How To Plan Your Entry Level Home Cinema

Finding information on many aspects of home entertainment, wireless, SMART homes, home cinema and home networking can be really tricky.

If you’re only asking basic “how to” questions, but the information you get back is in depth technical specifics, product descriptions, or professional level discussions including baffling jargon and acronyms, the information is useless. So, instead of confusing you with useless data, we break it down for you.

When I started researching this article I Googled “how to design your own home theatre” just to see what other home entertainment fans were doing. Wow! Those guys REALLY take home cinema seriously!

So, this blog is going to be about what the average home entertainment fan can do in their home to create the best viewing environment, without building a soundproofed extension and furnishing it with rows of suede armchairs. Instead, this will be about screen and surround sound location. But if you do have a mancave and want it turned into a theatre, you’re welcome too.

You can skip straight to the bulletpointed list now, or read on to see why we recommend doing things the way we do

First of all, decide which room you’re going to convert into a home theatre and entertainment centre. If you’re thinking you can just put a new surround sound system into the living room, think again. The room you choose will need to be dedicated to movies and games or the entire point of investing in the effort and equipment needed is lost.

Next you’ll need to set a budget. If you know the size of room you’re converting, and the type of movies you’re going to want to watch then you’ll also know the size of TV screen you want, the number of speakers required for the best sound and the size of furniture you can have in there. The price of the TV and separates is item 1 on your budget, but then it may be necessary to add carpet, comfortable furniture, and thick curtains to keep out light and muffle sounds.

As well as the AV equipment itself, think about lighting too. Too dim and you’ll need to turn it up every time you misplace the remote or game controller, too bright and it interferes with your immersion into the picture. Lighting which is controlled by your home hub would be perfect, but a dimmer switch will do for now.

As well as dark, heavy curtains to block out the light and noise from outside your house, it’s a good idea to get dark carpet or rugs cleaned timely by carpet cleaning riverside. These not only baffle the sound while adding a soft, comfortable surface underfoot, they reduce the ambient light in the room too. Paint the walls a muted colour too, or, better yet, use a noise reducing wallpaper.

Build a rack for all your equipment. All the different pieces of technology you’ll need soon mount up, and hoping to make sense of them all if they’re strewn about will become impossible. Building a rack will mean that they’re all in one place, neatly stacked but with all vents clear and the wiring loom will be much easier to make sense of too. Nobody wants wires all over the place, but if you don’t go completely wire free, you at least want the cabling to be neat and tidy with all lines neatly identified. Find a good universal remote control too. Having half a dozen different handsets all over the place, all getting lost, needing batteries gets very tiresome very quickly.

Next you need to start making it look like a luxurious home cinema. You’ll want to place the primary seating directly in front of the screen, at approximately 1.5 to 2.5 times as far away from the screen as the screen’s diagonal width and the primary speakers should be at eye level and equidistant from your head, ideally forming an equilateral triangle of left and right channels and your head. The secondary speakers need to be set up behind you, ensuring they’re on the right sides of the room, otherwise the stereo effect will be lost. The subwoofer can go under the TV, or directly behind you. Some say it should be aimed toward the head for the best sound, while others say “no, point it at your torso for a bone rattlingly intense experience!”

Ideally the maximum width of sofa will be two seats. Wider than that and the benefits of a wide screen and surround sound will be lost. If you’re planning on having more than two people at a time watching, don’t put additional seating alongside your primary viewing position, but behind.

When choosing what furniture to use, heavy, comfortable couches with fabric covers are best. As well as being comfortable to sit in for the duration of a movie or extended game-play, the fabric will deaden ambient sound. Other furniture should be kept to a minimum. Flat surfaces reflect sound back into the room which can affect the dynamic surround. Keeping curtains closed when you’re watching will also prevent the windows reflecting sound back into the room as well as keeping out bright sunlight or street lighting.

Another reason to keep furniture such as dressers, chests of drawers et cetera to a minimum is data and signal. If you decide to use wireless devices and wireless speakers interference can come from many sources, and objects in between a signal source and the receiving device can reduce the strength of the signal, which in turn affects the output.

Finally, KISS. Keep It Simple, Seriously. Too much clutter, too many boxes and devices needing to be plugged in, swapped over, or charged, too much cable, are irritants. Even pictures and posters on the wall which can cause reflections and detract the eye all interfere with your viewing pleasure. You don’t want a bare room, but a zen-like peaceful space, at least until the opening titles run, is a must.

 

Now for that bulletpoint list:

• Dedicate your space to movies and games

• Set a budget, and tweak your expectations accordingly

• Think about how you’re going to light the room

• Use soft furnishings such as curtains and rugs to muffle sound and light

• Keep your home cinema clutter free

• Plan the layout of the room, speakers, subwoofer, screen and seating

• Use heavy fabric furniture for comfort and noise deadening

• Think about signal and data, keep the line of sight between radio sources and receivers such as wireless speakers clear

• And finally, keep it simple

Seasonal Security, Don’t Give The Burglars A Happy Christmas

Christmas time is a time for families to spend time together. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and all that. So you might think that home security is something that can take a back seat, since even burglars have homes and families who want to see them at Yuletide.

Or so you might think. The reality is that while burglaries increase over the summer, they also spike around Christmas time. Because extended families like to get together households will be on the move as they do the round robin, paying visits to mum, dad, grandparents, then the inlaws, making a surprising number of properties empty all day for several days in a row. And because all the attention is focused inwards, people are less aware of what’s happening in the gloomy, rainy, cold streets where they live.

Christmas also means outings and shopping trips which can drag on for hours. This gives unwanted visitors ample time to observe your home and chance their arm if they’re confident you’re tied up elsewhere.

And your home will offer rich pickings too. All your old property, and all the presents under the tree too, make Christmas a bonanza for intruders. So how can you use basic every day tech to make your home safer? Read more

The Wireless World’s Guilty Secret: Wires!

Start Living Your Life Clutter Free

When you’re thinking about installing your Smart Home WiFi, entertainment and security devices certain things make themselves annoyingly apparent. Cables.

Every electronic device naturally needs its own power supply, notwithstanding the application is ‘wireless’. Wireless speakers still need to be connected to the mains, even if they don’t need to be connected to the amplifier or TV. To keep up with the power supply demands means using all the available power points or littering your home with extension cables. And suddenly becoming ‘unwired’ is looking like more and more of an impossibility.

If we look at the case of wireless speakers a good deal of the problems with going ‘wireless’ come to a head. Despite the fact that the drivers don’t need to be connected to the device which is playing the sound, they do still need a power supply, so they need to be located near a power point, or have a long extension cable running to them. Wireless speakers also have a certain range. Take them too far away and they start to show a reduction in sound quality. They can also experience interference from microwaves, phones, and other wireless devices. None of these problems exist if there is a cable running to the speaker, although the wire can be unsightly, and pose a potential trip hazard.

With the advent of flat screen TVs it’s been possible to hang the screen on an interior wall. They take up almost no space and are easily located out of harm’s way. The down-side is that this means having several cables running up an otherwise blank section of wall. Read more

Horrify Your Home at Halloween

Halloween has always been one of my favourite holidays. I love horror movies, the dressing up, the sweets and tasty treats as the leaves turn, and then it’s just a week to Guy Fawkes night and all the fun that fireworks and bonfires bring. What could be better?

But it just occurred to me how much more fun you can have with a wireless home hub haunting your home.

Let’s face it, when you think about it, a home hub is a little bit like being haunted by a really helpful ghost. You shout out the name and a disembodied voice calls back, answering your questions and doing things, moving things about, turning lights on and off, even making the temperature drop, if you tell it to turn on the AC!

Scooby Doo-ify Your Home And Garden

Let’s take a walk through the gates of your GeoFence and look at what can be done to make your home automatically spooky. Many brands of security cameras and wireless access systems allow you to have a conversation with callers at your door, and motion detectors will turn security lights on as soon as anyone approaches. If you have ‘If This Then That’ (IfTTT) enabled devices you can create a light and soundscape using switches to turn on any number of Halloween tricks. They don’t need to be smart themselves, just activated by a smart plug. Smart speakers can be set to come to life, screaming, moaning, or playing spooky sounds as your visitors walk up the garden path.

Once your Trick or Treaters have made it past the first line of defence, they are free to press on your doorbell. Greet them with compliments or curses regarding their costumes. If they’re guests to your Halloween party, unlock the door remotely, with a chilling creak (pre-recorded if you don’t happen to have a squeaky door on hand) and invite them in…

Once they’re over the threshold they can experience your home of eerie chills while you let them stew. Turn lights on and off, play music or sound effects, even create different playlists to play in different rooms, creating different moods for each area. Your interior security can identify not only movement, but whether that movement is a person or a pet. Use IfTTT to set off different events such as animating skeletons and giggling witches if anybody dare move.

You can set the lights to come on and off automatically as people pass through the house, and light activated switches can turn anything on and off, such as spooky smelling air fresheners, (I don’t know, mouldy pumpkin?) and electronic spooky Halloween shower curtains. (no, I’m not making that up!)

Basically, if you can plug it in, you can use technology to make it come on and stop again remotely, seemingly as if by magic. But if you’re getting into the party spirit, a smart home hub can be incredibly helpful with that too.

Doing your research. I didn’t know about electronic spooky shower curtains until I googled Halloween gadgets, and you can do that kind of research from your armchair with a smart tv. You can not only look up the recipes for seasonal food and drink, but look up uncommon treats too, and when you’ve found them, order them to be delivered to your door, all the while getting on with other more fun activities such as carving Jack-o-Lanterns or whipping up a wicked witches outfit.

These are just a few ideas we came up with to make Halloween a little bit spookier this year using wireless smart home technology. If you can think of any others, let us know on Twitter or via our Facebook page. We can’t wait to hear your ideas!

WiFi Security. Keeping Your Data, Privacy And Property Safe

CCTV From Anywhere In The World

We keep hearing about how cutting public spending on police and the reduction of police numbers is having an effect on crime throughout the UK. The news is full of stories of crime, antisocial behaviour and neighbour-disputes spilling over into harassment and worse. And while we don’t want to be harbingers of doom, or profit from fear or anxiety, it’s always wise to protect your home, no matter what.

While a CCTV security camera doesn’t directly lead to a reduction or discount on your home and contents insurance, home security cameras are becoming increasingly popular among home owners as a deterrent to opportunist criminals. According to cardoe martin, witness expert, if you and your neighbours successfully avert crime in your postcode area it’s considered safer, and consequentially has lower premiums.

Wireless CCTV cameras, intercoms, access controls and doorbells are all available in many high-street electronics retailers and offer a good deal of reassurance. Because they’re wireless, they’re incredibly easy to install and can send images and alerts to your TV, laptop, or phone, meaning you can see who’s on your property when you’re busy, away from home, or simply not in the mood to open the door to people. Wire used to be one of the greatest barriers to entry when investing in access control and CCTV for the home. If the wire was damaged, accidentally or deliberately, or there was an interruption in the power supply, the camera was useless and they were fixed immediately by United PLumbing Heating Air & Electric. Wireless cameras run on batteries or solar cells, and can be triggered by motion detectors (which can also trigger lighting). The cameras will also send you a text or email when the batteries are running low or there’s a problem with the cell drawing power from the sun. Many security cameras also come fitted with speakers and mics too, meaning that you can converse directly with anyone you see outside your house.

A smart access system allows you to talk to visitors, or intruders and trespassers, remotely without having to come to the door. Brilliant if you’re out but you’ve been made aware of a stranger on your property, or you’re not able to take a delivery. If you’re elderly, have mobility issues, or you find that the delivery guy ALWAYS wanders off before you can get to the door, then a wireless intercom will be life changing! If you can ask people what they want before you answer the door you can let them know it will take you time to get to the door, you can ignore them, or ask them to come back another time. You could be in the bath, at work, or on holiday abroad, they’d have no way of knowing. Read more

Decoding The Jargon; What To Look For When Buying Your First Home Cinema

Home Cinema InstallationOnce you’ve decided that you’re going to install a home cinema or audio visual system, one of the hardest things to find is information on the best products for your situation. Because of the myriad variables involved, there is clearly no ‘one sizer fits all’ solution, you need to put together your own package yourself. But where do you start if you’ve never done this kind of thing before?

Naturally, your first port of call is going to be to ask the experts, but searching online brings up an awful lot of jargon and system specifications that will mean nothing to you if you’ve not already incredibly savvy with the home AV market. And because your home is unique, and your taste in music, favourite TV shows and movies is something that’s personal to you, the system you end up with will look very different to anybody else’s. If you like to relax to classical music, like wildlife documentaries and watching costume dramas your system’s spec will be entirely different to an entertainment system which has been set up for someone who likes pop, and watches loud Hollywood action blockbusters. So you’ll have to weigh up which HDTV, soundbar, amp, speaker brand, speaker surround format.. And you’re confused already aren’t you? So why don’t we break down some of the tech talk so you know what these terms all mean when you’re trying to decide what to invest your money in. First of all, let’s start by looking at the most common acronyms that you’re likely to hear about when shopping for a home theatre.

Clearing Up The Digital Tech-Speak

• 3.1, 5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound indicates the setup of the speakers you are using with your TV. 3.1 means that you are running three speakers, plus a subwoofer, while 5.1 would mean that you’re running a 5 speaker surround sound setup, with one subwoofer. It follows that 7.1 consists of 7 speakers and a subwoofer. A subwoofer is a bass speaker which handles the low end sounds, going below the audible range, so a powerful subwoofer will make snarling engines, explosions and the growling of monsters reverberate through the body, as well as being heard.

• ATST 3.0 stands for “Advanced Television Systems Committee standard version 3” and is a method of broadcasting TV to an antenna (also known as ‘over the air’ or OTA) which allows for 4k and superior sound. 4k is the latest high definition standard which means that the signal is designed to give high definition to a screen up to 4,000 pixels wide. You will be able to plug an ATST device into your tv which will wirelessly connect to your WiFi router

• DTH or DTHTV simply stands for ‘direct to home’ or ‘direct to home television’ and is the signal your satellite dish picks up.

• DTH splitters are devices which enable you to split the cable leading from your satellite dish to more than one decoder or box, making it possible to watch more than one channel from one dish. If you live in a communal building or apartment block, these devices make it possible for multiple homes to each receive satellite TV without having to have a separate dish fitted for each residence.

• FTA stands for ‘free to air’ and means the basic package of free TV channels you will get with any system.

• HDMI stands for ‘high definition multimedia interface’ and is an interface by which video and audio can be sent to a variety of different compatible devices, such as hifis, digital projectors, TV and computer monitors.

• LNB is a ‘low noise block downconverter’ and is the device that sits in the parabola of your satellite dish, picking up the signals and sending them into your home. The reason why you would consider which LNB is best depends on the TV you want to watch. If you just want a standard TV package there are plenty on the market, but if you want to watch Sky+ or Sky+HD or if you want the ability to run more than one tuner, which will make it possible to watch one channel while recording another, then you will need to carefully consider which LNB best suits your needs.

• LNB Skew isn’t a product or service, it is literally the skew of your satellite receiver. If the dish or LNB are angled even slightly wrong, the picture quality will suffer. Professional service and maintenance will mean that your dish will always be aligned correctly. With the work carried out by qualified personnel, such as those employed by Briant Communications, quality and safety are guaranteed

• PVR or DVR stands for either Personal or Digital Video Recorder. It’s a device which, as the name suggests, allows you to record digital TV. You can record direct to the PVR’s internal hard drive, a USB device such as a memory stick or an SD memory card such as found in digital dSLRs or video cameras, making to possible to remove the recorded programmes and watch them elsewhere.

• SCART is an acronym of Syndicat des Constructeurs d’Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs or ‘syndicat of radio and television equipment manufacturers’ and refers to the cable which connects DVD, DVR, video, computers and games to a TV. A SCART lead will have a 21 point plug on at least one end, the other could have one of many different connectors which will be appropriate to the device you wish to connect.

• Smart TV is a home AV system which is connected to the internet. If you want to watch BBC iPlayer, Youtube videos, listen to internet radio or Spotify and Netflix, you can do it all via your Hi-Def widescreen large Smart TV. Some Smart TVs can even be used as Smart hubs, making it possible to control all of your Smart devices from your TV.

• VSAT or ‘very small aperture terminal’ is satellite technology which delivers not only TV, but data as well. Used by business and domestic consumers, it allows you to watch TV at home, and also connects you to the internet. Because the equipment required is compact, reliable, simple to use, and lightweight, it’s VSAT technology which users such as explorers and search and rescue teams take out into the field to connect with home.