Designing a dedicated Home Cinema is straightforward, when you're correctly trained for the job. Follow the rules and good things happen.
A great media room - with memorable performance in a multi-use space - needs more thought and care to design. We have to consider:
Acoustic treatments reduce echoes and reflections from the room, so the sound system can create the feeling of other spaces. Media room acoustics should be treated, but differently to a cinema room.
First we need to make sure that treatments blend in visually and look good; we also want to leave some 'life' in the sound, so that talking feels natural.
The key principles are the same as for a cinema, so we should aim for reference sound level, for effortless compelling performance. It's also okay though to reduce the target, to let's say 80% of reference - and save cost.
The video system may need to cost more. A media room projector has to be brighter, just to look as good as it would in a darker cinema room. Dual display also adds cost as you need to buy them both. Provided we're within the right range, it may be okay to go down one level in screen size which should cost less.
As a rule of thumb, the budget range for a given room size is wider, but spec and costs still go up as rooms get bigger.
In the private screening room, everyone's in the sweet spot.
Rows of seats don't work for a media room, though a bar at the back can be great. The screen will often be on the longest wall, with a wider seating area.
That means off-axis sound and picture performance need to be really strong.
Screens and brightness
You'll probably want to use the room in ambient light conditions. So the screen needs to be much brighter. There are various ways to get there:
• High brightness projector
• Ambient light rejecting screens - these give remarkable results in brighter conditions.
• Use a flat-panel TV - a reduction in scale for watching films, but in some rooms works very well. Some very large sizes are now quite affordable.
• We might control the light levels, for example with blackout blinds and careful choice of surface colours. Bright white walls and ceilings can be very distracting; what about a light grey instead? High gloss finishes should be avoided, or outside the field of view.
• We're very keen on dual display. Flat-panel TV for when the lighting is brighter, plus a projector and screen for special times - film nights, immersive gaming sessions and epic box sets.
You often don't want regular TV to be as big as a film. Most TV shows are made for a smaller screen, so the picture is less complicated. Having the choice of pretty big or really big means you can control the experience to suit you.