I haven’t subscribed to basic television or cable service since 1993. It was certainly the road less travelled, and what a difference it had made.

It’s not that I didn’t like what was on television… like most Americans I was consuming far too much of it. And it wasn’t even the frivolous junk like “Friends” or “Seinfeld”… I was watching History, National Geographic, The Learning Channel (which today is anything BUT learning…).

Outside of television, though I love movies, so I would instead watch movies, and I enjoyed a “home theater experience” as best I could with the resources at our disposal. First DVDs, then BlueRay, and now AppleTV are my preferred methods of consumption.

One of the reasons we built our home in 2006 was to get ourselves a Home Theater. A “real” one.

Home Theater 101:

Figure out the optimal screen size you will need based on the wall the screen will be on. Too small, and you will be dissatisfied. Too big, and you will be moving your head all around trying to watch the action.

Decide on a projector or television. Projectors can give you bigger sizes for a better price point but you will need to factor in lighting: can you darken all lights/windows in the room?

Sound: Will you mount speakers on or in the wall, or will you use “virtual” surround sound projection solely from the front?

Audio/Video Equipment: Will you be able to mount all your equipment up & out of the way to hide all the blinky lights or will it be toward the front of the room?

Seating: will you have a dedicated chair count? (i.e. 2 loveseats for 4, sofas, theater-style seating for 20?) Whether this room is single use or multipurpose will have an impact on this decision.

What I Did In My Home Theater

In the picture above, you can see my layout. I’m not boasting about image quality, as I have a dedicated darkened room which makes it very hard to show off photographically. Except for the rope lighting, there are no lighting fixtures.

Dark burgundy curtains hang on the windows to the right and the entrance to the left to block out all light when watching movies during the day.

The room is painted in dark burgundy (walls) and dark teal (ceiling).

The screen is painted directly on the wall with Screen Goo. This was the single-most awesome component of the entire project. ScreenGoo is a cinematic paint that you apply to your wall, your 4×8 sheet of plywood, or whatever you are using for your screen. You then trim it with a high-carbon light absorbing black paint and voilà – you have a movie screen!

At the time I created my theater, a 144-inch screen was prohibitively expensive. For about $200 I was able to have a 12-foot screen at less then 1/4 the price of a material screen.

I have two rows of seating: The back row sits on a four-foot deep, 8-inch high platform so the rear row can see over the heads of the front row. The rear row is a repurposed church pew that will seat 13 people. The front row is a centrally-located Jennifer loveseat, with two Ikea chairs on either side, seating four. The rest of the room can be filled with folding chairs bringing the total seating capacity to 22.

The projector is a 2700-Lumen Panasonic projector. The sound system is a Panasonic self-tuning 5.1 surround sound system.

I built cabinetry to the left and right of the screen to hold our physical DVDs and Blue Ray disks. Today, I use the AppleTV 99% of the time. One of these days I need to plow through my DVDs again.

Take baby steps to create your home theater

If you are interested in a home-theater, I recommend doing it step by step and enjoy the process. YouTube and the Internet are an awesome resource to find out how. Take your time, though. For example, it took me two and a half years to come up with my final touches, which included the rope lighting around the room perimeter.

The first time I had friends over to see my “new home theater”, the screen was painted in the wall with the black boarder, the projector and sound were mounted, and the room was bare except for four camping chairs. It was very bare bones! As time went on I added piece after piece until I created my final vision.

Your thoughts…

Do you have any questions? Do you have any other wisdom to dispense on future home theater enthusiasts? Please leave a comment!