How To Create A Light Controlled Home Cinema / Theater Room With Blackout Blinds & Material
If you have a home theater / cinema then to get the best out of it you'll need a light controlled room. This guide will help you to black the room out for the best possible picture quality.
It doesn't cost much and the results and picture improvement are astounding. Let's get on with it!
Why would I want to black the room out again?
If you have a projector or a tv then if you are watching it in a white room then you're not getting the most out of the picture, or the whole movie experience. This is maybe not so much of an issue if you've never noticed it, but have a think about what it's like when you watch a film at a cinema / theater. The place is dark, so unless you're unlucky and have kids in there shuffling around and throwing popcorn, you're focussing fully on the film that you're watching. The less the room influences the picture you see, the better the experience is.
There are a few reasons why it is more immersive and the picture is better quality when watching in a fully light controlled room.
Firstly if you have a normal room, with white walls, then the problem is that the light that comes from the screen bounces off the ceiling and walls, which lights up the rest of the room. Apart from that being distracting in its own right, you need to have the brightness up fairly high so you actually see the picture. As projectors can't project black, then this means that the higher you have the brightness, the greyer blacks become. If you're in a light controlled room where you've installed blackout curtains / panels etc, then you can have the brightness lower and still get the same visual effect, which improves the blacks.
There is also a phenomenom called perceived contrast. Take a look at the following picture.
Which is darker, A or B?
In this well known picture, squares A and B are actually the same colour. It doesn't look like they are, but the reason for that is we perceive white / black only in relation to the surroundings. In case you don't believe those are the same colour, here's another pic with a bar drawn between the two squares that is exactly the same colour, which shows the squares are in fact completely identical.
They're the same. That is the phenomenon of perceived contrast.
As you can see from that image, the way your eyes work is firstly quite strange and secondly massively influenced by what surrounds whatever it is that we're looking at. Your eyes compensate without you realising, which is what happens when you look at the first picture above. If everything is black apart from the screen in your home cinema / theater, it makes the colours and whites on screen pop out and look brighter and more vivid. So it's pretty clear that performing a blackout operation is important, but how do you do it?
A simple way to blackout your walls is to make frames out of 3/4 inch lath, which you then stretch black speaker fabric over and staple it to the back. You can then attach these to the walls, either by hanging them like a painting from a nail, with velcro strips, or simply by making them the same height as the room and wedging them into position. I have them wedged into position in my room, which has the advantage of not damaging the walls in any way so if you move you can return the room back to standard quickly and easily.
This is how a frame looks before the fabric has been fastened into position. One thing to bear in mind is that there is quite a force on the frame when you pull the fabric tight, so make sure you make the frame securely with some decent brackets and screws.
Blackout frame building
It is possible to put sound deadening insulation into the back of the frame. If you have a problem with sound ringing or echoing, this can help. You can test this by simply standing in the middle of the room and clapping. If you can hear an echo, then you would probably benefit from some insulation behind a couple of the panels. Don't go overboard though, just put it behind some as if you do too many you can deaden the room. If you have lots of soft furnishings, curtains, rugs etc in there, it's probably not necessary, but it can help if you have wooden floors and blinds instead of carpets and curtains.
Testing the next frame to check that it is the right height before covering it. You can see what the walls look like with some completed blackout frames already attached.
As well as the walls, it's a good idea to get a black rug for the floor and fasten frames to the ceiling too. If the room is not too large, then you can span the ceiling without needing to attach directly into it and hold the frames up with brackets attached to the wall panels.
Make sure you get some decent blackout curtains or blackout blinds to stop streetlights from shining in to the room. In my room as well as the blinds and material on the walls, I've also blanked off all of the lights on the electronic equipment in my room to stop it from being distracting and make the room as dark as possible!
This is the sort of effect you're looking at once you're done. There is no reflection on the walls or ceiling and you get drawn into the film a lot more.
The ideal is that the picture looks like it's floating in space as the room is totally black.
This is an awesome shot for showing you how vivid colours can look when the room is blacked out. This room is not completely finished in this photo as you can still see the door, but you get the idea.
I included this shot just because I really like the lord of the rings films!
I have mentioned it already, but the effect you see here is not just achieved by treating the walls. As well as using blackout fabric on the walls, it is vital that you use good blackout curtains or blinds on the window, or all your effort will be for nothing. I have tried several different types of blackout blind material in my room which has slatted vertical blinds. One material I can recommend is faux suede. This is totally opaque, far better than the PVC blackout blind material I tried before, which didn't really stop the light from outside completely. Real suede may work just as well, but I haven't tried this, so can't confirm one way or another.
Of course with blinds, you tend to get a bit of light leakage at the bottom, I have some thin strips of wood, which I covered with black velcro tape which simply sit on the windowsill at the bottom pushed against the bottom of the blind, these stop the light coming in there.
My room is now very dark in the day and completely dark at night, so I'm pretty happy with it! I don't tend to use it in the day much as if I'm not working and it is a nice day I tend to think you should be outside in the garden rather in a dark room, but on the odd occasion I want to game or whatever in there in the day, it is now possible to do that without outside light spoiling the picture.
I hope this is useful for anyone out there that has a home cinema / theater and wants to get the best out of it. Installing or creating blackout curtains / blinds and panels really helps the movie experience. If you have any comments, please leave them below.