“Let our guide take you through how to build your own home cinema, the best equipment, and what to budget for“
Ever dreamed of having your own private, home cinema? Imagine getting to enjoy an immersive sound experience with crisp picture quality on a giant screen and no irritating packet rustling or teenagers kicking the back of your chair. It’s not the pipe dream you might think! With a few smart choices, you could soon be enjoying your favourite films from the comfort of home.
Do I need a dedicated cinema room or a multi-purpose entertainment room?
Before building your cinema room, ask yourself if you need a dedicated home cinema room or a space for multi-purpose ‘media room’.
The two are completely different! Let’s take a look:
Home cinema: a cinema room is optimised for watching your favourite movies with comfortable seats, a stellar sound system, atmospheric lighting, and of course an enormous screen.
Media room: a versatile living space for different types of entertainment. For example, a living room that accommodates comfortable hosting space, a place to watch films as a family, and play video or arcade games.
Unlike a dedicated home cinema, multi-purpose spaces are less specialised and can be used by all the family. They’re great options for a small space or houses with less rooms. However, if you want a truly immersive cinema experience then a multi-purpose room will feel like a compromise. Film buffs look for a specific atmosphere in their home cinema, and reducing screen size and seating will ruin the experience.
Knowing in advance what you need will help you design your cinema room and set up a budget. If there’s only one film fanatic in the family, a multi-purpose room might be best for the whole family. Renovations can be time-consuming and costly, so decide now to effectively manage the project – and your expectations.
If you’re ready to go all out, keep reading our tips on how to create the ultimate home cinema room!
What size room do I need for a cinema room?
The first thing you need to consider is your room’s layout. In fact, there are several considerations here:
Shape: It’s easier to install tiered seating in rectangular-shaped rooms than square.
Size: How many people will regularly use the home movie room? Will you have more guests for Christmas and special occasions? Knowing the maximum number of guests using the room at one time will help you plan how many seats you need.
Seating position versus screen size: The most comfortable viewing angle is between 33-35° to 40°, so ensure this is considered before fitting the screen and seating. Too close and you’ll feel uncomfortable, too far away and the screen will lose its impact.
What are the best seating options for my Home Cinema?
Comfortable seating and soft furnishings are key to a luxury home cinema. Buying traditional armchairs, or dragging in your old sofa won’t do. Invest in deep-filled, plush cinema-style seats complete with drinks holders for the full experience.
You can choose upholstery in traditional velvet, suede, or even cashmere. Leather upholstery is a great option if your home cinema doubles as a man-cave. Soft fabric feels luxuriant and comforting, but if your home cinema is also a family room you should consider a fabric that’s easy to clean in case of spills.
You can opt for reclining seats, footrests, and cup holders. Many companies offer non-standard shapes like a chaise longue if that’s more your style.
Lastly, don’t forget soft cushions and throws to snuggle under while cosying up with your favourite film.
Should I pick a TV screen or projector screen for my home cinema?
Which is better: a TV screen or a projector? Both have pros and cons. Here’s a handy list to help you decide:
Home Cinema TV Screens
- Hard-to-beat brightness. TV screens win hands down when it comes to brightness. Great picture quality is all about contrast; the more ambient light in a room the more brightness you need to avoid a washed-out picture. Projectors usually have lower brightness because they bounce light off a screen.
- Super-high resolution. If you’re a resolution snob then a TV is your best option as projectors still can’t rival TV’s 8K resolution capabilities.
- Colour accuracy. TV’s will get you accurate colour for much cheaper than a projector. You need to invest a lot of money into a light-controlled room to achieve the same colours with a projector.
- Easy to install. While heavy and potentially fragile, there’s less faff to setting up a TV than a projector. Most of the time you can install a TV yourself, even if it’s wall mounted.
- Sound quality: TV gives you free rein to develop a stellar sound system. Projector speakers are low-quality in comparison, but TV gives you the full home cinema experience with a surround sound system that encompasses external speakers, subwoofers, and soundbars.
- Portability. You can take a projector screen to a friend’s to watch the match or set up an outdoor cinema in your garden during summer, but a TV isn’t going anywhere!
- Small screen. Even the biggest TV screen can’t rival a projector screen, which max out at 100 inches.
- Bulky. TV’s take up a lot of space compared to a compact projector, which might be a deal breaker if your living room is small.
Home Cinema Projectors
- Bigger picture. Most projectors can easily handle an image 4x bigger than a 65-inch tv screen without compromising on HD quality
- Portable. If you move house it’ll be easy to pack up your projector, or you can take it to a friend’s house
- Durable. Projectors aren’t as fragile as expensive TV screens – something to consider if you have boisterous kids!
- Brightness. No projectors can rival the brightness of a TV screen.
- Lack of contrast. Another issue with projectors is the lack of contrast, which is crucial to show HDR in all its glory. TVs are essentially black, therefore have extremely high contrast ratios.
If the point is to get the cinema experience at home then a projector’s lack of brightness and contrast will leave you disappointed. However, if your home cinema is about multi-purpose entertainment over quality, a portable projector could be ideal.
What lighting should I use in my Cinema Room?
Lighting is crucial to create the right atmosphere in your home cinema. Think about the moment when the lights dim and the opening credits roll. Effective lighting can capture nostalgic, cinematic moments from the comfort of home.
But lighting isn’t just about the atmosphere. Darkness plays a starring role in picture quality, too. This is because the quality of the picture is about the contrast between light and dark more than brightness. Remember that with a projector, the darkest it can get is the darkness of the room; a projector doesn’t project black, it only projects light. So the contrast ratio, and hence the quality of picture, is directly related to the darkness of the room and the quality of the screen.
Another tip is to install lights where they won’t reflect off the screen i.e. avoid the wall opposite the screen. Professionals can advise on the best placement of light and how to get the right balance between light and dark. They can also help with dimmer switches and smart lighting options that let you create ambiance at the touch of a button.
How do I get the perfect sound for my home cinema system?
A home cinema system can and will be judged on sound quality! Ensure yours is worthy of an Oscar by considering the following:
- Location. If possible, locate your own home cinema in a quiet part of the house. Sound proofing ensures noise doesn’t filter in from another part of the house and prevents the cinema’s sound system from disturbing other family members.
- Acoustics. Ever wondered why films at the cinema sound so good? Carpet tiles and acoustic boards absorb sound instead of bouncing it around. Even in a small cinema room thick carpets and extra insulation make a world of difference. In larger spaces, studwork is the perfect way to conceal speakers.
- Windows. Preferably, your cinema room will be windowless. Otherwise, black out curtains will help absorb sound and reduce glare on the screen.
- Surround sound. To achieve stunning audio in your home cinema you need a 5.1 speaker setup at least i.e. three speakers ought to be placed next to or behind the screen, and two at the rear of the room. A subwoofer is essential in your cinema room if you want to feel the sound. You can add to and develop your sound system over time. For example, the 7.1 Dolby Atmos would be the same with the addition of rasied speakers to the left and right. 9.1 Atmos adds another pair of rear speakers at the back left and right sides of the room (the normal rear channels are on the rear wall).
How to achieve perfect connectivity in a Home Cinema Room
Your connectivity requirements will depend on how you use our home cinema room and your budget. Here are a couple of points to consider:
- Streaming. You’ll need a stable internet connection and plenty of bandwidth if you plan to stream films or TV programmes. Solid copper ethernet cables are expensive but provide the best connectivity
- Smart home integration. Connecting your home cinema to the rest of your smart devices will provide a seamless experience. For example, a cinema system can integrate into your streaming channels to watch events on sport channels, or a great surround sound system with hidden speakers can pair with a large Smart TV, automated large screen, or both.
- Installation. This is where a professional service provides the best solution. You could DIY the cabling but a trained professional will save you time and hassle configuring your home cinema room. Professionals can install screens in hidden units, instead of dropping down from behind a pelmet, and short-throw laser projectors can be placed in a discreet unit or drawer by the wall of the screen instead of on the ceiling.
Spend less time tearing your hair out and more time watching films!
More Cinema Room Ideas!
Now that the nitty-gritty is out of the way, here are more fun cinema room ideas to help you achieve the full cinematic experience!
- Decor. Frame your favourite movie posters to set the scene and paint the walls with dark paint to add cosy ambiance and further sound absorption. Etsy has lots of bespoke decor for film fans.
- Snacks. Adding a snack area will make your small home cinema room feel like a real cinema. Why not uck into a classic cinema snack with your very own popcorn maker?
- Games equipment. For multi purpose spaces, adding a pool table and other games equipment will help guests entertain themselves!
John Ross Smart Living Recommends: The Best Equipment for your Home Cinema Room
To save you time, the John Ross Smart Living team has picked their favourite home cinema gear:
- Panasonic – our preferred brand for picture quality and reliability
- LG have a huge range to suit all budgets
- We use Grandview Screens because we have used them for many years and know that the resulting picture quality will be extremely good for the cost.
- Marantz and Denon for sound amplifiers (generally called AV Receivers).
- Monitor Audio for speakers because they’re one of the biggest speaker manufacturers in Britain
- Gallo Acoustics speakers, made in Scotland, are another solid choice
- Dolby Atmos – we can’t exclude Dolby, the original sound system. In our experience, 7.1 or 9.1 is perfectly adequate for medium-sized rooms. Either will give an atmospheric experience without breaking the bank or getting too bulky and technical.
How much will a Home Cinema Room cost?
The cost of a home cinema space depends on how much you’re willing to spend.
- Small budget: A small room with a high-quality TV, sound bar, and decent connectivity is achievable for £2k to £3k.
- Medium budget: A dedicated room with a quality TV or projector, solid surround sound systems, sophisticated lighting, and cinema-style seating positions will set you back at least £10k
- Big budget: Luxuriant seating for a whole room, professionally installed sound system, high-end projector, and plush interior could be yours for between £15k – £40k.
Smart Living Throughout Your Home
John Ross Smart Living has decades of experience creating entertainment hubs for your home. From snug hideaways to cinematic escape rooms, we can help design and build your dream cinema room.