Friday, September 5, 2008

The Right Lighting for Your Home Theater

August 22, 2008 | by Natalie Hope McDonald

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Audio and video are usually the first two key considerations most people think about when designing a home theater. But a third and no less integral attribute is lighting. The average home theater enthusiast may do a lot less thinking about lighting than they do the size of their screen or even about acoustics, but the right lighting can transform the most basic to the most sophisticated home theater into an entertainment oasis.

The Big Picture
Just because you watch a movie in the dark doesn’t mean lighting isn’t important to the overall home theater experience. The first step to consider is the range of lighting available and what you’d most like to accomplish with it.

Whether you’ve designed your own home theater in the den or you’ve hired professionals to do the job, the most important uses of lighting are to ensure guests can move safely around the space while not suffering eye fatigue halfway through your favorite flick. You also want to make sure the position of the lighting does not interfere with your viewing screen. Certain flat panels and projection screens can be affected by direct and indirect lighting in different ways, which is why not all lighting fixtures may be suited to your home theater set-up.

You don’t have to limit yourself to only the basic types of lighting (sconce and in-ceiling). There are controls that allow you to customize solutions without tearing into plaster. While traditional lighting can be installed and controlled with remotes, another option is an RF-based system that is flexible and can be expanded down the road with limited impact on the cosmetics of a room. The lighting solution uses built-in transmitters that communicate with signals and controllers within a certain range. Vantage’s RadioLink is a good example. Also check out Lutron’s RadioRA.

Lighten Up
In addition to lighting types (hanging, floor-standing, in-ceiling, in-wall and sconce), lighting can be broken down into three categories: accent, ambient and task. Aesthetically speaking, accent lighting is important when it comes to highlighting details within a room like a favorite piece artwork or architectural element within the d├ęcor, while task lighting can be customized for specific jobs, like reading a magazine or doing homework while someone else in the same room is watching TV or a movie. Ambient lighting, meanwhile, pulls the other two varieties together in a cohesive environment. Most lighting designers implement all three type of lighting to ensure a balanced experience no matter what the activity.

The type of lighting you choose also dictates the design of fixtures. Both recessed lighting and wall sconces and can be enhanced by door seals, automated shade controls, as well as integrated lighting controls that customize the settings depending on whether you’d like to watch a movie or view a photo slideshow. Thanks to the breadth of lighting controls, the home theater doesn’t have to be relegated to a dark basement dungeon. You can turn a cheerful living room into a movie screening room thanks to the push of a button and adding a few of these elements. You can also conserve electricity with control systems in the home theater and throughout the house.

Take Control
Selecting fixtures depends on your personal style and activities planned for the space. Recessed lighting, while more modern in design, is ideal for a multi-use space, especially if you’d like to highlight select portions of your home theater while still maintaining enough darkness to enjoy a flick.

On the higher end, Crestron, a favorite control system for home theater professionals, manufactures a range of touch panels, like the iLux, a multi-zone lighting system, and infiNET with wireless dimmers and remote management options. Like many of these sophisticated control systems, you can actually manage lighting and window shades throughout a home, not just within a home theatre.

Info and Answers: The Right Lighting for Your Home Theater, by Natalie Hope McDonald - Electronic House Info and Answers
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