What to do before you shop and set up a screening room in your home.
How to set up a home cinema
Setting up a cinema at home need not be complicated - or even expensive. With a little advance planning you could be shopping in the morning and watching in the evening - but be wary of impulse buying and don't be bamboozled by the salesmen into buying more than you need. Before you shop there are three essentials:
- Do some research (online or through specialist magazines) into what's available in your price range
- Make sure you have ample power points and consider how you are going to deal with the kilometres of cables you will need in order to avoid a trail of spaghetti across your room
- Measure the room you plan to use and take a copy of your floor plan and a tape measure with you to the store Break down your purchase into these categories: vision, sound and the player. Vision:Go for picture quality over everything else. Because we are setting up a cinema rather than an all-purpose home entertainment system, consider a projector. You can use a pull-down screen or simply paint a wall white. If you prefer a television screen, LED, LCD or plasma each has advantages but, for my money, the best one is the one you like the most. And bigger is not always better: the screen should be no larger than a third of the distance between it and your comfy sofa.
Sound: Go for cinema-quality sound with your amplifier. You will need 5.1 and DTS at a minimum, which are often available in the most basic units. Top-of-the-line amps will allow for 7.1 speakers (centre, two front, two side, two rear and a sub-woofer) but if your room is too small the side speakers can be all but useless. Buying the amp and speakers separately, rather than bundled together in a package, may be a little more expensive but often the difference in sound is discernible. (Amp manufacturers are not always good at making speakers.) When you go shopping take along a movie of your choice, and get the sales people to pop that in their player and hear what comes out.
The player: A decent Blu-ray DVD player will provide you with digital audio sound output, as well as both component and HDMI outputs, giving you the best sound and vision options on your new system. For setting up your system, the manuals are not always as helpful as you might wish. If you don't know what you're doing get to the store to send someone along with the delivery truck or get a friend to help.
Finally, a word about decor: curtains in a heavy fabric, carpet or rugs, and well-upholstered furniture will help soak up echoes and stop the sound from bouncing around the room. Carpet or rugs can also hide a mess of cables. All that's left is to make the popcorn.