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Intelligent Home Theater Design Is More Than Just Surround Sound And A Nice TV

Originally Posted: February 24, 2009

Nicole B. Brewer

A home theater is simply that - a comfortable place in your home set up as close to a real movie theater as possible. Photo courtesy of Crescendo Designs

Southampton - When you can't find anything in the local movie theaters that gives you the urge to get all bundled and brave the cold it might be time to consider installing a home theater system. For those that have a starter theater - surround sound and flat screen - it might be time for a few upgrades. Across the Hamptons there are professionals that know how to tweak any system you have or design and install the perfect theater complete with moving screens, leather seating, and speakers that will rock the foundation, popcorn stand included.

Basic Design Rules
A home theater is simply that - a comfortable place in your home set up as close to a real movie theater as possible. A rectangular den or converted basement are the perfect places to start since they have little or no light and are usually carpeted and insulated to absorb the sound. If the room you plan to use is upstairs or has a lot of windows, you'll need light-blocking drapes or curtains, suggests Bob Charos, owner of Charos Custom Audio (28 Cameron Street, Southampton, 631-283-4428), which can be easily added to suit the decor.

Components can be tucked into small cabinets in the rear of the theater
space. Photo courtesy of Crescendo Designs

Charos, who has been in the business for over 30 years, explained that for the right set-up you need, "Left, right, and center speakers, at least two if not four channel or effects speakers, and one or two sub-woofers for the bass that together create the surround sound you would find in a real theater." A typical home theater project can take up to two months to pull together between initial ideas, choosing the components, and technical specs so be prepared to take your time - the right set-up can't and shouldn't be rushed.

Chris Brody, co-owner of Crescendo Designs (14 Main Street, Southampton, 631-283-2133, www.crescendodesigns.com) echoed the thoughts on speakers adding that while great picture quality is key "sub-woofers and speakers make a movie. A common misconception is that people feel they need to splurge on the TV, but they forget the audio. They need to be in balance." Crescendo's Southampton showroom has a theater where you can try the controls, get details on system differences, and of course check out competitively-priced television sets at all price points.

When considering which screen or television to purchase first consider your room first and do some simple measurements. Determine where you'll be sitting and where you'll place the screen. For your viewing pleasure a general rule of thumb is to have one and a half times the size of your screen as the distance to your seating. In other words, you'll want at least six feet between you and your 48-inch screen to view it properly. However with a high-definition or projection arrangement with a larger fixed or drop-down screen you can sit a bit closer and achieve fantastic picture quality.

Curtis Cole, Vice President at Systems Design Co. (99 Mariner Drive, Southampton, 631-283-3455), highlighted some of the new features when it comes to choosing the right television set, "One of the big things right now in television sets are called 1080p which is 1080 progressive lines of resolution. That is what Blu-ray is producing. Then there is CineWide 2.35:1 ratio which shows movies in Cinemascope or the way there were filmed and shown in theaters." The picture is crystal clear and intensely vivid. Have a professional come in and take measurements and then head over to a showroom to test out sets and be sure to have them change the channels so you can really compare. Major brands to consider include Runco and Sony.

Small Upgrades - Big Results
Stephen Berry, System Designer at Crescendo Designs, explained that while the choices and prices of screens, projectors, server systems, and televisions vary it's often the little items - like cables, power connectors and amplifiers, and other components - that make the biggest difference and are often overlooked. For small upgrades to existing systems, Berry suggests, "a $60 power cord on a cable box, or a $200 cable for a TV, will reduce interference and create a noticeable difference," and he'll even let you give them a test drive before you buy them.

No matter how large or small - your home theater project or suped-up
den can be a thing of beauty. Photo courtesy of Crescendo Designs

When it comes to getting more boom out of your action movies upgrading your speakers is the place to focus and it doesn't have to cost a fortune with a good set starting at under $500. Berry remarked, "a good speaker will evoke emotion. Sub-woofers are the rumblers and they make all the difference. In a movie - music is there to make you feel and a really good sound system will move the furniture."

Dollars And Sense
Your home theater project is only limited by the imagination and skill of the professionals that you are working with and of course, the budget. Professionals suggest having a clear budget in mind before you start getting ideas. Be wary of a professional that doesn't offer to show you photos or give you a tour of actual jobs they have produced. Many smaller companies use stock photos from suppliers as opposed to their own work, when it comes to thousands of dollars, be sure to get a few references and do the legwork.

When it comes to setting a budget, the systems Charos Custom Audio designs start at $8,500 and can include fiber optic ceiling lighting, comfortable leather chairs that begin at $500 a piece, and the all important universal remote ($400 to $4,000 depending on the bells and whistles) to control it all - from lighting to the screen and the DVD player.

Crescendo Designs explained that over their eight years in business the team has worked with many clients from New York to California and of course the Hamptons. In particular they worked with a client on a $5,000 project that the client planned to install himself. They worked out a complete wiring diagram, made suggestions on components, and kept it under budget. At the end of the day the client was able to pull it together with great results. For a larger home theater experience call in the pros and let them get in the walls to hide speakers and wires. The costs can start at $10,000 plus furnishings, acoustical wall panels which Crescendo fabricates in-house, fiber optic lighting in the ceiling, and and projection systems.

No matter how large or small, your home theater project - or supped-up den - can be a thing of beauty resonating with fantastic movie theater atmosphere that you'll be anxious to show off to the neighbors for the next big game or movie night just be sure to do your homework first.

Your home theater project is only limited by the imagination and skill of the professionals that you are working with and of course, the budget. Photo courtesy of Crescendo Designs

Nicole, an award-winning journalist, is Executive Editor & Publisher of Hamptons.com where she focuses on celebrity interviews, fine living and design, social events, fashion and beauty. She lives on the North Fork with her husband, their two daughters, and Bernese Mountain dog, Cooper. www.hamptons.com HamptonsOnline NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer

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