Home Cinema

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home cinema with feature wallfront and centre speakerswhite ceiling speaker

In this blog we feature a case study of a home cinema installation as part of a house renovation in Bath.

Home Cinema

Home Cinema Planning

The first step to a successful installation is to plan thoroughly. We designed the entire renovation, including the home cinema, before any walls were demolished. It would sit along the wall on the right in the photo below; but you’ll notice there are some other walls to remove first!

TV wall before construction

We designed the basic layout for the main wall with socket positions and speaker cable routes. The system would also include ethernet and coaxial cabling for Virgin media, internet, terrestrial and satellite aerials.

The only remaining decision for first fix was whether the rear surround-sound speakers would be mounted on the floor, wall or ceiling. Deciding on ceiling speakers, everything was ready for the construction phase. We still had to confirm some of the detailed cable runs, but that had to wait until we had exposed the joists, and located any hidden water pipes.

Just to note that ceiling mounted speakers don’t suit every situation. For instance, if you are fitting beneath a bedroom say, the sound might be obtrusive if that room is being used; particularly for a young child who may be in bed while the adults are downstairs watching a film.

house Renovation

A house renovation is a major undertaking involving a variety of trades who don’t necessarily talk to each other. This illustrates the value of a project manager, particularly one who who has produced the design. We circulate 3D visuals to help communicate the final design to everyone; but we still need to explain certain details verbally.

Wall before installation

A project manager should have a detailed understanding of the finished renovation from the start; to know why we are routing a particular cable from A to B; why a socket must be fitted precisely at position C to be accessible through the back of a TV cabinet that hasn’t been made yet. Being on site every day, the project manager fills the knowledge gaps and looks ahead to make sure things aren’t done that then need to be re-done.

First Fix

All heights were based on a finished floor level even though the floor was some months away from being finished. The electricians had their first fix instructions with a clear understanding of the different services being installed. We also had to co-ordinate with Virgin Media who supplied their cables to install as part of our first fix. These ran from the pavement through the front of the house and beneath the floor to various TV locations and the new router position.

Home Cinema First Fix

All the home cinema cables would be hidden. After the concrete slab was laid, we ran the rear speaker cables from their ceiling locations, down the wall, and in ducts to the amplifier position on the TV wall. We could then lay the floor insulation, screed, underfloor heating and tiles. Needless to say, we were cautious of any damage to the cables as they would be buried forever! We tested them periodically to check their integrity.

Note:  A simple speaker cable test is to connect a multi-meter (set on resistance test) to the two cores at one end; you should see infinite resistance to show that the cable hasn’t been crushed. Then you short out the two cores at the free end and you’ll see zero resistance;  some meters give an audible beep.

The electricians also installed a duct with draw wire for pulling through cables from the lower cabinets to the TV.

Home Cinema Electrics

TV and HIFI choices

We took our clients to meet our regular supplier; his showroom is equipped to set up various combinations of speakers, amplifiers and TVs to give visitors a feel for their preferred choice. Our clients settled on a 4K TV, SONOS, low profile Monitor Audio Speakers, Kef rear ceiling speakers and a REL Acoustics Sub-woofer, driven by a Denon AV receiver (Amp).  With Virgin Media and Apple TV, they would be set for some great entertainment.

cabinet cut-out for amplifier

TV and Media Cabinets

A stylish home cinema needs a quality setting. We produced outline cabinet designs and worked with a cabinet maker to turn them into reality. With the dimensions of the TV and HiFi equipment, standard DVD and BluRay boxes, we agreed the internal depth of the lower cabinetry, and shelf spacing. The cabinet maker allowed for large access holes at the back of the cabinets to access the sockets and cabling.

Home Cinema Installation

We considered filling the gap between the upper and lower cabinets with split face stone, but were concerned about damage to the units. We decided instead on a novel block wall design. We provided sketches and ideas to our cabinet maker who came up with a scale drawing with sizes and shapes to suit the TV and speakers.  With recessed LED spotlights in the upper cabinets to cast shadows over the wall, we were impatient to see the design come together.

upper cabinet

The cabinet maker used top quality fittings for push-to-open doors and drawers. Note the contact detail in the photo below where the plunger pushes the door open. With an exceptional sprayed finished  the cabinets were ready to install.

push to open cabinet

Home Cinema Installation

It took two days to install the cabinets, and to scribe the decorative and side panels to the walls. The block feature wall took a further day to install.

front speaker with feature wall

It took around two days to install the hifi and TV, running in cables, connecting and commissioning the system. This also included a tutorial for our clients. Before fitting the ceiling speakers, the installer fitted a fire-proof hood to each hole. In the same way that an electrician fits fire-rated, recessed downlighters to maintain ceiling integrity, the speaker cut-out would similarly breach the ceiling fire-protection.

Rear Ceiling Speaker Smoke Hood

Controls

Our colleague installed a Remote Technologies Incorporated (RTI) home automation processor in the cabinet, controlled by a tablet app; similar to the image below. Our clients picked up the basic controls very quickly tapping on the menu-driven icons. The tablet connected wirelessly to the router, transmitting signals through ethernet cables to the processor. In turn, the processor transmitted control signals to the equipment. Our clients could then choose what to watch or listen to, and at what volume. All with the cabinet doors closed. Very neat.

RTI Controller

Lessons learned

  1. We did need to modify our design once the joists were exposed, moving the ceiling speakers to adjacent bays; otherwise we would have had to carry out major surgery on existing water pipes.
  2. When constructing the boxing above the cabinets to accommodate the external box gutter, the plasterboard and plastering “ran-out” from one end to the other. This would have created a varying depth along the length, so the contractor had to re-do this in order for the cabinets to fit square and parallel.
  3. Check and double-check dimensions. We spent a lot of time doing this, as did the cabinet maker, enabling the final installation to go smoothly.

Home Cinemas

home cinema with feature wall

With our partners, we have now installed many middle-range home cinema systems for our clients. You can read more about home entertainmentTV cabinets and home electrics to give some idea of the design processes involved.

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