Cinema Design takes into consideration the relationship between the size of the space, seating, visual angles, sound quality, audience requirements, and viewing requirements. Skimping on any part of this collective will result in an undesirable space that could potentially go to waste. Plan it and build it well and you will be guarantee a space you'll love and use regularly.
Below are the important points to consider when designing, planning and budgeting your cinema.
1. Size of your room
The first thing you need to know when building a cinema is the size of the space you have to work with. The size of the room would determine the number of seats you can comfortably fit in and the size of the projection screen that will provide the best viewing from various seating positions in the room.
2. Seating arrangement
In a home cinema, the number of seats and placement is based on how you intend on using the room, along with calculations around the room size, and screen size. In a commercial boutique cinema, like in a retirement village for example, it will determine how many seats can be comfortably fitted into the room. 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 the viewer from the different seating positions view the screen is important too, so that the viewing axis is within the comfortable head turn and tilt angles. The same is true for the vertical viewing angle, which is how far up or down you need to look to see the screen.
Determining a budget is often a difficult process as most people have no idea what the ball park is and where to begin. A good place to begin is to decide what are the important factors or the non-negotiables in your cinema plan. When designing and building your cinema, you want to ensure the money you spend is going to give you the best results and stand the test of time. Things to consider could include viewing quality, 1080 versus 4K image quality, surround sound or Atmos immersion, seating options like standard cinema seating versus premium recliners versus a custom designed couch, acoustic panelling and absorption.
4. Projector and projection screen
There are several types of screen suitable for the home cinema but the best choice would be a static 16x9” screen, which resembles a wide screen TV.
If the room will be used for other purposes, a screen that glides down from the ceiling would be a good option.
But if you, or your client, is a cinema enthusiast, and you’re looking for a truer cinema experience, there are several types of screen from which to choose.
There are different options too for the screen surface: your choice will be dictated by the space and by what you want to achieve. Take a look at our Knowledge Base article K5 ‘Choice and application of different projection screen surfaces’ for more information on screens and surface choices.
Matt white is used as standard in smaller, studio-style professional theatres where the side walls are in line with the sides of the picture, and it’s a good option for home cinemas.
The ideal position for speakers is at the back of the screen, and some screens have perforations, which allow the sound to come through.
There are different types of perforation: standard, micro and mini and there are compromises with each type.
Standard perforations give better sound but if the audience is too near the screen they will see the holes. So, once again the size of the room is the important factor, as it will dictate the number of seats you can have and their proximity to the screen.
Mini perforations are better for viewing a film close up, but the sound quality very slightly reduced. However, now that most film soundtracks are digital, this type of surface is probably a good choice as the image quality is better and the sound quality is only slightly reduced.
As with screens, several types of projector are suitable for a home cinema.
Once you’ve chosen your projector, you need to think about where to position it. Ideally, it needs to be as low as you can get away with and as square on to the screen as possible to eliminate keystoning.
The keystone effect distorts the dimensions of an image, making it appear as a trapezoid. It’s caused when an image is projected onto a surface at an angle. Some areas of the screen may not be focused correctly as the projector lens is focused at the average distance only.
Projector noise is another consideration. Some are noisier than others and you may want to consider putting your projector in a housing insulated with Camtek acoustic foam.
5. audio experience
The true cinema experience is all about the sound and the best place to position the main speakers is behind the screen. That means there needs to be space for the screen to move forwards to accommodate them.
It’s recommended that the left, right, and centre speaker channels should be situated at a height of two-thirds in the auditorium. That’s because the actors heads are usually at that height on the screen, so that’s where the speech will come from.
They should also point at a spot two-thirds along auditorium away from the screen to the centre seat. This replicates the premium seats in a professional cinema. Furthermore, the surround sound speaker should be two-thirds up from the floor and pointing to the same place.
If it’s not possible to situate the speakers behind the screen the next best place is just underneath or they can be above. But the channels still need to be in the right place to focus the sound as this is what focuses the viewer on the correct place on the screen.
Of course the acoustics need to be correct in the room for any of this to happen properly.
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. It should provide just enough light to allow anyone to get up and walk outside during the movie if needed.
Once the movie is over, the light levels should raise slowly, starting with any indirect light sources, such as LED coffers, to allow the viewer's eyes to 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.
7. Seating options
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.
8. acoustic treatment
Acoustic walls stop reverberation and control sound to ensure it comes from the correct place.
It’s a good idea to carpet the floor because you need to remove as many hard surfaces as you can to control reverberation.
Good quality cloth walls, and having the speakers in the right places, will help to improve sound quality, but if you want to achieve the purest sound possible in your space, you need think about acoustic wall treatments
Acoustic wall treatments
Everything in a space, from the walls and windows to the floors and ceilings, has an effect on how sound behaves. And of course the size and shape of a room plays a huge part too.
Acoustic treatments address the sound quality of a room by absorbing high levels of reflective noise. So a film’s soundtrack will be much more accurate in a professionally treated auditorium than in one that’s untreated.
The design is marked out directly on to the walls. The plastic is cut to the design and each individual piece is fitted to wall to create panels or a continuous stretch. These are then in-filled with foam. The final step is to cover the foam with cloth, fitting it into the frames.
Camtek forms the core of Camstage acoustic panels. Our own product, Camtek is a flexible, lightweight melamine-based acoustic foam with a Class 0 fire specification. It comes in sheets with a standard depth of 32mm, which provide a high sound absorbency.
Any stretch fabric can be used so there is a very wide range of colour and designs from which to choose. This makes the panels extremely flexible as they can be tailored to individual specifications and design themes.
However, most modern professional cinemas are now opting for black fabric to take as much light out of the room as possible to give a better picture on the screen.
You need as much light bouncing off the screen as possible for the best effect. The screen absorbs ambient light from any source, so too much and you start to lose detail, particularly with 3D.
Please see our article KB1 ‘Acoustic wall qualities and criteria for professional cinemas’ for more information.
9. Room Colour
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.
The bespoke technology compliments the elegance and beauty of this home.
The home includes:
Luxury Bespoke Cinema - CinemaKing
Multi-room UHD TV Zones - CinemaKing
Sonos Multi-room Audio - CinemaKing
NBN Provision - GoFi
IT & WiFi Network - GoFi
Full Crestron Home Integration - Purpose Group
Crestron Lighting - Purpose Group
CCTV & Security System - Purpose Group
2N Intercom and Access Control - Purpose Group
Climate Control - Purpose Group
Lutron Motorised Curtains and Blinds - Purpose Group