Home theaters that create impact
The latest technology, merged with stylish designs, makes for a great escape at home
November 20, 2017
After a long, wintery day on the mountain, movie night can become another adventure in and of itself. Creating your own cinematic experience with the most up-to-date home theater technology and design can transport you to another world, one of virtual entertainment.
Most luxury homes include a dedicated theater, and because technology continually changes, it's important to stay on top of the latest equipment. A few important features have popped up on the home theater front recently.
One of these, called Dolby Atmos, makes a difference nearly as profound as when television switched from black-and-white to color. In fact, it could be the biggest factor in home theater systems in the last decade. This technology divides up a movie's sound to give it a true third dimension by spreading the sounds at lower volumes. It disperses sound much better than systems that simply create noise in rear speakers a er an airplane passes "overhead." Dolby Atmos delivers engine sounds to the front speakers before the airplane arrives, then passes it through the side speakers as it flies overhead, and finally selects rear speakers when it passes.
The other biggest technology has emerged from Denmark; it's called Room Perfect by Lyndorf Audio. Room Perfect maps out your home theater room when you plug a microphone into a computer. It then informs your home stereo speaker system how to balance sound. So far, it's very popular in Europe, and it's beginning to catch on in large metropolises like Los Angeles and New York City.
Within the last year or so, Sony has launched its Home Automation Receiver. Through it, components like a Sony television, projector and receiver communicate with each other and automatically switch to the proper input. Then, when you use Xfinity or DirectTV, the Home Automation Receiver automatically balances acoustics.
As a result of all this new technology, fancy remotes and text control sys- tems are already becoming outdated. New products are more automated, and the upgrades cost about the same as past technology, because they're becoming so mainstream.
Design for Success
"The room itself is the most important aspect for a quality home theater," says Leland Wallace, of OneView Controls in Park City. "No other single factor can have as great an impact as a properly designed area for listen- ing and viewing. Very expensive equipment can be made to produce very mediocre results in the wrong environment."
Sound designers work with a room's structure to create an equal distribution of sound, but it's much easier to start with new construction to achieve proper room ratios from the build out. For example, the design of the room can contain specific peaks and valleys in the ceiling so that sound is more effectively and evenly distributed throughout the home theater.
The ability to clearly hear sounds in a lifelike way, to eliminate echo and to properly balance the sound in a room are all factors, which designers can address to provide a meaningful upgrade to overall performance in a home theater.
"The proper positioning of speakers and TVs also plays a major role in ultimate satisfaction," Wallace says. "Remember: a theater is properly done when it suspends one's perceptions and carries you into the filmmakers' universe."
He adds that a fairly recent advance involves wood panel systems, which provide the decorative visual appeal for that Park City aesthetic but are slo ed, or micro-perforated, with various desired acoustic treatments hidden behind the wood panels.
Wallace says while systems like Room Perfect, Dolby Atmos, Audyssey Pro, Dirac Live and other "equalization and sound balancing" methods may be helpful and should be installed, a well-designed, properly conditioned room is critical to successful home theater design.
Stylize Your Theater
While theater chairs are conventional furniture you might expect to see when you walk into a home theater, "conventional isn't always stylish or thought out," says Ruben Gomez, vice president of creative services for Dressed Design.
"Chairs take away from the intimacy and relaxation of a good film — and the fun of turning on a kids' film for a play date with all the neighborhood kids," he says. "With everything else in modern society, it's all about creating an experience."
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The Dressed Design team recommends the use of low, modern armless seating with oversized ottomans. This adds an extra element of re- laxation, he says, and you can place some fun pillows and throws to tie it all together.
"Keeping classic elements, such as a popcorn machine, but with a modern twist, like a black machine, carries the theme of a modern upscale home theater room," Gomez says.
Lighting and ambiance at the entry of the theater can be an additional luxury.
"We like to show the path, the literal path, to the excitement of a true screening room, whether it be vintage le ers, which spell 'CHILL' on the long entry gallery, a mirrored hallway with lacquered bar and candy center, or a life-size Laurel and Hardy with a vintage movie reel in the background," says Beth Ann Shepherd, president and principal of Dressed Design. "We can customize as much or as little as the space will bear."
If you want to change a room drastically, the best way may be to hang wallpaper to create either a vintage flare or a modern look.
"For vintage, using a 3-D velvet damask wallpaper brings in that 'old Hollywood' feel instantly," Gomez says. "Deco brass sconces paired with velvet wallpaper will definitely stay on focus with that vintage feel. For modern home theaters, simple touch- es such as low seating, and a monochromatic color scheme with black-and-white film posters will do just that."
Shepherd says upholstered theater walls with slight padding work well based on the size of the room, and designers can use them in various widths, heights and materials. But, in general, when it comes to accessories in home theaters, less is more.
"Adding decorative elements on a sleek console table with your candy jars and popcorn cups are more than enough to create that environment of vintage or modern feel," Gomez says.
For additional emphasis, Shepherd says built-in candy dispensers and popcorn ma- chines can be installed with fine millwork.
As for color, gray is the new black, or in the case of home theaters, the new red.
"Don't take away from the film," Gomez says. "Red can be distracting, so keeping it clean and minimal is the best way to go for home theaters."
Drama, cozy sink-in com- fort, technology and special "wow" factors can turn just about any size room into a theater. It can all be created with innovative planning, regarding a specific location, size, homeowners' style and needs for entertaining.
"You can never have enough comfortable elements in a home theater," Gomez says. "Keep the focus on the screen. But don't be afraid to add fur pillows, throws and carpets to achieve that."
With the latest technology and innovative design, your home theater can be a wonderful respite from a stormy night — or day.
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