When you're planning a state-of-the-art home theater with surround sound and seating, consult a professional. These guidelines will help you with preliminary plans:
1. Relate screen size to seating distance. For optimum viewing, professional home theater installers recommend a seating distance that's 2 to 2 1/2 times the width of a screen. For example, place sofas and chairs 54-68 inches from a 27-inch screen.
2. Front-projection systems replicate the feel of a movie theater but require complete darkness. Rear-projection systems and picture-tube TVs produce a picture that looks good with lights on or off—critical if you're going to party while you watch.
3. Create full surround sound with five speakers. Place one speaker on each side of the TV screen, level with your ears when seated, and about 3 feet away from sidewalls. Place two speakers behind the sofa about 6-8 feet off the floor and at least as far apart as the front pair. Put the fifth one on top of the TV to direct the dialogue. Action-movie buffs enjoy a subwoofer that intensifies the bass as well as those dramatic booms and bangs. Position the subwoofer beneath the screen.
4. Stash speaker systems in a ventilated cabinet or shelves so components don't overheat; be careful not to block the vents on the equipment. For easy access to the backs of the electronic components, construct the shelving or cabinet units 4 or 5 feet in front of the basement wall to create a narrow "hallway" behind the units.
5. Choose dimmer light switches instead of the toggle style for optimum light control.
Today, with a fabulous flat-screen TV and surround sound, creating a home theater has never been more feasible.
To enhance the setting, consider building stepped platforms to organize stadium-style seating. For best results, do this in a basement with a 9- or 10-foot-high ceiling, although an 8-foot-high ceiling will work. Build the platforms with sturdy framing of 4x4s and 2x4s to hold the weight of the furniture and people. Then sheath with 1/2-inch plywood. Finish the platforms with flooring to match the rest of the room.