Home Theater

(ARA) - The lights go down. A glow appears on the screen, followed by the crashing of thunder and the appearance of a movie logo, and then the feature begins.

Sounds like the beginning of your typical movie theater experience. Only this time, you’re snuggled up with your sweetheart on the sofa -- in your own home -- watching your favorite movie on your brand new home theater system.

Creating a home theater has become one of the hottest topics in home improvement in recent years. Whether you are tackling the project yourself or hiring a pro, it is vital to know about the different elements of home theater before investing any money.

The obvious place to start is with the picture itself. You can either get a projector you hang from the ceiling and a movie screen, or any of the myriad of new televisions. If you opt for a television, you’ll have to choose between rear projection, flat panel and traditional TVs.

For a true movie theater feel, front projection is usually the better option due to the way the image is projected over your head and onto a screen. The downside is that projectors require a totally darkened room or the image may appear washed out.

The other self-contained televisions, on the other hand, will tolerate some ambient light, but take up a lot of extra space. Some of the bigger rear projection TVs stand on the floor. Most of the others require that you buy a television stand.

Sound Technology

When most people think about "watching" a movie they think of the visual image. But what really differentiates a home theater from simply having a big screen television is the audio. We can thank Star Wars director, George Lucas’ desire for a better film soundtrack for the technology that brought life-like soundtracks to the small-screen. Dolby Surround, introduced in 1982, decodes the surround channel so it’s played back like it was recorded in the movie sound studio.

Dolby Digital takes that technology a step further. It decodes and converts two-channel stereo audio from a DVD player, satellite, cable or broadcast into five channels of audio. One channel goes to the left speaker, one to the center and one to the right. The remaining two go to the surround speakers, which add aural “presence.”

Selecting the right speakers can be a confusing proposition, but if you buy a “home theater in a box” kit, the work has been done for you. These kits come with five main speakers: a center speaker, two front speakers you’ll need to set up on either side of the screen, and two that will go in the back of the room to create the “surround sound effect,” plus a subwoofer for bass presence and a DVD player with integrated amplifier. So, together with your TV, you’ve got everything you need…except your speaker mounts.

“You can either mount the speakers to a wall or ceiling, or place them on stands in the appropriate positions,” says Keith Pribyl of Sanus Systems, a Minnesota manufacturer of audio, video and home theater furnishings. “The center speaker will be mounted on top of, or just below, the TV; two front speakers should be set up on either side of the TV, generally about ear level for seated listeners and at about the same height as the center speaker; and the two rear speakers should be placed slightly behind listeners and above ear level but facing horizontally and not down.”

Pribyl points out that Sanus makes just as many choices in stands and mounts as there are in speakers. They are available in wood, metal and glass, and come in a variety of colors and styles. There are options available in all different price ranges. You can find them at higher end audio/video stores, electronics retailers such as Best Buy, and mass merchandisers like Kmart. Oh, and if you opted for a television rather than a projector, Sanus has a wide variety of matching television stands to choose from as well.

Lighting

A movie always looks better when the lights are off, but you don’t want to have to fumble around in the dark to find your way back to your seat. A nice addition to a home theater room is to integrate a lighting control system that fades the lights down automatically as the movie comes on, and allows you to bring them back up during intermission, or when the movie ends.

“Once you have your own home theater installed, you’ll never want to go back,” says Pribyl.

For more information about Sanus home theater products, or to find a retailer near you, log on to www.sanus.com or call (800) 359-5520.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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