July 01, 2009
| by Simon Scotland
Q. I have a 14x16 ft room which I plan to set up as a media room. If I want to do a 7.1 system, what is the largest size TV/Screen that should be used? How many 30-inch chairs could you fit that would allow for reasonably good balance with two rows of seating? Dave, Fla.
A. I’d start by getting a copy of Carlton Bale’s home theater calculator. This Excel spreadsheet is a great place to start when roughly planning out a media room. It allows you to enter in the details of your room and the projector and gives you some parameters for screen size.
When it comes to seating distances there are two standards: one from THX and one from SMPTE. Both of these are covered in the spreadsheet. However, these are numbers created by technicians and you need to add your own personal factor to these.
We usually start by asking people where they would ordinarily sit when they go to the movies. Very few people would choose to sit at the front, but it is worth taking into account whereabouts you feel most comfortable. Obviously there are some reasons that people choose the back row, which may not be suitable for the home theater environment! If you choose to sit towards the back, then you might be more comfortable at home with a smaller screen size or greater viewing distance.
Assuming your screen would go on the shorter wall, I put your figures into the spreadsheet. My initial recommendation would be for a 110” diagonal screen (so it’s not likely to be a plasma). This would give you viewing distances between 12 and 17 feet.
You should certainly be able to get two rows of seats in the room, but you need to provide a few more details about the seats to work out just how many you can fit. The depth of the seats when fully reclined will determine the number of rows, the height of your eyeballs when seated and how high the steps need to be between the rows.
There’s quite a lot of number crunching involved in this, but the spreadsheet does this all for you. Experiment to find out what works for you.
Before choosing a projector, be sure to check out the manufacturers web site to work out where it should be placed in the room. You don’t want to be in a situation where the projector provides an image that is either too small or too large for the screen!
Simon spent eight years in the feature film production. Upon leaving the industry he formed Beyond the Invisible in London UK which specializes in high end whole house entertainment systems, home theaters and lighting control and currently has a staff on ten. He is a certified CEDIA designer and avid collector of Citroen automobiles.