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Today’s Show:

Painting Your Home Theater

A couple weeks ago on Episode 485 we talked about how to paint your own home theater projector screen. That might not be something you plan to take on, but you might have to paint the walls in your home theater or main TV room. If you get that item on your todo list, we’ve got a few pointers to help maximize your effort for an optimal HDTV experience.

The Color

Let’s be honest, unless you live alone or have a dedicated theater room, you probably won’t get to pick the color for your home theater. Even if you have a dedicated room you might get overruled by the aesthetics committee on that decision. But be prepared to offer some input and guidance. You can’t pick the color, but you may be able to make some subtle tweaks to the shade or hue.

Quite honestly the color of the walls doesn’t really matter that much. But the darker they are, the more contrast you’ll get between the walls and the screen. This makes the walls almost disappear and allows your eyes to only really pay attention to the image on the screen. A dark ceiling does the same thing. Lighter walls could reflect more light and slightly wash out the image on screen. So whether the aesthetics committee picks green, red, blue or brown, the darker you can go, the better TV experience you’ll have.

There is a common misconception that colored walls could miscolor the video image on your TV. Some think that red walls could make the image look pink or green walls would give everything a slightly green tint. In most cases, this simply isn’t true. Unless you have some really bright lights shining on the walls, an incredibly bright projector, or some really strange wall angles near the screen, there just isn’t enough light coming from the TV to bounce off the walls and back to the TV to distort the picture.

But it is true that bright scenes in a movie or television program can light up your walls. While this typically isn’t enough light to actually make its way back into the video image, a sudden burst of red or bright blue around the screen could be quite distracting. Don’t be afraid of color, but the darker it is, the less distracting it will be. Navy blue, dark green, burgundy all should be fine. If you have to go with lighter colored walls, try to stick with neutral colors like beige, tan or gray.

If the room isn’t a dedicated home theater, you may not be able to get a really dark wall color past the aesthetics committee. Most people think that lighter color walls tend to make a room feel bigger and more inviting while darker color walls close in the space and make it feel more like a cave, especially a dark ceiling. So if the room will double as an entertaining area, light walls could be your only option. But don’t fret, when the lights are out, even lighter colored walls go pretty dark.

The Sheen or Finish

The real enemy of video performance is light, and in this case reflected light, so you want to make sure you put most of your influence and guidance into the paint finish. You might even have to cave on the color to gain ground here. Paints are typically offered in a range of sheen or gloss levels. So you can get the color you want (or maybe don’t want) in the finish you do. The typical names, from lowest sheen to highest are:

  • Flat
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-gloss
  • Gloss

Obviously the less shiny your walls are the less light they’ll reflect and the better your video system will perform. This is exactly why you want to avoid putting mirrors, glass or really glossy photos in your theater. If you have the choice, choose Flat paints in your home theater. If Flat is out of the question, slowly, but painfully, work your way up from there. Glossy paint is a bad idea.

While we don’t have any scientific studies to back this up, we tend to believe that light, flat colors are better than dark, glossy colors. So if you have to give in on either, give in on color. Unless it’s pink.

Just like with color, there are trade-offs with the sheen of the paint as well. The glossier paints are much easier to clean. If you have kids or pets or really messy friends, you’re in for a lot of frustration with flat paints. The easiest way to clean flat paint is to just repaint it, so get used to the feeling of a paintbrush in your hand. Compromising by going with an Eggshell or Satin finish might help save your sanity.

With 4 boys in the house, Braden has gone to all Satin walls, including the home theater and loft, both of which serve as primary HDTV environments. Satin is glossy enough to be cleanable – most of the time – while low sheen enough that it doesn’t really impact the TV and movie experience. Sometimes real life outweighs the purist ideals.


Download Episode #488

Posted by The HT Guys, July 21, 2011 9:10 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.