Whether you’re a movie maniac, a home decorations enthusiast, or someone who spends way too much time on the Internet, you’ve probably come across the term “home theater” somewhere.
This concept has been around for a while since some cinephiles would rather stay at home than actually go to a place where other people might ruin their cinematic experience. Naturally, this brings up the question – what is a home cinema actually?
What Is a Home Theater?
Generally speaking, a home theater or home cinema is a configuration made of visual and sound equipment that mimics a real theater experience as closely as possible in the comfort of your own home. Simply put – instead of going to the cinema, you bring the cinema home.
There are tons of different ways to recreate the authentic theater experience, from making slight adjustments to your living room, to re-designing a whole room specifically for that purpose. But first of all – why would you even want to have one of these at home?
Perks of Having a Home Theater
Imagine what it’s like going to the cinema. You have to book good seats in advance before they all get taken, so being spontaneous about it usually isn’t a good idea. You enter this crowded space where tons of other people are going to and fro, and you go stand in a long line to get into the snacks area.
There you stand in a line once again to get some ridiculously-priced popcorn and sodas, and at this point, you just wonder what hurts more – your feet or your wallet. You go into your respective hall and you take your seat, patiently waiting for the ads to be over.
Finally, the long-awaited moment comes – the movie starts.
It’s an intense opening scene, which makes your eyes fixate on every little detail on screen. You’re excited, curious, intrigued. And then – suddenly! The kids in the front seat decide to stand up and shout, possibly from excitement, and now the experience is ruined.
If by the end of the movie you haven’t spilled your popcorn, some stranger’s phone hasn’t rung, and nobody has kicked your seat, then you can consider yourself lucky.
None of this will happen in a home theater. You can watch whichever movie you want, whenever you want, eat whatever reasonably priced snack you want, you’ll always have the best seats, and most importantly – you can always choose who the people around you are.
So how can you make a home theater?
Main Elements of a Home Theater and How You Can Make One Yourself
There are no concrete rules as to what components you must have in your home cinema, and the exact list would depend on:
- Why do you want to create it in the first place?
- What is your budget?
- How many people do you want to accommodate?
- Whether you’re going to use a separate room or not?
Nevertheless, we’ve compiled for you this comprehensive list of elements that can be present in a home theater just to give you a better idea of what you may want for your own one.
DIY Home Theater Seating
Before you start with the seating, think about the following things: how many people would you wanna accommodate? How luxurious do you want it to be? How will the people in each seat see the screen? There’s a myriad of different ways to go about this, and they all depend on your answers to these questions.
You could always stick with what you have – a simple living room sofa sometimes does the trick. You could also decide to go all out and buy some expensive, high-end luxury armchairs for maximum comfort.
Or you could make them yourself at home. Using pallets, cushions, a saw, some screws, and a few other materials, you can make amazing leveled home theater seats at home. You can even do the extra mile and make some cupholders if you want while you’re at it.
If you want to see a detailed tutorial on how to create these seats, see the video below:
DIY Home Theater Screen
There are several options for setting up your home theater screen, and it really depends on how you want to go about it. If you already have a good flat-screen TV or are planning to buy one anyway, you could go with that option.
Flat-screen TVs are becoming more and more accessible, with good options like the TCL 5-Series 50” being just $369.99 at Walmart.
If you decide you want to use a projector, there are two main ways to go about setting up a screen. The more complicated option is to set up a drop-down screen, like the one shown in this video:
It requires more skill and more materials than the second option – simply painting your wall white. Painted screens have the advantages of accomodating an extremely high contrast, intense colors, and maximum sharpness.
They also minimize light penetration, light diffusion within the surface, and minimize light absorption. These types of screens are suitable for 3D, HD, UHD, 4K & Ultra Short Throw projectors.
Keep in mind that not every type of paint is suitable to be used for screens – there are companies that specialize in creating this kind of paint specifically. Some examples of good screen paint are the S1 Screen Plus Silver and the Ultra HD Premium.
And on this company’s homepage, you can find a handy price calculator to figure out just how much the screen paint will cost you (if you use this company’s products at least).
If your space and your budget are more limited, but you have a tablet or are already planning to buy one, you could do wonders for your home cinema experience if you also invest in a wall mount. You have super cheap options like this simple wall mount, and you can also get a really functional and stylish wall mount for just $26.99.
DIY Home Projector
If you want to opt for a projector for your home theater, there are two ways to go about this. Firstly, you can buy a projector from Amazon or your local technical appliances store. You can either choose a really expensive, high-end professional projector if the price tag is of less importance than the quality, or you can opt for a good budget projector if your finances are limited.
You can also get really creative here if your budget is really, really limited. It’s possible to make your own projector from a shoebox, a good magnifying glass, a smartphone, some tape, and a makeshift stand for the phone, as is shown in this DIY video.
If your image is blurry or not bright enough, you can try a lens with higher magnification or you could line up two magnifying glasses and focus the image by moving the two lenses closer or further from one another.
DIY Home Theater Speakers
This is where the set-up gets a little more complicated and the DIY options are not so easy to make at home. Sound is an essential part of the authentic cinema experience, which is why it’s important to plan the number and placement of your speakers accordingly. Dolby has made a whole comprehensive guide on how to set up your home cinema speakers, which you can check out here.
If your budget is even more limited, you can simply buy a soundbar like the Sonos Beam or the Bestisan Soundbar with a built-in subwoofer. Some soundbars can mimic surround sound by bouncing sound off the roof directed next to you or behind you, so they’re a good replacement option for the expensive surround speakers.
If you are really brave and crafty, you can make your own DIY speakers with a lower budget, as shown in this video.
Home Theater Receiver
An AV receiver (also called amplifier) is basically the processor of your home cinema set-up. It’s connected to all your home theater components and has a number of functions, including decoding your DVD’s surround sound formats, operating your loudspeakers, and switching between audio and video components. Simply put – it connects everything and makes it operate as one.
A DIY project for this gadget is just a big no-no, because: 1) it can be even more expensive than the available store-bought options, and 2) due to the nature of this technology, it would require extensive technical knowledge to set it up. A good AV receiver like the Pyle P3301BAT can cost less than $200, which is a worthwhile investment.
Of course, depending on what kind of elements you have in your home cinema, you might not even need this element.
In case you’re using your living room, you might not set up any additional sound insulation. But if you’ve decided to dedicate a whole room for your home cinema, and especially if you’re living near a busy street, you might want to invest in some soundproofing, so that no car honking can disturb your Star Wars marathons.
Putting soundproof foam on your walls and your windows can prevent noise from entering the room. Thick curtains can also be of help.
If you want to prevent sound from going out of the room, then we strongly suggest getting floor soundproofings like the QuietWalk laminate flooring underlayment or the UltraSeal Underlayment, and to also weatherstrip your door with something like the KELIIYO door weather stripping.
DIY Home Theater Lighting
Your lighting is essential to achieving the authentic theater feel. If you have a dedicated room for it, it’s a good idea to paint the walls black, but if you don’t, some dark curtains can do the trick as well. Installing LED strips around the room can give it a luxury touch, and it’s also not hard to do, but try to avoid these common mistakes people make when they install LEDs in their homes:
Power Outlets in the Proper Locations
We cannot stress this enough – pre-plan the locations of your power outlets! Depending on the kind and number of devices you’re going to use, check the locations of your existing power outlets, and plan around them. Plan the cable layout and, if you prefer, you can hide them using.
We also highly recommend investing in a surge protector, so that all your hard work doesn’t end up going to waste after just one heavy storm.
This is the last component of a standard home theater. If you have a lot of gadgets in your set up, it can be tiresome to get up every time you want to adjust something, be it screen brightness, sound volume, LED color, etc. We recommend getting either a universal remote or simply downloading a suitable app for your smartphone.
DIY Home Cinema Extras
After all this planning and preparation, there are just a few final touches that can make any home cinema experience even more authentic. Just think about it – what other sense gets stimulated the moment you enter the cinema, besides your eyesight and hearing? That’s right – you smell! What is a good theater experience without some popcorn and a cold beverage?
You can go all out again and try to make a popcorn machine and a minifridge yourself – it’s possible with tutorials like How to Make Popcorn Machine from Cardboard and How to Make a Mini Refrigerator at Home. You can also simply buy a popcorn machine for as little as $20 on Amazon and a minifridge for as little as $35 on Amazon.