A well-designed home theater is a time machine as well as a teleportation device capable of placing you in a new environment and story right in your own home. Sure, you can watch a movie on a big television or get a basic home theater system from other providers. You will have a nice time watching, but it will not feel as if you left the room you are watching in. However, if you want to “escape” and have the experience movie directors intended for their viewers, you need an engineered system. Most of what makes this possible cannot be simply shown in a photo of a cool-looking room. You see; the human brain is adept at telling what is real and what is not in any given space. It is one of our most developed skills, neurologists call this sensing capability the “Fight or Flight” instinct.
Foley sounds – here is how you can tell a great theater from an average one. If a door slams in the movie you are watching, it should sound like a door in the very room you are in was slammed. It is not about volume – although that may play a part with certain sounds – it is instead about accuracy.
Rooms cause distortion from reflected sound waves – this is a tell-tale sign to the brain that the sound is not real. And more volume makes it worse. As such, this is where the designer needs to be attentive. If one simply chooses to add acoustic panels on the walls, they will quickly realize that is not a solution. While they are needed, acoustic panels are the low-hanging fruit in home theater design. Put too many in the room, and the room becomes “dead” sounding. Additionally, they are only effective in a limited frequency range depending on their density, thickness, covering, and mounting. Most acoustic panels are good at mid and high frequencies, but many lose absorption around 500Hz and lower. However, this is still within the vocal range, so addressing acoustics is necessary even for theaters that are not playing blockbuster sci-fi movies. This is in the bass management range and is far more complicated.
To make this easier to understand, let’s take a look at a graphic equalizer; a device many people are familiar with. You can see that 500Hz is near the middle of the adjustable frequencies. So, those fancy-looking one-inch sound panels are only doing half the job. The lower frequencies have longer wavelengths and require properly placed mass barriers. These are architectural elements that, when properly designed, can complement the room.
Good acoustics is important as even the best electronics and speakers cannot fix room issues. There are technical solutions, but even the best correction systems fall short in most professional opinions and are complex to get calibrated ideally.
We have touched primarily on sound as – in our view – this is most often improperly implemented. One might think video is easy. It is true that the new televisions and projectors have clear, high-resolution pictures, but – just like with sound – our minds see the issues with color, contrast, and motion artifacts. In addition, light reflectivity off glossy surfaces in a room and light bleeding from other areas can give the mind a point of reference that makes it difficult for the viewer to immerse themselves.
A few minutes with an expert and you will be able to identify it yourself. Skin tones, deep blacks, pixelation, and shuttering on moving shots are easy to see once shown. Experts like our production team, who shoot and produce professional videos, are uniquely qualified to assess video performance.
Over a decade ago, we felt the need to separate our craft-based offering from the rest of the market by committing to do the math to ensure each room we design had the best performance a client’s budget would allow. In that commitment, “Immersa Cinema” was born. Hundreds of theaters later, the market has responded and we are not just getting new projects, but upgrades of recent work by others. Our clients also report getting the full value of their theater investment on resale. Our drawings and documentation prove a room’s value as not just a pretty space, but a truly immersive, mind-capturing experience.
It is unfortunate that many beautiful rooms are so poorly designed that they are only used for the house tour. Many of our clients report near-daily use of their Immersa theater.
Consider speaking to our team before planning a theater. And be sure to schedule a visit to our showroom to have an “Immersa” experience right in our theater or media rooms. And if you already have a theater that is not working to your satisfaction, feel free to call us for an upgrade