December 22, 2008
| by Lisa Montgomery
Big screens are great—there’s no doubt about that. However, for a room that doubles as a family room, a 100-inch display can throw a real monkey wrench into the functionality and aesthetics of the space. Having something this large staring at you while you’re entertaining or simply relaxing just feels wrong. That’s why motorized lifts have become such a popular home entertainment accessory. By attaching the 100-inch screen to a motorized roller, it can lift up into the ceiling when you’re using the room for other activities. When you’re ready to watch, it can lower back into the room.
How It Works
The motors used to lift and lower video screens work much like any other motor: When power is applied, a mechanism is actuated that either rolls the screen up into a housing or lowers it from the housing into the room. This housing can either be mounted to a wall or ceiling or recessed directly into the ceiling. An in-ceiling installation hides the technology completely, but it may not be possible to do if the location of the ceiling joists isn’t right or there are other structural limitations. If your room is unaccommodating or you just don’t want to go through the process of cutting into the ceiling, you can always paint over or build a soffit around the motorized screen housing to help the exposed hardware blend in with the decor.
Depending on the shape of your screen (a traditional 16:9 widescreen or a 2.35:1 CinemaScope superwide screen) and the type of programming you plan on watching, you might also want to invest in a motorized masking system. A masking system alters the shape of a screen by placing pieces of black fabric along the sides or top and bottom of the screen. For example, covering the top and bottom portions of a 16:9-size screen can turn it into a shape that’s better for viewing CinemaScope movies. When the masking system is motorized, the fabric can roll over the screen automatically to suit the format of the show you’re watching.
Just as the screen can tuck up into the ceiling, so can the video projector. Hiding away a projector can get complicated, In addition to requiring a fair amount of space above the ceiling, you’ll need to provide ample ventilation for the machine and have it precisely aligned with the screen.
Not Just for Big Screens
Motorization can be applied to smaller screens, too. When attached to a motorized platform, a flat-panel plasma or LCD TV can ascend from a cabinet or even the floor. You can modify an existing piece of furniture or have a cabinet custom designed. Motors are also available on TV wall mounts. A motorized mount is particularly helpful for large rooms where you might watch TV from different locations. On command from a remote, the mount could tilt the family room TV away from the fireplace mantle or swivel it toward the kitchen, for example.
Even if you plan on keeping your flat-screen TV out in the open, a motor can make the set seem less obtrusive. Canvas artwork or a tapestry can descend from a specially designed housing at the top of the TV to cover up the screen when it’s not being used.
Don’t Forget the Light
Sunshine can spoil the show, so shades, drapes and curtains are a must for any home theater with windows. Motorized rollers and tracks are available for just about any style or size of window treatment, so that instead of shutting the shades manually, you can just touch a button on a handheld remote. The movement of multiple window treatments can be synchronized, and presets can be set up so that the shades will adjust to any of several predefined positions on command. For even greater convenience, the lights and shades can work together. The same movie command that dims the lights could also close the curtains, for example.
A similar type of drapery track can add impact to movie nights. When mounted above the screen, the track could part the drapes when it’s showtime, then shut them when the movie is over. These drapes (be sure to choose a dark color) can frame the screen so that the picture really pops.
Check out these motorized products for your theater.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.