Everyone has experienced the difficulties of going to an actual movie theater. Finding the right seat, waiting in line and overpaying for movie snacks are all just a part of the typical movie experience. If you want to actually enjoy watching the movie, you need to create a home theater system. While a move theater setup can cost thousands of dollars if you pay someone else, you can save significantly by creating a cheap DIY home theater.
Pick the Right Location
The first step in creating a cheap DIY home theater is to find the right space. Ideally, a home theater should span about 20 feet by 13 feet. It should be set off from the rest of the house or the main rooms so that everyone else is not disturbed by the loud noises. Often, home theaters are set up off of the family rooms or in a spare bedroom.
Framing and Insulating the Theater
For the best experience, the next step is to insulate the room. R30 insulation will help to insulate the sound from the movie from disturbing the rest of the house. The entire process of framing and insulating the theater is basically like insulating the rest of your home. You want to have R30 insulation in the exterior walls, ceiling, and floor. For interior walls, you can use an R11 to block the noise from movie explosions.
Pre-Wiring the Theater
The next step in the process is to pre-wire the theater. Many home theaters use a 7.1 surround sound system. This consists of seven channel speakers and one subwoofer. Start by finding the spot where each speaker will go. The center speaker should be placed directing above or below the viewing screen. Afterward, the left and right speakers should be placed on either side of the screen roughly at viewing height. The rear surrounds should be placed along the back wall, and the side speakers should be placed on the side behind the main seating. A hub for the A/V equipment and receiver can be placed in a closet or a cabinet in the room. From these locations, 16-gauge cables can be run to the side and rear speakers. A 12 or 14-gauge cable can be used for the center, right and left speakers.
Wiring the Video Projector
To make your movie theater more realistic, you may want to use a projector system. While this sounds intimidating, it actually involves only two cables. You will need a CAT5 control wire so that you can use the projector with an RF remote. Meanwhile, an HDMI cable will bring the video feed to the projector. Make sure that you pre-wire your hub for high-speed internet and your cable feed so that you can stream movies and watch shows on television.
Setting Up Your Lighting
For the right experience, you need to set up recessed lighting in the ceiling. Along the side walls, you may want to install sconces. Basic electrical wiring can be run to these locations. You may also want to use an RF dimmer and a remote so that you can dim the lights as the movie comes on. For a more intense, realistic experience, you can even install floor lighting using low-voltage lights that can be kept on the entire time.
Setting up the Drywall and Sound Barriers
The next step is to begin hanging drywall. You have already pre-wired all of the audio and electrical cables, so you know where there will need to be incisions in the drywall. At this stage in the process, you can also choose to do additional soundproofing. You can choose to use drywall that is pre-lined with sound-dampening materials, or you can use specialty drywall like QuietRock Soundproof Drywall for a more intense and expensive soundproofing mechanism. Once the drywall is installed, you can paint it to match the color scheme that you want for the theater.
Installing the Sound Systems and Video
After the paint has dried, you can begin setting up your speakers, screen, and projector. For the average home theater, the best screen size is about 110 to 120 inches. You can also frame the screen with proscenium panels to hide the center, left and right speakers. The other speakers can be camouflaged behind acoustic, artistic panels. Next, connect the speakers and projector to the equipment hub.
Choose the Seating for Your Home Theater
If you want a typical movie theater appearance, you may want to use seats that match a theater. You can purchase vintage seats from old-fashioned theaters, or you can upgrade with leather recliners. Theater seating is available in a number of styles and price ranges, so the type that you choose is entirely up to your budget and personal tastes. Often, home theaters use two rows of four seats. On the back row, you can elevate the seats using a pre-built platform for better viewing.
Selecting the Right Materials and Sound Systems
There are many options for the types of projectors, televisions, and speakers that you use. While some people like to use the more traditional movie projector, an HDTV or an HDR TV are both excellent choices for cheap DIY home theater systems. For speakers, you will probably want to invest in a surround sound system for the optimal sound quality. Soundbars can also be used to save on space, and they do not need a receiver to work. If you choose to use typical surround sound, you will need to get a receiver that connects to the rest of your system.
Creating a cheap DIY home theater system can be done on any budget. Once the theater has been framed and insulated, the main work is just pre-wiring the system and choosing the technology that you want to use. The basic components of a home theater are easy to find at any big box store or building materials store. Once the home theater has been set up, you can enjoy all of your favorite movies without having to waste time in line at an actual movie theater.