Do you love movies? Sure you do. Who doesn’t. They are the perhaps the most popular lens through which we choose to view the world around us. Throughout human history we’ve relied on art and culture to help us make sense of the human condition and the fundamental issues and problems that we grapple with on a daily basis. Storytelling is the medium to which we’ve always turned for a greater understanding of the world and our place in it. Once upon a time we’d gather around a fire and tell stories through the medium of dance, and painted them on the walls of our caves. Then we began to talk, telling stories verbally before we learned to write them down and even print them for a mass audience. We even acted out stories for one another in theaters; even the lowliest serf could enjoy the broader strokes of a Shakespearean comedy. After a few centuries, soliloquy gave way to celluloid and audiences packed into picture houses to watch stories rendered in glorious monochrome on the big screen. Then, decades later, the wonders of modern technology allowed us to enjoy similar stories beamed miraculously into our living room. In fuzzy black and white at first and then as the 20th century rolled on in real color. The technological march moved ever forward and before we knew it we were enjoying our favorite movies on increasingly large and detailed screens on a wide range of formats.
The first generation of VCRs and Betamax players started the home video ball rolling but DVD picked it up and ran with it. Suddenly we could not only enjoy our favorite movies in (what we thought was) crystal clear quality, but we could also peak behind the curtain for an intimate view of the production process through the new phenomenon of special features. As the home video market grew more sophisticated it wasn’t long before we could watch movies in super sharp high definition and eventually 4K. Over time, as internet connections became more robust and tastes moved away from physical media and towards streaming, suddenly we were deluged with movies and TV shows through streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
Yup, it’s or generations we’ve been in love with the movies, and now we have more choice than ever in how we can enjoy them. But for the family that doesn’t just love the movies but lives the movies only the very best will do. Here, we’ll look at how to create the ultimate home cinema experience so that you and your family can huddle up over Christmas and enjoy some of your favorite blockbusters while huddled under the duvet and munching from a super huge bowl of popcorn. Don’t worry, when we say home cinema we’re not talking about those huge and ostentatious purpose built screening rooms that require months of project management. We’re simply talking about a few additions to your living room that can make enjoying your favorite movies as a family more enjoyable than ever.
It all starts with your TV
So, if you’ve resolved to transform your living room so that it doubles as your very own movie theatre (sans sticky floors, overpriced popcorn and that gang of teenagers on the back row who just won’t shut up), it stands to reason that choosing the right TV is the best place to start. If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your TV for some time now, it’s pretty much inevitable that your thoughts have turned to 4K or UHD (that’s Ultra High Definition to you and me).
Opinions are certainly divided on this fledgling format. Since it was first introduced to the market back in 2016 early adopters have reacted with unbridled enthusiasm. However, most families have proven skeptical. After all, it doesn’t seem like that long ago for many of us since HD first arrived on the scene. Can 4K really offer that much of a difference in viewing quality than the now-standard 1080p? Well… yes and no.
4K offers, as you might expect 4 times the resolution of HD but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. What makes 4K TVs stand out from previous generations is that they offer not just superior resolution but a broader and more dynamic range of colors. 4K TVs offer High Dynamic Range and Wider Color Gamut. This means that they offer a broader range of colors and shades for a more lifelike image and textures so real that they look like you can reach out and touch them. The trouble is that HDR is only equipped on 4K sets, meaning that if you’re looking for a future proof TV that offers superior image quality 4K is the way to go.
You’ll also need a larger set if you want to make the jump to 4K worth the investment. While the difference between 1080p and 4K looks impressive on paper, you’re unlikely to get your money’s worth on a 42” set if you’re sitting 10 feet away from it. By and large the bigger your TV and the closer you are to it, the more you’ll see the difference in resolution, dynamic range and vividness of colors. Ideally your TV will be 50” or more in diameter and no more than 5 feet away from your sofa for the optimal effect. This chart offers a useful rule of thumb guide when it comes to screen size and positioning.
Get it right, however, and you’ll find that watching movies in 4K breathes new life into familiar films while also making new experiences much more vivid and immersive.
How do you like your flicks?
The great thing about being a movie buff in this day and age is that the wonders of digital media allow us more options than ever when it comes to enjoying our movies. Indeed, the sheer scope and scale of it all is enough to make your head spin. Those who prefer to buy physical will have noticed the slew of new and familiar movies on 4K UHD disc flooding the shelves in their elegant black boxes. For those who long ago abandoned physical media there’s no shortage of streaming services available such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime as well as digital platforms like iTunes and Google Play for those who prefer to own their movies rather than renting them via a subscription service.
As many streaming services now offer 4K for a small additional monthly charge there’s never been a better time to access a plethora of content in UHD. Be warned, however, that streaming in 4K requires considerable bandwidth. While most UHD TVs have Smart TV functionality, allowing you to access all of your favorite streaming apps, you will need a connection capable of around 25 mbps to stream in 4K and get the most out of them. If your broadband connection isn’t quite up to snuff, you might want to take a look at these internet packages which can be combined with cable packages of your choice. For those who prefer to buy their movies on the Apple store, the good news is that, so long as you have a 4K ready Apple TV box, you don’t really need to do anything else. Your movies will automatically default to the best possible quality for free so you don’t need to replace any of your movies. Since many of the movies in the Apple store have now been upgraded to 4K this is certainly the most cost-effective way to go.
Those who enjoy movies both as physical copies and digitally may want to invest in a UHD Bluray player. You’ll be able to enjoy 4K discs while also being able to use a range of streaming services via their smart capability and downloadable apps.
Sounds like the cinema
While film is most certainly a visual medium, that doesn’t mean that they are to be seen and not heard. For many of us, watching movies in a theater isn’t just about the big screen, it’s about the immersive sound. The good news is that you don’t need to completely renovate your living room for robust theatre sound in your very own living room… Although you may need to hide some speaker cables.
If you want theatre quality surround sound in your home, investing in a decent amp is the place to start. Amps (or home theatre receivers) take the sound from a range of sources such as your UHD bluray player, Apple TV Box, PC or games console and spreads it out between 5 (or even 7) speakers and a subwoofer. This results in immersive surround sound while the subwoofer covers your lower frequencies for floor trembling base that adds punch to action sequences and dimension to theatrical scores. Get one with Airplay capability and you’ll be able to enjoy music from your phone in glorious surround sound without having to dock your phone.
There’s never been a better (or more affordable time) to give your family the gift of a theatre grade movie experience from the comfort of your own home.
* This is a contributed post.