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Recreating the cinema experience at home

JP

Written by

Jack

Last updated Thursday 3rd September 2020

Cinema

Film buffs everywhere agree there is no better way to watch a movie than in the cinema. But cinema goers live in fear of dodgy seats, bank-breaking popcorn prices and the inevitable wrapper-crinkling chatterbox. Along with the ever-increasing popularity of movie streaming services, it’s no surprise more of us are looking to recreate the cinema experience in the comfort of our own homes. But how is it possible?

Creating a space

Cinemas have many specific qualities that make them ideal environments for viewing films, which is why it’s best to give them their own allocated space. When creating a new space for a home cinema you have two main options:

  • Converting an existing wasted or unused space in the home.
  • Building a brand new space especially for your home cinema.

Converting

Converting an existing space is a great way to make the most out of your home and will be generally cheaper than building something brand new. Wasted or unused space is typically found in:

  • Basements: these are especially good for cinemas due to their natural low light and soundproofing qualities. Be conscious of head height as a low basement may limit some features of a home cinema, such as tiered seating.
  • Garages: if you can afford to give up the space, garages are also good for home cinemas. But be wary of windows as they are more difficult to soundproof and will let light in if not properly covered.
  • Lofts: loft conversions are a great way of making the most out of your home, but they may take some extra thought when converting into a cinema. Extra windows and angled ceilings could make things awkward.
  • Outbuildings and sheds: an outbuilding such as shed or detached garage can be transformed into a home cinema. However, be wary of size, durability and soundproofing. Your typical wood garden shed probably won’t do the trick!

Building

Building a brand new room is very desirable as they can be purpose built, meaning your cinema or media room can be completed to a professional level, with extreme comfort, style, and better picture and sound quality - the standout choice for any devout cinephile. But building new will require a bigger budget, and you also need to be careful whenever building something with a specific purpose. Sometimes it prevents other potential for the space, putting off future buyers. Your options for building are:

  • Extension: you can extend your home pretty much any way you like if you have the space and authority to do so, be that in the loft, basement, to the side of your property or at the rear. A large extension might give you enough space to build a home cinema on its own, or you might combine an extension with an interior refurbishment to create a space you can use. Read more about extensions and their costs here.
  • Outbuilding: garden rooms and annexes are premium options for a home cinema. Being detached from the main house can be a great way of alleviating noise disturbance and allows you to focus the design solely on the cinema experience. However, the detachment may cause problems with accessibility if not properly thought out. Nobody wants to walk through the rain when they need the toilet!

When planning to convert or build new, we always recommend hiring an architect. Architects understand the process of transforming a home and will make sure your vision becomes a reality quicker, safer and to the highest quality possible. At Resi, we offer free consultations to anyone looking to transform their home space. Book yours here.

Whether converting, building or simply adjusting an existing setup, there are a number of qualities you can focus on to create a better cinema experience.

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Light

The best way to lose yourself in a film is by watching in the dark, which is why most cinemas are windowless with self-closing doors. Achieving darkness can be done a number of ways, including building a windowless structure or removing windows from an existing room. However, this should be done with caution. Not only does removing windows affect ventilation and fire safety - something that may fall short of building regulations - but windowless rooms reduce the future potential of a space, again putting off future buyers.

While it may be tempting to copy your favourite cinema and scribble the windows off your architectural drawings, darkness can be achieved easily with blackout curtains and blinds. This less drastic option will save money in the short term and long term, and will even treat the acoustics in your room as the additional fabric can absorb more sound.

Sound quality

Sound quality is extremely desirable in a home cinema, so it’s tempting to splash a load of your budget on a high quality audio setup. But expensive speaker systems are irrelevant unless situated in a well treated room.

Sounds that bounce off hard surfaces will reverberate, drastically reducing audio quality, so room treatment aims to remove as many of those hard surfaces as possible. This can be done a number of ways:

  • Covering walls: walls are particularly bad for reflecting sounds so it’s important to cover them up. Specialist sound absorbents made of foam are often used for this purpose, although hanging cloth and fabric decorations, canvases and curtains will also do the trick.
  • Covering floors: you’ll never see a hardwood cinema floor because of the way they reflect sound. Always choose a carpeted floor for your home cinema, or at the very least invest in a big rug to cover as much as the floor as possible.
  • Filling a room: filling your cinema with soft furnishings will further treat the acoustics of the space as it will prevent noises from travelling and bouncing. Avoid wood and metal where possible and opt for fabrics. Leather seating is a popular choice for both its comfort and acoustic treatment qualities.

Soundproofing

Soundproofing is slightly different from room treatment as it aims to prevent noise from travelling in and out of your cinema. This is crucial as you don’t want to be intruded by outside noise when watching your movies, nor do you want to annoy the rest of the house and be asked to turn it down! Covering walls and floors and filling with soft furnishings will also help to soundproof your space, but complete soundproofing will require a little more attention and budget. Your soundproofing options are:

  • Insulation: if you are building new you can ask your structural engineer about installing insulation to aid soundproofing. You can also insulate existing walls, but this is more difficult.
  • Soundproof wallpaper: there are many types of wallpaper and wallcoverings that claim to have soundproofing qualities. Fabric wallpapers are ideal for the ultimate cinema look, feel and sound, and are similar to what you’d find at your local movie theatre.
  • Construction materials: if you are building from scratch you might want to talk to your architect and structural engineer about building materials, as some have natural soundproofing qualities. Cork is a great example of a versatile, affordable and sustainable construction material that naturally absorbs sound due to its molecular makeup, making it perfect for walls and floors.

Ask your architect about your soundproofing options.

TV screen or Projector

The big question! Are you going to stick with a TV screen or spend some of your budget on a fancy projector? There are pros and cons to both, with major design choices for each.

TV screen - if you’re looking to save money, a TV screen is likely your preferred choice. Today you can pick up a 65” smart HD flatscreen television for under £500, and if your cinema room is moderately sized this may suffice on its own. While TV screens do protrude from the wall, with modern televisions it is only slight, and this could even be combated with some foresight and a conversation with an architect. Our tip would be to choose the size of your screen prior to creating your cinema, that way you can go on to position seats and speakers accordingly.

Projectors - these are extremely appealing to those searching for the authentic cinema experience, but they can cause problems. A quality projector is significantly more expensive than a TV screen and will need a screen of its own to be projected upon. When designing your space you will need to consider where both the screen and projector will go, including the correct distance and angle between them. If you have failed to achieve a fully dark space then projectors will fail to have the proper effect, and you may also encounter issues if you have any shiny surfaces such as exposed metal or glossy paint. While they will take a bit more time to plan and possibly some extra budget, there is no denying the unique cinematic experience that a quality projector brings.

Cabling

With both the TV screen and projector you will need to think carefully about cabling. This is not just to get power to your screen or projector, but it will allow them to connect to the speakers and media sources, be that a DVD player, laptop, games console, or the possibility of all three. And not to mention having a reliable internet connection.

Having an accessible cabinet or nook acting as a control center is the best way to organise your different devices, but just as important is hiding the cabling from sight. This is best done by running the cables through the walls of your cinema to your control center, which is achievable with an electrician. This shouldn’t be a problem for an electrician as long as you provide a clear set of marked drawings explaining exactly what you want and where. We recommend having a professional draw up these plans for you to maximise precision and minimise errors. The last thing you want is a confused electrician wiring incorrectly.

At Resi, these drawings can be included in your building regulations package. Learn more about our building regulations packages here.

If you are looking for professional guidance with your home cinema project, book a free consultation with Resi, the UK’s leading architectural practice for homeowners.

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