The home theater offers prime entertainment, bonds families and friends, and helps keep teens from straying.
Courtesy of Electronic Design Associates
What’s the hottest ticket in the Garden State? The home theater, say designers and realtors. Quite simply, it’s the ultimate entertainment venue, they explain, always offering the best seats in the house, whether the show is a Spielberg blockbuster, the Olympics, the Oscars or a home movie of a family reunion in Atlantic City.
“Home theater technology has gotten to the point where it can duplicate the movie theater experience,” notes Vincent Sciacca of Electronic Design Associates in Wyckoff. “All the good parts of a very good movie complex are there: the big picture and sound, the perfect acoustics and cushy chairs, but since the theater is right in your own house, you avoid the hassle of driving somewhere, finding parking and standing in line, plus you can see whatever movie whenever it suits you, and you need only share it with people you know and like.”
“A night in your home theater beats a night at the local cineplex any day,” says Ryan Herd, owner of One Sound Choice in Pompton Plains. “It’s an escape from reality during tough times,” he adds. “If you put one of these in your home, you can enjoy it seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”
Courtesy of Electronic Design Associates
The home theater’s ability to bond families and friends is a major reason for its popularity. To enhance its appeal even further, clients often want additional features, such as pinball machines, pool tables, bars or refreshment centers, says Herd, adding that his company sometimes revamps an entire basement to accommodate a family’s entertainment needs.
A Family Affair
A home theater for family and friends was precisely what Ken Nodes of Holmdel had in mind when he contacted Electronics Design Group to upgrade the TV setup in his basement.
“We just had this old TV set down there,” he tells,” and it wasn’t a very appealing place to go for entertainment. I was amazed when the folks at EDG in Parsippany showed me what could be done with the space. It became more elaborate than what we had in mind originally, with a 100-inch screen, surround-sound, video games and a bar, motorized room-darkening draperies, 12 seats in the dedicated theater and room for a crowd inthe bar area. We absolutely love it.”
Electronics Design Group, Inc – Psolka Photography
So does CEDIA, the Custom Electronics Design & Installation Association. The Nodes’ theater has won one of the group’s annual design awards.
“We watch movies as a family,” says Nodes, “and we invite friends over for special events, like the Super Bowl. I’m a huge basketball fan, so during the college playoffs, my friends gather in our basement to watch the games. Our 12-year-old daughter turns her birthdays into movie parties, and the basement has become a favorite gathering place for my teenage son and his friends. When you have a great home theater you always know where your teenagers are.”
The Teen Factor
Apparently lots of parents share his thinking. Upscale, well decorated versions of yesteryear’s rec rooms, with full-fledged theaters replacing the rabbit-eared TV, are moving into suburbs everywhere as lures to keep teens home. Not surprisingly in this day and age of dedicated rooms for everything, designers refer to these theater environments as “teen spaces.” The idea is catching on so rapidly that the standard family room/great room is declining in importance.
“The feedback we’re getting from our clients is that the home theater really serves as a magnet for kids,” says Scott Jordan, a systems consultant with Electronics Design Group in Parsippany. “Parents love that. They like the kids home where they can keep an eye on them.”
So do the Nodes have a favorite movie?
“Jurassic Park,” says Nodes. “That’s a movie that must be enjoyed on a big screen and with surround-sound.”
We may think we know what a home theater is, but the experts who design them say that the term is surrounded by misconceptions. In fact, sometimes we call a home theater a media room.
Courtesy of Electronic Design Associates
“In the trade, we usually say that a home theater is dedicated to watching movies and major events, like the World Series or the Olympics,” says Mark Boeker, a designer with Talk of the Town in Allendale. A media room, he adds, is generally less high tech and is used primarily for watching television.
“A home theater is a very subjective term,” adds Jordan. “Some people think that buying a $399 package of components from Best Buy will provide them with a home theater. They have no idea how much is involved in a true home theater. It isn’t just the components. It’s the architecture, the interior design, the lighting, the colors… Truly, a myriad of elements.”
Color, you might well ask. What does that have to do with watching movies?
“It’s important,” insists Jordan. “Dark colors for the interior work best. The darker the surroundings, the better the picture. Dark blue has been proved the best color of all.”
When you start thinking about a home theater, finding the right room is the first consideration, and designers say the basement or attic is an ideal choice.
Both are away from the main living areas and usually require extra insulation, which helps with soundproofing. Also, any special cabling and wiring for a theater audio system can easily be put in before the walls, floors or ceiling are finished.
The room should be rectangular, according to the experts. “That’s because bass sound waves misbehave in square rooms,” explains Ralph Tamofsky of Professional Audio Consultants. “The dimensions – length, width, height – mustn’t be divisible by a common denominator. For example, don’t choose a room that’s 24 by 16 by 8 feet. Go with 23 by 13 by 7 feet instead. This will minimize standing waves.
Electronics Design Group – Psolka Photography
“Figure out how many people your theater should accommodate and decide if you want theater-type seats or perhaps a couple of sofas and recliners. And there should be a reasonable distance between the viewers and the screen. Otherwise, the picture clarity and details will be compromised.”
The rule of thumb is that for high definition TV images you can sit as close as twice the diagonal screen measurement. If you watch a lot of standard broadcast non-HD and DVDs, you should figure on a seating distance of at least three or four times the diagonal screen measurement.
The decor also plays into the quality of the theater experience, warn designers. A room with too many hard surfaces can inhibit dialog clarity and cause harshness of sound.
One that’s too absorbent can also distort sound. There should be a balance among carpeting, upholstered furniture, draperies, bookcases or other built-ins, and some variation in wall surfaces.
One place you might not have considered for your home theater is the outdoors, but watching movies under the stars is catching on. Some theaters are elaborate nods to the drive-in movies of yesteryear, minus the cars, but with huge screens and speakers disguised as rocks.
Others take the form of screens that are incorporated in pools, spas and outdoor kitchens, and finally there are completely portable theater options, including inflatable screens.
What electronics you should choose can’t be summarized, say the experts. It’s such an individual matter that most people are best off consulting with a professional, especially since the industry changes so rapidly.
Right now, says Tamofsky, media servers are very hot. They store and organize movies, music and information. With such a server, you needn’t hunt for a particular CD your kids might have left in an upstairs DVD. A menu comes on, and there you’ll find the movie.
The wow factors just keep coming with such servers. Say you’re watching one of the Terminator movies, for example. Then you can look up other Schwarzenegger movies, the director’s name, what other movies he made, etc. The information will appear on the sides of the screen.
A server like Kaleidoscape also provides multiple zones, so many TVs can be tied in. “It’s extremely versatile,” notes Tamofsky. “It lets you watch different movies or programs in different rooms.”
Another hot item, according to Herd, is the “bass shaker,” which makes furniture practically rock and roll during high energy scenes. Not only does the device give an extra kick for action lovers, it’s also great for people with young children or those who live in condos or townhouses because they can keep the volume low but still get the full impact of the movie-thanks to illusion of loudness created by the jolt of the chair or couch.
What Will It Cost?
Because of the many interpretations of the home theater, costs are a difficult subject.
“You could start at $15,000,” says Tamofsky, “and easily go up to $300,000. Look at it this way. You could buy a leather chair for $750, but you can get a better one for $2,000, and then for $5,000, you can reach the pinnacle with a European chair with steel construction and the best leather on the planet. This kind of scenario holds true of all the other elements, so anybody who wants a home theater needs to decide what the budget will be.”
Sciacca (of Electronic Design Associates) says that the most expensive theater his firm has designed and installed cost more than $1 million. “But we have also installed a fine theater in a 1,000 square foot condo. The point is that whatever the space or budget, there’s bound to be a home theater in your future.”
Electronic Design Associates
Electronics Design Group, Inc.
ONE SOUND CHOICE
Professional Audio Consultants
Talk of the Town