Home cinema is about recreating the ambience, atmosphere, tension and excitement of a true cinema auditorium, whilst adding a few home comforts – such as being able to pause and rewind the film, and not having to suffer interruptions from errant mobile phone owners, popcorn munchers or sweet wrapper rustlers!
To get the best out of home cinema you need to blend together a mix of key ingredients, which we’ll introduce in this article.
A large screen that takes up a considerable percentage of your peripheral vision
Your options as far as having a large screen is concerned essentially come down to a choice of either a television or a projector. Whereas LCD, plasma & LED televisions are now available in sizes that will easily fill your field of vision in most rooms (at prices that bring home cinema within even modest budgets), a projector offers even larger screen sizes together with the slightly more authentic feel that only a projected image brings. Projectors and television screens can be permanently in-view, or hidden away in the ceiling to be revealed at the touch of a button – or you could really go for the true cinema experience and reveal the screen from behind automatic curtains!
A powerful multi-channel surround sound system loud enough to blot out any other sounds.
For the real home cinema deal you need to be looking at 5.1 surround sound quality. That means driving your system with a home cinema amplifier with takes raw audio data from your source equipment and converts it into six channels (centre, left, right, surround left, surround right and low frequency effects) surround sound. Speakers for home cinema come in a range of styles and sizes, and they can be recessed in walls or ceilings, mounted on brackets, or floorstanding.
A darkened auditorium so that nothing visual can disturb the film
The anticipation at the cinema builds as the lights fade to near (but rarely complete) darkness. You can achieve something of that effect by closing the curtains and fitting dimmers on the lights in your home cinema room, but modern lighting control systems offer far greater control with preset scenes available at the touch of a button, and curtains can also be controlled at the touch of a button.
Seating is one area where the home cinema experience can often improve in the experience of going to a ‘real’ cinema – and the ‘numb bum’ that often results from sitting through a long film with inadequate leg-room and little-or-no opportunity to move without disturbing the people sat around you. Your own sofa will obviously do the job – but if you’ve got the room and the money then you might want to take a look at specialist home cinema seating.
The films you want to watch
The starting point for many home cinema systems is a good DVD or Blu-rayplayer which takes data off a disc that you have bought or rented and then processes it for output to the other components which we’ve already mentioned (typically a home cinema amplifier and a television screen or projector). Of course, you can also feed ‘off-air’ or ‘downloaded’ films into your home cinema system as well – or store all of your films on a media server so that they are all available at the touch of a button.
A range of accessories will complete your home cinema. Don’t underestimate the importance of the cables you use to connect the various components of your system together, and a universal remote programmed to control all of the different components will put you in charge of your viewing pleasure.
Finally, why not buy a big bottle of coke and some popcorn from the supermarket for a fiver and then throw a twenty pound note in the bin. That way you’ll feel just as ripped off as I generally do when I go to my local multiplex!