How to Improve Your Home Movie Experience

home movie setups

Are you a die-hard movie fan who wants to maximize your at-home viewing experience? If so, you probably already have your eye on a 4K ultra-HD TV. By 2016, 10 percent of all Americans will own a UHD TV, a ten-fold increase from 2014 — and this number will swell to 50 percent by 2020, according to predictions made by Strategy Analytics.

For hardcore fans, just owning the latest TV isn’t enough. You crave a complete entertainment experience. If you’re going to invest in upgrading your TV, here are some other enhancements you can make to help you get the most out of your home entertainment center.

Is Your TV the Right Size for Your Room?

Before you buy a new high-def TV, think about what size is right for your room. One purpose of high-definition is to mimic reality by providing resolution high enough that pixels become invisible to the eye. To achieve this, you need to sit far enough away from your TV that you don’t notice the pixels, but close enough that you can appreciate detail.

Mathematically, this translates into an optimal relationship between viewing distance and screen size depending on a TV’s resolution. For instance, if you’re going to be sitting four feet away from your 4K ultra HDTV, 42 inches is an optimal screen size. At six feet, you’ll want a 65-inch screen, and at eight feet, go with 75 inches. Those same distances with a 1080p TV call for 32, 42 and 55 inches respectively. Rtings provides a detailed chart showing optimal distances for screen sizes ranging from 25 inches to 70 inches based on your TV’s resolution.

Resolution isn’t the only thing to consider. Aesthetically, your TV should be scaled to the size and purpose of your room. A giant TV suits a dedicated entertainment center just fine, but whether or not you want your living room to be dominated by a TV depends on what else you want to do with the space. Practically, you should also consider the size of the surface, wall or cabinet that will host your TV.

Turn up the Sound

A great TV needs a great audio system to support it. The most popular audio option is a 5.1 surround-sound system, with a central channel speaker, a pair of right and left front-channel speakers, a pair of right and left surround-channel speakers and a subwoofer. The multiple speakers create a sense of three-dimensional sound, while the subwoofer optimizes low-frequency bass sounds. Some home theater enthusiasts add a pair of right and left back-channel speakers (known as a 7.1 setup) to further enhance the sense of three-dimensionality. Other configurations add speakers above the listening position or additional subwoofers.

THX.com features diagrams demonstrating the best ways to set up 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems. For both configurations, front and left speakers should be placed at ear height at 45-degree angles from the central listener’s seating position, the central channel speaker should be above or below the TV and pointed directly at the listener, and left and right surround speakers should be placed two feet above the listener at 90 to 110 degrees to the sides. Rear speakers should be placed together on the back wall for 7.1 setups.

The specifics of the room affect the best place to put your subwoofers, so feel free to experiment with different locations.

The Best Seats in the House

Get comfortable seats that support your spine. If you’ve got deep chairs or a deep couch, keep some throw pillows on hand to provide adequate support. Chairs with high backs can block surround-sound audio, so make sure your chair isn’t too high. Likewise, keep furniture away from the speakers. Seats should be far enough away from the walls not to muffle bouncing sound waves.

Your Home Refreshment Stand

No movie-watching experience is complete without refreshments. Why not equip your home entertainment center with a snack bar to set the mood? Some enthusiasts even use actual cinema-style seats with drink holders. Whatever your seating arrangements, make sure there’s room enough to enjoy drinks and snacks while you and your guests watch the movie. If you want to further create a theater atmosphere, suppliers sell replica concession-stand items such as vintage popcorn machines, home soda fountains, soda coolers and vending machines.