Theater Rooms are awesome, lets be real about it. Who doesn't want to watch movies or game on a giant screen from the comfort of their own home?
But they're too expensive...
$1265 - That's how much it cost for me to build my theater room. For a comparison, the 60" 1080p Sony in my living room cost $1050, plus another 150-200 for the sound bar so that I could actually hear my TV. So my living room setup is closer to $1200-1250. It's not insignificant, but it is totally doable.
The theater room amount also includes seating, if you have already have furniture, knock off $450. BOOM! Theater room for $815.
I'm going to take you through the steps I took in creating my own little theater room and hopefully provide you with some good tips in creating one yourself.
Step 1: Measure & Plan, Plan & Measure
This is the most important step in the entire process. Break out your measuring tape and figure out your room. You're going to want the length, width and height of the room.
Are you going to mount the screen? If so Wall or Ceiling? You're going to want to find a stud finder and measure out the studs on the wall or the joists in the ceiling. In my case, the joists in my ceiling weren't spaced standard widths apart, which made a ceiling mount for a 120" screen a difficult prospect. Ultimately I decided to go with a free standing screen. High quality, simple set up, no mounting required. You can also paint a wall with specially designed screen paint.
How big of a screen do you want? There are many formats for calculating "throw" which is the size screen that can be projected based on a projectors location. You can look up the formulas and calculate what the "ideal" is. ProjectorCentral.com has a built in calculator on it, where you can choose your projector and it gives you all the calculations. Below are the results for my particular projector. For most, a 100" screen will be more than sufficient, I however am a crazy person and wanted that 120".
So for a 116" screen, it is recommended to sit 12' back. I will say there is some leeway to this. Base it on what is comfortable to you. This could be a little closer or even further back. If you can buy the projector first and project on a blank wall to test screen sizes and what you are comfortable with, I HIGHLY recommend it. Doing this will help prevent buyer's remorse from either wasting money buying a screen that is too large for you to use all of the viewable area or a screen that is smaller than what your room is actually capable of.
Step 2: Finding Your Projector
Projectors range from pretty cheap to expensive. You're typically going to notice 5 resolutions: XGA, SXGA, WXGA, HD720 and HD1080. Right away, you're going to want to eliminate the first 2 resolutions. XGA and SXGA just do not have the picture quality you're going to want. WXGA is the best of those 3 options and some of the projectors even have 16:9 modes to give you a resolution pretty close to 720P. That said, the minimum I really recommend is 720p.
What you purchase is likely going to come down to cost. This is my first attempt at a theater room and I wanted to spend close to as little as possible to get a decent room together. Also if things didn't work out, I'd have less buyer remorse. So I decided on 720p as my resolution. You'll see that 720p projectors price points start at $500+. However, there is a way to get them cheaper. As far as other settings go, I would just make sure the projector you choose has built in image correction tools, will help you to get the best looking image after mounting.
I chose to go with a manufacturer refurbished Epson 730HD. This decision saved me $150 off the cost of the projector, bringing the total to $350. When buying refurbished products, pay attention to who did the refurb. Since it was done by the manufacturer, it also came with a 2 year warranty, a nice piece of mind for buying a refurbished product.
Step 3: Finding a Screen
So by now you've decided how you're going to mount the screen: ceiling, wall, floor or paint. I will say this, if you are painting, take special care to cover any imperfections in the wall you are painting first, you WILL notice these imperfections with a projected image and they can be quite distracting. Screen paint is also pretty expensive, you likely won't save that much money over just buying a screen.
Going back to step 1, you've measured what your optimum screen size should be, or you got your projector early and have sized it out to what you'd like. Similar to how TV's are, as the size goes up, you are going to pay more; as the quality goes up, you know you are going to have to pay more; the more features there are... you get the point.
I'm still new to this, so I do not really have screen preferences. I advise you, like any other product, to read several reviews from several sources (good, bad, middle of the road). I chose to go with the 120" Yardmaster 2 by Elite Screens, 4 1/2 Stars on amazon with 151 reviews $180, seemed like a good place to start. It was also freestanding, something that was a need for me.
Step 4: The Sound
My projector came with a single Mono speaker in it, not really the best in terms of a theater room. Your selection of sound options is pretty much limitless. It really boils down to how much you want to spend and how much work you want to put into how you mount all of the speakers.
Again, I was keeping this a budget build, so I opted to go with a sound bar. I chose an open box Samsung 400 series. By going open box I saved about $100-150, paying only around $260 for it. This set up included the Sound bar, a wireless sub and wireless rear satellite speakers. And for $260 it sounds fantastic.
The most important feature, is the HDMI pass through. It's important to take a look at your projector before investing in the sound system. My projector in particular has NO audio out. So I had to make sure I had a solution that pass the sound through separately from the video. The HDMI pass through allows to cut down on extra cabling, especially when you have multiple input needs.
Step 5: Mounting
By this point you've decided how you're going to mount everything. While some room setups don't allow for it, it is best to try to center the projector and screen. There should be those tools to help straighten the image if you're a little bit off, but do your best. Most screens come ready to be mounted right into the wall or ceiling, just get the hardware and get it into the joist/studs. The projector can be ceiling mounted, placed on a high shelf or on a table. I recommend ceiling or shelf mounting, it can be pretty frustrating to reconfigure the screen if your projector gets moved. Again, go by reviews on anything you're going to be purchasing. I paid maybe $25 for my mount, had solid reviews and does the trick.
IF YOU CEILING MOUNT MAKE SURE YOU HAVE IT INTO A JOIST! Last thing you want is this falling out of the drywall and right onto your head.
Step 6: Seating
Whatever you choose here is up to you. Most important thing is that you're comfortable. We ended up purchasing a couple "Theater Recliners" from Walmart for $150 each. For the price you can't really beat them. Comfortable, have a nice recline, in 3 weeks I've fallen asleep in one of them at least twice.
-Projector lamps: the lamp in a projector won't last as long as a TV, so it will need to be replaced every 1-2 years. You can find both refurbed and compatible lamps to save money on this. Just be prepared, this WILL happen eventually.
- HDMI switch: Can buy these pretty cheap on Amazon, way better than getting up to switch HDMI every time you want to change inputs
- TV Stand: Depending on how low your screen hangs, you might not have a lot of room for a stand to keep all of your consoles/video equipment. The LACK TV stand from Ikea is on $50, low to the ground and has a lot of room because of its length. I'll be picking one up during my next trip to Ikea.
- Blackout Curtains: Is your theater room anywhere other than the basement? You're gonna want these. Walmart sells these cheap Eclipse blackout curtains for $10 a panel. Put these up in the room and you're good to watch any time of day.
- Hide the cables: Do your best, you can pick up an outlet cover/wall chase from Home Depot for under $10.
- Make it your own: Add art to the walls, throw a popcorn machine in there, whatever you want. It's your theater/gaming room, throw your own custom flair on it
Eventually I will replace the projector with something 1080p and get a proper sound system installed, but right now I couldn't be happier with how this room came out. It's easily my favorite room in the house.