Trends in home entertainment and theatre rooms
What’s new in home theatre and entertainment? Everything… literally! With the cost of home electronics dropping every year, more Australians are taking a multi-spaces, multi-use approach to their home entertainment.
While home theatre remains its own category, the lines are blurring. Home automation, web-based mobile apps and streaming internet content are converging. The home theatre experience is becoming the integrated entertainment component of today’s homeowner-centric ‘smart home’ that includes security, lighting, heating and cooling and convenience. It’s all accessible, programmable and definitely cool.
So, with technology surging ahead, what’s in store for the home entertainment and home theatre aficionado? Some of today’s trends include:
1. Multiple screens
An increasingly popular trend is the use of dual and multiple screens. This trend reflects the ever-growing options in entertainment that exist in today’s home. Multiple screens can mean two or more flat-panel TVs on the same wall. A flat-panel TV for casual, everyday viewing that gets covered by a larger front-projection screen for movies and major events, or even screens on various walls in a room, which is a popular arrangement in rooms that function as party or entertainment spaces. Why so many screens? Our choices are now so vast that people often don’t want to be restricted to just one option in a room.
2. The hybrid space
Home theatre, media room, game room, family centre… it doesn’t matter much what you call it, as long as it includes two main components – a sound system and a display device. After those two criteria, what passes for a media room varies greatly.
Many people are combining their media viewing rooms with other purpose rooms such as game rooms and even living rooms. This trend is the result of so many different media sources. Today’s homes use their screens to enjoy content from gaming systems, Blu-ray players and streaming media devices.
And instead of the traditional look of a dedicated home theatre, more people are taking a hybrid approach – i.e. the incorporation of more traditional furniture (sofa and chaise lounge seating) instead of specialty theatre seating and applying lighter colours to the walls.
Why this shift? Many people want a home theatre experience, but they don’t want to limit the room to just one use. Single-family homes usually only have one room to spare, so making it a multipurpose room ensures the systems installed are used more frequently and by more members of the family.
3. Social networking
As we get more and more connected with friends and family, we are seeing media rooms being used more for social media. You might not think about the quality of your home network when planning your home theatre, but think about where your content is coming from. When you add dedicated streaming devices, smart TVs and networked gaming consoles, it’s clear that the internet is the most important source for most people’s entertainment. It’s also true that streaming content isn’t as high-quality as Blu-ray or CD, but that is bound to improve. All of this means that home networks are getting pushed to their limits, in versatility and reach.
Smartphones and tablets are not only being used to change channels and control the volume of our theatre, they’re also acting as secondary viewing screens. Social media is driving a lot of this, with users tweeting or posting status updates while watching movies or TV shows.
4. Floor standing and soundbar speakers
The types of speakers being incorporated into media rooms is changing too. There is a trend in people using floor standing and bookshelf speakers rather than in-wall speakers. The media room is still a special destination room, so users want a good experience. In-wall speakers are great if you want to hide all of the equipment, but floor standing and surface-mounted on-wall speakers produce the clearest audio.
Entry-level and midrange home theater-in-a-box systems are giving way to soundbar/subwoofer systems because they offer an easy way to fill a room with audio. Built-in audio processing, Bluetooth, wireless subwoofers and one-remote operation are making those systems attractive options for people looking to upgrade from poor-sounding TV speakers.
It may seem dubious to call this a trend, but the fact is, the price of home theatre products has dropped significantly while features and performance continue to improve.
Take projectors. Companies like Epson, Mitsubishi, JVC and others offer very good 3D projectors at half the cost of comparable projectors two years ago.
What can you do to treat your entertainment experience that little bit more?
Here are some ideas:
Today’s quick-twitch breakthrough and marketing darling, 3D technology is fast becoming the latest must-have audiovisual treat.
Now, major appliance makers are cranking out 3-D capable TVs and Blu-ray DVD players, while gaming producers and movie/television studios are wakening to the growing appetite for 3D content. Already, 3D television broadcast channels from ESPN, Discovery and Direct TV are a reality.
Internet streaming capabilities
Bringing internet content into home theatre is probably the most important development in the home theatre experience. No longer confined to DVD movies and Super Bowl parties, HT is the venue for consuming all types of content. You can get news, weather, games, music, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more with a flick of your trusty thumb.
Internet-enabled devices include televisions, Blu-ray disc players, receivers and gaming consoles, such as Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
Internet-enabled Blu-ray players are a current favorite, owing to the fact that they’re already a highly desirable home entertainment component, and they sport a relatively low entry price. You can get a top-quality, high-definition, Internet-enabled player with built-in Wi-Fi for less than $250.
Video projectors and lampless LED technology
One classic definition of home theatre is that it includes a video projector and a screen the size of a double garage door. For many aficionados, that definition still holds true.
For those who prefer the jumbo-screen format that usually means a projector capable of producing an image ranging from 70 to 200 inches (measured diagonally). Room lighting is critical, as screens are washed out by stray light. A darkened room – characteristic of big theatre ambience – is essential.
Prices for a high-def 1080p projector range from $1,000 to $3,000, and reach upward of $10,000 at the very high end. Throw in a retractable screen for $1,000 to $2,000, add a light-controlled viewing room, and the price of classic home theatre rises quickly for a medium that’s not necessarily conducive to casual television or streaming media viewing.
Making sound decisions
Sound reproduction quality for home media continues to benefit from innovation and excellence. The trend is toward more compact, wireless systems that are increasingly affordable for the average audiophile and home theatre buff.
Digital sound projectors (DSP)
These are a subset of the sound bar. In a DSP, each speaker features its own amplifier, all electronically controlled to fire at various ranges and speeds that provide ultra-realistic sound reproduction.
Free your audio system from hardwired connections (obviously) and give your sound design more flexibility and convenience. While you still need to plug your wireless subwoofer into a wall outlet, you’ll gain a lot of creative options for placement. You’ll spend $200 to $400 for top brands.