7 Steps to a Great Private Theater

What does a post-production dubbing stage, a THX-certified commercial cinema, and a peak-performing private residential theater have in common?

The answer has everything to do with understanding the post-production dubbing stage. That’s where the director brings the film together with the music score, the soundtrack, and sound effects. To a film aficionado there is no better place to view a film than at LucasFilm’s Skywalker Ranch in a film studio mix room. The experience – the “well-behaved” collaboration of the room, the sound, the picture, and the presentation definitely scores high in the Immersive RealismTM magic quadrant.

If I haven’t squarely hit the nail on the head, yet, without further ruminating here’s the answer to the question at the top of the article. Follow the logic. What is home theater? It’s described as a space in the home dedicated to the faithful reproduction of film. What is the most common playback media of movies in home theaters today (2010)? Yes, that would be double-layer DVDs then Blu-ray disks. What commercial enterprises have the ownership rights to the movies on DVD? That would be the large publicly-owned corporations and independent movie studios. Where do the director and their film specialists go for the final assembly of a movie? We’re getting close, now; that would be the post-production dubbing stage. Where is best venue to view movies as the film director intended for you? Inside the movie mixing “dubbing” stage, that’s where. With less than 15 post-production facilities worldwide booked well into the future what is your most convenient venue to view the movie “as the film director intended?” That would be (insert drum roll here) at home by duplicating the environment and setup of the post-production dubbing stage. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the best commercial cinemas and residential private theaters do. This is the place where every private theater project of Hi-Definition Living points to, embarks from, and arrives at – end of story.

Music lovers, how can you best reproduce the sounds of a music recording studio? With fewer critical elements – you are interested in the sound – the focus is on acoustics. The overall ambient sound levels in the room (i.e. the sound already in the room) are important, too. Where you sit – yes, there are better places in any room to have your listening chair. But, that’s where the similarities tend to end. In general, a well-designed, built, tuned, and A/V system-equipped home theater venue is more capable of delivering peak experiences with music listening – not vice-versa. Someone who has the priority for music listening but really enjoys watching movies, too, will better meet their needs with an environment designed-built-tuned to home theater standards to accommodate music listening. The results will be less than hoped for the other way around. Another option, for clients who have high expectations for both may have separate systems in the same room, are separate systems –
an audio system for music listening and an A/V system for movies (and interactive gaming).
So, to summarize:

Movies (post-production dubbing stages)

  • All have the same layout considerations
  • All have the similar room dimensions
  • All have similar acoustics
  • All use the same recording techniques
  • There are less than 100 sound mixers worldwide
  • There are less than 15 post-production facilities worldwide

Music (recording studios)

  • No standardized layout
  • No standardized room shape
  • No standardized acoustics
  • No standardized recording techniques
  • Thousands (1,000s) of mixers worldwide
  • 4,000 + music studios worldwide

Where is THX® certification in all this? THX technologies have their roots in their extensive work at film post-production studios. This is where a movie is “perfect” in the eyes of the director and production team. The image and sound in the studio are perfect by definition because the director said “yes, that’s my movie.” The goal of THX home theater is to make that exact quality available to customers at commercial cinemas and at home. It sets a reference for this “venue-to-venue translation.” It’s OK for a client to like something different for a particular movie, listening, or interactive gaming experience. Hi-Definition Living is all about flexibility to a client’s way of listening and viewing. Each of us tends to hear, see, and experience our sensory faculties a little differently. The beauty is you can always go back to an exact reference point. THX efforts with patented A/V processor circuitry supports a more seamless venue-to-venue translation, and in best practices for the design-build-tune of home theater, music listening an interactive gaming venues. THX-certified home theater technicians at High-Definition Living consistently follow these best practices and standards because they consistently yield venues inside the
Immersive RealismTM magic quadrant.

Here then are the seven (7) elements of great home theater:

  1. The Chair & the Listener

    Shoulder-length vs. high-back, leather vs. cloth, long-term comfort – you’d be wise to consider the chair(s) and its dimensions before developing the design further.

  2. The Right Room

    What size room dimensions, entries, ceilings, wall fabrics and other material absorption ratings are taken into consideration? Interestingly, there are certain best practices for room dimensions that help in identifying the magic layout for you. Sonic engineering design for achieving an overall sonic clarity has a pivotal role here.

  3. The Equipment

    The A/V reference starts with Dolby Digital® 5.1 surround and a HD display. The right room design is a determining factor in the choice of amplifiers, A/V processor and loudspeakers (floor standing, in-wall, in-ceiling, dipole, bipole, etc), inputs/outputs, etc. The HD display – whether it is LCD, rear projection, front projection to screen, and plasma – has an important role in determining the viewing chair’s distances from the screen.

  4. The Layout

    With the room designed and A/V systems specified you now give attention to the placement of speakers, chairs, the A/V systems (equipment and source components) location and lines of communication for remote control of these systems. The quest for the magic layout – is now.

  5. The Convergence Tuning

    Stan “The Man” Musial is to St. Louis Cardinals baseball what an A/V convergence tuning specialist is to home theaters – the MVP. Convergence tuning unifies the room environment and A/V system towards Immersive RealismTM.

  6. The Presentation

    Before all-things-digital, back in the 1930s, movies were the #1 entertainment choice outside-the-home in the U.S. Americans went to their local cinema not only for movies but for the news of the day shown prior to and after a film. Grand venues like those of the Fox Theater in St. Louis made movie watching an event. Presentation was evident – the carpeting, wall murals, ceiling design, the curtains, the live orchestra (particularly in the days of silent films), and the stage all figured in the experience. The figure in the experience of home theater, too. You can queue a viewer’s excitement with attention to presentation.

  7. Ease-of-Operation

    Think about it – you’ve selected a just-released film on DVD, you’re home from work a little bit earlier than usual so you can get the popcorn and snacks ready for your family and selected friends. The last thing and we mean the last thing you want to do is being forced to go through something akin to a pre-flight checklist to deliver the movie experience. A peak user experience includes a unified, handheld remote control that, with a few buttons pressed on the touch screen, engages the home theater system in coming to life to orchestrate the show for you. It’s the ease, the feeling of power and control that Captain Picard would be impressed to see.

The more arrows inside the bullseye on each of these seven (7) elements the closer you’ll be to a great private theater and Immersive RealismTM experiences in your home.