Home Theater Evolution
At one time, “home theater” meant nothing more than a darkened room, a large projection screen, and tiered theater seating. Not so anymore, says Kris Hodgkins of AV Design, a unique part of American TV that brings audiovisual expertise to clients wishing to complete an audio/video or automation project. Such a project can be as simple as a thin HDTV with integrated sound suitable for a living room. Or it can be as dynamic as a complete solution that controls a home’s lights, temperature, door locks and more, all from, say, an iPad.
“While people are, of course, still building dedicated home theater rooms with projection screens, the trend is toward multiuse media spaces,” says Hodgkins, noting that families want full integration of their electronic and digital devices in one streamlined space. “As TVs have increased in size and become better suited to environments with windows, people have been able to get that large home-theater feel without a projector and screen.”
In addition, TVs have larger, crisper pictures at more affordable pricing than ever before. The new wave of TV is 4K Resolution technology, with four times the pixels of 1080P Full high definition; American TV currently has more than ten 4K models, ranging in size from 55 to 84 inches, as well as the next big thing—curved thin TVs. And built-in audio surround systems or a soundbar speaker placed below the TV combine rich sound with a sleek look.
“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is create a very immersive experience,” says Hodgkins. “So you’re not just a spectator, you’re pulled into the action.”
Michael Krueger of True Aspect, a custom audio visual integration, automation and installation company, remembers the days when a home theater was simply a TV and speakers in the living room.
“Then it evolved into an actual room, with a projector and screen, and now it’s morphed into so much more than it used to be,” says Krueger. “I just think a lot of people don’t know what’s possible.”
Home automation encompasses a control system that can remotely manage nearly everything in your home, including home theater, audiovisual, lighting, security, thermostat, draperies and shades, and garage doors. Automated lighting systems provide security by turning different lights on at varying times throughout the day or night, giving the illusion that someone is home. They also create scenes in your home.
“You can press a button for a mood scene, maybe a romantic dinner with a partner, or a welcome-home scene for when you come home at night,” says Krueger.
Krueger says systems can be customized to suit whatever your individual needs and budget may be, whether it’s simply HVAC control or a fully automated home.
“It used to be that you would have to sell somebody a really expensive handheld control or touch panel to do these functions,” says Krueger. “Now ninety-five percent of our customers already own the touch panels they need because they can run everything off iPads, iPhones or Android tablets and phones.”
At the locally owned Ganser Company, every good home improvement project begins with a theme. Owner Travis Ganser just completed his own home theater remodel, inspired by an 1890s vaudeville pub.
“What I did, and what our customers are doing, is built everything in,” says Ganser. “Theater controls are built into the walls, hidden from view. TVs are flat or pushed into a built-in alcove so they don’t protrude into the room. You can even have screens drop down from ceilings or come up out of the floor.”
Ganser’s home theater room incorporates a pressed tin ceiling, squirrel-cage bulbs reminiscent of early Edison bulbs, and crackle finish on the wood to make it appear dried out from the passage of time. Since his kids also use the space, he hides the bar’s liquor with clever magnetic latches behind panels. Creatively lit movie posters lining the walls, vintage-style wallpaper, and theater-style carpeting further enhance the old vaudevillian vibe.
“It’s all about effectively mixing modern concepts and old concepts,” says Ganser. “And because of that, the overall effect gives you something completely unique, but still very tasteful and traditional—so it won’t be out of date in ten years.”
Ganser says now is a great time to get started on this type of project; contractors aren’t as busy and the weather doesn’t need to cooperate.
“Home theaters are a wonderful winter project because they don’t involve the elements,” he explains, “and you’ve also got an end result that’s a cure for cabin fever.”