Building the Ultimate Home Cinema

It’s now easier than ever before to bring the big-screen experience to your home. Here’s everything you need to know to create your own home cinema.

 Is there a better place to enjoy movies than the cinema? All the necessary components are there: from the gigantic wall-to-wall screen; to the bone-shaking surround sound system; to the sense of anticipation that comes from sitting in a snug, comfortable chair in a darkened room – it really is an incredibly unique atmosphere.

However, during lockdown more and more of us have got used to watching our favourite films in our living rooms. Now it’s easier than ever to bring the magic of the cinema into the comfort of your own home. Massive technological advances mean image quality has never looked more lifelike, and sound systems are richer, fuller and more powerful than ever before.

That said, the process of putting your home cinema system together isn’t always going to be a straightforward one. In this article we’ll lay out a few things to consider.

Room Layout

Before you even think about the sort of equipment you want to buy for your home cinema, you first need to consider the space you’ll actually be using. Room size will be a key factor here, and will determine the size and amount of equipment – and number of people – you’ll be able to accommodate.

After all, if the room you’re using is on the small side, a gigantic, oversized TV might make for exhausting viewing if you find yourself sat a few feet away from the screen. So consider how you’re going to lay things out, and use that to inform your purchasing decisions. Samsung, for instance, suggests that you should work out what size screen you should go for by measuring the distance between the screen itself and your couch or armchair (in inches), and then dividing that distance by two.

Home cinema set-up at Berkeley’s Royal Wells Park

Enjoy films in style at home: Royal Wells Park, Tunbridge Wells 

Screen or Projector?

Now you need to think about the star of the show: the screen. Do you want a traditional television, or a projector? Again, the sort of room you’re in could inform this decision, as rooms that let in plenty of natural light will likely work better with a television than a projector.

Then there’s the question of image quality. It can be easy to get bogged down in the various names and acronyms associated with TVs and projectors these days, but it’s HDR and 4K that you should really keep an eye out for. Put very simply, 4K relates to screen resolution, or the number of pixels that fit in a screen. The more pixels you have, the more detailed an image will be.

Arguably of greater importance is HDR, or High Dynamic Range. HDR10 is the most widespread form of HDR, but all forms – whether it’s HDR10+, Dolby Vision or HLG, essentially allow a TV or projector to better display the nuances and subtleties between the brightest and darkest colours on screen, to make an image look more lifelike. The good news is that most high-end screens and projectors now come with both HDR and 4K as standard. 8K screens are also slowly becoming available, but there’s very little content for them right now.

TV room at Berkeley’s Valencia Tower at 250 City Road

TV room at Valencia Tower at 250 City Road

Blu-Ray Player or Streaming Service?

It’s worth pointing out that to get the most out of your new HDR TV or projector, you’ll need to watch content that’s shot in HDR format. Luckily, this is very easy thanks to the widespread availability of streaming services and Ultra-HD Blu-ray players.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Disney+ all provide HDR content, so it’s really just a question of signing up to the service that has the films or TV shows you want to watch, and ensuring you have a suitably strong internet connection. Some services ask you to pay extra to get 4k. Alternatively if you prefer a physical movie collection, you can buy an Ultra-HD Blu-ray player, and individual films or box-sets to go with it.

Audio Set-Up

Do you go for a slick-looking, compact soundbar, or a more expansive multi-speaker surround sound set-up? For those with a large enough room, the full surround sound set-up will ultimately be the best shout.

Dolby Atmos is the latest in-home cinema surround sound technology. It builds upon the more traditional 5.1 and 7.1 set ups (whereby five or seven speakers work in conjunction with one subwoofer), by placing additional speakers in the ceiling for full 360-degree audio immersion – and the results are pretty astounding. These work in conjunction with a special Dolby Atmos AV receiver, which are available from a wide range of manufacturers.

Dolby Atmos enabled home cinema technology

Dolby Atmos offers the latest cinema surround sound technology
Image Credit: Dolby

That said, if you don’t fancy putting holes in your ceiling to house those additional speakers, you can buy special speaker packages that incorporate upward facing drivers that can bounce sound off the roof to give an overhead effect. Again, space and budget will ultimately determine what is feasible, but if you can go the whole hog it will be well worth it.

‘Now it’s easier than ever to bring the magic of the cinema into the comfort of your own home’ 

Samsung T-series soundbar and wireless subwoofer for 3-D surround sound

Samsung soundbar and wireless subwoofer for 3-D surround sound
Image Credit: Dolby