I recently upgraded the video aspects of my Home Theater to include a 100” screen and projector and in a word, its awesome. My room is a “mostly-dedicated” theater room but it also serves as a sometimes guest bedroom. In my old set up, I had a 60” plasma TV – it was awesome too, but I got the bug to go bigger and lacking $100K for a 100” plasma display, I went projector. Now, I consider myself a mostly-sane audio-visual guy, which means I like a good HT experience, but I’m not about to measure projector lumens using my home built “lumen-o-meter” and calculate the gain of my screen to the 15th decimal. SO…when I read about people painting their theater walls a dark color, I figured that must be one of those things that HT nut-cases do after they’ve read the most recent issue of “I married my Home theater” magazine 20 times and find themselves with nothing better to do.
It wasn’t until I got the projector hooked up that I realized just how much light comes off those white walls of mine. I’d never really taken any notice with the plasma TV and it got me thinking….maybe those HT nutcases have a point? Now, I did buy a cine-gray screen, its not like I didn’t think about reflected light from the walls, etc but I took a picture of the room to try get a sense of just how much light was leaking onto my eggshell-white walls and I was very surprised. Still – the picture on the screen looked excellent, surely dark walls wouldn’t make THAT much difference…right?
Think again. Now there are a few things I hate more than painting… having my “special bits” gnawed off by rabid gophers comes to mind, but generally speaking, I’d sooner drive a number 2 pencil through my cornea than paint something. Yet......I had to know. I decided painting was out of the question – for a start, I need both of my corneas, but 2nd to that, painting would have taken significantly more time that I had to spare and I’d have needed to do the entire room, not just the theater part. I looked at my new Elite screen and the black felt border, and had a flash of inspiration……Instead of paint, I covered the walls in black felt. Yes felt……I went to the fabric store and found a nice very black , non-reflective bolt of felt material – something in the order of 25 yards worth - it cost me $58 (with a handy coupon my wife found) and my wife got to go to the sewing section, so all was well. So me, my staple gun and bolt of felt got going on the walls and ceiling. Getting the fabric flat on the ceiling was tough, but manageable, otherwise it was a pretty quick job. Within a few hours I had covered all the adjacent walls and ceiling in black felt, and it looked pretty good. Still, the true test was to come…
I could already tell that the black walls were controlling reflected light, it was actually much darker in the room even with the light on. I turned out the lights and fired up a movie……..I was blown away by the difference. The picture seemed clearer and more vibrant, but more importantly, you felt sucked into the movie…the entire “feel” was so much better. Even my wife saw the difference immediately, and she’s been generally so-so about the home theater upgrades over the years. The difference between light and dark walls and ceiling cannot be more overstated, I’d put it up there with having a light-controlled room versus one with direct sun – it’s a significant change. Now your experience may be different – I’m sure it depends on the room, the projector, the screen and where you sit relative to all those things, but I take it all back – painting your walls a dark color (or alternatively, stapling felt to them) is a must if you want to get the most out of you home theater setup. Does stapling felt all over my room make my a HT nut-case? ….probably…..but I don’t care, its awesome…and that’s what counts.
As a potential positive side effect – I’ve read that you want to limit the audio bouncing off walls and floors, its obviously better to have the sound come direct from the speaker and not get muddied by echos. Felt certainly isn’t an acoustic dampener panel, but I’d expect it helps a little.
Edited by Treozen - 11/29/12 at 12:07pm