Delivering a Home “Cinema”

We see whole magazines dedicated to the art of Home Theater.  It is a huge industry and full of integrators and manufacturers delivering everything from a 42″ TV with a sound bar, to seven figure rooms with intense themes.

My question is, does proliferation of Home Theater help us as an industry?  I argue that it doesn’t.

As we water down the definition of Home Theater, the market for dedicated rooms has dwindled.  Even those with the space needed to do a 12 seat plus room are opting out.  I hear many blaming low cost products, or Amazon, or a box store.  I propose that we have not been delivering a cinema experience in the home consistently.

There are a couple of items that we need to address.  One is the scale of the screen.  The screen in a home cinema should replicate the scale of a screen at the movies.  It should take up 75% of  width of the wall it resides on.  It should fill the visual cone of the viewer.

Second is contrast.  Brightness is really about contrast.  Projectors don’t project black.  Black is the absence of light.  The deepest black can’t be darker than the color of the screen when everything is dark.  As you increase screen size, you have to increase brightness.  THX states brightness minimum at 150 relative contrast.  Fair ratings are 50-150.

The reason I bring this up is that I see new screens hitting the market doing 4k projection, which is 4x the resolution of 1080p.  They are selling it as the ultimate cinema experience.

I am all for crisper images, don’t get me wrong, but consider that the projector has to convert all images up to this resolution, as no machine you have in your home will output that resolution.

The other thing to look at is that these projectors are about 2000 lumens bright.  In a near pitch black room on a 100″ screen StudioTek G3 screen (reference grade) , this projector would barely hit the 100 mark in contrast, equating to “Good”.  You need at least 3000 lumens to get to the THX benchmark, IF the room is pitch black.

If you have a large room, lets say 14′ wide, and you want to scale the screen appropriately at 10′ wide, you now need 5500 lumens to get there.

Very few projectors on the market meet that level of brightness when calibrated properly for color temperature.  What good is having a bright image, if the colors are all wrong?

My point is that if we have been charging 10s to 100s of thousands of dollars for dedicated cinema rooms, and then not delivering cinema quality picture, with high contrast and color, then we have been devaluing the product.

Aligning with manufacturers like Runco, Christie, Digital Projection, and Projection Design is the only way to make sure you have the resources to deliver a true cinematic experience to the client, and that you deliver high value solutions, not just high dollar ones.

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