Top tips for cinema design

May 12, 2020

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Designing a home theatre room? Not sure where to begin?

For designers outside of the AV world home cinemas and media rooms can be quite a challenge to get right, but not to worry we are here to help you get every part right before you call your AV partner.

Read our top tips for cinema design.


Lighting for cinema rooms adheres to a different set of rules than the rest of the house. Lighting in a cinema or media room has to be warm and not powerfully bright.

Once the film is over the lights should not instantly come back on at full. The light levels should raise slowly, starting with any indirect light sources, such as LED coffers, so that the viewer's eyes can re-adjust.

Our Smart Home installs are fitted out with smart lighting systems which can do so much more than regular lights.

The advantage of smart lighting is that it can integrate with other services, such as audio-video systems. When you want to watch a film, the lights should dim-to-off as the projector turns on, allowing the viewer’s eyes to adjust to the darkness and view the film with the best possible image.

If the phone rings or you need to leave the room, pausing the movie can automatically raise low-level lighting, illuminating a path to guide you safely out of the room.

The smart lighting system can also have control over shades and curtains. In some of our central London homes where space is a premium dual-purpose cinema/media rooms can be transformed from a living space, into a cinematic environment. This is achieved by treating the natural light (blinds and curtains) and artificial light (luminaries) at the touch of a button.

These factors set the tone and feel of the room so that the movie is enjoyed without degradation to the image on-screen; and so that the viewer forgets their surroundings, allowing them to become immersed in the action.

Home theatre and cinema lighting

Having the right lighting design, which doesn't turn the viewers off to the film or affect the image quality is key; coupling that with the right 'scenes' thanks to the smart lighting system makes it a breeze to pick the right mood and feel for the moment during movie night.

Learn more about Smart Lighting here.


SEATING & Viewing angles

In a home cinema, the number of seats and placement is based on calculations around the room size, and screen size.

Depending on how large a room is we can calculate how many people can be comfortably seated. The size of the screen allows us to find the ideal viewing distance = how far back the viewer should sit.

Not only is the distance from the screen critical, but how centralised the viewer should sit in the room is important too, so that you don't strain your neck viewing the screen off axis. The image quality can also be compromised if you're perpendicular to the screen.

The same is true for the vertical viewing angle, which is how far up or down you need to look to see the screen...and yes that means the TV over the mantelpiece is out of the question.

For home cinemas distance is crucial as the image can be quite large. However, for media rooms with TVs the distance the viewer sits from the TV can vary for optimum viewing.

For 4K televisions, the minimum distance from the screen is 1-1.5 x the screen height of the TV.

For 1080p displays, the minimum distance is 2-2.5 x screen height of the TV.

The increased distance for 1080p displays are so you maintain the quality of the image whilst for 4K, which twice as detailed as 1080p, you can sit closer to maintain quality. 

But what the viewer is sitting on is just as important.

Comfort is king when it comes to cinema seating as viewers will be sitting for 2-3 hours watching a film, you must be comfortable otherwise it won't be an enjoyable experience. A perfectly balanced, ergonomic, chair with a headrest that reclines is the ultimate seat to complete the cinematic experience. 

Home theatre and cinema seating



The colour of the walls and ceiling is important when designing a home cinema. As the room is submerged into darkness you would think any colours would be fine. However, projectors emit a huge amount of light, and this light hitting the screen fabric creates the image and reflecting back into the room. This light will reflect off other bright surfaces too and can illuminate the room when the walls are also reflecting light. This is also why mirrors are not recommended in a cinema room. 

Think of it just like wearing clothes when the sun is out. White clothes reflect light energy, whilst black clothes will absorb light energy.

So, darker, neutral, matte colours in this space work well as the walls won't reflect any light. Many of our home cinemas incorporate curtains as they are aesthetically pleasing, and act as an acoustic treatment that will also catch and reduced reflected sounds.

Media rooms, home theatre and cinema colour options



A lot of people think that a Home Cinema Room and a Media Room are one and the same when in reality they are different. Yes, in both spaces you can watch films and TV shows with high-quality audio-video, but beyond that things change massively.

A cinema room is a space that is purpose built for viewing. Everything in that room is specifically designed to maximise the viewing experience with clear, crisp audio and video. While a media room can be quite a flexible space that doesn’t have as many restrictions.

Home cinemas need to have a variety of aspects to complete the cinematic experience. Here are some top tips of what to consider first:

  • Speakers placed in exact locations: Dolby Atmos technology allows sounds to move around the room with amazing detail, but the speaker placement is key to performance.
  • Acoustic treatments on the walls and ceilings: unwanted or reflected sounds produce negative noise, clean these up with absorption, diffusion, and bass trap panels in the right places.
  • Good-quality seating accurately placed in a room, keep in mind the chairs may need power.
  • A projector or a very high-quality display. Key things to consider are the brightness of the projector (this is called Lumens) and how large the screen is. A projector which isn't bright enough, but still has the image scanning over a large screen will compound the issue and make the picture look flat.
  • Minimal or no natural light in a room.
  • The room should be rectangular in shape to provide the best cinematic experience. Square rooms are great for one seat viewing experiences.

A media room, on the other hand, is more flexible. Speakers can be high-quality but also hidden in-wall or in-ceiling with a wide dispersion so placement isn’t so restrictive. OLED TVs, as opposed to a projector, will not be affected by glare from windows but a projector needs darkness to work perfectly. Furniture can be open instead of rows of seats which is great for viewing with a large group, or watching sports.

Whilst media rooms offer more flexibility, a home cinema can offer a cinematic experience like no other. Always bear in mind that the guidance above will have specific calculations based on things like the dimensions of the room, and construction. Ultimately working with a specialist to design your home cinema room will give the best results.

Cinema room vs media room

Check out some of the Home Cinemas we have installed:

Siam Super Cinema

Highlands Estate

Marvel Cinema

Check out some of the Media Rooms we have installed:

Lennox Luxury Home

Kensington Terrace

Siam Smart House

Are you thinking about Home Cinema or Media Room for your next project? Contact us today.