Q. How Important is “Ambient” Lighting in a Home Theater?

Home theater designer Donny Hackett talks home theater lighting and the role it plays in the movie experience.

Q. I was told ambient lighting was important for my home theater, though I have no idea why or what “ambience” really means.Chris, Clearwater, FL

A. I got into home theater design because of my family’s drapery business. In the early years of front projection, light control was everything. We had to use blackout curtains and blinds to keep it as dark as possible in order to enjoy the old CRTs. That’s not the case today. Now for myself, as well as my clients, the lighting choices are all about ambiance! I want the ceiling to glow, the steps under the staging, and even the walls. It’s hard on the eyes to sit in a pitch-black room staring at a bright white screen.

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Some plasma manufacturers know this and have even incorporated ambient light behind the frame of the displays to soften that eyestrain. So I say, keep a little light on for romance; just keep it away from the screen. Wall sconces are all right, but not within one’s peripheral view of the projected image. Look around the next time you are out at a commercial theater. The lights are never completely out and sometimes you just gotta love those red “Exit” signs.

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