Planning a home cinema room

Jan 6, 2024

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Room shape and size: 

There is no minimum size for a home cinema room, within reason. The ideal thing is to choose or build a room which is ideally rectangular. This will give an even balance to the acoustics. Depending on the number of seats or rows of seating, the floor to ceiling height is also important.


Screen and Screen size:

It’s important to remember that the screen size is relative to how far away you’re sitting, so there really is no habitable room that is too big or too small for a home cinema room.

Also, as the resolution of displays increases, our eyes feel comfortable getting closer and closer to bigger screens, because it’s possible to view from much closer and therefore larger screen while still in great detail, and without eye strain or fatigue. 

Choosing a TV or projector is always a big question, and size is an important consideration to the cost, as TVs get very expensive over 85inch. If you end up choosing a projector the placement of where it’s installed in the room is crucial, due to throw ratios. Projectors also generate heat and noise, so ideally this would be considered by placing them in a projection room behind, in the ceiling above, or joinery at the back of the room. Bear in mind any enclosed projector will require some level of ventilation to stop it overheating.

In terms of image quality, a TV will outperform a projector and screen on nearly every metric which matters, however the most important metric is impressiveness, and that’s why the vast majority of home cinema installations have a projector and screen.




The number of seats in your home cinema will depend on how many people you typically watch movies with. You'll also want to consider the size of the seats and how much space you need between them for people to get comfortable. If you’re having tiered seating think also about the height of the step between the first and second row, including any safety measures such as a handrail, it will be dark during movie time remember! 

You should also consider what impact having seats too close to speakers will mean for people sat there. Less is often more with seating; your grandchildren, or nephews and nieces won’t mind sitting to watch Toy Story on bean bags at Christmas, it's only two hours in the whole year!

Having less seats in the right places will mean the people who do sit and enjoy the content, do so happily because they’re not in a compromised position.



Speakers and surround sound:

A good sound system is essential for a home cinema, all modern films are mixed in Dolby surround sound to some degree, and depending on the film and the number of channels recorded, you’ll need more speakers to reproduce that playback as the movie director intended! 

The absolute minimum you'll need is a 5.1 surround sound system, which includes five speakers and a subwoofer, but generally this is the bare minimum and we would advise more if the room needs or suits it. 

In 2012 Dolby launched a technology called Dolby Atmos, by having more speaker channels the sound is able to move between each speaker in a more natural, lifelike, and granular way – further enhancing the immersive feeling. For high end home cinemas it not uncommon to have 15 speakers or more. Each speaker must be correctly placed in the room so that the sound reaches your ears from the right place, where the movie director intended for it to come from.



Subs and bass:

The low frequency sounds are often overlooked in home cinemas, but have you ever heard a band playing without the bass guitarist? You’ll notice it’s flat, just as you would if the bass is lacking in a home cinema room. If you have multiple people watching a film, you’ll notice that some seats feel the bass more and others less, this is not ideal and having more subwoofers, but calibrating the room so that bass is consistent across the room and seating is the best approach.

Placement of the subwoofers is also very important. We use 3D modelling software to ensure the number of subs is correct, and the bass is going to perform in the chosen locations before any work starts.



Acoustic treatments:

Okay so the planning is going well, we’ve got our room, seats, projector/TV and sound system, but after spending some much of the precious budget on the sound, it’s important to get the best performance out of that spend, and having the right surfaces on the walls, floors and ceilings is going to be very important. Not only that it will have a big impact on the aesthetic of the room.

It is often overlooked, but far more important to spend less on the key things for the room, and still have some remaining budget to treat the room, than it is to buy the best equipment you can and blindly hope it will work optimally when it’s plugged in, the chances are it won’t – so factoring in acoustic treatments and the room the equipment is going into is an important factor.

Flooring: what finish would you like? People are often tempted to have a thick carpet, but this can potentially deaden the acoustics too much, making it sound overly unnatural. Depending on the room a hard floor such as wood, with a strategically placed rug or runner is often best. 

Walls: Maybe you want to see the speakers you’ve purchased, but most don’t. This means having an acoustically transparent fabric walling system across the front, sides and rear walls of the room allows the speakers to be perfectly placed, but not seen. This method allows the void behind the fabric but surrounding the speakers to be filled with acoustic treatment ‘diffusion and absorption panels’ to stop reflected sounds bouncing around the room, ensuring you only hear the intended sound.

Ceiling: Again the speakers can be hidden, and ceiling also treated, but only if it is right for the room.

Anything else: the biggest thing in a cinema room which catches the reverberating sounds is the seats. You’ve probably added a good portion of the acoustic treatment just by having somewhere to sit.



Sound proofing: 

Depending on the location of the home cinema room, sound proofing techniques might also be required, to contain the sound within the room. This starts with a solid door, but ultimately for best results would require losing some of the square footage of the room, allowing the installer to build a ‘room within a room’. This stops flanking noise travelling to other rooms and floors, as the walls which the sound bounces off are isolated from the rest of the structure of the building.



Before we move on to the other elements of the room, it’s important to remember that the products installed in the home cinema room were not made specifically for that room, therefore to get the best performance for the spend, calibrating the audio and video components is vitally important, and should not be overlooked.

It is vital to remember that calibration cannot add something which is lacking, for example if  the image is too dim it won’t be able to magically make it brighter, but it could make it dimmer to comply with a specific standard or specification so that colours looked more lifelike; the exact same is true for the audio components also.


Lighting & finishes:

The lighting in your home cinema should be dark enough to create a calm experience, but not so dark that you can't see the screen. A lighting control system such as Lutron would allow you to create ‘scenes’ of lighting, recalling a perfect level of each lighting circuit for the desired function.

If you’re having a projector and screen, this is already a huge light source, and that light reflects off the screen so that you can see a picture, but that light will also reflect off bright or reflective colour surfaces, so a darker colour scheme with non reflective surfaces will give best performance.



Heating & Cooling:

Think about how many people might watch a 2 hour film, and the heat those bodies will need to keep warm, or the cooling they’ll need to stay comfortable in summer. Forced air makes noise, and this will take away from the immersive enjoyment of the film. We recommend oversizing the heating and cooling for any home cinema room so that the systems only run at minimal demands, and therefore low noise.




Bear in mind that when you’re watching a film the only sound you want to hear is the movie, and not the electronics which make the room work. Therefore we’d typically install a data cabinet housing the equipment close by, such as in an adjacent room. This means that the standard remotes which come with each device probably wont work; therefore we provide the home cinema room with a simple to use remote, or app for operation of the room. This would control all of the audio visual components, but can also control the lighting, temperature, chairs, and more!



We hope you found these tips helpful and insightful for planning your next home cinema install or project. NVI have a breadth of experience in designing and installing home cinema rooms, we’ve even won awards for it. If you’d like to find out more about NVI, or the home cinema installations we offer, then please get in touch. Home cinema demonstrations are available at a number of locations across the UK.