Sunday, July 4, 2010

Five common mistakes to avoid in a home theater project

If you are building a home theater in your basement this summer, please pay attention to avoid these common mistakes.

1. Building the room with an incorrect length to width ratio
This can severely impact the room acoustics. A square room or 2:1 room will be an acoustic nightmare. Choose the ratio which can give the best acoustic performance.

2. Putting the door at the back of the room
This is OK if you have a long room with ample walking space behind the rear row of seats. Otherwise, it will rob valuable seating space.

3. Using a double door
This may look elegant, but sound insulation will be a challenge. With a single door, it is easier to get better sound insulation.

4. Selecting the wrong screen size
Having a huge screen, covering the entire width of the room may look impressive, but may not give you the best viewing experience. The screen size should be carefully calculated based on the room length, width, seating distance, type of video mostly watched, and projector light output.

5. Incorrect speaker placement
Most people these days go for 7.1 speaker system. If you do not place the speakers correctly, you will not get the proper surround effect. Ideally front center speaker should be at the same level as the left and right speakers. This is difficult with a TV. But if you are using a projector and screen, go for an acoustically transparent screen which will allow you to place the center speaker directly behind the screen.

Here is a piece of advice

Home theater can be a fun DIY (Do It Yourself) project. But to do it correctly, you will need a great amount of knowledge and will need to do a lot of research. Otherwise you may come up with faulty design, wrong equipment selection and incorrect set up. These are costly mistakes difficult to fix later. A modern home theater is a complex system which is beyond the knowledge and experience of most DIY homeowners. Due to this, it is wise to pay a professional to design, build and setup your dream theater.

Many people do the mistake of engaging a professional when it is too late. If the room is already finished, it is too late. There may be so many mistakes in the design which cannot be fixed. If the framing is done, but drywall is not installed, it is a slightly better situation. At least, the in-wall cabling can be done correctly.

The ideal time to engage a professional is at the planning stage before you finalize the layout of your basement.

If you decide to engage a professional, look for a company certified by CEDIA. A home theater is probably the largest investment in your dream home, so you wouldn't trust it to just any wire puller. Please watch this six minutes video ( to learn about the advantages of engaging a CEDIA member.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

For getting 3D, you don’t need a second mortgage.

In my last post, I predicted that the first generation 3D products will be very expensive.

I was wrong. First generation products from Panasonic and Samsung are available in stores for nearly a month now. You can get a 46” or 50” 3D 1080P TV, a 3D blu-ray player and two pairs of 3D glasses for around $3,000. 3D capable receivers (HDMI 1.4) are being launched for as low as $329.

With products from other manufacturers hitting the market, the prices will definitely drop and may drop significantly by the holiday season this year. So I will not be surprised if you are able to buy a 46” 3D TV for around $1,000 within two years.

Anybody planning to buy a new TV should seriously consider the 3D option or play the waiting game until the dust clears and the prices drop to much more affordable levels.

Personally, I will wait for at least a year before switching to 3D. By that time,
  • More content will be available in 3 D format.
  • Prices will be at least 40% lower than today’s levels.
  • Second or third generation products will be available with more maturity in technology, features and standards.
I will be attending a webinar on 3D TV tomorrow and will post another update.

Stay tuned….

Monday, February 22, 2010

3D is ready for your home. Are you ready?

Last September, I attended the annual CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association conference and expo in Atlanta .
Almost all major TV manufacturers and couple of projector manufacturers were demonstrating their prototypes of 3D products. A huge 103 inch 3D plasma TV from Panasonic and $55,000 3D projector from Digital Projection ( ) were attracting large crowds.
The demos were very impressive. Images were lifelike. Finally, full color full HD 3D is going to be a reality for consumers. Products are expected this spring and at least 50 titles of blu-ray movies are to be released soon.
Standards for 3D TV and blu-ray are being finalized. This time it is going to be a major change for the way we watch video at home. It may be the greatest thing to happen for home video since we switched from black & white to color. Even the switch from standard resolution video to HD video did not create such an impact.
While the manufacturers are praising this new standard, we have to wait and see how the consumers are reacting to it. There are several roadblocks to overcome before 3D becomes mainstream.
  1. Investment - You need new 3D capable equipments. New TVs, new blu-ray players etc. The initial models are not going to be cheap. Even if you can afford, are you willing to spend more money over what you have just spent for the latest flat screen TV?
  2. Lack of programming material - Initially, the availability of 3D programming material will be an issue. majority of material you will be watching will be still on 2D. Will you spend large amount of money for 10% of the material you watch? This will of course change when sports broadcasts switch to 3D HD and hundreds of blu-ray movie titles are available.
  3. New HDMI version - Full HD (1080P) 3D will need HDMI 1.4. This means all the receivers in the market today which supports HDMI 1.3 video switching and processing making them incompatible with the new 3D format. Do we have to get new receivers?
  4. Inconvenience - Wearing  3D glasses for long durations is certainly not comfortable. If you are already having glasses, you have to wear 3D glasses over them.
  5. Puppet show effect – The moment you wear the 3D glasses, our brain perceives the image as smaller in size. I could feel this even on the huge I-MAX screen while watching Avatar in 3D. Imagine watching 3D on a 46” TV. Except for real close up scenes, everything will appear like a puppet show. Over the years, our brains may get adjusted it to it. With early televisions, people might have experienced the same. Till then, they had seen video images only on a big screen in a dark theater. Now they are watching tiny images in a small box. Then we got used to it. Same thing may happen with 3D.
  6. Impact - For telling a good story, do you really need 3D? If the movie is bad, can 3D technology make it any better?  Except for science-fiction and action movies, sports events and nature documentaries,  will 3D significantly enhance viewers experience?
 Anyway, 3D is ready to enter your  home in 2010. But the question is “are you ready?”.  It may take several years before the format becomes mainstream. Till then, it may be a luxury available to a minority – the early adopters, and the filthy rich!