Hire a HT Design Consultant vs. DIY HT Design - Which Way To Go?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Scott-C, Feb 1, 2002.

  1. Scott-C

    Scott-C Supporting Actor

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    One of the first polls in the "Building a Home Theater Area" forum poses the question: "Who designed your home theater?" As one might expect, the initial poll responses vary, with some people opting for the "do-it-yourself" route, while others choose to hire a HT design consultant (such as Dennis Erskine, to use one example for clarification's sake) to help them with the design plans.
    This poll helped fuel a question I've had in my mind for a while now: should I design my own HT or hire a consultant? There are many sides to this argument, and frankly, I'm not sure which way to go. Regardless of the decision, I'll likely do the construction myself; I'm speaking strictly of the design decision here.
    I would really like to hear from those of you who have wrestled with this question. What went into your HT design decision process that led you to choose one over the other (DIY vs. hiring a consultant)? If you had to do it all over again, would you make the same decision? What did you like and dislike about your design process (pros vs. cons)?
    For me, I'm probably a year away from beginning construction on my HT (I hope it's not much longer than that!) but I'm trying to plan for it now. One side of me says that I could design it myself, by looking at the designs of others, and combining the ideas I like with ideas of my own. If I have questions along the way, I know I can always count on the good people at HTF to help me with the answers. Right now I have a good idea of what I'd do in terms of basic room layout, and I'm coming to the point where I'll need to really start to dive into the details of each sub-task (i.e. learning more about lighting, such as what equipment I should buy for scene lighting, how to integrate into the room, etc.) Through the web, I've seen some beatiful rooms that were designed by the homeowner.
    The other side of me realizes just how complex building a good dedicated HT can be, and that in order to make sure I don't miss any important details, I should spend the money to hire someone who will have thought through the details and can offer me plans that don't leave any "stones unturned". Going this route offers something akin to reassurance that the money spent will yield the best possible theater (I'm thinking mostly in terms of video and acoustic quality here). Details such as acoustic treatments, soundproofing, lighting, seating/riser height, surround speaker placement, etc. are things I'd expect a good designer to be able to help me with. And, I know a designer will come up with a layout that is probably much nicer than what I could imagine (though I would point out that while I want a very nice theater, I don't need it to be quite as elaborate as some of the HTs you see in magazines such as Audio Video Interiors - I am on a budget here!).
    Perhaps you can help clarify this decision for me by giving me your opinions on the topic.
    I hope I articulated my question adequately. Let me know if I need to explain something more clearly.
    Thanks for your help. For me, this is a very important step as it will help shape the next year of planning for me.
     
  2. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    I'm beginning construction of my basement theater any day now. I've been planning for it a very long time and it's gone through several different designs, depending on what type of display I was planning on using. Now that I've settled on front projection (I already have my Studio Experience 13HD 16x9 LCD projector), my design is finally locked down. I did the planning myself, using the interent and several magazines for the basics of the room shape and other similar considerations. Since I live in a rented home, I didn't want to go to the expense of having a Dennis Erskine-type design created for me, though I would have loved to, as his work is terrific. I'm trying to complete the room as inexpensively as possible by doing most everything myself. Since this will be the first major construction I've ever done, it's sure to be an interesting experience.

    If I owned this house, I would almost certainly have hired him to design it, since I'd be planning on living there a very long time. I'm probably going to remain this current house for only another 5 years or so, so my theater room has to be able to turn back into a finished basement when I move out.

    Short version: for my purposes, I did the design myself with tons of research. If I owned the home (and with the budget), I'd have hired an expert to create the plans.
     
  3. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

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    In my case, I decided to do this about a year and a half ago. I realized my house at the time didn't have the room to support a dedicated theater, so I took the time while waiting on the market to move and looking for a house that could support a theater to research the options.

    I probably looked at nearly every dedicated home theater web site on the net. I made notes of what I liked and didn't like. I considered doing the design myself, considered using a local architect, talked at length with my retired architect father, etc.

    Eventually, I realized that it made a lot of sense to hire someone who had done these already and had a good track record and reputation. Ultimately I realized that if I was going to invest the amount of money into building the room (a not insignificant amount - I could probably buy two C class Mercedes and have change left over), it made sense to spend less than two thousand to have a professional design done.

    Dennis isn't that expensive. In fact, I think he's a hell of a deal. The blueprints he provided were excellent. I had my retired architect father look over them and he was very impressed with them. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Dennis.

    I must qualify my statements by saying that all I've seen of my room are drawings. Construction hasn't started yet. I may have a different opinion after everything is done, but I really doubt it. Building a room like this has LOTS of stresses, but confidence in the design isn't one of them.

    -greg
     
  4. Tim Kline

    Tim Kline Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I don't really know all that much about home theater stuff.. but honestly, I am planning to do both. I am planning to turn an unused garage into a home theater this spring. I have a cousin who is a contractor and he is going to be handling the construction part. The rest, the fun part, will be up to me. I am currently researching TVs (I've decided I want a RPTV around 50") and I will be keeping the same receiver and speakers I have now. The interior design will be up to me as well. I am nothing near an interior designer, but I feel I can put together something cool between paint, rugs and furniture.
    So if you're torn between doing it yourself and paying someone to do it.. then maybe it might be a good idea to get a "pro" to do the things you don't feel you're able to do, and then you finish the rest .. then you can still have that "I did it myself!" kind of pride [​IMG]
     
  5. Chip_Slattery

    Chip_Slattery Stunt Coordinator

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    Scott,

    I'm a couple of small steps ahead of you in terms of time-frame, but basically I think we're on the same path.

    I too spent almost a year researching the various aspects of constructing a HT, trying to learn as much as I could so I could speak intelligently on the subject and ask the right questions.

    As you know from my post in the "poll" thread I also contacted Dennis at Design Cinema to help with the design and layout. My reasons for doing so parallel those given by Greg in an earlier post. While I, like you, intend to do a lot of the work myself, I felt with a project this size (it will be a whole new addition to our home) the small fee paid to Dennis (or, to be fair, any professional design firm) is the best insurance against costly mistakes down the road.

    I liken professional HT design to a piece of HT equipment. If I told you that for a couple thousand dollars I could sell you a piece of equipment that would exponentially increase the overall audio/video experience in your theater, and without it your other expensive gear would never live up to it's potential, you'd jump at it. That's what professional HT design provides.

    After doing the aforementioned research and looking at (probably) every HT online I put together my own basic design. (see link in sig) Once I had a pretty good idea what I wanted I contacted Dennis and he is in the process of working his magic with my design.

    Like you I don't have unlimited funds for this project, and I don't think you'll be seeing my HT in any magazines. What I will have is confidence that I've constructed the best possible environment for my HT.

    The bottom line is this: There are a lot of things in your HT you're going to want to upgrade down the road. The room isn't one of them.

    Best of luck with your project and please keep us informed of your progress.
     
  6. Scott-C

    Scott-C Supporting Actor

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    Chip, Tim, Greg, & Peter,
    Thank you all for your comments. I found them all to be very informative. The more I read your posts, the more I think it may make sense to hire a design consultant to help with design.
    I like the analogy of the room design to a piece of HT equipment. It's my understanding that the single most important factor in achieving excellent sound is the room (followed by speakers), so that analogy really hits home. Also, your analogy made me realize that the use of plans from a design consultant will likely improve the room's appearance, regardless of how fancy or simple the room is. The room would likely be richer and more theater-like and that would also really increase the enjoyment of the room. While I'm sure I could come up with something fairly decent, I'm also sure it would pale in comparison to the work of a professional designer!
     
  7. MarkMaestas

    MarkMaestas Agent

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    I am also in the position of getting ready to start construction of my home theater and debating whether I should hire a professional designer or go forth myself. I ran into a similiar situation twice before when we added an addition to our old home and when we had our new home landscaped. Both times, we did a design ourselves and then ended up hiring a professional and were glad we did. We still did most of the work ourselves, but the professional designs included changes for things we never thought of before. So, I am leaning towards hiring a profession designer. My question to those that have hired a professional designer...Did the designer make many design recommendations that you would not have done without their advice? Did they keep you from making any costly mistakes that you might have made otherwise? I would be appreciative for any input.

    Mark
     
  8. Scott-C

    Scott-C Supporting Actor

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    Here's another question I had that is sort of an outgrowth of the current discussion in this thread. Assuming I would hire a designer to help with the design and layout of the room, and he/she provides me with blueprints to construct the room, how difficult is it to read the blueprints for someone who is not accustomed to reading them? I'm not an architect, nor have I ever really read blueprints before, so I would want to make sure I didn't put myself in the position of having this great design plan but not knowing how to read it!
     

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