Home Theater with a Twist: Bringing the Big Game Home

December 6, 2012 | Comments

Are you a hard-core sports enthusiast who can't get enough of your favorite teams? The guy who wears a jersey to the game and continually checks scores on your smartphone? Do you spend most weekends immersed in sports, attending live events or holed up at home and flipping incessantly between games?

There's no law that says a "home theater" system has to be dedicated to movies. A well-designed and well-executed audio/video setup with a big screen and ensemble of speakers can do an uncanny job of recreating the atmosphere and dynamics of live sporting events, getting you closer to the action than you might imagine. Put that system in a space designed to pay homage to your favorite pastime and you just might find yourself in sports heaven.

If you're looking for inspiration, there are plenty of imaginative sports-themed spaces to consider. For example, you could create…

  • A sports bar environment with multiple screens and maybe even a score board
  • A shrine to your favorite team with memorabilia and multiple screens
  • A wall of screens so you can watch four or five games at once
  • A game/sports room for playing poker and pool while watching the big game(s)
  • A casual space with multiple seats and screens and a wet bar
  • A "sports theater" with a gigantic projection screen that has a huge main image in the middle and smaller screens around it

The Whole Nine Yards

To go the whole nine yards in any of these spaces, you'll need an AV system that produces stunning visuals and riveting surround-sound that puts you in the stadium. "Sports broadcasters spend literally millions of dollars to deliver the best possible picture and sound," said Fred Ampel, president of Technology Visions Analytics. "Look at the Olympics. The quality of the picture is extraordinary, and the surround mix was as good as any film you'll ever see."

Once you've decided to go for the gold and create your very own sports enclave, it's time to start defining the space and the experience you envision.

The space and what will go in it. Unless we're talking about new construction, what room do you have in mind? How big is the space, what's next to (or above and below) it, and where do you envision putting the screen(s)? What kind of seating (and for how many) do you want — a sectional, stadium seating or something more casual? (This will be largely driven by whether or not you have a specific theme in mind.)

Contemplating the space you're targeting for conversion will help uncover potential challenges, like dealing with whirring noises from the laundry room next door. Soundproofing might be in order.

Additonally, consider:

Ambient light. If there are windows in the room, what will it take to darken the room? Daylight can wash out an otherwise vivid picture, totally blowing the illusion of "being there."

Which sports? What type of events do you watch most of the time? Football, basketball, hockey, NASCAR racing? All of the above? Knowing your preferences, even down to your preferred perspective, will help the system designer select components and speakers that best serve the programming.

The gear. The type of video sources (flat panel TV or projection) and audio gear will be largely dictated by your budget. But to do this right, you will need a large screen for the main action (the bigger the better) and at least five speakers plus a subwoofer or two to create the illusion of "being there."  Subwoofers, in particular, are essential for recreating the roar of the crowd or the thud of a tackle.

Another key consideration: Do you want freestanding speakers or something less conspicuous, such as in-wall speakers? "Where you put speakers in relation to the seating area will have a major impact on the surround field," Ampel explained. "If you can't do conventional speaker layouts either on-wall or freestanding or even boxed in the wall, there's going to be some compromise."

Ultimately, you want to feel the crowd, feel the lineman taking down the quarterback, hear the squeak and slap of feet on a basketball court and experience cars whizzing by as if you were sitting in the stands at a NASCAR race. As Ampel put it, "You want the experience to be better than going to the game, with more angles, more replays and more detail than you could ever get live at the game." All of this is possible if you're working with an experienced home theater designer.

When you're ready to move forward with your project, you'll want to consult a professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member electronic systems contractors in your area.

Enjoy the game!

A special thanks to Fred Ampel, CEDIA Fellow and president of Overland Park, Kansas-based Technology Visions Analytics, for providing background for this article.