With the advent of the Internet, home media has gone from trips to the video store to on-demand entertainment with the touch of a button. Thanks to high-definition TV, going to the movies often means heading to your home theater to catch a flick. And with the right equipment, you can stream a movie online, sometimes the same day it's released in theaters.
Media rooms are no longer just for wealthy recluses. They're more common than ever before because high-tech equipment has been scaled toward the masses, so the expense for consumers isn't what it was in the 80s and 90s. Of course, there's still tons of fun stuff to spend a bunch of money on, depending on how fancy you want to get. Here are 10 high-tech ideas that will make your media room over the top.
There's no better way to capture the movie theater experience than to design your media room in the spirit of a classic cinema. Sofas and recliners are comfy, but try adding a couple of rows of actual movie theater seats for a true experience. And while you're at it, a throwback popcorn machine and soda fountain will really round out your snack bar. A set of remote-controlled, red velvet curtains can hide and reveal your home theater screen to add a touch of authenticity. Even if you have a classic theater design, it doesn't mean you can't have the latest high-tech equipment. Many home theaters that go with an old-school cinema look hide the gadgets behind classic design features.
No home theater experience is complete without a great movie viewing experience. There are all kinds of high definition TVs on the market, but if you really want to go high-tech, then you need a genuine pro-consumer theater screen. There are many different screen materials to choose from these days, and the price generally matches the quality. Some are better for brighter rooms, while others are meant for that darkened movie theater experience. Check with a home theater expert to learn what material and screen size is right for your room. These screens are pricey, but the viewing experience is unmatched and most of them retract into a case with a touch of a button.
There are lots of HDTVs to choose from for your media room, and if you want to spend some money, you can get one that's as large as a retractable home theater screen. That being said, most high-tech media rooms will skip the TV in favor of a digital projector. These projectors range in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and you pretty much get what you pay for. More expensive models will deliver a sharp theater-quality picture when matched with a good screen. But even less expensive units are passable for the average Joan.
So, you have your theater screen and your digital projector ready to roll, but your media room won't be complete without a high-tech sound system to match. Sometimes, sound gets overlooked by media room novices, but it accounts for a large portion of the home theater experience. True audiophiles will likely mix and match the components, while beginners may opt for an integrated system, commonly known as a home theater in a box. Either way, adding a high-tech sound system will really round out your home theater experience, complete with surround sound and booming bass.
For the true theater experience, you're going to want to crank up that surround sound. But what you don't want is your neighbors or sleeping children to experience it with you, so you may want to think about soundproofing your media room. They're not cheap, but soundproofed walls will accomplish two things: insulate the booming sound so you don't disturb the rest of the house and improve the sound in the room itself. Don't worry, we're not talking about those ugly gray foam acoustic tiles plastered all over your walls. You'll have many design-centric options to choose from, like fabric panels and even soundproof wallpaper.
It makes sense that many media rooms are tucked away in a basement for a dark, movie theater viewing experience. But if you want to go high-tech, then you can always set up in a room with windows that have retractable blackout shades. With the push of a button, your super sunny great room can be transformed into a dark, theaterlike space for a superior viewing experience.
Integrated Control System
The great thing about having a high-tech media room is all of the fun machines and gadgets. The not-so-great thing? All of the remotes required to run them. From inconvenient storage locations to the constant cycle of replacing batteries to the learning curve required to actually operate them, dealing with a bunch of remotes is just a big pain. But, if you're willing to spend some cash, you can actually get a system that integrates all of your controls into one touchpad. Imagine walking into your media room, dimming the lights, turning up the A/C, closing the shades and turning on your projector. But you're going to have to get your own popcorn.
High-tech gadgets need the right wires to perform to their full potential. Just like there are different grades of equipment, there are also different grades of wiring. Voice and data require a certain category, while video needs another. If you want a well-functioning room, this isn't an area you'll want to skimp on. If you're not familiar with coaxial this and fiber optic that, you may want to leave the job to a professional. Also, you'll need to figure out what to do with all the wire, because you don't want it running up and down your walls. If you're building, you can have it installed in the wall. If you're adding to an existing room, hide it behind baseboards and molding.
Media Servers and Digital Video Recorders
To truly make it a multi-media room, you don't want to be limited to just running movies. If you want a variety to play on the big screen, a media server will do the trick. Tying in a powerful PC means consistent access to personal photos and slideshows, home videos and even YouTube clips and games. And don't forget your digital video recorder, aka TiVo or DVR, to make sure you have your favorite TV shows on tap at the click of a button.
You're going to need a comfy seat from which to view this endless stream of entertainment, and if you're going to spend all of this time and money assembling a spectacular high-tech media room, you certainly don't want to go lo-fi with your furniture. Overstuffed sofas are a no-brainer, and if you're doing rows of seating, low profile sofas and chairs are ideal choices. Plush microfibers and buttery suedes are excellent choices for upholstery fabrics. You can go the traditional route, or choose furniture with built-in subwoofers and speakers that are specifically designed for media rooms.
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