playroom? The former means your emphasis is likely to be on the quality of the equipment and the overall cinema experience, whilst the latter may mean that the focus is more on the interior design aesthetics of the equipment.
Sources and kit
If you are lucky enough to be able to dedicate a room to your home cinema, think about where your source equipment will go. This is all the equipment you’ll play your media from, be it Sky/Virgin, Blu-ray player, games console or online media streamers like Apple TV. It may be tempting to place it all under the screen, but a dedicated space for an AV rack or shelving can help keep equipment cooler, easier to service and even quieter – you’d be surprised how noisy the fans can be in some equipment.
TV, projector or both?
If you are able to have the room as dark as possible, then nothing beats a large projector screen for the proper immersive cinema experience. However, projectors aren’t suitable for every room. If you are unable to shut out most or all the ambient light (for example in areas with glass walls or large windows), or simply don’t want to sit in darkness whilst watching the big match on a Saturday afternoon, then a large TV may be a better option. Prices are quickly falling and indeed at the time of writing, a quick Google search for 75” TVs has several models dipping below £3000.
If you are considering a projector and screen we highly recommend speaking to a professional. They will be able to calculate the best screen size and recommend a projector suited to the room, depending on where it is to be located and how bright it needs to be. Additionally, we can recommend the best projection screen for your property. Whilst it may seem like you can just project on to a white wall, the job of a projection screen is to reflect light back at you, the viewer. A flat painted wall will often scatter the light in all directions, whilst a projection screen will help focus it back at you resulting in a sharper picture. That’s even before you start thinking about additional extras like acoustically transparent screens that would allow the speakers to be hidden behind it.
Finally, if you’re still not sure whether to have a TV or a projector, why not have both? Particularly in mixed-use rooms, it can be an advantage to have a TV that can be used in brighter light for daytime use and a projection screen for the family movie night. Many AV receivers – often known as amps – have dual outputs that allow you to choose which one you are using without having to swap cables around.
The most common surround sound setup is known as 5.1 surround. This consists of three speakers around the screen (left, right and centre) as well as two speakers at the rear of the room. The “point one” aspect relates to the subwoofer that handles all the low frequencies. There are variants of this setup such as 7.1, 7.2 and even up to 11.2, although more speakers doesn’t necessarily mean better sound! You are often better to budget for a good quality 5.1 system, rather than getting as many speakers as you can.
However, one recent development to counteract this argument is the introduction of Dolby Atmos. This system uses two or four additional speakers (usually in-ceiling) that produce an incredibly lifelike re-creation of overhead sound. These setups are known as 5.1.2 – where the additional “point two” refers to the number of additional speakers. Whilst this may stretch the budget to start with, it’s worth cabling for these additional speakers now as they could be added at a later date when budgets allow.
A cinema room should be decorated with lots of soft furnishings. Hard surfaces like tiled floors reflect sound, meaning it will bounce around the room, resulting in a muddled sound. Dress the room with carpets, heavy curtains, plush sofas and even upholstered walls to absorb reflected sound. A good integrator can advise on soundproofing your room even further during the construction stage with acoustic grade plasterboard and wall panels.
Don’t have a dedicated room?
Don’t worry, there are a lot of products out there that allow you to integrate a home cinema as discreetly as possible into an existing lounge, den, playroom or even open-plan living spaces. Projector screens and even projectors can drop down from a recess in the ceiling to help hide them when they’re not in use. Speakers can be disguised as artworks (artcoustic.com) or even plastered into the walls completely (amina.co.uk). Even TVs can be hidden behind mirrors (PictureFrame.tv).
Whilst a good integrator will advise on the correct cabling, if you are set on doing it yourself, then ensure you future-proof your system as much as possible. Run speaker cables for any additional speakers you may want to add at a later date. Ensure you have the latest specification of a HDMI cable between your TV/projector and your sources and it’s always a good idea to run some additional CAT6 Data cables between them as well for networking and upgrades.
How much will it cost?
The age old question we always get asked! At the very entry level, you could pick up a TV and 5.1 system and get going for £1500-£4000. A mid-range professionally installed and fully integrated cinema could be anything from around £10,000 to £30,000 upwards. Top of the range? The sky is the limit!
Finally, we’ll repeat what we said at the start of the article. Find a good integrator, and get planning. It might not seem like a big deal but making sure you have the right kit and the right cables at the start will save headaches in the long run and will allow you to upgrade in the future.