Designing a dedicated Home Cinema is straightforward, when you're correctly trained for the job. Follow the rules and good things happen.
A great media room - with memorable performance in a multi-use space - needs more thought and care to design. We have to consider:
Acoustic treatments reduce echoes and reflections from the room, so the sound system can create the feeling of other spaces. Media room acoustics should be treated, but differently to a cinema room.
First we need to make sure that treatments blend in visually and look good; we also want to leave some 'life' in the sound, so that talking feels natural.
The key principles are the same as for a cinema, so we should aim for reference sound level, for effortless compelling performance. It's also okay though to reduce the target, to let's say 80% of reference - and save cost.
The video system may cost more. A media room projector has to be brighter, just to look as good as it would in a darker cinema room. Dual display also adds cost as you need to buy them both. Provided we're within the right range, it may be okay to go down one level in screen size which should cost less.
You can make savings, but the trick is to know where you're making them from, and be sure you're happy with that.
As a rule of thumb, the budget range for a given room size is wider, but spec and costs still go up as rooms get bigger.
In the private screening room, everyone's in the sweet spot.
Rows of seats don't work for a media room, though a bar at the back can be great for visitors. The screen will often be on the long wall, with a wide seating area.
That means off-axis sound and picture performance all need to be as convincing as possible.
Screens and brightness
You'll probably want to use the room in ambient light conditions. So the screen needs to be much brighter. There are various ways to get there:
• High brightness projector
• Ambient light rejecting screens - these give remarkable results in brighter conditions.
• Use a flat-panel TV - a reduction in scale for watching films, but in some rooms works very well. Some very large sizes are now quite affordable.
• We might control the light levels, for example with blackout blinds and careful choice of surface colours. Bright white walls and ceilings can be very distracting; what about a light grey instead? High gloss finishes should be avoided, or outside the field of view.
• We're very keen on dual display rooms. Flat-panel TV for when the lighting is brighter, plus a projector and screen for special times - film nights, immersive gaming sessions and epic box sets.
You often don't want regular TV to be as big as a film - you want it to be less immersive. Most TV shows are made for a smaller screen, so the picture is less complicated. Having the choice of pretty big or really big means you can control the experience to suit you.
The look and feel of a media room is down to you. Our job is to listen hard to your tastes and design something that performs well, and looks the way you want.
It's really important not to compromise on the critical jobs - there's no point doing this if screens are too high to watch comfortably, or if the sounds are coming from the wrong places.
When working with other designers, we like to begin with a thorough briefing about all the performance and comfort aspects we work to, and then the design process is much more straightforward.
That's why we've been heavily involved creating the latest CEDIA CPD 'Designing Media Rooms and Home Cinemas' - an excellent overview of the issues for construction and design professionals. We were the lead author on this training, with input and assistance from some other leading lights of the industry. This new CPD is approved core content by RIBA and BIID (the Royal Institute of British Architecture and the British Institute of Interior Design).
Contact us now to book training or to talk to us about your own media room project.