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Creative Home Theaters

Home Theater Design Basics (page 3 of 3)

Learn how to lay out a home theater and what materials you should use in order to get the best the visual and sound quality.

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VIEWING

The crown jewel of any home theater set-up is a high-definition display screen. The temptation is to equate size with increased viewing pleasure, but there are limits. You want an immersive experience, but not a display so big you're swinging your head from side to side in an effort to take in all the action. You're looking for the right combination of display size and viewing angle.

Optimum angle. HDTV manufacturers and home theater experts place the best viewing angle between 30 to 40 degrees. Meaning, if you would draw a triangle from the edges of the display to your nose, the angle of the apex (the angle that points at your head) would be 30 to 40 degrees. This lets you take in all the action with minimal, comfortable eye movement.

Note that if you stay the same distance from your display but move off to the side, the viewing angle gets narrower. If you plan to have multiple seating, make sure all chairs have an optimum viewing angle.

Optimum distance. Ideal viewing angle can be expressed simply as distance, too, usually 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal width of your screen. That means you should sit no closer than 7.5 feet from a 60-inch-wide TV, and no more than 12.5 feet away. A viewing distance calculator can help when math skills falter.

This formula works in reverse, too. If you know your viewing distance — say it's 8 feet — then you can select an optimum display size. Eight feet is 96 inches. Divide by 2 (a nice round average of 1.5 and 2.5) and you'll get 48 inches. So a good HDTV display for your viewing distance would be about 48 inches wide (measured diagonally).

Viewing height. The best viewing height is to have the center of the display screen at eye level. While that might seem elemental, some folks are tempted to elevate the display so that it lords above their theater set-up. If you do elevate your display, tilt it so that it faces your seating area. If your seats recline so that you're square to the display, so much the better.

And don't forget to elevate your center speaker, too. When Bogart says, "Here's looking at you, kid," you don't want it to seem as if he's talking out of the side of his mouth.

 

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