Media room planning tips

Advances in technology and lower costs mean an environment dedicated to enjoying in-home entertainment is no longer something you only see in the movies. If the space is there, all that's required is careful planning, professional advice and a little imagination.

Ricoh Ultra Short Throw Projector in modern spacious living room
ARTICLE Patricia Moore, PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of Ricoh

Advances in technology and lower costs mean an environment dedicated to enjoying in-home entertainment is no longer something you only see in the movies. If the space is there, all that’s required is careful planning, professional advice and a little imagination.

Home theatres, media rooms, entertainment areas – regardless of what they’re called, demand is growing for dedicated spaces designed to provide the best possible reproduction of images and audio.
“Instead of a family room and formal lounge it’s a living room and media room these days,”  says Warwick Lee, MD at Audio Visual Connections. “It gives people a dedicated room to sit and relax and have the best sound and vision, whether it’s with a 42-inch plasma TV and a $1,100 mini home theatre set up, or a full recessed motorised screen with high-def ceiling mounted projector and so on.”
A home theatre is just that; a room dedicated to watching movies on the biggest screen the space allows, often replicating the cinema experience with surround sound, rows of seats – and a popcorn machine!
A more practical option is a multi-purpose media/entertainment room catering for viewing television and listening to music, internet usage, gaming and reading – even monitoring home security and the air conditioning.
Shane Minifie, at Custom Install Solutions, says there’s also a demand for multi zone music systems using media room amplifiers to pump sound into other areas.
Choose the space carefully – preferably away from bedrooms and high-traffic living areas. Bigger is not necessarily better, says Warwick Lee. “Bigger rooms mean more speakers and more issues around ensuring good quality sound.”  The fewer windows the better, particularly if you plan to use a projector. And be prepared to invest in acoustic insulation in walls and ceiling, and under floor if it’s on an upper level.
More affordable technology is making customisation simpler and less expensive, but integrators say the sky’s the limit when it comes to installations.
Vaughan Armstrong of VAAV says equipping a good media room is possible for $5,000 to $6,000, but it would probably lack a decent control system. “Around $10,000 would let you hide all the gear with a single professionally programmed one-touch operation RF remote, nice looking and nice sounding speakers with a good amplifier and decent sub. Add another $1,000 to dim the lights!”  Think top-of-the-line and you could be looking in the region of $50,000 to $100,000.
Mistakes can be costly; the advice from the AV integrators is  ‘get advice from professionals’! Digital audio and HDMI is very unforgiving and you have to get it right from the start, says Vaughan.
Warwick says they’ve seen it all,  “from the vital HDMI cable being forgotten, to the cable from the SKY dish leading nowhere”. A ‘happy place’  soon becomes an  ‘unhappy’  one, he says.  “Have the same person do the SKY TV/Freeview aerial AV system and data wiring, as well as IT stuff, home theatre and HiFi. Maybe also the security CCTV and gate and door intercom as all these often tie back to the HiFi set due to the requirement to see the whole setup on an iPad or Android device.”
Anything can be done, says Vaughan,  “but there’s a right and wrong way of doing it”. Choosing contractors prepared to  ‘have a go’  at being technology solution providers is not the right way, he thinks.
While integrating old gear is possible, Vaughan says they advise clients to start from scratch. “We want a client to be able to walk in, pick up whatever they’re using to control the system and know pressing a single button will turn on all the equipment.”   Time spent trying to get the codes to control older devices often means they’re not viable.
Anthony Campbell has been selling audio for the past 20 years – 14 of them with Harvey Norman – and says more people are keeping up with trends in technology and are keen to have the latest advancements. He’s also noted a growing demand for integration of all equipment:  “Being able to control all your equipment from your iPad or android device is a request we’re regularly getting from customers.”
At Noel Leeming Group, Aaron Groombridge, product manager, audio, reports they’re seeing significant spikes in the larger home theatre setups. “With the transition from DVD to Bluray picking up steam, people are wanting to get the full experience. Customers are looking for a room setup and are pleasantly surprised by the price, simplicity and quality of today’s home theatre in-a-box solutions.”
Media rooms are about more than a well insulated space with the latest in AV equipment; the choice of furnishings and décor is equally important. Irene Birt and Michelle Bevin of interior decorators Gorgeous Homes envisage “sumptuous comfy chairs, gorgeous cushions and furs and a basket of soft rugs or throws to snuggle up in”.
If the room has windows, Bevin says teaming the curtain fabric with a thermal lining that incorporates sound block-out properties will stop sound bouncing back. A good quality carpet is also important – again to stop the sound bouncing around.
Lighting that can be dimmed on demand, adds to the ambience: “Wall sconces, floor lighting or lamps that can be turned back up softly, even by remote, thus creating an experience without being blinded by light when a movie’s finished. And keep the walls plain using soft neutrals with a white wall if it’s to be used as a screen for movies.”

You might be interested in reading: How much does it cost to build a media room?

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This article by Patricia Moore featured in of Issue 006 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.


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