The home theater viewing experience spans everything from custom-built rooms with special acoustics and seating to thrifty adjustments to your existing living room. If an addition to your home exceeds your means, a few modifications and additions to your living room can enhance its role as a viewing center and still retain its traditional role as a family gathering spot. Choose options that suit the size of your room as well as your budget.
Items you will need
- Shades or curtains
- Folding shade (optional)
- LED bulbs
- Wall sconces (optional)
- High-definition TV
- 3D glasses
- Surround-sound home theater system
In the Dark
Paint the walls a dark color to maximize picture quality and contrast, minimize glare and ensure that your surroundings don't detract from the fidelity of the onscreen image you're watching. Because white, off-white or pastel wall paint makes a room look bright, it can keep your living room from becoming dark enough for a truly theatrical viewing experience.
Block exterior light with thick shades, opaque curtains or both. Fingertip-adjustable shades and curtains that open and close with a traverse rod and pull cords simplify the switch from theater to living room.
Control light spill from other rooms by installing a door you can close or by turning off lights in adjacent parts of the house. To minimize light spill through an archway or other opening that's too large or the wrong shape for a door, add a folding screen.
Check your room lighting to see how many sources you can control without running around the room from switch to lamp. Decide which lamps or lights to turn off when you use the living room as a movie theater.
Install dimmers to replace on-off switches that control overhead lighting or lamps that plug in to switched outlets. Because some types of replacement bulbs fare poorly on circuits with dimmers, choose LED bulbs for your lamps and fixtures, selecting options rated for dimmer compatibility.
Add to the movie-theater ambiance with wall-mounted sconces that resemble the lighting setup in theater interiors. Control these lights with a dimmer so you can leave just enough room illumination for safety, just as movie theaters do.
The Big Picture
Get a feel for the relationship between viewing distance and HDTV screen size. Stand in front of a working set on display in a retail store, back up until you feel comfortable watching the screen and measure the distance between your location and the set.
Size a new HDTV to the dimensions of your living room before you invest. Measure the distance between your seating position and the spot at which you'll hang the screen and divide it by a factor of two or three. By that formula, a 60-inch diagonal set ideally would hang between 10 and 15 feet away from your seats.
Try out 3D glasses so you can test the 3D-viewing experience. Check the number of pairs of glasses included with your HDTV and purchase additional ones to accommodate the number of people in your family.
Wall-mount your TV to provide a viewing experience that's similar to watching a theatrical screen. If your room shape or configuration makes that placement difficult, or the TV you choose includes an integrated stand and doesn't accept wall-mounting hardware, look for a piece of A/V system furniture that places the set at the right height for viewing.
Choose a unified home theater system packaged to provide a compatible mix of components, including 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound and the ability to play back the specialized audio mixes that accompany 3D TV programming. Some surround sound systems use wireless subwoofers, which cut down on the speaker wiring required for setup.
Select a home theater system you can integrate into your wireless network. These systems add online programming to the mix of entertainment options you can screen and enable you to access social media, look for and view streaming media.
Look for a home theater system with a Blu-ray player so you can screen your existing on-disc movie and TV-show collection as well as online options. Some home theater packages include playback options as well as amplification and speakers.
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