THE PROBLEM: There are many theories that suggest the perfect shape for a theater. (A popular one is the room width should equal 1.6 times the height of the room and the room length should equal 2.6 times the height of the room.) Except for dedicated theaters that have been built to spec, few rooms in your house will fit this or any other formula. They may be too wide, too narrow, have walls that curve and oddly shaped nooks and crannies. While rooms like this are visually interesting, they can be unaccommodating of home theater equipment. The architectural features of the space can interfere with the placement of speakers and screens, and its orientation can limit the number of seats or make movie viewing an uncomfortable experience. Audio also suffers in an ill-shaped room. It may be difficult to contain the sound to the viewing area in a room with an open concept or cathedral ceilings, for example.
If the home theater opens up to a kitchen, dining room or patio, you may have a hard time hearing the dialog or seeing the picture clearly from all vantage points.
THE SOLUTIONS: The shape of any room can be altered or closed off from other areas by adding or taking out walls, but there are other, more affordable, less invasive options to help get an imperfectly proportioned room into better home theater shape.
Speakers create sound by moving air. The more air there is (like in a great room), the harder the units will have to work to create a respectable (an intelligible) amount of sound. Loading up on large speakers (or putting a pair of stereo speakers in each ad- joining area) will ensure that the movie can be heard clearly from anywhere in the room. Using more than one subwoofer helps, too. As for video, choose the spot from which you will likely sit down to watch a movie. A home theater designer can then select a screen appropriate for the seating distance. Choose a screen with a wide viewing angle or one that can be attached to a mount that can swivel the display if you’d like to be able to see the movie from other viewing areas.
CAVEAT: Refrain from going too big on the screen. You might be able to see it clearly from the far reaches of the room, but the picture may be too overwhelming for comfortable viewing from the main seating area. Although it may be your goal to have all eyes focused on one screen, there’s nothing wrong with placing a smaller screen near the back that can link to the same show as the main display. This is a popular practice in home theaters that have bars located at the back of the room.
TAKE ACTION: Pull out the tape measure and document the di- mensions of your chosen home theater room. Explore a different furniture arrangement or invest in a decorative partition to help reshape the room. Only after you’ve committed to the proportions of your theater should you start selecting equipment.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LANCE ANDERSON
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