viernes, abril 06, 2007

How to make a home cinema

Charles Chaplin showed in 1918 how to make movies. Today, we could take some time on how to build our own home cinema.

Of course, you can find many places on the net explaining you all about home cinema, but what you don't really need is to get confused about the thousand and one possibilities out there in the market, plus a bunch of recommendations on hardware. Still, you will get interesting background in places like Home Cinema Choice.

Instead, I will give you clear directions on what to do.

The very first step is to find good professionals at each stage of your home cinema project. If you happen to live near Barcelona, Spain, Werner will probably be among the best choices for hardware equipment.

Hint 1
Use premium quality cable for front speakers, since they carry most of the signal. Standard quality will do just fine for rear pair, and a special one wil be needed for the Low Frequency Effects (LFE) box.

Hint 2
Sound cabling can be expensive. You may arrange with your supplier to take 100 meters, and pass it in one piece by all the tubes before actualy cutting it off. This will make measurements easier, and less scrap. Once done, simply return the unused cable lenght to your vendor.

Check my own selection at the bottom of this post.

Data cabling is even more expensive. Try to use HDMI as much as possible. Its quality will payoff. Take a look at Cablematic for good bids.

The Home Cinema Ten Commandments

1. Build your home cinema in its own room. The living room is often where the home cinema has to live. But there, there are several restrains you have to observe. Hardware there must be integrated in the existing decoration. And odds are that neither you nor your partner feel happy with the results at the end.

2. All loudspeakers must be of the same brand. I do not mean size, since back units will necessarily convey much less information than front ones. I mean type. Do not fall into the temptation of making savings on the rear loudspeakers. Even if they do not take most of the job, the job they take is important. Obviously, if you buy a complete homecinema set of loudspeakers, you are done.

3. Home cinema is about projecting movies. This would exclude all species of lcd, plasma, tft and crt's. Sorry about that, folks!

4. Your home cinema is a dark place. Not pitch black. But you want all the contrast you can afford, without any eye stress. Dim lights wisely placed will do the job.

5. Your home cinema is a quiet place. That means ambient noise-floor would never sound over 24 dB. Most rooms would yield 30-40 dB if not adapted. Keep in mind that best in class projectors can sound quieter than that... You don't want to ruin your immersion experience with a noisy room.

Hint 3
When it comes to loudspeakers, wood is best. Except if you want a home cinema to show to your friends.

Hint 4
If you're a fan of 007 movies, then powered screens are for you. In any other case, chose a fixed wall screen or just paint the wall. If you feel obliged to hide the screen, consider doing the opposite: power a curtain down. This would also help with various screen sizes upper border. Is not the same a 16:9 movie than a full featured panoramic classic. Capito?

There are many choices on wall screens, but if you plan to do it yourself and paint your wall, you may consider using special paint kits, like Vogel Mightybrighty or Screen Goo, wich are by no means cheap for a highly reflective white to grey paint. Other names are Video Screen Paint, Digital Theater Paint or ProjectX.

If you are a diehard, you may find interesting this thread DIY Screen FAQ, or this page on How to Make your Own Movie Screen.

Hint 5
Carry always in mind that a home theater should provide comparable, if not better, quality standards to your audience. This means that, if you want your home cinema to fit into THX viewing distance recomendations, you should never see your screen bigger than 40 degrees across. You can get this minimum distance by dividing your screen width by 0.73. In the same way, your best seats should get a 36º viewing angle, and your rear ones should never fall below 26º viewing angle.


Now sit and hold your hand at arm's length, and extend your thumb and pinky finger over your screen.

The distance between the tip of your thumb and the tip of your pinky finger is about 20º.

You can find a more detailed calculations for that and other issues at My Home Theater, or more personalized, since every projector comes with its own calculations, at Projection Calculation.

Hint 6
What projector do I choose?

For sometime now, 1080 horizontal lines progressively displayed at 24 frames per second is all you can ask for. Yes, Japanese have shown a 7680x4320 pixel and 22.2 sound channels demo, but this is not to hit your local dealer anytime soon. Limiting ourselves to the 1080p contemporary products, a bunch of brands appear as dominating your purchase options.
Sony VPL-VW100 and Mitsubishi HC5000 are the front runners, but you probably will be pleased at the price of the Mitsubishi, half the one of the Sony product.


Click on the links to read my reviews

Main LoudspeakersBowers & WilkingsVPL-VW401
LoudspeakersBowers & WilkingsVPL-VW401
Low Frequency LoudspeakersBowers & WilkingsVPL-VW401
Main Loudspeakers CablingJPS LabsSuper Blue27
Loudspeakers CablingPerconStandard speaker cable10
LFE Loudspeakers CablingPerconAudiocable Analog No Twisted Parallel AK 2S5
DataHDMIAudiocable Analog No Twisted Parallel AK 2S10