having a dark area on the front wall helps keep attention focused on the screen
In “Media Room or Home Theater? It Depends,” I talked about how media rooms are a viable alternative for anyone looking for high-quality playback of movies, TV, music, etc. at home. While I acknowledged that a dedicated home theater is still the best way to go if you want the ultimate at-home entertainment experience—especially if you have the space and budget—a media room is within reach of virtually anyone.
Keep in mind that my comments here are directed at people who want to create a system that can provide a first-rate entertainment experience but who don’t have a proper space (or bank account) for a dedicated theater room. As the wave of interest in media rooms continues to grow, discussing ways to maximize performance in a multi-use space and the different installation options becomes increasingly important when you’re weighing the options.
In his post “Media Room or Home Theater?” Theo talked about the inevitable visual distractions in a media room. Of course, not every designer is as gifted or experienced as Theo is, so there are plenty of home theaters out there with their share of distractions—like over-elaborate gold ceilings and framed artwork that can reflect light from the screen when the lights go down. And twinkling fiber-optic starlight ceilings—which many customers seem to love—can rob the image of contrast and definitely pull attention from the screen.
Of course, whether it’s a media room or a dedicated theater, the room should be designed “to help keep your attention focused on the screen,” as Theo wrote. That’s where good design comes in, and an area where I think he will ultimately be able to not only place his mark but possibly reinvent the way people think about media rooms.
my 115-inch screen and the area around it, before the lights go down
photo by Jim Raycroft
In my room from the principal viewing positions, almost all of my view during movie time is taken up by our 115-inch screen. At the extreme edges of my vision are a door and some art, which I don’t even notice anymore when the lights are out and the movie is on.
Finding a way to decorate a media room so the screen wall can be painted a dark color will also help to pull vision toward and focus attention on the screen (and improve perceived contrast to boot!). Perhaps a design that includes a motorized drape or curtain that darkens the front wall and helps the screen to pop would be something Theo could explore . . ?
He also bemoaned the all-too-common media-room fallback of placing a credenza beneath the screen to hold the room’s equipment. Fortunately, there are so many ways to conceal and incorporate gear into a modern installation, it’s merely up to the installer and designer to come up with a creative gameplan for the look of the system.
Instead of wondering how to make a media room as good as a dedicated theater, maybe another way to look at it is to ask, “How can we embrace new technology innovations to make a media room the very best experience it can be, while maximizing the strengths of a multi-use room?”
That is something I’ll explore in my next post! But at the end of the day, even the very best media rooms will always have limitations well-designed home theaters don’t.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at
@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.