Originally Posted by NickTheGreat
Grab a case of beer, some popcorn and start reading. There are weeks (maybe months) worth of reading on this forum that'll answer your questions.
I first got interested in 2-channel audio in 1986. Then my love for Home Theatre started around 1990 when I saw my first projector (CRT projector at the time, showing 480i). I was in awe that this is something you could have in your home and knew that one day I'd have to have something like that. The price tag put me off (and the fact that I lived in an apartment) until finally in 2000 I bought my first house and an inexpensive used CRT projector to replace my 32" tube TV. I was absolutely giddy and couldn't believe what I had and the fact that I built and set up everything myself (it took hundreds of hours).
What we do for a living or how much money we make is irrelevant. Some of the people that have the most money invested have done so over 10+ years and have 'average' jobs. My HT equipment was most certainly bought in baby steps. I started off simple and then upgraded over time: Replaced the simple receiver with separates in 1997, replaced the 32" tube TV with a CRT projector in 2000 and built an HTPC to drive it, built the screen myself for $100 (still using it), got HT seating in 2003, replaced the projector with a better CRT proejctor in 2005, learnt how to do my own greyscale calbration in 2006 after tons of reading, replaced my entry level speakers in 2006 with higher end models, bought a PS3 as a Blu-ray player in 2007, then finally a replaced the CRT projectior with a JVC digital in 2012.
The pictures I posted above are also the result of thousands of hours (if not tens of thousands of hours) of reading, writing, and dreaming about HT (and the open-concept media room I was fond of). I'm sure many of the people in this thread are the same. Just look at their post counts and how long they've been on the forum. Everyone's needs are different. Everyone's budgets are different. Start reading, start doing research. You can built a lot of this yourself, there are deals to be had, and so forth. Nick is certainly right about the "start reading" part. I spend 4 months reading on AVS every day in the fall of 2000 before I bought my first used CRT projector for about $2000. If you want it NOW, you're going to pay through the nose. If you're willing to invest a lot of time and research, you may barely even notice what it costs you as you build and upgrade over time.
Those that hire someone and pay for everything in one step are usually not the ones you'll see posting here. That's not what AVS is about. If they don't have time or interest to do the HT research themselves, they're re definitely not going to be posting here. I've always found the most high end / well designed home theatres are in fact not those built 'turn-key' by someone else, but ones where the homeowner was instrumental in the design/construction/calibration/etc, where it's obvious they've put in 1000's of hours of research. The attention to detail shows. These people are truly passionate about HT.