The home theater planning process is often one of those things that is taken for granted. Some think that they have a fairly good idea of what they want in their home theater and they’ll figure out what they don’t along the way. Unfortunately, approaching your home theater project in this fashion can have some significant ramifications down the road and they typically don’t play into your favor.
Make sure you allocate a significant amount of time during the initial stages of your project for planning!
Making a significant investment in time and energy up front to thinking, doing your homework, and mapping out your project plan will certainly pay long-term dividends. This will help to ensure you get what you want out of your home theater and possibly help to avoid some otherwise costly mistakes.
The first step in the home theater planning process is to clearly identify your personal objectives. For some enthusiasts, their home theater design concept may translate into something that mimicks as many aspects of a real movie theater experience as possible. For others, this may mean partitioning a space in their home for casual television viewing and gaming. As long as you know what the end game is, you’ll at least know where you’re headed.
The next phase of the home theater planning process is to determine your requirements. However, before you jump into this, it’s helpful to first make a sketch of the space you’re working with. This doesn’t have to be a professional architectural rendering of the area, just something that will give you a visual representation to reference as you move forward with the planning process. Graph paper works well for this activity and you can easily sketch something that is fairly close to scale. Here’s an example of a basement floorplan:
It’s especially helpful to take note of any objects that are immovable. In the example sketch, you’ll see that the sump pump is penciled in the upper-left corner and the furnace and water heater are also included. These things will have some level of impact on your home theater design concept, so you want to include them as part of your planning process.
Additionally, before you begin to assess your requirements, you should spend some time looking at other home theaters for features that you would like to replicate. Perusing pictures on the Internet or trade magazine are easily accessible sources. Also take some time to visit a local home show to take a live tour. Participating builders will often have a basement or another area of the house decked out with a home theater.
To determine your requirements you need to first take note of your constraints. Budget and available space are typically the two things we’re all constained by. Here’s some other things you need to address before you move into the construction phase of your project:
- How will this room be used?
- How important is the performance of my home theater system?
- What type of video equipment (LCD TV, projector, etc.) will I be purchasing?
- What type of lighting do I want?
- What are my storage needs (for equipment, DVDs, CDs, etc.)?
Most importantly, be sure to read several design guides! Many aspects of a home theater planning and design are interdependent, meaning one thing can impact another. For example, your choice of video equipment may effect the placement of your seating. The placement of your seating may effect the layout of other things in the room, such as speaker placement. Do your best to cultivate your knowledge so you can make the best decisions under your given circumstances.
As you go through the guides, make sure to keep a running list of things you want to achieve with your home theater. If you intend on using a contractor to build your theater, you’ll want to have those things documented so you don’t overlook any details.
Lastly, take an honest evaluation of your skill sets before you begin. Decide what you are reasonably capable of doing and what you cannot do.