Originally Posted by storman
True, size isn't the only component to achieve immersion. But my real point is that immersion is difficult to achieve from normal seating distances without it (or that feeling of immenseness you get at IMAX or Ultra Screen). With a 40" TV, you would have to sit 4.5' away to achieve the THX recommended viewing angle of 36 deg. Not being an expert in this area, I don't know if a 36 degree viewing angle fills our field of vision. My guess is not. Seriously, who would want to sit that close ? Also, I think even at distance, we still "know" that the images on that 40" screen are small. In contrast, when we're in at an IMAX, Batman or Ironman look really huge and yet in both situations the screen is filling our field of view. Which one is more immersive, gives you that WOW, that's BIG sensation ? I think we know the answer to that one.
you've uncovered the biggest shortcoming with most so-called "home theaters"... they are sitting way to far away from their particular display to achieve any reasonable cinema-immersion experience.
How to solve it? First off, it sounds weird, but yes, you definitely can slide that sofa or chair forward when watching movies and then slide it back when you're done. That's the cheapest and easiest way to get a cinema-viewing angle from the 40" or 50" flat panel you happen to already have.
The rule of thumb is "1.5 screen widths away from the 16x9 screen". That gets you about 30 degrees of viewing angle. That's like sitting in the middle or rear half of a typical movie theater. If you like to sit closer in the movie theater, then moving closer... like 1.3 or 1.2 screen-widths accomplishes filling your field of vision to the same degree. The focal depth of your eyes is what tells your brain that the picture is big or small, but believe me when I say that filling your field of vision is the most important element of feeling immersed... having a "big" image is helpful too, but it's less significant to the overall experience... you would get much more immersion sitting 1.5 screen-widths from a 40" flatscreen than sitting 2 or 3 screen widths away from a screen the size of a roadsize billboard.
The problem for most people is if you have a small flat-panel TV and are trying to make your living room or den serve double duty as a HT room, then furniture placement would see awkward if you moved the seating forward to get a decent viewing angle with such a such a small screen. Allow me to stress that even if leaving the furniture set up that way long-term is not possible, don't let that stop you from sliding that sofa back/forth when you really want a "real" immersive cinema experience.
However, the easier solution is to get a screen large enough so that your "best furniture placement" distance from the screen *becomes* 1.3-1.5 screen-widths away from the 16x9 screen automatically. This is why so many folks serious about HT are going front-projection... it basically automatically creates the viewing angle of real cinema without having to re-arrange the room (or in some cases actually needing to slide the sofa back instead of forward). The other plus with a large 100" screen is that a 1.3-1.5 distance is far enough away from a screen this size to allow your eyes to start to focus with distance rather than close-up... this allows your brain to think "big picture" which does add to the immersion feeling, but rest assured that moving closer to a smaller screen gets you very close to the same experience (IMO, filling your field of vision is paramount and thinking in your mind that the image is "big" is secondary, though still a good thing).
"Home Theater" is not the same thing as "HDTV"... if we really mean what we say when we say "home theater", that means, to the best of our ability, replicating the video-reproduction aspects to achieve as-good (or better) visual and sound quality as we experience theatrically. The immersion-aspect of films is a key component of what makes a movie a "movie" and not "TV"... so you guys are very right for noticing how when this is missing, "home theater" just isn't the same.
But rest assured that getting the full immersion factor in your home theater is just as possible... you just need to figure out how to best attain that 1.3-1.5 screen-widths viewing distance in your particular situation... at least when it's important to you to experience a particular film with the immersion factor that the director intended you to have.