How To Improve Your Home Movie Watching Experience Without Breaking The Bank

by Randy Murray on September 12, 2013

Home theater can be a very expensive hobby—if you chose to make it that way. I’ve seen some absolutely stunning, amazing home theaters. There is absolutely no limit to how much money you can spend.

On the other hand, even if you don’t yet aspire to having a home theater you can improve your own movie watching experience with minimal effort and very limited cost.

Here’s where to start:

  1. Seating and sight lines: where do you sit in relationship to the picture? A lot of family room movie watching happens with a TV in a corner and viewers sprawled across couches and chairs in the room. The ideal place to view the movie image is directly in front of it with your eyes focused easily at the middle of the screen without moving your head up or down or to either side. When you sit more than 45 degrees off this center point you diminish how clearly and easily you can view the picture. Arrange your seating so that movie watchers can sit upright comfortably and see the screen straight on (a lot of flat screen TVs are mounted too high). That might mean moving the screen and will probably mean rearranging your furniture. It’s worth it.
  2. Hit the lights! Bugs Bunny is right: when the show starts, the lights come down. Your ideal movie watching experience is to see the image float before your eyes in a completely dark room. That’s when movies achieve their dream-like heights. It may not be possible to completely darken the room where you currently watch movies, but try and darken it as much as possible. Pull the shades and curtains on your windows and turn off ALL of the lights.And if possible, watch after dark.

    And please, please, put away your tablet, laptop, and phone. Keep your eyes on the big screen!

  3. Surround yourself with sound. In my best movie-watching experiences I’ve gotten lost in the story and become completely immersed in the created world I see before me. A big part of that is what I hear. When the sound is completely matched to what I see, when people’s voices seem to come from in front of me where I see them and other sounds, sounds that the characters hear and react to, come from other directions, I begin to believe what I see.

    Surround sound isn’t difficult to achieve. There are lots of the poorly named but workable “home theater in a box” kits available. What you really need is an audio receiver and either 5.1 or 7.1 speakers. The first number refers to the number of speakers, the “.1″ is the subwoofer. It’s the big speaker that produces the strong bass sounds.If you minimally have a center speaker, front speakers to the right and left, and two speakers behind you, you’ll begin to get an idea of what the surround sound experience can be like.

    My theater is a 7.1 surround system.

  4. Treat your movie watching with respect.  Why is movie watching in the home sometimes unsatisfying? Because too many of us treat it as just one more thing going on in the room. If you want to really enjoy a movie with your friends and family, treat the experience just like you would in the commercial theater (without the usher asking you to keep it down).
  • Make yourself comfortable, but don’t sprawl across the couch or floor.
  • Turn off your phone and put away any other distractions.
  • Agree with the other movie watchers that you’ll talk after the movie.
  • Watch the movie from start to finish. In my theater I do allow intermissions, but they’re treated just like that: the movie pauses, the lights come up, and everyone takes a break before we start the movie again.

Do any of these steps and you’ll improve how you watch movies in your home. Do them all and you’re on the road to having your own theater!


The How To Improve Your Home Movie Watching Experience Without Breaking The Bank by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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