The key elements of a home theater system

If you’re preparing to build a home theater system, you’ve likely already been confronted with an overwhelming number of options. Whether it’s projectors, screens, sound systems, furniture or lighting, there are a number of choices to make. Thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone. By working with a smart home integration company, you can ensure that your home theater system is tailored to your unique preferences and delivers a truly immersive cinematic experience for your whole family.

How is a home theater different from my living room setup?

What sets a good home theater system apart from your basic living room television setup? We all have a space in our home dedicated to binging the latest show on Netflix or gathering the family together for movie night. But what sets a home theater apart from a media room is that a home theater is a space custom-designed to give you the best movie experience possible. The goal is to give you the same sense of immersion that you feel in a commercial movie theater (minus all the stale popcorn and sticky floors!) Unlike a typical living room, a home theater is optimized specifically for viewing movies or other media. Even better, building a home theater allows you to create a space that is unique to you. Check out our full article on the difference between a Home Theater and a Media Room.

Below, we’ll guide you through the key elements creating the immersive experience a good home theater should deliver.

1.  Accurate, high-definition sound

Arguably the most important element in your new home theater system, acoustics can make or break the experience. A good sound system should make you feel like the action truly surrounds you. You’ll want to hear every element in the film’s soundtrack, every line of dialogue with as much clarity as possible in surround sound. TSP Smart Spaces integrates trusted technology from Amina, Savant, TDG Audio, and Artcoustic to ensure you can enjoy your cinematic experience as it was meant to be heard. But what we do goes far beyond just purchasing high-quality surround speakers for you. We’re helping you select the right speakers that fit your room and designing their placement and settings to maximize the space to its fullest with the best sound quality. Once we’ve created that immersive surround sound you’re looking for, we use a program called Dirac to fine-tune and optimize your speakers so every seat in the room has the same experience and no part of your room sounds worse than another.

“The artists and technicians meant for the viewer to not only hear them but to feel them. Volume and dynamics add energy and excitement but for me, the ability to recreate the intended subtleties is the mark of a truly excellent home theater.” – Chris Feterowski, Build Technician

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos

While a surround sound system is nothing new (and many of us have it in our media rooms), Dolby Atmos adds a layer of depth to your audio, transforming it from standard surround sound to what you’re used to experiencing a movie theater. Where regular surround speakers put you in a circle of sound, Dolby Atmos puts you in a sphere of sound, completing enveloping you wherever you sit. Traditional surround sound relies on speakers in the room’s front, sides, and back. Dolby Atmos furthers this by adding height channels, allowing sound to be heard as a three-dimensional object rather than just in front or behind you. Like most elements of home theater systems, Dolby Atmos is best left to the professionals. You can give it a go, but working with an integrator ensures you get the best possible surround sound experience.

2. No distractions

Great films are often defined by the details. The best way to take the details in is to experience the film with as few distractions as possible. The last thing you want when the lights dim and the film starts is to see the light coming in from the door or another room. Whether it’s blackout window shades or eliminating windows altogether during your design phase, the ability to have precise control over ambient light is key in your home theater system. You’ll want to be able to take in the subtleties that you might otherwise miss in a typical home viewing.

“If you’re investing in a proper home theater system, all decisions should reflect the room’s intention. Creating the best possible space to experience audio/visual entertainment. Adhering to the room’s intention means choosing elements that don’t detract from the enjoyment of it.” – Aaron Stallings, Director of Smart Spaces

Ketra Lighting

When you think of home theater technology, you probably immediately go to expensive surround sound speakers and a large projector screen. But the lighting in your home theater plays a large role in how immersive your experience can get. In our home theater at the TSP Smart Spaces Experience Lab, we use Ketra LED lighting. Ketra’s ability to dim to .1% across a wide color spectrum sets it apart from other smart lighting solutions. That means if you’ve set your lighting to purple to match your room’s design style, you can dim it all the way down to .1% for proper ambiance. Most commercial-grade lighting you’ll find at Lowes or Best Buy can get down to 5% or so, but Ketra can really dim so your lighting doesn’t detract from the design of the room.

3. Superior image quality

A typical everyday consumer purchases whichever projector or screen fits into their living room setup. In the case of a custom home theater, however, you can do the opposite: build the space around the right equipment. This means selecting a screen that is big enough to give that sense of total immersion that a good theater can boast. While a media room might select a really large television, a home theater system most often relies on a projector and screen, as these can reach more than 100 inches without taking up your entire budget. Televisions are great when you have plenty of ambient light and need something backlit for brightness, but in a home theater where the lighting is controlled, a projector gives you the best image quality and keeps you on budget.

Picking the right projector

When looking for the right projector for your home theater system, there’s a few things you’ll want to consider. First is whether to go with a lamp or laser model. Lamp models are much cheaper, but the image quality declines over time and you’ll eventually have to change bulbs. Laser and LED projectors cost more, but they run cooler and last up to 30,000 hours. Second, you’ll want to decide on resolution. Here, we recommend going for 4k resolution. 720p or 1080p projectors do exist and are cheaper, but you get what you pay for. And on a 100″+ screen, the difference in resolution is quite noticeable. Finally, see what special features you need to ensure your projector will work for your space. This can include HDR to give your video more dynamic contrasts, or ensuring that your projector has enough HDMI inputs for all your devices. At the end of the day, working with a smart home integrator will take the guesswork away from you and ensure your home theater projector is set up correctly. In our private cinema, Secret Cinema, we rely on a 4k JVC projector projecting on a 133″ Screen Innovations screen.

Start planning your home theater today

Working with the right smart space automation installer, you can ensure that once you have these elements, you’ll have a stellar home theater system. Want to take it a step further? Check out The Ultimate Home Theater Design Guide from Porch to see what else makes for the perfect home theater systems. TSP Smart Spaces can help you balance sound, visuals, and fine interior design. We’ll help you create a space that both delivers an exceptional technical experience and looks polished. Using our Design, Build, Support philosophy, we’ll guide you through the entire process from conception to construction, and continue to provide you with technical support after the final product is finished. Contact us to get started!

For further reading:

5 Reasons You Should Consider Ketra Lighting for Your Luxury Home

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