‘We Don’t Need a Home Theater’

I participated in a panel discussion at CEDIA EXPO where the subject was the trend away from “dedicated theaters” toward “mixed-use rooms.”
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How to Cater to the Trend Toward Multi-Use Rooms

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Sam Cavitt (samcavitt@medesign.tv)

is president of Paradise Theater in Kihei,

Hawaii, and Carlsbad, California. I participated in a panel discussion at CEDIA EXPO where the subject was the trend away from “dedicated theaters” toward “mixed-use rooms.” The premise of the discussion was that more and more clients are saying, “We really don’t need a dedicated theater–just a multi-use space for TV, movies, sports, and socializing.”

Although my company is busier than ever designing and completing private theaters, we are also seeing requests for mixed-use rooms, too. We are, however, noticing a significant inaccuracy in perception that is perpetuated by both clientele and consultants alike. It comes back to how the statement above is expressed. The words “don’t need” and “just��� cut right to the point.

The general perception is that if a room is not going to be a “dedicated” theater, then it will be something less. The truth is that mixed-use rooms can provide extraordinary experiences, in many cases as good as any dedicated space. The other side of that truth is that to deliver extraordinary experiences in mixed-use spaces, more attention to design and engineering is required.

Here are five essential elements of high-performance private theaters that will still be needed in multi-use rooms.

A Distraction-Free Environment

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One recent Paradise Theater client decided he that didn’t “need” a home theater when designing his dream home but wanted a really great place where he and his friends could hang out, watch movies and sports, play pool, and rock out. The result is a fun room that far exceeded the client’s expectations. A distraction can be anything from extraneous noise, inappropriate light, foot traffic, etc.–anything that interrupts the experience. Some notable examples are:

„„• Multiple or Inadequate Doorways. Many mixed-use spaces are centrally located, which often means more than one entry point and sometimes non-separated entries to the room. To provide a space that can be sound and light controlled, these doorways must be designed for sound and light control doors and closures that will accommodate the expectations of the client.

„„• Windows. Windows allow light to enter and sound to enter and escape. It takes design and planning to solve this form and function dilemma elegantly.

• „„Multiple Functions. Many mixed-use spaces are inclusive of activities that, by their nature will be distracting. We are currently working on a project attached to a kitchen. While it is impossible to entirely isolate the sounds from the kitchen, we can design some elements to minimize the impact. We must also advise the client in terms they understand about what the net performance result will be.

Balanced Acoustical Performance

Mixed-use rooms may have an even greater requirement for acoustical design. A careful analysis of the audio as well as additional sound sources within the room must be performed to assure good results for all parties.

Proper Space Planning for Viewing, Listening and More

Listening positions, viewing positions, sight lines, speaker positions, and all of the typical theater planning must still be provided but with the added complexity of integrating the requirements of the additional usages.

Proper Equipment to Support the Space

The requirements of mixed-use rooms can actually increase performance requirements. For instance, dealing with high ambient light conditions may require a rear-projection system to provide satisfactory results.

Integration with Aesthetics

In mixed-use spaces, the integration of acoustical treatments with décor normally found in these types of rooms can be more challenging as well. With planning and creative design, however, the results can be superb, both in look as well as performance.

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