Home Theater Handbook by Frank Fazio - HTML preview
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UNLEASH A MOVIE THEATER IN YOUR LIVING ROOM
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the
prior written permission of Frank Fazio. This ebook may not be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade in any form of binding, or cover other than that in which it is published, without prior consent of Frank Fazio.
The information contained in this ebook is for educational purposes only. The diagrams and procedures in this ebook are intended to educate the reader on how to integrate a Home Theater into an existing family / living room. By reading the pages of this ebook, you acknowledge that the author takes no responsibility for personal injuries, damage, or legal trouble caused by following procedures / advice presented in this ebook.Table of Contents
WELCOME TO MY WORLD ......................................................... 5
YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS BOOK .......................................... 8
Non-Dedicated Theater vs Dedicated Theater ........................... 10
THE SECRET… shhhhh................................................................. 11
CHAPTER 1: PLACEMENT OF THE TELEVISION............... 13
Floor Models or DLPs................................................................... 15
Plasmas and LCDs ........................................................................ 17
CHAPTER 2: SPEAKER PLACEMENT...................................... 21
Placement of the Main and Center Speakers ............................. 23
Placement of the Surround Speakers.......................................... 25
Size of your Speakers.................................................................... 28
Gauge of Speaker Wire................................................................. 29
The Wireless Speaker ................................................................... 29
Placement of the Subwoofer......................................................... 32 CHAPTER 3: THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR ROOM . 34
Structure of the room ................................................................... 37
Hiding the Speaker Wires ............................................................ 37
The Live Room… Uh oh............................................................... 40
CHAPTER 4: PLASMA + FIREPLACE = GREY HAIR ........... 48
FINAL THOUGHTS........................................................................ 64
Introducing Volume 2 of my Home Theater Handbook............... 65 WELCOME TO MY WORLD Please fasten your seatbelt until we have reached cruising altitude…
My brother-in-law decided he needed to be the first to outdo everyone else in the family and went out and got himself a 50 inch DLP for is family room. He then subscribed to a Canadian satellite system for the finishing touch and was pulling in beautiful HD in no time. Of course I had to go over and help him put his stand together (he’s a chiropractor… not very good with building things) and at the same time tell him how great his new TV was. We discussed where the new TV should go based on the structure of his room… he disagreed with my point of view and placed it where his wife (my sister) wanted it to go. Funny thing… 2 years later the TV now sits in the exact spot I had recommended.
My father-in-law called me one morning as I washed my car and asked me to accompany him to go buy a new TV. After I discussed the pros and cons of each technology with him, he ended up getting himself a 42 inch LCD for his family room. He subscribed to a Canadian satellite system for the finishing touch and then began pulling in beautiful HD. It should be noted that I not only had to build the stand, but hook up the satellite and preprogram all the local channels.
One night I got a call from one of my wife’s relatives who had heard that I helped my father-in-law buy a TV. I was asked to accompany him so he could purchase the same TV my father-in-law bought. After all was said and done (and visits to 2 different stores), he ended up using my advice and getting a 50 inch plasma. He decided against the satellite subscription and went strictly local channels. The TV and stand were delivered and set up in his house by the delivery guys.
My mother figured it was about time that we upgraded my father’s 10 year old rear projection television. So once again I headed to the TV store to decide what type of television would suit my father’s needs. We decided on a 50 inch DLP with integrated HDTV tuner so he could get the local channels. We knew that we were not going to hang the TV, so the thinness of the set didn’t matter, and the DLPs are the thickest, compared to the plasma and LCD. The TV was placed in the worst part of the room, but there’s no arguing with my mom.
A cousin of mine complained that he couldn’t get his 5.1 Dolby Digital system working with his rear projection television. He told me the speaker layout he preferred, and I was able to correctly integrate his system into the living room under one condition stipulated by his parents… no holes in the walls and no wires running across the floor. Piece of cake. (He has since moved out on his own, and his parent’s have requested that I removed the surround system from the room).
All these people have one thing in common. No, it’s not the fact that they’re all relatives, it’s the fact that when they needed help understanding audio/video equipment, they came to me. That’s right… they came to me, because I’m that guy… I live for this stuff.
“There is no magic bullet when it comes to setting up a home theater system in an existing living space. What works for your room might not work for your neighbor’s room. To measure the success of
your efforts, you should ask yourself the following question when you’re done the setup: Does it look and sound good to you? If you answer yes, then you’ve accomplished your goal.”YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS BOOK
You know that TV / speaker system that you want to incorporate in your family room? I can show you how to correctly arrange them to create great video and sound…arrange them so your significant other doesn’t want to kill you.
How can I be so confident? I built an eleven person home theater in my basement after spending many years of my adult life researching and planning, and I’ve learned a few tricks you can use in any room. I should also point out that I’ve made a few mistakes too… mistakes that you don’t have to make now.
When I put my mind to something, I work until I’m satisfied with the results… and I wanted the best home theater that I could afford. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I did it, and I decided to write this first volume which contains the theories and practical knowledge that you can use to incorporate a home theater into an existing living place.
Why would I want to do this? Why put this on paper? I’m finding myself answering a lot of questions these days from people who have seen my theater and want to set up something on a smaller scale.
The price of good equipment has dropped over the years, and it is becoming more affordable for anyone to piece together a nice room. I figured if I wrote down all these answers I was giving out, I would have a handy dandy guide for the next person who came along.
Eventually, I noticed that what I was actually doing was taking all the material I had gathered over the past 10 years, along with my experiences during the construction phase, and was creating a “real-life design, construction and calibration guide.”
Look, I was able to replace my wife’s favorite wall mirror with a 50 inch plasma television in our family room over the fireplace. If I can do that, imagine what I can help you do…You don’t need to be a genius to set up things correctly, but I want you to understand a few things before we start… so listen up.
• If you feel that you want to try something listed here in this volume but are uncomfortable because you are not the “handyman” type, then I suggest that you either get someone to help you, or hire a professional. I want to give you the knowledge, but I don’t want you to hurt yourself, or destroy your home. So get help if you need it… I’m stubborn, and yet I asked for help when I needed it; don’t be a hero.
• If you are convinced you want to complete the setup in one day, make sure you do the majority of it during business hours. What I’m getting at is this… How would you feel if, during your setup, you ran out of speaker wire and it was 7pm? … Too bad for you, the store is closed. I had this happened to me, and it sucks.
What you will not find in these pages is all the stuff you see in the manuals that you get with your equipment. I will not insult your intelligence by photocopying “hookup” diagrams from your manual pages… I don’t want to waste your time, or your money. I’ve finally learned how to use my architect software, which I used to create the family room diagrams, so use the techniques in the book with the owner’s manuals of your equipment.Non-Dedicated Theater vs Dedicated Theater You may, from time to time see me reference the words “dedicated” and “non-dedicated” when referring to home theaters.
Simply put, the major difference between the “non-dedicated” and “dedicated” home theater is the room itself. The dedicated home theater is a custom room designed to reproduce audio/video just as the movie director intended, and the non-dedicated home theater is a setup integrated into a living space that is used for purposes other than watching movies.THE SECRET… shhhhh
When it comes to setting up your TV and surround system in a room that is also a living/family room, your options are limited when it comes to the placement of the TV and surround speakers. Sure, you have a pretty good idea where the TV is going to go, but if you really want to enjoy great sound when you watch a movie, will that TV placement let you maximize the sound of your speakers?
Setting up an audio system in an existing family room is difficult because you don’t have a lot of choices with speaker placement. You basically have to work around furniture that is already there. Your significant other is not going to let you move around the plants they strategically placed around the room to achieve the correct “fung shui” (and don’t go emailing me to ask what that is… google it… :)
The secret to incorporating a home theater into an existing family room is to create a “sweet spot”… you know, a place where you’re going to sit to experience the best picture and sound.
You do this by concentrating on one spot in the room where the “chosen one” will sit (that’s you), and to do this successfully, you must focus on 3 different aspects of your setup; your TV, your speakers (front speakers, surround speakers, subwoofer) and the room itself.
By creating this sweet spot, at least three different scenarios are created:
2. When you want to impress someone that comes over, make sure they sit in the sweet spot so you will get the oooohs and aaaahs out of your friend. You can sit wherever you want in the room… you’re not trying to get the best out of the audio or video at that time, you want your friend to experience it.3. The seats directly beside your sweet spot will be the next best choices for your spouses / friends. Now, let’s set up that sweet spot!CHAPTER 1: PLACEMENT OF THE TELEVISION
“There will always be someone out there with a bigger TV and a better sound system than you, so deal with it. Eventually, you’ll come across someone that had a bigger budget and got a better deal, so don’t get discouraged when you see their 100 inch flat screen. They may have the money, but not a clue on how to use it. You have no idea how many times I’ve been in a dedicated home theater, and the owner has no clue how to turn on his picture in picture function.”PLACEMENT OF THE TELEVISION
Whether you’ve got a floor standing model (DLP, rear projection) or a flat panel (LCD, plasma) keep in mind that your TV will look the best when viewed from “straight ahead” and the center of the screen is at eye level. This isn’t usually a problem with the floor standing models, but if you want to hang that flat panel on the wall with a “TV wall mount”, you’ll have to come as close as you can to eye level. Also, don’t forget the most wall mounts will allow you to tilt the screen down towards your sweet spot.
Where do you think the most popular place to hang this flat panel? That’s right, even though it isn’t at eye level, most people mount their flat panel above the fireplace.
Also remember that glare is possible depending on where your windows are in relation to your TV. Floor standing lights and ceiling lights can also cause havoc with reflections off the TV screen, so be careful.Floor Models or DLPs
The floor models can be placed anywhere within the room, but your goal is not only to have your TV in front of your sweet spot but also to have the center of the screen at eye level. Here are some things to consider when dealing with floor models:
• There is a “viewing distance” chart that will help you get an idea of
how far the TV should be from your sweet spot to get the optimum picture quality. It won’t be much use here, as you really don’t have too much leeway in moving around the living room furniture to accommodate your TV.
• About 12 years ago, an interior decorator came to our house and walked toward the family room where he was greeted by my 48 inch rear projection TV. His suggestion to my wife? The TV should not be the first thing you see when looking into a room, so he suggested that I move it out of the corner it was in and place it in the opposite corner where it wouldn’t be seen until you entered the room. Now I guess you’re wondering what I did… it was early in my marriage… I moved it.
• Even though you may be able to buy a floor model that is relatively thick (rear projection models), do not place any of your components on top of your TV. Over time, this will warp your TV screen and that is not something you want to do… purchase a cabinet or use the TV’s built in stand to house your components.
• When you eventually find the ideal place for your TV (whatever looks best for you), find a seat that is directly infront of the TV (or closest to the direct front), and focus all your speakers to that spot.
• When dealing with DLPs, make sure you leave enough room behind the set for ventilation. These TVs tend to pump out a lot of heat from the rear, so be careful. Some people I know have also noticed the hum of the fan within the set itself. This can be annoying… make sure you see/hear the TV in action at the store before you buy.
• If you have small, curious children/pets, try to place the TV out of the way of high traffic areas. You don’t need your screen scratched by a toy or inanimate object when someone walks by. I have seen people temporarily place “hard to crawl over” objects such as a plants or decorative sculptures infront of the TV to prevent their children from getting to the screen. Just make sure these objects are short enough to see over… you don’t want to block the TV screen from view.Plasmas and LCDs Here are a few things to consider with flat panel (LCD, Plasma, etc) models that are going to be mounted on a wall:
• TV wall mounts can be fairly expensive depending on the size of the TV. I picked up a newspaper flyer today, and TV mounts started at $600. You want to buy a good one, because the last thing you want is for that TV to fall off the wall. So spend the money here.
• Make sure you know what the wall is made of before you start mounting, as not all building materials are suitable for hanging. Masonry and brick might not be able to withstand the weight of the TV if you don’t have the right screws.
• Try to mount the TV at a reasonable height in relation to your sweet spot. You’re not going to enjoy the picture if you’re constantly looking up.
• If you’re going to mount the TV over the fireplace, make sure you fire up that fireplace and measure the temperature of the wall where the TV is going to go. If the temperature is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you might want to pick another place, as the heat will damage your TV. In my case, the gas fireplace is not used and is more for decoration. Just be careful here, I don’t want you to ruin your TV because you needed to place it above the fireplace.
• If you feel that you need a professional to hang that $3000 flat panel TV you just bought, it might be a good idea to go back to the TV store and talk to a customer service agent. These stores either have installers on their payroll, or will call an installer from one of their contracted companies.
• Although hanging a flat panel on the wall looks sharp and saves space, you also must remember that you’re going to need a place for all of your components that will be located away from your TV. You will surely have a cable/satellite box, or even a VCR/DVD player. With a floor model, you can place your components in the attached built-in stand, but with flat panels on a wall, you don’t have that luxury.
• When hanging a flat panel, remember to have hidden access to an electrical outlet behind the TV to plug it into. Sure, you could run a long extension cord from the back of the flat panel all the way to an electrical outlet along the wall, but that isn’t going to look very good, is it? You might want to consider having an electrician install a new power outlet here your TV is going to hang so you can tuck the cord behind the TV and make things look neat.
No matter how much you plan and design, there will always be the unknown waiting around the corner to make things interesting. When planning, try to assess your situation by taking a long hard look at your environment, but come up with more than one plan just incase you run into obstacles. This will also save you time and money if you need to quickly switch to an alternate plan.
You can get more “Tips and Tricks” regarding buying an HDTV in my other ebook called Start Here, Start Now: Build your own Home Theater. It’s here: http://www.myhometheatersecrets.com/starthere.php… It’s FREE.
“The home theater system you buy today will be half the cost in a few months. This will upset you to no end… don’t look at prices for a while after you’ve made a major purchase: It will drive you nuts.”SPEAKER PLACEMENT
If you go to the local movie theater, nearly every seat will have excellent audio… therefore you can choose a seat based on how close you want to be to the screen. Whether you choose the front row, or the last, your ears should hear exactly what everyone else hears.
Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it is virtually impossible to position your speakers so that every seat in your living room reproduces the sounds that the director wanted you to hear (the rear speakers will not be behind everyone sitting in the room, therefore those viewers will not get the correct rear surround effect).
This is why we are trying to create a “sweet spot”. Since we can’t possible have every seat in your living room get the best audio, let’s focus on one seat in the room and sit there when we want to experience the best sound.Placement of the Main and Center Speakers
Setting up your front speakers is pretty straightforward. The left goes on the left side of the TV, and the right goes on the right side of the TV. You can experiment with the sound by listening to them as you point them directly towards your sweet spot, then angled slightly away. See what sounds best for your room.
Your left and right fronts are supposed to be at the same height as your ear, but you may not have that opportunity based on the layout of your room.
Make sure that your speakers are all from the same manufacturer. This is called timber matching. You want the same “sounds” to flow from each speaker. So when something on the TV travels from left to right, you want the same sound to travel from left speaker to center to the right… if the speakers are from different manufacturers, you can lose that sense of consistency over the 3 speakers.
Since the center speaker is used primarily for dialogue, it should be placed above or below your TV, and centered if possible. There may be an opportunity to use your TV speakers as the center speaker... I have seen it done, but requires a little more work than can be described here.
You also might wan to experiment with the distance of the speakers with respect to the sides of your TV. You can put the left and right up against the sides of the TV, or you can move them farther away… see what sounds best for your situation. The speakers don’t have to be inline with the front of the TV either… you and bring them slightly forward, or back.Placement of the Surround Speakers This is where we’re going to have some fun…
Most people think that the surround (rear) speakers need to be hung behind and above the head of the listener. This is not necessarily the best place. For one thing, there is no way you can guarantee that you even have back walls behind your sweet spot to hang those rear speakers.I’ve experimented with surround speaker placement, and there are a number of different places you can put them:Figure 1 Surround speakers on rear wall
• Directly behind the sweet spot and three feet above the listener’s head. This is used if you have a wall directly behind the listener and can mount those speakers on it. This is the most common setup. (Figure 1)Figure 2 Surround speakers mounted on side walls
• Directly on each side of the sweet spot and three feet above the listener’s head. This can be used if you don’t have a wall behind the sweet spot. (Figure 2)Figure 3 Surround speakers mounted on ceiling
• Mounting the speakers on the ceiling a few feet behind the sweet spot and pointing them at an angle to the listener. This can also be used if you don’t have a wall behind the sweet spot. (Figure 3)Figure 4 Surround speakers placed on floor pointed towards ceiling
• Behind the sweet spot on the floor pointing up toward the ceiling. You can use this one if you have a wall behind the listener but don’t want to drill holes in the wall to hang the speakers. This will run the sound up along the back wall and then bounce down off the ceiling toward the listener. (Figure 4)Size of your Speakers
Some of the speakers these days are small in size, but deliver a ton of sound. If you’re deciding on what size speakers to get for a family room and don’t have a lot of space to mount regular size speakers, I’d suggest going for the small bookshelf speakers.
The reason I say this is because the last thing you want to do is upset your significant other by bringing home huge tower speakers and placing them smack dab in the middle of the family room. I did this, and to get revenge, my wife constantly put things like plants and knickknacks on top of my towers. Not good.
With small speakers, you can incorporate them better into an established room. They can be placed on shelves, on fireplace mantles, on window sills or even hidden in that fake plant you got as a house warming from your-inlaws.
You’re probably asking yourself how small can these speakers get… well, in 2007, Sony released a speaker so small, it fit in the palm of your hand. Don’t be fooled about the size, because each of these little speakers can crank out 50 watts. So boys, in this case, size doesn’t matter.
For the family room, I wouldn’t worry too much about the gauge of wire (thickness). You have to worry about the gauge of wire when it comes to running long lengths because there is significant power loss over long runs. For lengths of 80ft or less, I’d stick with 16 gauge.For more detailed information on speaker wire, please see my website: http://www.myhometheatersecrets.comThe Wireless Speaker
If you’re not handy, or you just can’t be bothered with running wires throughout your family room, there is another option… the wireless speaker. There are a number of companies out there including Pioneer, Sony, Kenwood, Jensen, Advent and Acoustic Research that understand the frustration and extra effort you might encounter when it comes to hiding speaker wires.
Let’s try to break this down into the pros and cons so you can decide whether this is the right option for you.
• Speakers are easily moved if the room gets re-decorated. Let’s say your significant other decides that the current family room is just not doing it for them anymore, and they want to not only change the furniture, but the layout too. He/she now wants to put a mirror smack dab right where one of your surround speakers is. No problem… no wires… just move the speaker.• You can put more of these wireless speakers in different rooms of the house, so you can enjoy the audio elsewhere.
• You may be able to pick up headphones that lock onto your transmitting frequency… this will allow you to enjoy the audio privately from anywhere in the house, even while doing chores outside. You may say “so what”, but how many times have you wanted to watch a sporting event, when you knew you had to pull the weeds? Now you can listen to the game while you pull the weeds!
• Interference. See what the transmit/receive frequency of the speaker is and then take a look around your house. Wireless hardware to take into account that may cause interference: computer networks (not only yours, but the neighbours too), x10 cameras, telephones, microwaves… etc.
• These wireless speakers transmit up to 200ft in ideal circumstances. This means that your neighbors might be able to pick up the audio signal on hardware such as radios, wireless phones, scanners… this shouldn’t be a big deal, unless you’re into watching naughty movies.Once again, place the speakers in a position to envelope the sweet spot with ambient noise. Whatever sounds the best to you is your best bet.
Surround speakers are relatively small, so you can also buy speaker stands if you want to be able to move the speakers around. These stands are about 2-3 feet high and will allow you to place the speakers anywhere behind or beside your sweet spot without any permanent mounting. (see figure 5)Figure 5 Wireless surround speakers placed on stands (without rear wall)
Placement of the Subwoofer
Once you’ve created your sweet spot with the front, center and surround speakers, it’s time to figure out where the subwoofer should go. The rule of thumb for subwoofer is the following: if you place the subwoofer in the correct position, when you watch a movie, you should not be able to tell where the bass is coming from.
So, how do you figure out where that subwoofer should go? Well, here’s a trick that I learned from my research: Wire up your subwoofer as directed by your manual with enough speaker wire so that your sub can physically reach your sweet spot. Place the subwoofer in your sweet spot and play some music with a very low bass track.
At this point, walk around the room and see where the bass sounds the best… remember, there is no right and wrong here… whatever sounds best to you. Once you find where the bass sounds the best, that’s where your subwoofer should go.
Now of course if it sounds best in the middle of the room, you just can’t put the subwoofer there, you’ll just have to place it as close as you can to that spot. Here are some other places to place that subwoofer if you just want it out of the way:
• Under an endtable
• Behind / beside the sweet spot
• Behind / beside the TV
• In a wicker basket… private joke for one of my readers.
Whatever you do, make sure that hole on the back or side of the subwoofer is free of any obstacles, as it is used to move air in and out of the speaker. If it is covered, the sub will not be able to reproduce the bass that is in the movie.CHAPTER 3: THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR ROOM
“Good speakers will sound horrible in an untreated room, and bad speakers will sound half decent in a treated room”
THE CHARACTERISCTICS OF YOUR ROOM
There is a saying that states “Good speakers will sound horrible in an untreated room, and bad speakers will sound half decent in a treated room”. Although it should be not taken as the gospel, that saying has truth to it.
A room that has a number of reflective walls can make your speakers sound like crap. Even a reflective floor, such as tile or hardwood is not a great room for sound. You can do something about it though… it’s called “treating the room”.
Now you’re probably thinking, “treat the room”? What the heck is he talking about? What I mean is for you to take a look at wall those things that make your room unique. You know, make a note of the following:Structure of the room
One thing you might want to consider when deciding on the position of your TV (which in turn dictates where your speakers need to be) is where the entryway into your family room is. If you’re sitting in your sweet spot watching a movie, and the only way for someone to get into the room is by walking in front of you, you’re not going to be a happy camper when they enter the room.
You may also encounter distractions if the entryway is in your field of view while sitting in your sweet spot… someone is bound to walk by that entryway on the way to the other side of the house. This is not what you want. If you can, try to arrange your TV in such a way that the entryways are behind your sweet spot… if there is movement near the entryway, you don’t see it.Hiding the Speaker Wires
You’re going to have to run speaker wire from the receiver to all of your speakers. For the front ones, you won’t have to worry about hiding these from view because they’re close to the receiver and can be tucked away behind the TV… but what about your surround ones?
The length of wire to the surround speakers depends on placement, and you’re going to have to figure out how to keep these hidden from view. If this is a room where you do a lot of entertaining, then you’ll want your setup to look as professional as possible.
When you first set up your surround speakers, you shouldn’t worry about hiding the wires (leave them laying on the floor)… just worry about the length of wire that you’re going to need and add a few feet more.
Remember that when you permanently install your speakers that it is easier to cut a long wire to fit the required length rather that end up with a short wire and try to figure out how to lengthen it. So use a generous length when you start out.
Sit in your sweet spot and listen to a movie soundtrack. Try different locations for your surrounds, keeping in mind that you are trying set them up according to your ear, no one else’s. Once you have decided where your surrounds are going to go, run the wires along any baseboards or obstacles that will be used to conceal them. Once you’re satisfied with the placement, you are ready to permanently mount the speakers and hide the wires.Now this is where it’s going to get interesting… try the following tips:
• If you have a crawl space or basement under your family room, try drilling holes into the floor near your equipment and send the speaker wires down through the holes. Once underneath the floor, run the wires and send them back up through new holes into the above family room where your speakers are going to go.
If you have a room that is carpeted, and you wish to drill a hole into the floor to accommodate a speaker wire, make sure you cut an “X” into the carpet with an exacto knife first, pull apart that “X” to expose wood underneath, and drill directly on that wood. If you try and drill a hole directly into the carpet, the fibers of the carpet will hook into your drill bit and you will unravel your carpet. I learned this one the hard way.
• If you have an area rug, try running the wires underneath it and in a spot where there isn’t too much traffic. Speaker wire is quite durable, and will be able to take someone walking on it.
• If you’re handy, you can run the wire behind your baseboards. When placing the surrounds in the back of the room, make sure you run the wire along your baseboards to measure how much wire you actually need. Then after you have decided where the surrounds are to be, carefully remove the baseboards, tuck the wires in the spaces below your exposed drywall, and then place your baseboards back.
• If you have carpeted baseboards, you can peel it back from the wall just enough to tuck a wire behind. Now from my experiences with this, it is sometimes difficult to pull it off the wall… not only do the carpet installers use glue, they also use small staples, and if one of these staples is in a stud, then you’re going to have to use a little elbow grease to pull that baseboard back. Make sure you have some sort of glue on hand to re-position that baseboard after.
• There is a company called Recoton out there that markets a new type speaker wire for pre-existing rooms. It’s an ultra thin, ribbon like, paintable speaker wire with a self-adhesing backing. You run this wire right above your baseboard, or just below the ceiling, and all you do is stick it and paint over it with the same colour as your wall. Voila!The Live Room… Uh oh
Okay… you’ve created your sweet spot, pointed your front and rear speakers as you saw fit, and the subwoofer is tucked away ready to bounce out some bass. You start up your favourite movie, and become quickly disappointed. The sound is muddy and your ears are quickly becoming confused, as they can’t discern where the direct noises are coming from.Welcome to the untreated “live” room.
Simply stated, sound travels to our ear as waves, and these waves like to bounce off of solid objects until they lose energy and eventually die out… solid objects like walls, the ceiling, and the floor. Bouncing waves is not something you want in a home theater. You need to absorb these waves the best you can in your room.You know you have an untreated room when you clap and you hear an echo. Echos are a no no.
If you enjoy movies, and you really want to get a good sound out of your speakers, then you need to get rid of any echoes. If you can’t be bothered, and think things sound okay, then you really don’t have to do anything.Remember, these are tips and tricks that I’ve studied… you don’t need to implement them, but they might help somewhere down the line.
If your floor is covered with carpet, you’re cool, as it won’t reflect the sound. If it isn’t carpeted then throw an area rug down in front of the TV. It will help absorb some of the sound coming from your front speakers.
If your walls are bare and parallel to one another, then you’re going to get reflections off of those too. Not much you can do there except hang things that you think absorb sound. Hanging mirrors and pictures with glass frames won’t help, as they also are highly reflective.
A flat ceiling is going to be reflective regardless . Nothing you can do here unless you want to hang fabric banners from your ceiling (next time you’re at an arena, look up… you’ll see fabric banners up there). This idea might not go over well with your significant other.
What else can you go to quiet down a live room? Furniture. You know, things like sofas, loveseats, pillows, blankets… fabric is a great absorber of sound.Windows
There are two problems that windows can create in a family room home theater… The first is when sound bounces off them (which creates an echo), and the second has to do with glare on that really nice big screen you’re trying to watch.
Okay, let’s look at the echo problem first. There are two ways to minimize echoes off your windows. The first would be to move your speakers around so they aren’t aimed directly at the windows, and the other would be to treat the windows.
Moving your speakers doesn’t do you any good because you’ve probably spent a lot of your time strategically placing them so the “sweet spot” is giving you the best sound. So let’s treat those windows with some drapery to absorb and diffuse any sound that hits them… that solution is more practical.
The other thing you need to be concerned about is glare . I know what you’re thinking… “I have shades in my room, and I’ll just close them.” Yep… that’s what I thought.
The problem I encountered was what I like to call the “glare from hell”. You know, that glare that still appears on the screen even though you’ve closed your shades. This stems from the fact that the shades are okay to block the direct sunlight from entering the room, but not thick enough to block the ambient light. This sucks.
This is the exact thing that happened to me after I spent a ton of time hanging my plasma. I sat down to enjoy a movie and after I closed the shades, I still had light entering the room. The glare was still there… and slowly starting to frustrate me.
Now, not every seat in the room had the glare problem, but I knew darn well that there were certain popular seats in the family room that did... and I did not spend $3,000+ for a plasma TV to have a glare problem.
I decided to break the news to my wife… “We need new shades, there’s a glare on the TV”. My wife did not take this news well. Not only did she give up the spot over the fireplace, but now she had to go through all the trouble of getting new shades? “No way” she said.
Here we go again… how the heck was I going to darken the room if I had no control over the shades? As with most things in life, timing is everything. I was in luck. My wife had already contacted someone to treat the windows on the other side of the house.
I talked to the “drape” guy during his visit and after a lengthy conversation, we both decided that changing the shades was not the way to go… we needed to add an additional “darkening” shade underneath the existing shades. This way, I could darken the room with my shade, and my wife could close her shade (plus ambient light) when she wanted privacy (Figures 6 and 7). Wife agreed to the compromise, and we were good to go.Excellent.
It should be noted that when I close the “darkening” shade, it gets really dark in the family room… so dark that my wife has labeled the family room the “cave”. I don’t care, I’ve solved my glare problem, and it was not expensive to do.Figure 6 The “darkening shade” sits underneath the normal shadeFigure 7 Once closed, you can see the normal shades still let light in… the “darkening” one won’t
A buddy once asked me about the surround sound speaker placement in his ”open concept” family room. He was worried that his room was too open behind his sweet spot, and that the sound would travel into the adjoining rooms.
He was fortunate in the fact that he was doing renovations in the room, so he wanted to see if there was some way he could create a movable wall behind his sweet spot.
The problem here comes from the fact that anything flat that he places there will reflect sound back at him. He wanted to put French doors that he could open and close, but I talked him out of it… too much glass. I instead suggested that he put up heavy drapes that could be dragged across the back of the room.
It sounds a bit weird, but if you’re adventurous, you can create a professional looking cabinet on one side of the room with a track in the ceiling. When you want to watch a movie, open your cabinet and drag the drape that’s in it across the back of the room along the hidden track in the ceiling: A simple solution to a complicated problem.
Yes, I can just imagine what you’re thinking… “If you think my significant other is going to let me put a drape in our family room, you’re crazy.” Okay, I’m not totally out of touch with reality, but I’m not sure how good you are at persuading your better half…If you’re not very good at it, then go with the French doors… just treat those doors with some sort of fabric to absorb sound.CHAPTER 4: PLASMA + FIREPLACE = GREY HAIR
“K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid) – When planning a setup, the best method is usually the simplest one… don’t overthink your installation”PLASMA + FIREPLACE = GREY HAIR I bet you never learned that in math class… well, let me tell you, after the fun I had hanging my plasma, that’s a valid calculation.
Up until now, I’ve given you many ideas on how to properly set up your home theater in an existing living/family room. So now it’s time to give you the details on what happened when I mounted my plasma over my fireplace… here is a “real world” application… enjoy!
This is a perfect opportunity to share a story… a story about the day I decided to hang my plasma television over the fireplace. The problem, you see, is that the wife owned this valuable territory. This was where she put that huge mirror of hers and she wasn’t about to move it.
I needed to secure that prime real estate owned by the wife (Figure 8). After some “deep thinking”, I decided to make a deal with her stipulating that one day I would change the façade of the brick fireplace to either stucco or stone.
You see, my wife always liked her mirror over the fireplace, but she never really liked the “look” of the fireplace… brick was never her thing. So, by offering to change the brick one day, she gave up her mirrored space for “future façade considerations”.Figure 8 This was the prime real estate I needed to acquire
Having secured the “promised land”, I called over my buddy Kim to help me mount it. Like I said in the beginning of this book… don’t be afraid ask for help when you can’t lift that 200 pound flat screen by yourself. I also wanted his opinion on some theories I had floating around in my head… and I wanted to borrow some of his more “special” drill bits.
After taking some initial measurements, it became quickly apparent that this was not going to be a 2 hour job. There wasn’t any easy way to run the audio, video, and power cables behind the brick. It wasn’t impossible, but really… how is someone supposed to hide 5 cables through brick to the corner of the room?We decided to remove one of the square air vents that were on each side of the façade to see what hidden options we could explore.
What did we find? Here’s an idea of what you might find behind a fireplace: steel. Thick, cold, hard steel. The fireplace had a layer of thick steel under that brick façade my wife hated so much… I was beginning to hate it too.
Kim and I sat down and just looked at each other. It wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. I had “Plan A” worked out in my head… use the vent to run (and hide) the cables to the right side of the room where I would have my equipment. Nope, not possible: too much concrete and steel.Okay… everyone put your tools down … we’re switching to Plan B. Here were the steps to Plan B (figure 9):
1) Remove a brick from the center/above over the fireplace
2) Pass the cables through the missing brick hole to the right vent
3) Drill a hole from the right vent to the outside
4) Pass the cables outside
5) Run the cables along the outside wall of the house
6) Pass the cables back into the house to the family room
I pulled out a black marker and put a big X on the brick that was halfway between the two air vents. This was the brick we needed to remove so we could run the cables from behind the TV, into the brick wall, and then pass the cables outside the house. The brick we would remove would be directly behind the hanging TV, so no one would ever see the missing brick.
My wife tends to get bent out of shape when she sees me hang a picture with a nail and hammer, so I thought it would be best that she didn’t see me pull an entire brick out of her family room… call me crazy.
A word of advice when removing a single brick... you should start by drilling out the cement around the brick first. This will protect the surrounding bricks when you start working on the victim brick. The act of drilling out concrete with a concrete drill bit will create an immense amount of dust and fine concrete sand (which will pile up beneath you). Another reason why I sent my wife out of the house.
It would be a good idea to have a shopvac handy at this point… When you’ve removed the surrounding concrete, get out a small sledge hammer and start tapping away at that brick. It should come apart in pieces.
ALWAYS WEAR PROTECTIVE EYE GEAR WHEN WORKING WITH BRICK. Pieces will fly everywhere and you’d be surprised where things land.After carefully removing the “X” brick, we ran our cables behind the brick façade and into the air vent (Figure 10).
Once all the cables where in the vent, I had Kim drill a hole through the back of the vent to the outside. We passed the cables through that hole and ran them down the side of the house.Figure 10 Kim’s left hand is in the hole we created by removing the brick, and his right hand is in the
vent. He carefully fed the cables from missing brick hole to right vent.
Once outside, we ran the cables along the outside wall until we came to the spot where we needed to drill another series of holes to send the cables back into the house. (Figure 11)
Figure 11 The black line shows the path we took as we ran the cables along the outside of the house, and then back into the house. The inset circles are pictures of what it looks like in real life. This view is from outside the house… see Figure 9 for the inside view.
So basically we couldn’t hide the wires inside the house, so we hid them outside the house. Sounds kinda funny eh? It’s hard when you hang a flat panel on a wall you can’t get behind… you don’t want wires hanging everywhere, you want a nice clean job.
We took the unorthodox idea to push the wires through an available air vent to the outside. Always think outside the box.
It is very important that you drill slow and take your time… a brick can only take so much stress. Figure 12 is what the brick looked like after we drilled the holes and passed some of the cables through.
Keep the pieces of brick because they need to be siliconed back into place as best as possible. If you can’t put the pieces back, you can cover it with a receptacle box found at your local hardware store.
As we passed all our cables through the drilled holes, we hit our next problem. The HDMI cable that was to run between the TV and satellite system was only 6 feet long. Long enough for Plan A, but too short for Plan B, and if you’ve been paying attention, we’re on Plan B.
Of course it was a Saturday, and 4:50pm. Funny thing happens here in my hometown on Saturdays… stores tend to close at 5pm. I kid you not. So there I stood looking at the hole in my brick wall, tools everywhere, dust covered most of the room, and I couldn’t finish hanging my plasma because the HDMI cable that I had was not long enough. Gosh, I hate it when this happens.My wife was going to kill me.
I made a call to the local audio/video place and told them to stay open until I got there… they said they would wait 10 minutes after closing time for me. I took my young daughter, gave her a piggy back ride to the car, and drove down to the audio/video store where an attendant was waiting.
Once there, we walked into the store and I proceeded to pay $230 for a 16 foot HDMI cable. Yep… $230, cables can be expensive, especially when the store knows you need one really bad.
As I spent a wad of cash on one cable, Kim was back at my house trying his best to clean up all the bits of brick that were embedded into my carpet. Thank God my wife hadn’t gotten home yet.
This is why you might want to do the majority of your work during some sort of time when you know the stores are open. I know some of you out there aren’t going to care, but some of you won’t want to wait until the next day to complete your setup with all your tools lying around and your “significant other” hovering over the mess they want you to clean up. Suit yourself, but it is a good tip.
Since I was exposing my cables to the outside weather, I tucked them as closely as possible into the corner of the house to protect them from the sunlight, rain and snow. For added protection, I went to the hardware and bought pipe insulation, which should keep them warm in the winter. (Figure 13) You can get different lengths of this pipe insulation depending on your needs.Figure 13 Cables protected from the weather by pipe insulation
After your cables have been run, hooked up and finalized, you should put silicone in the holes to stop little critters from crawling in. Don’t worry about using too much, as the more the better… just don’t think you’re going to use that hole for any other cables. That silicone isn’t going to come out easily.
Before we lifted and secured the TV into place, we needed to mount a brace to the wall that the TV was going to hang on. The brace we used came in two parts (they fit together to secure the TV to the wall). One part bolted to the wall, and the other bolted to the back of the TV, as the TV had threaded holes for the mounting screws. In fact, the brace came with many different screws to fit a number of TV models. (In Figure 10 you can just see the bottom of the wall brace over Kim’s left hand).Figure 14 The TV is lifted into place and wires are connected
After we put the brace on the back of the TV, we turned our attention to the brace that was to go on the wall. We measured from the ceiling to the point where we thought the TV should go and made a level line. Make sure you measure a number of times, and when dealing with brick, try to find a “brick line” that you want to match the bottom of the brace to.
Before you start drilling to mount the wall brace, MAKE SURE YOU ARE LEVEL, OR AS CLOSE TO THE BRICK LINE AS POSSIBLE. When we were confident that we were somewhat level, we marked off where the selftapping concrete screws should go.
Kim had marked a number of spots where I was to drill and we attached the wall brace with 8 Tapcon screws. We carefully hung the TV and got out our level to make sure everything looked good.
When using a shopvac to remove drywall/brick dust, make sure you get the proper filter bag. There is a filter bag that you can get designed for fine dust… if you use a different bag, you will blow all the dust back into the house through the shopvac’s exhaust fan. If there isn’t a “fine dust” bag available, you can place the shopvac outside and run the hose into the house to clean the mess.Figure 15 All the wires were tucked into the brick we removed. This view is looking up from the fireplace
Remember that even though the TV may be level, it may not look level if the brick lines are not level. Make sure when you deal with brick, that the bottom of your TV matches a brick line. It will look a lot better than if you just rely on a level.
The TV went up, the wires were attached, and the TV came to life. It was utter beauty. The clarity was unbelievable. This was my family’s first exposure to HD but it amazes me how my kids still want to watch cartoons in analogue.
Make sure you have patience and are willing to spend a number of hours when it comes to hanging a TV… what Kim and I thought was going to take a few hours took… are you ready for this… 7 hours.
I hope I shed some light on a few things that you might not have thought of when trying to incorporate a home theater into a family room. Now you know why I said earlier that what works for your neighbor might not work for you.
Rooms are different sizes and have different characteristics, so if you want to work on getting the most out of your equipment, then you must have the knowledge and the patience to want to do it. I have given you a little knowledge, but the patience part is up to you.
It should be noted that you can still hang that plasma in your family room without adding the home theater receiver and speakers. The sound from the TV speakers will be adequate for normal television viewing.Remember that you should base the success of your setup on how good things sound.
Take care, good luck and have fun. Frank Fazio
This website contains the following:
- Optimizing room dimensions
- Construction of the front wall
- Raised flooring so every seat has a great view
- What you can do with your ceiling
- Absorption, deflection and reflection… where and why
- Gauge of speaker wire
- Paint colors for your room
- Placement of your subwoofer(s)
- Sound dynamics, what and why
- How to absorb “first reflections”
- Acoustic paneling – building vs buying
- Sound insulations in walls and ceiling
- Make your floor shake – bass shakers for your floor
- Ventilation – it gets warm real fast… what to do
- Viewing distances for your TV
- Seating – how I found my theater seats
- Added touches – curtains, movie posters, props
- Surge suppressors, power bars… are they worth it?
- and much more…